What makes a good springtime read? I wasn’t thinking of a good book you could stuff in your beach bag for spring break (although you could certainly do that with most of these).
Instead, I had in mind themes that coincide with earth’s bursting to life after a long, cold winter: books about renewal and rebirth, about second chances and making things new.
Choose a good book (or six) from this list for your springtime reading, but don’t worry if you can’t get to everything that strikes your fancy this season. In the words of Anne Shirley, “That is one good thing about this world … there are always sure to be more springs.”
Don't bother starting at the beginning with Austen's earlier, brighter works. Go straight to her sixth and final published novel—which admittedly made the fall reading list for its darker and more serious themes—is a story of old love and second chances, which makes it perfect for spring. And if you want to read Austen twice in one year, I'm certainly not going to stop you. More info →
The first in Herriot's autobiographical series about life as a country vet in Northern England. When Herriot lands a position with an eccentric owner of an existing veterinary practice at the tender age of 23, he learns to treat the animals that popular Yorkshire farms—which also involves a good bit of care for their colorful owners. A delightful collection that's easy to read one short story at a time. More info →
Whenever I think of Leaves of Grass, I picture Wynona Rider-turned-Jo March quoting Whitman’s “new” volume in the 1994 movie Little Women. If you haven’t touched poetry since high school, pick up Whitman’s earthshaking 1855 collection, which oozes with freshness and optimism. Starting points: “Song of Myself,” “Song of the Open Road,” “I Sing the Body Electric.” Highly controversial in 1855: read it and decide for yourself. More info →
A. A. Milne said that while the merits of most books are debatable, "one does not argue about The Wind in the Willows." This is the story of four stubbornly loyal friends: river-loving Mole and Ratty, infuriating (but lovable) Toad, and wise Badger. A tale of friendship, loyalty and mapcap adventures. Exuberant, joyful, and full of fresh air. More info →
In the springtime, you just can’t beat a book that turns on a stolen kiss in the Italian countryside. It’s widely believed that the movie is better than the book, but that’s no excuse not to read this slim novel about the awakening of sheltered Englishwoman Lucy Honeychurch (who is definitely in the running for Most Adorable Name in Literature) at the hands of an Englishman with little regard for convention. More info →
Eliot’s hefty masterpiece combines her “study of provincial life” with a close look at several young couples who fall (or think they fall) in love. Who will find lasting happiness, and who won’t, and why? By focusing on the narrow disappointments and particular joys of this small community, Eliot cuts to the heart of human nature. A novel about love, happiness, and second chances. More info →
In Simonson’s 2004 novel, a widower who was raised to believe in propriety above all falls hopelessly in love with someone who is completely wrong for him—at least by the standards of his small English village. A winsome story with an unlikely hero. More info →
Taisy Cleary hasn’t seen her father in 17 years. After he survives a heart attack, he summons her to write his biography (The Thirteenth Tale, anyone?), and Taisy is plunged back into her past, giving her the opportunity to write past (and current) crucial mistakes. Not my favorite de los Santos work, but the gorgeous writing and Middlemarch references keep it on my “worthwhile” list. More info →
After her father dies, Molly Wizenburg doesn’t know what to do with herself—so she goes to Paris, and later, starts a blog. This memoir will make you laugh, cry, check airfare to Paris, and dream about chocolate croissants. Any book that begins with a death and ends with a wedding is spring reading material. More info →
“Nothing ever seems impossible in spring, you know.” Anne Shirley has a well-documented and recurring case of spring fever, and you’ll have a hard time not catching it—whether you’re reading this series (and do read the whole series) for the first time or the hundredth. More info →
A spoiled, loveless orphan and a coddled, cantankerous invalid bring a forgotten garden—and each other—to life again in this childhood classic. The themes of rebirth and renewal—and the literal spring that blooms before their eyes in their secret garden—make spring the perfect time to revisit this book, or read it for the first time, as I just did. More info →