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The MBRB Spring Reading List

Joyous, Hopeful Reads for The Nicest Season of All!

Terry Pratchett, Wodehouse, and languorous Canadian murder mysteries make our list of perfect spring reads!

Spring Reading

If winter is all about snuggling under the covers with a cup of cocoa and a book as thick as your wrist, spring is about light reads that you can savour under a tree, or in a bus on your way to somewhere.

The Scandinavian thrillers are too cold, and the Russian masters too austere for these months of yellow blossoms and light pashminas. You don’t want to read post modernist hokum because it doesn’t feed your soul. Poetry is an excellent idea- but only when doled out in cupcake-sized morsels.

But just because spring is better spent outdoors, no reason we can’t read on our terraces and balconies is there?  Here are some suggestions- both old and new.

Where'd You Go Bernadette

For those who like Book Clubs more than Mommy Groups: Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette?

“You’re bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s ON YOU to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

Why it’s the perfect book for Spring: Because it is funny, first and foremost- a prerequisite for a spring book- and it is stylish and adventurous. And because it is one of those rare books with nearly no antagonists whatsoever. Everyone has  interesting impulses,and is well-meaning- if occasionally misguided. The narrator is plucky and delightful in the way of old-fashioned Enid Blyton heroines with a little bit of Manga darkness thrown in, and Bernadette herself-with all her quirks and ticks- is a character worth rooting for!

For those who like their books with a mushy centre and a sweet sour aftertaste: Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park

I just can’t believe that life would give us to each other,’ he said, ‘and then take it back.’

‘I can,’ she said. ‘Life’s a bastard.”

The Harry Potter and Hunger Games series have proven that when it comes to a well-told story, the genre-name Young Adult is a misnomer. A good book is a good book, whether you’re a 14 year old mopey dreamer, or a thirty something cynical wise-ass. We are not the kind to recommend a love story on most days, but this book punched us in the heart with a ferocity we haven’t experienced in years. Both ugly tears and big gooey smiles guaranteed.

Inspector Gamache

For those who like a little bit of blood splattered, tastefully: Louise Penny’s  Inspector Gamache series

What did falling in love do for you? Can you ever really explain it? It filled empty spaces I never knew were empty. It cured a loneliness I never knew I had. It gave me joy. And freedom. I think that was the most amazing part. I suddenly felt both embraced and freed at the same time.

Let’s face it-spring is NOT the time of the year to read about brooding detectives with deep-rooted psychoses and drinking problems. If a good old-fashioned murder yarn makes you rub your hands in glee, we suggest you give the Inspector Gamache series a try. He smells of sandalwood and rosewater, likes his coffee “double double” (twice the sugar and twice the cream), and is described by both suspects and colleagues as the kindest person they know. The author is ostensibly writing a detective novel- but is just as likely to describe a perfectly baked pie as a gruesomely dissected corpse. The Three Pines Mysteries are not about whodunits, but about fundamentally good people struggling with baser emotions like jealousy, rage and despair. MBRB read the entire series at one go in the two months after Baby Baguette was born, and they left us very satisfied, if hungry for a warm scone with a double double (or two).

For those who want to read “The Read” of the season: Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird

This is Helen Oyeyemi’s fifth critically acclaimed book and she’s not quite thirty. If you can get over your rage at this fact, you will love this slim book- a modernist telling of Snow White. Very often critically acclaimed books disappoint for their lack of heart, but this isn’t one of those books. You will feel every spare word written by Oyeyemi, and think about them for ages to come.

We don’t want to share a synopsis for fear of spoiling the book for you, but Helen’s own answer as to what the book is about should tell you why this book may be the worthiest you read all season.

For me Boy, Snow, Bird is is very much a wicked stepmother story. Every wicked stepmother story is to do with the way women disappoint each other, and encourage each other, across generations. A lot of terrible things can come out of that disappointment. I also wanted to explore the feminine gaze, and how women handle beauty without it being to do with men, per se.The women all want approval from each other, and are trying to read each other. I also wanted to look at the aesthetics of beauty – who gets to be deemed the fairest of them all. And in Snow White that is very explicitly connected with whiteness.

For those in the mood to revisit a classic: PG Wodehouse’ PSmith series

Psmith

I am Psmith,” said the old Etonian reverently. “There is a preliminary P before the name. This, however, is silent. Like the tomb. Compare such words as ptarmigan, psalm, and phthisis

Is there anything more “spring”(well, technically summer, but bear with us here) than crisp cricket whites? And is there a more cheerful author for this most cheerful of seasons than Wodehouse?  Psmith, old Etonian cricketer, inveterate talker-into-an-out-of-trouble, and general do-gooder (at least in his opinion), may be a man for all seasons- but he is most suited to this fair weather.  There is no better way to spend an April weekend than on the greens with a cooler of something chilly, a picnic basket of sandwiches, and all four of Wodehouse’s Psmith Books.

For those who’ve spent the last twenty years under a rock: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series

“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”

For some reason, science fiction and fantasy writers specialize in telling stories of dystopia and annihilation. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series (all 40 of them) cast just as scathing a look at society as the best of them, except they’re filled with hope. Here is someone who sees everything that is wrong with the world, but who nonetheless, believes it can be corrected or at the least made better,  with a bit of daring and pragmatism. His heroes are old fashioned swash bucklers with a healthy dose of self deprecation and self awareness. If spring is the most ebullient of all seasons, celebrate it with this the most hopeful and profound and joyous of authors. It is – after all – the season for a good laugh!

Photo Credit: roseannadana via Compfight cc

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