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After a long winter, many of us look forward to the first signs of spring. Warmer weather, spring flowers peeking through the soil, birds singing, and signs of new life everywhere… it really is a magical time. A time for a new start, and new resolutions! Why not make reading more one of yours?
Though spring happens at different times in different places, and some might not even feel there is a change in the season at all, in books we encounter a spring that is always filled with flowers and promise.
Following on from our books to read in the fall and winter, we’ve collected together the very best books to read this spring.
So whether you’re still curled up inside by the fire, sitting out on a patio in the fresh air, or heading to the coast for Spring Break, we’ve got the perfect book to accompany you.
1. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
My personal childhood favorite, The Secret Garden must appear on any list of books for reading in springtime… whatever your age! Published as a book in 1911 after being serialized in The American Magazine, this is one of Burnett’s most famous works and is widely considered a classic of English literature for children.
It follows the story of Mary Lennox, a 10-year-old girl born in India to wealthy English parents. She is sickly, neglected, and unloved, cared for only by native servants who spoil her. When her parents and their entire household perish in a Cholera epidemic, Mary is discovered alive and alone in their vast mansion before being carried away to a new life in England.
In England, Mary travels to Yorkshire to live in with Mr. Archibald Craven, a hunchbacked uncle she has never met, at the isolated Misselthwaite Manor. The Secret Garden follows Mary’s story as she begins to improve her physical health, her temperament, and her imagination under the care of a few good and honest Yorkshire folks.
More than any other, The Secret Garden is the perfect book for spring because Mary’s rejuvenation runs in parallel with the recovery of a lost and overgrown garden. As the sun warms the earth and green flowers shoot up from the ground, the garden becomes an exciting place that is full of beauty, promise, friendship, and hope.
2. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
If signs of spring are slow to arrive where you are, this might just be the perfect novel to remind you that a new season is around the corner. Published in 1908, A Room With a View is the story of a young English woman with perhaps the sweetest name in literature: Lucy Honeychurch.
Set between England and Italy, it’s a romance story that also functions as a humorous critique of the restrained English culture in Edwardian times. Written in two parts, the first introduces the reader to the beautiful Italian city of Florence.
Alongside her older cousin Miss Bartlett, Lucy begins to explore the sights from her less-than desirable lodgings. However, the dilapidated Pension Bertolini does provide Lucy with an introduction to Mr. Emerson, a well-meaning gentleman who offers to swap rooms with the girls so that they might enjoy a view of the river Arno.
As we transition into part two of the novel, Lucy has returned from Italy to her family home in Surrey. Despite a half-hearted engagement to a polished society Londoner named Cecil Vyse, fate brings Mr. Emerson back into Lucy’s life.
It’s melodramatic stuff, but the backdrop of the English countryside, and the tender love between Lucy and Mr. Emerson, is like a fresh breeze on a spring day.
The movie adaptation of A Room With a View is widely regarded as being better than the book, but I’d say it’s definitely worth reading and watching both before you form your own judgement. What better way is there to spend a weekend?
3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I feel that any of Austen’s novels could have earned a place on this list of springtime reads, but Pride and Prejudice is a great place to start if you aren’t familiar with her works. Published in 1813, it was Austen’s second novel, but like all her books was published as written by an anonymous author.
Pride and Prejudice follows the story of Elizabeth Bennett, a young woman who gradually learns about the cost of making hasty judgements and the difference between the superficial and the truly good. Although it’s a romance novel, it also deals with the themes of manners, education, money, and marriage in an honest and humorous way.
Austen’s second book has consistently appeared on lists of “most loved” and “most popular” titles, and opens with perhaps her most famous line – “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Set in rural England during the Regency era, the friendships, romances, and quarrels of the Bennett sisters take place against the backdrop of elegant balls and dances, lush green gardens, and beautiful estates.
Budding romance is the perfect literary theme for the spring season, and there is perhaps no romance more famous than that of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Brew a pot of Earl Grey tea and get lost in Jane Austen’s green and very pleasant land.
