Yesterday was the Spring Equinox, and it was a perfect spring day here in my corner of the world. (It isn't always.) We had temperatures warm enough to sit on our patio (with sweatshirts, but without Mr. Heater), and the sky was a beautiful blue. There are no leaves on any trees yet, and the daffodils are still a couple of weeks out. But I do have a couple of brave and early crocus blooms popping up in my garden. Spring is showing up ... right on time!
And that means . . . it's time for me to share my Top Five reads of winter with you. Each quarter, right around the solstice or equinox, I think back on the books I read during the previous 3 months, and I choose my top five.
Here goes: my Top Five from this winter (the link listed for each book will take you to a published review of the book):
First up, a re-read: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. I first read - and loved - this book when it was originally published in 2009. Since then, I’ve planned to re-read it . . . and I finally got around to it, now, 13 years later! I think - in my mind, at least - it has gotten even better with the years. This novel is beautifully written, the story tenderly told, with a cast of unforgettable characters and an amazing sense of place (no matter where the “place” is). It’s an epic tale of love, family, and following your passion . . . with a bit of history thrown in. This book is in the running for one of my favorite books ever. (And that’s saying a lot.) (5 stars from me -- in 2009 and still in 2022.)
Next, I've got a great essay collection by Ann Patchett: These Precious Days.Whenever I read any of Ann Patchett’s essays, I wish we were neighbors or something, and we had some chance to become friends. Because I’d love to be friends with Ann Patchett! Her writing lifts me up and makes me feel . . . better. More hopeful. Like it’s all worth going on. And that . . . is really something these days. I loved this collection of essays, and will give them a special place in my personal library so I can read them again and again. (I gave this collection 5 stars.)
Next, I've got Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez. It’s not often that you get romantic-comedy and political fiction genres to mix well, but they do - with great success - in Olga Dies Dreaming. The writing style is kinda easy-breezy, but with a punch; a pleasure to read. Well-developed characters, good pacing, and a clever plot kept me turning the pages. Racial politics play a major role, but the author does a great job keeping the storyline moving, and the inclusion/weaving in of political fact never comes off “preachy” (which is admirable). (I gave this books 4 stars.)
Next, To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara. Some of you may have taken one look at this book and run the other way (it's a hefty 720 pages), and some of you may have heard that it's kind of a mess. It's a technically brilliant novel, but definitely on the weird side. It's creative, clever, and beautifully-crafted novel; the writing is gorgeous, the characters well-drawn, and the settings are picture-perfect. It's also . . . weird. It's a very chewy read. Told in three parts (three separate novellas, actually), it's set in three different centuries. There are no overlapping characters - although the same names and settings keep appearing. (Hanya Yanagihara puts her readers through the paces with this one.) You've got alternative histories, unreliable narrators, and ambiguous endings . . . all in one package! While it won't be to everyone's taste, it's sure to be an adventure in reading if you decide to pick it up. (I gave this one 4 stars.)
Last, I've got Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. An odd choice, actually, because it's not a great book. But it does have a great message. I'd wanted to read this book since I first heard about it last year, and I'm glad I finally picked up a copy. It's a little gem! I enjoyed the easy-breezy writing style, and found it to be well-organized and full of accessible tips and practical advice. Mostly, though, I appreciated the message, which is just what I needed to hear (and share) right now. That said, this is a book-that-should-have-been-an-essay (it is often quite repetitive). Still . . . I loved it and found it refreshing and inspiring. (I gave this book 3.5 stars.)
How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of winter 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: