- Sarah Cronin | Rev. Diane Sullivan
Nothing beats curling up with a good book somewhere cozy in the winter. That should be especially true this winter as we collectively hunker down and wait our turn for the coronavirus vaccines and for warmer, hopefully pandemic-free days ahead. But many of us have already plowed though our nightstand stacks over the past nine months of isolation, leaving us with a pressing question: What to read?
Fortunately, Vermont authors have not stopped churning out fresh tales to keep us entertained, informed and enlightened this year. If anything, pandemic downtime appears to have delivered an abundance of new offerings. You'll find evidence of that productivity in the following pages.
With author interviews, profiles and reviews, Seven Days covers a broad swath of literary terrain all year. We've highlighted a selection of staff picks of 2020, and that list could have been much longer. For still more suggestions, check out our short takes on 10 books.
Poetry was especially vital in 2020. One of the state's greats, former Vermont poet laureate Chard deNiord, released In My Unknowing, a collection of and for the times. Reviewer Benjamin Aleshire, a poet himself, says the book "confronts the terror, confusion and grace of mortality — but rather than prescribe answers, the poems ruminate on possible meanings, searching for signs."
Dynamic new poetic voices emerged this year, as well. Northern Vermont University-Johnson student and basketball player Devyn Thompson released her debut book, Soul, in which the young Baltimore, Md., native "explores the struggle and pain of Black existence" but also exhibits "a great deal of Black joy," according to reviewer Melanie Goodreaux.
Burlington poet Stephen Cramer knows precisely where to find joy of his own: in a bottle of hot sauce. His latest collection, The Hot Sauce Madness Love Burn Suite, is "informative, laugh-out-loud funny in places and more thought-provoking than one might expect from a food-themed collection of verse," Melissa Pasanen writes.
Cramer's book isn't the only food-related read worth indulging in this year. Pasanen also grilled five local foodies on their go-to cookbooks to read, not just cook with. Food writer Jordan Barry and veteran cookbook editor Rux Martin dished on the comfort food cookbooks and recipes that bring back poignant memories for them.
You may have heard that Vermont has seen a modest influx of new residents in recent months. Newly Middlebury-based writer, comedian and palindromist Mark Saltveit offers his observations as a Portland, Ore., transplant in a lively essay.
Finally, veteran Vermont author Howard Norman and illustrator Annie Bakst have collaborated on a graphic novel series called Detective Levy Detects. The noir-style mystery is set in Montpelier and should satisfy Norman fans wishing he'd write another novel.