You’ve made it out of the deep, irritable slumber of winter. You’re leaving your windows cracked and have put your humidifier back into storage. Sunlight, at last, cuts across your bare, pale knees.
If you live somewhere with seasonal weather, the emergence from winter’s SAD shadow is a glorious transition. This time of year, particularly in certain northern hemisphere countries coming out of a record-cold April, calls for a certain kind of reading.
Somewhere between the caffeinated rabbit hole of an epic winter read and the buzzed, sandy sensation of a summer page-turner, is the spring read. It’s a book meant for the indoors, but with the intoxicating citrus scent of magnolias coming in through the window; a book unconducive to the chaos of block party music or a pounding surf; a book that makes you stretch after a long nap and say, “That was a hell of a winter; let’s not go back there for a while.”
The best of spring reading should prepare you for the onslaught of summer energy, and intensify the pleasure of the in-between, if only for a brief few weeks. It should help you embrace the uncertainty of the future.
When looking for your readerly rosé, a few questions to ask yourself: Does the novel’s plot seem like it will lead to grief, or from it? Are the characters unraveling, or putting themselves back together? Are they looking for answers, or ambiguity? You may want to avoid blurb words such as: “brutal,” “devastating,” and “harrowing.” You can also divide your existing bookshelf into seasons to help you find a spring book to reread.
To get you in the mood for spring reading, here are a few suggestions, with brief descriptions:
A life renewed
A Whole Life, by Robert Seethaler, translated by Charlotte Collins (2015). A sweet German-language novel about Andreas, a solitary man who lives through World War II in the Austrian Alps.
Circe, by Madeline Miller (2018). A juicy reimagining of the story of Circe, the exiled witch who turned Odysseus’s men into pigs.
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer (2017). Arthur is a middling and middle-aged writer who gets a mediocre assignment and travels the world.
Orlando: A Biography, by Virginia Woolf (1928). A novel that follows the titular character and his/her transformation over centuries, from Elizabethan nobleman to wandering lady gypsy.
The Seamstress and the Wind, by César Aira, translated by Rosalie Knecht (2011). Originally written in Spanish, this slim, strange novel tells of the chase between Delia, a seamstress, and the Wind, who has stolen a dress she’s working on and is also in love with her.
A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki (2013). A time-bending, trans-Pacific book about a letter from Nao, from before.
Under the Glacier, by Halldór Laxness, translated by Magnus Magnusson (1972). A cheerful Icelandic novel about the mysterious Pastor Primus and his congregation of weirdos.
Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver (1968). An Italian collection of stories about a man who falls in love with the moon and the wooing of an abstract, pre-ontology being, among others.
The promise of new obsession
Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust, translated by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin (1981). Proust’s masterwork about possession and memory is by no means a speedy read. If you’re new to Proust, try Swann’s Way first. (Though some believe that Proust is for summertime, I’d argue for lightly caffeinated indoor intake of his serpentine sentences, in the spring.)
Love, by Péter Nádas, translated by Imre Goldstein (2000). Translated from Hungarian, a stream-of-consciousness, a-little-stoned novel about two bodies that exist only in a room, for each other.
The Idiot, by Elif Batuman (2017). An off-beat, at times laugh-out-loud funny, novel about Selin, a college freshman at Harvard, and her fixation on an older math major.