Spring has arrived! In Boston, it’s more like a second winter, but whether you prefer rainy grays or budding flowers, The Crimson has the best book recommendations for all your spring reading needs. Finals season may get you down, but these books are the perfect way to romanticize your life and unwind with a good read. Not really an independent reader? Here are some picks from a variety of genres to satisfy even the most discerning bibliophile.
To romance: Every spring reader should start with a romance. Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and love is in the air. Romance sometimes gets a bad rap for its lack of substance, but Talia Hibbert’s “Act Your Age, Eve Brown” is full of complex characters dealing with complex family and social issues, and plenty of swoon-worthy moments. Although this book is the third in a series, it works well as a stand-alone novel. In addition, it is located in a bed and breakfast in England. Think flowers, cobblestones, jokes and true love.
For when prose just isn’t enough: Nothing screams spring like poetry. While Jericho Brown’s “The Tradition” collection relies heavily on floral designs and imagery, these beautiful poems articulate a young, gay black man’s experience in America. It is a breathtakingly beautiful collection of love, loss, safety and worship told through a series of pastoral poems. Brown invented his own unique form of the poem, the “Duplex”, which is featured extensively in this book. Even for those who don’t normally choose poetry, this work by a Pulitzer Prize winner is worth reading.
For rainy days: For the duller, darker days of spring, consider Emily Brontë’s chilling classic “Wuthering Heights.” This book has romance, but it’s a lot more angsty and tortured than “Act Your Age, Eve Brown.” Get ready for rainy moors and intense drama in this old-school but brilliant film about two families entwined in a cycle of love and violence. Sometimes spring isn’t just about the sun!
For your inner child: For fantasy, magic, and a classic character setting, consider reading (or revisiting) Lewis Carroll’s iconic “Alice in Wonderland.” The Disney animated movie is great, but nothing beats the original book in terms of fun and absurd fun. The Audible audiobook narrated by Scarlett Johansson is a great way to read this book on the go: the actress gives each character a different fairy tale voice that will conjure up images of mushrooms, Cheshire cats and teas – a real spring wonderland.
For the actor: Reading Shakespeare in your spare time isn’t for everyone, but anyone looking for a mental challenge and a relatively short play should check out “As You Like It.” The play is set in the Forest of Arden (Trees! Plants! Spring!) and features a ton of cross-dressing and more than a few homoerotic undertones. While not generally considered the most complex of the Bard’s plays, it is a crowd-pleasing comedy starring one of Shakespeare’s most updated leading ladies. It’s just a fun ride in the woods.
For the Intrigued: Someone who prefers to read non-fiction should look no further than “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Kimmerer, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, has spent his entire life and career learning from the knowledge of plants and animals. His powerful book on reciprocity with the environment as a way to heal the climate is a particularly relevant read that describes how capitalism and acquisition have thrown the natural order out of balance. A springtime book that will not only leave you with a wealth of knowledge about plants and their uses, but change your perspective on giving back to the Earth – ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ is truly a masterpiece.
For the realists: Continuing with the theme of plants, the best realistic fiction novel this spring is “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. Often hailed as a tree epic, in which trees are the protagonists, this book combines history, science and masterful storytelling to capture the reality of the world’s greatest living organisms. Both a fable and a hymn to the natural world, Powers’ novel is both entertaining and powerful. It’s a denser choice, so be prepared to read this one until summer.
For surrealists: “This is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is a slim novel that packs a significant punch. Written in lyrical, almost poetic prose, it tells the story of an epic battle across space and time between two mysterious combatants: Blue and Red. There are lots of garden images and the plot focuses on the cycle of renewal and destruction that spring symbolizes. Nature is both the message and the medium in this sinuous and surreal work of fiction.