Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2021
The Summer Solstice passed quietly around here last weekend. No party for us again this year (we thought about it, but couldn't muster the energy in time to make a go of it), but we did toast Summer's arrival - just the two of us - out on our patio.
Now that Summer is officially here, it's time for me to share the best of my Spring reading. Looking back over the last 3 months of books . . . well . . . I read a lot! Some of the books I read were pretty awful, actually. But a lot of them were excellent. After reviewing all the books I read since my last Top Five list, here is my new Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2021 list:
First up . . . Shuggie Bain (5 stars) by Douglas Stuart. I know I've talked about it a lot already (being our last Read With Us selection and all), so I won't say any more about it now. But it deserves its place at the top of my list because - hands down - this was the best book I read during the last three months.
Next . . . The Office of Historical Corrections (5 stars) by Danielle Evans. I was actually reading this one while coming up with my Top Five Winter list, so it nearly found a place on my previous list. But I wasn't technically finished with it, so it had to wait. (You know. Arbritary Rules.) Anyway, I thought this short story collection was absolutely brilliant with layers of nuance, exquisite writing, strong characters, and gasp-worthy storylines. I’ve always been a short story fan, but Danielle Evans really elevated my standards for the entire genre with this collection. While each story is strong and entirely unique, “Boys Go to Jupiter” had the biggest gut-punch for me, and I especially enjoyed the cleverness of “Why Won’t Women Just Say What They Want.” In the end, though, it was the title novella that really stole the show.
Then . . . I've got another excellent short story collection, Milk Blood Heat (4 stars) by Dantiel W. Montiz. I’ve heard this collection of short stories described as “visceral” and “raw,” and . . . yes. I'd have to agree. Visceral and raw, indeed. These are stories that grab you by the heart and then make it skip a beat, with writing so clear it sings. And even though most of the stories don’t end with resolution . . . I never cared. (Ambiguous endings FTW!) Dantiel Montiz is an author that gives you just what you need. And no more. What a gift.
Next . . . Secrets of Happiness (4 stars) by Joan Silber. (Although the title sounds like a "self-help" sort of book . . . trust me. It is not.) Now Joan Silber is one of those authors I love reading so much that I will drop whatever I may be doing to grab her latest book. She is simply a master with interconnected stories, a genre I particularly enjoy. It’s so easy to just sink down into her books and make friends with her various narrators and characters. Although it's always hard to leave someone you’ve come to love when the story moves on, Joan Silber has them popping up in some other new-and-wonderful narrator’s story later on, so it’s not all bad. This particular batch of stories feature wonderfully developed characters revealing slowly-emerging connections just brimming with hope, redemption, and love . . . all in pursuit of happiness (however you define it).
And last, I've got Writers & Lovers (4 stars) by Lily King. I picked up this book because I wanted something a little “lighter” to read after Shuggie Bain. . . and it was immediately available through my library. What a delightful surprise! I thoroughly enjoyed the well-drawn characters (ALL of the characters, major and minor), the storyline, the setting, the pace. And the writing was just so . . . smooth; very engaging and a pleasure to read. The book was clever and funny and quite a bit more romantic than I expected (despite the word “lovers” right there in the title). I loved the bits about the writing life, and the main character’s commitment to her craft. And while I’d say the main character is too old to feature in a typical coming-of-age story, it’s still kind of a coming-of-age story. I guess it’s more . . . a becoming-a-full-adult kind of story; a perfect bridge between “idealistic youth” and “git’r’dun adulthood.” Although everything does wrap up maybe a little too neatly in the end, I didn’t mind a bit much.
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 past Top Five lists by clicking the links below:
Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2021
Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2020
Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2019
Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2019
Ooo! I am going to add Milk Blood Heat to my list... short stories... who am I?? LOL
If you are looking for another collection of unresolved stories... The Dubliner's by James Joyce is brilliant!
Posted by: Kat | 06/24/2021 at 08:53 AM
I put Joan Sibers book on my library list and already 9 people are waiting and it's still on order. I hope the wait goes quickly as I really enjoyed her last book. I have Still Life by Sarah Winman in the wings and just finished Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan (very good!).
Posted by: Margene | 06/24/2021 at 09:46 AM
I've read three of your five and would wholeheartedly agree! I've put Secrets of Happiness on hold, but it looks like a long wait. Shuggie, Office, Oh William!, and Goldenrod would probably make my top four list for spring.
Posted by: Bonny | 06/25/2021 at 07:35 AM
I loved Writers & Lovers. I agree that the ending was perhaps a little too good, but sometimes I really want that truly happy ending, no matter how unrealistic! And Office of Historical Corrections is, for the moment, my favorite short story collection of all that I've read. I really felt like so many of them were just teasers of longer novels, and I really wanted to read more of nearly all of them -- especially the title novella!
So let's see if I can narrow down my top five from the spring: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Writers & Lovers, Aftershocks, The Essex Serpent, The Hand That First Held Mine -- actually, that wasn't so hard!
Posted by: Sarah | 06/25/2021 at 07:42 AM
Great list, Kym - thank you! and Joan Silber is a new-to-me author ... I LOVE finding those! I'm pondering a mid-year wrap up for my next reading post and "pondering" because figuring out the superlatives is hard ... I think Unsettled Ground, The God of Small Things, and This Must Be the Place are sure favorites.
Posted by: Mary | 06/28/2021 at 09:57 AM
I cannot pick my five favorites, maybe because I have really tended towards mystery novels during the pandemic. But Anxious People by Frederick Backman is right up there.
Posted by: kmkat | 06/30/2021 at 01:38 PM