Welcome Spring, you ever elusive and far too fleeting season. Bearing that in mind, I better hurry. The snow is melting, the gutters are flooding, the grass is growing…those long, dark, quiet stories are to be shelved and exchanged for brighter, livelier, impassioned reading.
Here we go…
Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
A manic millionaire, flees Danbury(Yep, that Danbury) and jumps on a plane to Africa. Soon after, he has separated from friends and is somehow charged with bringing rain to a drought-suffering African village. Every page is replete with obnoxious amounts of laughter, desire,tragedy,cultural conflict(often to comic effect) and…congestion. A must-read for any and all who have suffered through the dreariness of winter and seriously doubted the presence of sunshine.
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
A beautiful book of warm, quiet moments. Like a ray of sun slowly creeping over you during the first warm day of spring. Read and savor every page of this short, evocative gem. For books set on an island, Jansson has Defoe beat.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
Don’t let the autumn bit confuse you. Set on the manmade trading post of Dejima, right alongside Nagasaki, Mitchell’s novel is a long, absorbing, romantic and occasionally dizzying novel with an enormous cast of characters making their way across a wide swath of chronology and a tiny bit of land. He imbues Dejima with a Dickensian depth, noting the stench of ordure carried by the wind, the crunching of ground underfoot, the portentous creaking of weathervanes, and the tinkling of a harpsichord with an attention wavering somewhere between glee and obsession. Dejima is where East and West meet, and where fortune is made and, for most of the novel, lost. Read it and be transported.
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
The ultimate novel for the rambling soul. Sorry, Mr. Kerouac. Bolano’s story of two lovetorn, creatively congested poets in search of a missing poet in the Mexican desert manages to capture every facet of life, from the dissolute youths, distraught adolescents, wise and embittered elderly and even the dead, make this a must-read. Read it slowly….like any road trip, the journey isn’t about where you’re going but how you get there.
The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
Some writers publish a couple books and then hit their stride. Some writers come out of the gate with crushing amounts of talent, sharp prose, wonderful characters and a way of seeing the world which remains unchallenged. Guess which category Woolf fits into. With the title serving literally and metaphorically, Woolf’s first novel takes place on a boat bound for South America, and at various stops along the way. A novel of transit and travel doused in myth. Something extraordinary and disorienting takes place among these pages. A must-read. Oh yeah, you meet a young Mrs. Dalloway too.
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
A chronicler of all things earthly. She wrapped huge concerns,desires,passions,fears,anxieties,beliefs,yearnings,etc. in small intricate poetic giftboxes. This is a woman who celebrated seasonal shift from a small room in Amherst and changed the world.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
There was nothing like it before, and there’s been nothing like it since. You were probably forcefed it in class. Forget that. Buy a copy, sit under a tree, and let go. The next time you look away from the page, it will be with new eyes.
Happy spring, people. We deserve it!