May 13th, 2024, 10:00 AM

Take Your Book Out: What to Read this Spring

By Tayma Saliba
Image Credit: Tayma Saliba
A list of 10 books to accompany you underneath the warm spring sunshine

Around this time of year, sunny days are what all Parisians crave. Soon, we can finally sit in a park, on the outside terrace of a café, or by the Seine. What better way to enjoy the pleasant spring weather than with a book in hand? Fellow readers, and those who are simply looking for a way to get re-energized after the harsh winter cold, this guide is for you. Here is a list of ten books from different genres that will make for perfect spring reads. 

1. A Room With a View - E.M. Forster (Classic Romance)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba 

When I think of spring, I often think of Italy. I was there for spring break recently, and it reminded me of A Room With A View, which is an underrated classic romance from the early 20th century (1908), written by E.M. Forster. 

In this book, the main character, Lucy, travels to Florence with her chaperone, Charlotte, where they meet the Emersons, an unconventional family for that era. The young woman's interactions with one of them challenges her traditional beliefs and societal expectations. She suddenly finds herself torn between the stifling conformity of her social class in Edwardian-era England and the liberating embrace of her own identity and desires. 

This story is both a romance and a humorous critique of the English society at the turn of the 20th century. The writer's wit and use of irony, mixed with vivid descriptions and sharp dialogue, is what makes this book flow nicely while also exploring the timeless themes of love and individuality. 

2. The Midnight Library - Matt Haig (Fantasy)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba

Looking for a great book to read on those nights when you feel like taking a break? The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, is the book for you.

Published in 2020, it tells the story of Nora Seed, a woman in a state of despair and deep regret over the choices she's made in life. Instead of ending it all, she finds herself in the Midnight Library, a metaphorical place between life and death, where the librarian, by the name of Mrs. Elm, lives. She guides Nora through the books on the shelves, which are actually different versions of her life based on decisions she would have made at a certain moment. Our protagonist is given the opportunity to explore these alternate lives and see how her decisions would have impacted her, and those around her, happiness. It's a tale about the power of choice, full of existential questions about purpose, regret, and the nature of reality itself. 

The author's writing style helps fully immerse the reader because of how introspective, lyrical and empathetic the tone is. There was a good balance between fantasy, philosophy and personal reflection nuances, which made me resonate with the character better. 

3. Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman (Poetry)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba

What is spring without some poetry? One of my favorite collections of poems is Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. There are many editions of this book, the first publication being in 1855. Some editions have more poems than others, but all are worthy of a read. 

A celebration of life, nature, and the human experience; these poems are characterized by their expansive vision, spontaneity, and free verse style, which makes them extremely accessible. Whitman covers a wide range of themes, including love, spirituality, democracy, and more. His poetry is an ode to the complexity of existence and pushes the reader to see themselves as part of a larger cosmic whole. 

Apart from the author's style being groundbreaking for its time, especially in American poetry, it remains influential to this day. It's easily approachable because he rejects traditional poetic forms in favor of a more free-flowing, open-ended perspective, which gets closer to the rhythm of natural speech. His language nonetheless remains bold and sensory, creating immediacy and intimacy.

4. House of Hollow - Krystal Sutherland (Paranormal)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba

A twisted fairy tale with flowers as one of the main motifs, anyone? In keeping with the spring theme, you might like the story of the Hollow sisters, who vanished without a trace when they were children, only to return years later with no memory of what happened to them. 

In House of Hollow, the sisters discover that they possess unusual abilities and become entangled in a dark and supernatural mystery. It's difficult to figure out what's truly happening throughout the book, which is what keeps it so intriguing. Their journey leads them to uncover unsettling truths about their family and the mysterious things lurking in the shadows.

Krystal Sutherland's tone is extremely eerie and suspenseful. She successfully creates a sense of unease throughout the book, with twists and turns that come out of nowhere. I felt that she presented a unique perspective on the themes of trauma and identity, especially through family relationships. It might be challenging to get through the first half of the book, but what later enfolds is gripping and stays with the reader long after its ending.

5. A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles (Historical Fiction)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba 

Simply put, A Gentleman in Moscow quickly became one of my favorite books and I couldn't seem to put it down on my first read. Published in 2016 and written by Amor Towles, it tells the story of Count Alexander Rostov, an aristocrat who was part of the Russian Revolution in the 1920s. He is declared a "Former Person" by a Bolshevik tribunal, and instead of being executed, is placed under lifetime house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow at the very beginning of the book, which immediately makes the reader wonder how his story will unfold.

Confined to a hotel, the count gradually creates a rich and fulfilling life for himself through relationships with staff and guests. He immerses himself in the cultural and intellectual life of the city instead of the politics. We follow his story over decades as the landscape of Russia and the Metropol changes throughout history in a parallel way, the hotel becoming a whole town in itself. It was easy to get attached to the characters in the story, but most of all, this book is a great lesson in the resilience of the human spirit.

The author's style is very elegant and witty. He does a good job of capturing the atmosphere of the era with meticulous attention to detail, blending history with philosophical reflections. It felt as though the reader were truly living alongside the protagonist.

6. Book Lovers - Emily Henry (Modern Day Romance)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba 

We can all enjoy a classic enemies-to-lovers book every once in a while, and Book Lovers does this trope justice. Published in 2022 and written by rising author Emily Henry, it tells the story of Nora and Charlie, two literary agents who are competitors within their industry. They both find themselves spending the summer in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for different reasons. Their repeated meetings aren't the stuff of a charming first encounter; they're familiar and far from cute. As fate keeps throwing them together in improbable situations, you've guessed it, they dig deep into the narratives they've constructed about themselves, and eventually discover that there might be more between them than they'd initially thought.

Emily Henry's style is known to be warm and witty—she's really good at creating cozy and inviting atmospheres—and her stories always revolve around books in some way or another. I think her dialogue and diction plays a large role in the fabric of the story, as it's quite raw and realistic. It's a romance book that reminds the reader of the transformative potential of human connection, while simultaneously being a light and breezy read. 

7. Before The Coffee Gets Cold - Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Magical Realism)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba 

Before The Coffee Gets Cold  is a book that was absolutely made for spring. Written by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, this novel was first published in Japanese in 2015, but later translated into English. The book is a collection of interconnected stories set in a small café in Tokyo where customers have the chance to travel back in time to revisit specific moments from their past. However, there's a catch: they must "return" from the past before their coffee gets cold. We get introduced to different characters that are either seeking solace, closure or forgiveness, and each has personal stories to tell. The café becomes a space for them to confront unresolved issues and find healing, making the reader connect with them on a deep level.

The author's style is not what you'd expect from the premise of the book, and that's what makes it so good. It's a very introspective and gentle style that draws the reader in and makes us forget this cannot happen in our reality. The novel's structure of vignettes that connect one another is very reflective of the human condition depicted here and the universal desire for redemption and reconciliation. 

8. All About Love: New Visions - Bell Hooks (Non-Fiction)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba 

Love is an emotion that humans never cease to explore, though it remains the most complex and unpredictable of them all. It sometimes feels as though we are looking at it through one unchanged lens, but All About Love: New Visions says otherwise. This non-fiction book by Bell Hooks, although published in 2000, continues to stay relevant today. 

Bell Hooks offers a thought-provoking analysis of the concept of love in modern society, questioning the nature of the term entirely. Through a combination of cultural critiques, personal anecdotes, and philosophical reflections, she examines the ways in which love is misunderstood and misrepresented in contemporary culture. Whether it's self-love, romantic love, familial love, or the love of community, she highlights the importance of what healthy relationships are and how they contribute to social change. 

The author's writing is extremely accessible, engaging, and most of all, deeply personal. The book resonates differently with everyone, which is why its contents are difficult to put into words. Reading it is the only way to understand the true essence of her insights. 

9. Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami (Literary Fiction)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba 

Another great Japanese novel is Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, published in 1987. I first picked up this book because of its title, which is also the title of a Beatles song. Aside from the song being mentioned multiple times, I didn't quite know what to expect, but found myself pleasantly surprised by what followed. 

A coming-of-age story set in Tokyo during the late 1960s, it follows Toru Watanabe as he reflects on his youth and relationships with two different women: Naoko and Midori. The book explores how the two romances were formed, each at a specific time of the protagonist's life. His feelings for these two women merge at some point, and consequently, he is forced to confront his desires, fears, and insecurities.

Murakami's style is not only characterized by his lyrical prose and vivid imagery but also his subtle incorporation of surreal elements in the story. He effectively blends realism and existential philosophy, in a way that blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy. The book is a poignant and deeply affecting exploration of love and longing. The writer blends wonder and melancholy, which is sure to leave a lasting affect on readers.  

10. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel (Science Fiction)

Image Credit: Tayma Saliba 

Although no one longs for our pandemic past, this book is a must-read in today's post-pandemic world. Emily St. John Mandel wrote Station Eleven in 2014, but the novel resonates with the world's recent experience of a global pandemic, which I thought was eerily impressive. 

In the aftermath of the devastating flu that wipes out most of the world's population, the story follows a group of characters, both before and after the outbreak, as they navigate the new world that emerges. The author plays with time through a traveling theater troupe called the Traveling Symphony, who perform around the world for scattered communities. 

She weaves together timelines and perspectives, capturing the stark beauty of a world ravaged by catastrophe while also celebrating the resilience of the human spirit. Her prose is filled with unique observations, that not only resonates with readers, but invites them to contemplate profound questions around the topics of life and death. With distancing restrictions now fully lifted, Station Eleven serves as a poignant reminder of our distant past.

If you enjoy these books, keep an eye out for some of the most anticipated reads that are coming this Spring 2024. Happy reading!