4. I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, Marisa de los Santos
If your house is in need of a spring cleaning, take some inspiration from Marisa de los Santos’ 2018 novel, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky. This story actually revisits the much-loved characters she introduced in two previous books, Love Walked In and Belong To Me. However, like many good writers, de los Santos has created a compelling story that can easily exist as a standalone novel.
I’ll Be Your Blue Sky delicately weaves together the themes of friendship, family, bravery, secrets, and sacrifice. It opens with an encounter between Claire Hobbes, a young woman who is about to get married, and an elderly lady named Edith Herron. A single conversation between our two protagonists gives Claire the courage she needs to break off her engagement and move on from her overly possessive fiancé.
When Claire finds out three weeks later that Edith has died, she is shocked to find that she has been left a gift: Blue Sky House, located in a small seaside town in Delaware. Told in accounts that shift between present day (Claire) and the 1950s (Edith); with the help of her mother, surrogate mother, and best friend, Claire begins to peel back the layers of Edith’s story. She uncovers a complex mystery and an incredible love story, all the while finding out more about herself and the things she values.
Whether you’re looking for a good standalone novel or are interested in starting at the very beginning of the trilogy, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is the perfect novel to settle in with this spring.
5. A Place of Secrets, Rachel Hore
If you’ve ever thought that your new year’s resolution should be to pack up your things and make a clean break in a new place, A Place of Secrets is an enchanting story that is right up your street.
Rachel Hore is a historical fiction writer, and her engaging books almost always take the form of a dual narrative told between the past and the present. A Place of Secrets is no different.
It tells the story of an auction house appraiser named Jude who leaves London for her dream job at Starbrough Hall. Though she initially goes to examine and price up the estate’s collection of eighteenth-century astronomy manuscripts and instruments, Jude becomes close to Chantal Wickham, the lady of the house, as the two share their grief over losing their husbands.
The Wickham family has fallen on hard times, and must sell the collection, some of their land, and the nearby astronomy tower where their ancestor, Anthony Wickham, made his most famous discoveries. While staying at Starbrough Hall and with her sister, who lives nearby, Jude meets Euan and the two set about saving the astronomy tower from an uncertain future.
As her niece begins to be haunted by exactly the same nightmare that Jude had as a child, Jude must discover more about the past, the accidents that happened, and the injustices faced by the astronomer’s daughter Esther.
A Place of Secrets is one of my favorite novels, and though it isn’t ‘set’ in the spring, its themes of rediscovery, rebirth, and love in all of its forms make it a great seasonal read – whether you’re by the water for Spring Break or having a relaxing weekend at home.
6. Absent in The Spring, Agatha Christie
If titles alone could inform our reading habits, this book would make any list of spring reads! Written by Agatha Christie under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, Absent in the Spring was first published in 1944. The title is derived from a quotation in William Shakespeare’s 98th Sonnet: “from you I have been absent in the spring…”
The hallmark of Christie’s writing style is its amazing readability, and this novel is no different. It tells the story of Joan Scudamore, a woman who finds herself unexpectedly alone and stranded at an isolated rest house as she tries to return to her home after visiting her daughter in Iraq.
As the trains are delayed and cancelled because of flooding on the railway tracks, Joan’s solitude forces her to take a long hard look at her life and face up to her truths.
Many of us reevaluate and reassess our lives, habits, and the things that make us happy as the seasons change. Join Joan this spring as she looks back over the years and re-examines her relationships, attitudes, and actions towards others… even if it’s a little painful at times.
7. Spring, Ali Smith
Those of you who have read my lists of books for other seasons will recognize the appearance of the Seasonal Quartet, written by Scottish author Ali Smith. Published in March 2019, it’s definitely the newest title on this list (in fact, Summer won’t appear until 2020).
Smith uses literature to examine the current state of affairs in Britain, through the lens of the everyday lives of its people. Spring is no exception.
But please don’t think that this book only has something to say about politics. It goes far beyond that, and was lauded in early reviews as a masterpiece that weaves an apparently meandering narrative into a deeply satisfying story.
The novel focuses around two protagonists and their separate narrative threads: an elderly director named Richard, who is cast into a deep depression when his best friend Patricia dies; and Brit, a young French woman who works in a detention center for migrants before meeting a girl named Florence and traveling north with her in hopes of a better life.
Like the other two novels in the Quartet, the vignettes of the characters lives are deftly woven together to create a larger picture that is both meaningful and incredibly touching. The value and depth of human relationships is questioned alongside discussion of the contemporary political landscape, and issues of hatred, difference, and indifference are explored in a really uplifting and heartening way.
Though Ali Smith draws on some difficult themes and highbrow references, Spring is an extremely accessible read that will put you in a reflective mood as the seasons change.
8. Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery
If you’re a fan of Anne of Green Gables, then you may be interested in our next title. Like Montgomery’s Anne and Burnett’s Secret Garden, this is a children’s book that isn’t just for children.
First published in 1923, this is the beginning of a series of 3 novels that follow Emily’s journey through childhood and into early adulthood.
Emily of New Moon introduces us to the character of Emily Starr, a young orphan who is raised by her relatives after her father dies of tuberculosis. She is sent to live on New Moon Farm with her aunts Elizabeth and Laura and her uncle Jimmy. She makes friends with Ilse, Teddy, and Perry, all local children with talents, gifts, and problems of their own.
The backdrop of Prince Edward Island, and Emily’s love of poetry and the springtime make this the perfect seasonal read. It’s never been out of print, and is perhaps one of the best loved (but most underrated) of L.M. Montgomery’s novels.
It is also an especially nice option if you’re looking for a read-aloud novel to share with the family this season.
9. Middlemarch, George Eliot
If you’re looking for a lengthier tome to really sink your teeth into this Spring, look no further than this classical giant of fiction. Published in a series of 8 installments in 1871 and 1872, Middlemarch was written by Mary Ann Evans under her pen name, George Eliot.
At more than 600 pages, this is a hefty commitment, but you’ll find that the classics are classics for a reason.
Set in a fictitious town in the English Midlands, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life centers around the distinct and often intersecting stories of a number of young couples who fall (or at least think they fall) in love. Eliot explores many themes across her work, including the status of women, the nature of marriage, the importance of education, religion, and more. She also weaves real historical events into the story, from the 1832 Reform Act to the growth of railways, and the accession of King William IV.
What makes Middlemarch perfect for spring? Well, Eliot’s love of the countryside shines throughout the novel, with the characters enjoying leisurely strolls, brisk walks, and carriage rides in the spring sunshine.
Who will end up together? What joys and disappointments will the rich cast of characters faces along the way? This is a novel about love, optimism, human nature, happiness, and the importance of giving people a second chance.
10. Flush, Virginia Woolf
The last title on our list is a somewhat strange, but incredibly charming, kind of novel.
Though Virginia Woolf is much better known for titles like Mrs. Dalloway and To The Lighthouse, Flush explores a different and but very compelling perspective. This is a biography of a real person, the Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, told from the perspective of her loyal canine companion, a cocker spaniel named Flush.
Browning’s story is as romantic and dramatic as any work of fiction. Confined to her home for much of her adult life by a chronic illness and her controlling father, she spent most of her time alone, indoors, and rarely met new people.
When the poet Robert Browning reached out to praise her for her work, the two actually managed to meet, fall in love, and marry against her father’s wishes. Whisked away to Italy by her new husband, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s health and outlook began to improve.
Flush tells this beautiful story from Flush’s perspective, from the growing love between Elizabeth and Robert to their rushed relocation to Italy. Flush’s life is transformed too, as he goes from lazy English lap dog to a fashionable Italian pooch-about-town. It’s an unconventional story of love, rebirth, and companionship: perfect themes to explore in the springtime.
Is your favorite springtime read missing from this list? Share your recommendation with us in the comments!