Today is the Summer Solstice, and here in my corner of the world . . . it's summer alright! It's very hot (mid-90s), very muggy, and the sun is shining. Ahhhh. Summer. The shortest season of the year around here!
(Pay no attention to the weeds on the path. Damn thistles. There are always weeds somewhere in my garden . . . and today, they're on the path. As you can see, JoJo is still sporting her t-shirt collection, but only through tomorrow . . . when she finally gets her stitches removed. She loves finding the sunshine in the garden!)
Anyway. The Summer Solstice has arrived, and that means . . . it's time for me to share my Top Five reads of spring 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 books from this past spring (the link listed for each book will take you to a published review of the book):
First up, I've got an absolute stunner of a book - The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard. This is the most compelling, satisfying book I’ve read in a very long time (and maybe ever). It's one of those rare books where an investment in careful reading totally and completely pays off in the end. (In fact, it's necessary.) The intricate plot is perfection, the writing is stellar, the characters are interesting and complex, and the foreshadowing . . . is everything. I highly, highly recommend this book -- BUT I'm also issuing a warning: Shirley Hazzard makes her readers work hard! This book is only for those who have patience to wade through a really challenging opening 50-60 pages (it takes a while to get into the rhythm of this one). And you must understand going in that there are no minor details in this book. The payoff is huge, but the reading is a commitment. (I gave this book 5 stars.)
Next, I've got a refreshing and unique novel that is, well, pretty much. . . perfection. Trust by Hernan Diaz. It sounds like it might be overly complicated and tricky to read, but it really isn't at all. It’s cleverly layered, story upon story, with each layer providing readers a slightly different angle, a brand new piece of the puzzle. And it’s delectable! Beautifully written and absolutely compelling. Power. Wealth. Influence. Privilege. And the impact of . . . all that . . . on history. Extremely clever, and highly recommended. (I gave this book 5 stars.)
Then, I've got a brilliant little book, perfect for a quick summer read . . . The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. Otsuka's clever story structure and spare, poetic writing style combine to pack a real punch, resulting in a touching metaphor for life. First, using the voices of lap-swimmers in a community pool, Otsuka cleverly describes the mundane structures and habits of life that bolster us and give beauty and value to our days. Then, with a deep-dive into the life of one of those swimmers, she shows us what happens when cracks appear, undermining our bodies and minds and impacting those who love us. This incredibly moving book is so much more than it appears. (I gave this book 5 stars.)
Next, I've got another re-read - Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I read this one when it was first published back in 2011, and I just loved it then. (In fact, it set me on a course to keep an eye out for anything written by Amor Towles). I decided to do a re-read this year while reading Towles’ newest - The Lincoln Highway - and recognizing a carry-over character/setting from Rules of Civility (Wallace Walcott and his family’s Adirondack cottage). Rules of Civility is every bit as wonderful as I remembered from my earlier reading – gorgeous prose, wonderful characters, and a fabulous, richly-described setting in 1930s Manhattan. (I gave this one 5 stars -- back in 2011 and again in 2022.)
Last, I've got an audiobook - Miracle and Wonder: Conversations With Paul Simon by Malcolm Gladwell, Bruce Headlam, and Paul Simon (narrator). Like many other readers, I'd actually give this book MORE than 5 stars on Goodreads if I could. It really is that fabulous. Not only is the content pretty incredible, but the entire production is just . . . amazing. It’s not so much an audiobook . . . as an extended (and very well-done) podcast. It’s fascinating. I listened back in March, and I'm still humming Paul Simon songs every day. (I don’t know if there’s even a written version of this book, but . . . don’t bother. This one NEEDS to be listened to.) (I gave this one 5 stars. Although I'd have gladly given it more.)
How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of spring reads?
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: