Clocks have gone back (or forward? I truly never know), days are getting longer and hayfever sufferers are suffering. Spring!
Somehow, lots of has have ingrained spring rituals within us, like we are still living centuries ago where our days worked around daylight and weather rather than in objection to it. Things such as planting things that grow and cleaning your house and rediscovering cold drinks.
Reading has never seemed a particularly seasonal activity to me, enough that the whole ‘summer reads’ season always confuses me. But, what with this year’s spring making us unable to actually enjoy changing weather for the second time in a row, maybe we have to look elsewhere for some seasons.
So – here are some books that do that for you.
Spring – Ali Smith
Synopsis: What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Rilke, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times? Spring. The great connective.
With an eye to the migrancy of story over time, and riffing on Pericles, one of Shakespeare’s most resistant and rollicking works, Ali Smith tells the impossible tale of an impossible time. In a time of walls and lockdown Smith opens the door.
I think I’m very clever by starting with this book, actually. It is part of the author’s Seasonal series, the last of which, Summer, was recently longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The author actually wrote another book that previously won the prize (which took me far longer than is sensible to realise), and the way that was written was very good. I mean, my linked review goes into a bit more detail but it’s just so other to most books, with a real focus on the art of writing, I think, that I’m now more intrigued by what this seasonal journey holds.
The first book in the series is actually Autumn, which was a Booker Prize shortlister, but the series has repeatedly been so ubiquitous with every book that I didn’t actually realise. (Also, Autumn isn’t very suitably ‘spring,’ is it?) Also, do you have to read them in order? Honestly doesn’t seem so!
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up – Marie Kondo
Synopsis: Transform your home into a permanently clear and clutter-free space with the incredible KonMari Method. Japan’s expert declutterer and professional cleaner Marie Kondo will help you tidy your rooms once and for all with her inspirational step-by-step method. The key to successful tidying is to tackle your home in the correct order, to keep only the things you really love and to do it all at once – and quickly. After that for the rest of your life you only need to choose what to keep and what to discard.
I remember how very calming Marie Kondo’s Netflix series was when I binge-watched it for no reason, and it made me determined to purchase the author’s first book, despite my usual aversion to self-help books. But, from everything I have seen about this book, it is less a how-to on how to tidy your home and more a guide on decluttering your entire life, mind included. I could use some of that. This is one of the books on this list I am actually adding to my TBR.
I know it can be a divisive book, but most health & wellness books are, so that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Also, hey, even if the ‘life changing’ part of this book doesn’t happen, maybe I’ll actually make some practical, tidying changes at least!
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
Synopsis: In 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge posted an impassioned piece online about her frustration with the way discussions of racism were being shut down by those who weren’t affected by it. The post went viral, and responses from those desperate to speak up about their own experiences flooded in. Galvanised, Eddo-Lodge decided to dive into the source of these feelings; the result is a searing exploration of what it means to be a person of colour in Britain today.
Every new season is a good reason to unlearn some bad things and learn some good ones. Also I cannot help but recall the huge influence the Black Lives Matter movement had last spring and summer, and we should still be engaging! Certainly reading a single book doesn’t do a lot, but it is always a useful endeavour, particularly if it is very well-written!
Plus – and I think I always say this when I rec this book – the podcast the author did to accompany this book is just so good.
Wilding – Isabella Tree
Synopsis: Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.
I feel like just the cover of this book alone makes it a worthy read, but it seems something else entirely when you delve into it. It is, naturally, about farming and etc, but a bit more than vague plant knowledge, it’s about the author’s experimental conservation project in her country farm.
Biodiversity loss is such a massive and yet relatively little discussed environmental issue that I think this book would do a wonderful job of telling us more about it. Plus I think reading about large scale projects like this one might make me more inclined to giving keep-plants-alive another go!
Everything I Know About Love – Dolly Alderton
Synopsis: Award-winning journalist Dolly Alderton survived her twenties (just about) and in Everything I Know About Love, she gives an unflinching account of the bad dates and squalid flat-shares, the heartaches and humiliations, and most importantly, the unbreakable female friendships that helped her to hold it all together.
This book dips in and out of the author’s experiences with and feelings about love, from childhood to her current thirties. In a time of year where we’re so focused on growth, this seems like such a suitable read, particularly when it is doubly about convincing you to stop having existential crises every birthday. Plus, there are the author’s favourite recipes interspersed through the chapters, and idk about anyone else, but I’m always in a baking mood when the weather gets nice.
I actually listened to the audiobook rather than reading the print copy and I have to say it was such a good idea. The author was a familiar voice anyway from The High/Low podcast, and the affable tone that accompanies the whole book really makes it a comforting listen.
Clearly I am in some kind of non-fiction mood, with these books! I do think though, that I feel more inclined to a bit more intensive reading projects than I have recently. Plus, books that teach you something tangible absolutely have those spring vibes ™ imo.
What books do you think are ‘spring reads’?