Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020
Saturday is the summer solstice . . . so it's time for me to wrap up my spring reading with a Top Five books list.
I read a lot during the last 3 months! I had made a serendipitous pick-up at my library the day before it closed for the pandemic, so I had a fresh stack of 7 books to read. Plus there were audiobook downloads and ebook loans and books from my own library to keep me occupied. Truly an embarrassment of riches!
Here we go . . . with the Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020 list:
I was reading this extraordinary book, Aperiogon by Colum McCann, just as the pandemic shutdowns were beginning. This book will stay with me forever! Not because of my timing (although I will probably always have a link in my brain between this book and the world falling apart all around me) but because it may be the best book I've ever read. It is a brilliant, layered portrait of friendship, grief, and moving forward under the most challenging of circumstances. It is . . . moving, powerful, poignant -- and unlike any other book I have read. I highly, highly recommend this one (and especially the audiobook version, where it is a special treat to hear it read by the author).
I have read most of Anne Enright's books over the years, but somehow missed reading her 2007 Man Booker Prize winning entry The Gathering. It may not have been the best book to read during the early days of the pandemic, but there it was . . . in my library pile. The Gathering is a beautiful book of characters and feelings, and probably won’t appeal to those craving action. That said, it is a gorgeous and very precise look at the workings of one woman’s mind loosed by tragedy and reflection; a redemption story of family love and memory, beautifully written and tenderly told. I recommend this one especially for readers who enjoy contemporary Irish literature.
The Far Field by new author Madhuri Vijay was another book in my pandemic library pile. I really enjoyed this one -- a beautiful and compelling read about good intentions gone bad. It builds slowly . . . until, suddenly, you realize you just can’t put it down. The writing is lovely -- clean and crisp, with wonderful descriptions of the setting; the characters are well-developed and believable. I’ll look forward to more books from this new author. Highly recommended.
I debated leaving this book, Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner, off my Top Five list . . . because it is a re-read for me. But then I decided I liked it too much to leave it off! Last fall I read The Topeka School . . . which reminded me how much I love Ben Lerner’s writing. I decided then that I would re-read his Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04 over the summer, just to immerse myself in Lerner’s words again. (I guess you could say that Ben Lerner is my literary “crush” . . .) I was a bit apprehensive about re-reading. Frequently I regret re-reading books I really loved the first time around because they just don’t stand up to the test of time for me. Not to worry, though. I enjoyed Leaving the Atocha Station as much (maybe even more) with a second read. I highly recommend this one, knowing that it won’t be to everyone’s taste. But for my friends who appreciate words and how they can be formed (more than plot) . . . well, this is a book for them!
And now I have the series of books that got me through the pandemic spring: all four installments of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowlings). While they aren't perfect, they are certainly entertaining! I was surprised and delighted with the series -- perfect for my mood during the early pandemic, stay-at-home days. I enjoyed the developing characters of Cormoran and Robin, and found the murder storyline to be entertaining and engaging. Excellent storytelling -- and I especially enjoyed the fabulous narration by Robert Glenister. I'm ready for a break from these books now (until a new installment comes out later this summer), but I highly recommend them for your summer reading. (Note: These are not "cozy" mysteries. If you're squeamish, there is some gruesomeness and gore. . .)
How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of spring reading?
If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog. You can find me here on Goodreads. And you can read my other Top Five lists by clicking the links below:
Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2019
Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2019
Can’t beat that Colum McCann recommendation! Thanks!
Posted by: Carolyn | 06/18/2020 at 11:59 AM
I always enjoy seeing what you've read and reading your reviews. I'm just getting over (I sure hope) my reading slump. A pity that I couldn't really get into reading during this whole COVID time (with so many extra hours on my hands). I feel as though I am slowly reviving though!
Posted by: Vera | 06/18/2020 at 01:47 PM
I completely agree with Apeirogon as a stunning book, and possibly the best I've ever read. For the rest of the best of spring, maybe The End of the Day (Bill Clegg), Poetry of Presence, and The Summer Book (Tove Jannson). I had trouble concentrating enough to read this spring, but will be looking for The Gathering and The Far Field. Thanks for the recommendations!
Posted by: Bonny | 06/18/2020 at 03:08 PM
It was still winter when I read Apeirogon and it's the best book I've read this year. My top five books of spring are Braiding Sweetgrass, Girl, Woman, Other; Crossing to Safety, The Book of Joy, and a re-read of A Gentleman In Moscow. I'm looking forward to some good books this summer!
Posted by: Debbie | 06/18/2020 at 03:22 PM
Thanks for these recommendations! I’m impressed that you read so much during this distracting time. A good book can pull you through a challenging time. I read voraciously the first three months of this year. Then April came and I slowed down especially when the weather shouted Spring! The five books I read were satisfying and enjoyable. Red Bones, Olive Again,
I’m Not Your Perfect American Daughter, When We Believed in Mermaids, A Great Reckoning.
Posted by: Geri | 06/18/2020 at 07:15 PM
I concur with your review of Apeirogon -- it was truly extraordinary. Though I read the ebook, I think at some point I will need to listen to the audiobook. With the exception of The Cuckoo's Calling, which I have read and enjoyed, I had not heard of the other books you've listed, so thank you for adding to my TBR pile!
Posted by: Sarah | 06/19/2020 at 07:27 AM
Thanks for taking the time to put together this list of top 5. I've added The Far Field to my TBR list as well as the Cormoran Strike series - which I think you had mentioned to me a bit ago.
Posted by: Carole | 06/19/2020 at 08:29 AM
My reading mojo is just returning but I read The Mothers by Brit Bennet in just 3 days and look forward to reading her new book, The Vanishing Half.
Posted by: Juliann | 06/19/2020 at 09:17 AM
I agree with all you have to say about these titles. I thought about reread Atocha Station and even downloaded it (again) to my iPod. I think I'll try to fit it in later this summer. The third Cormoran book was a little to graphic for my taste, but I look forward to the next. Thank you for writing reviews of the books as you say so well what I feel about the books, too.
Posted by: Margene | 06/19/2020 at 10:38 AM
Thank you for sharing these reviews, Kym. Apeirogon was on my radar, and I've read and loved all the Galbraith books, but the others were new-to-me titles. (I was really looking forward to the new Galbraith, until I read what JKR was saying ... and now I just don't know if I can even bring myself to read the any more of hers...)
Posted by: Mary | 06/19/2020 at 12:59 PM
I've read a couple of these, but the others will be added to my Goodreads list - thanks!
Posted by: Bridget | 06/19/2020 at 04:07 PM
I wholeheartedly concur with your thoughts on Apeirogon. It was the best book. And certainly is in the running for best book of 2020.
Posted by: Kat | 06/20/2020 at 07:54 AM
My favorite book this spring was We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Berry, a quasi-fantasy novel about a girls' field hockey team that dabbles in the dark arts to create a winning season. I found the writing delightful.
Posted by: kmkat | 06/21/2020 at 03:56 PM