We asked our editorial board to recommend their favorite spring reads – novels, poem collections, and short stories that embody feelings of spring for one reason or another. Some are filled with themes of growth and birth, others are filled with personal nostalgia, and yet others are filled with darker themes that carry us through to warmer seasons.
Kylie Warkentin, Editor in Chief:
They’re like worms.
What kind of worms?
Like worms, all over.Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
I am willing to bet that most people would not associate a book like Fever Dream with spring — I, however, have lived in Houston most of my life, and the humidity of springtime there reminds me viscerally of Schweblin’s suffocating, surreal novel. Translated by McDowell, Fever Dream is a conversation between Amanda, a woman laying prostrate in a hospital bed, and Daniel, a child (not her own) kneeling beside her who forces her to recount a series of stories within other stories to understand what happened to both of them and just what those worms are. Beloved former Website Editor Eleni Theodoropoulos wrote in a LitHub article that in Fever Dream, “[e]veryone is at the mercy of someone: David is at the mercy of Amanda, Amanda at the mercy of David, and the reader at the mercy of both of them.” There may not be any bees or flowers or other common indicators of spring, but this brief novel is an utterly compelling read for anyone who, like me, associates spring with a sense of heaviness and things yet to come.
Christie Basson, Managing Editor & Website Editor:
“It’ll be spring for you soon, Miss Cassandra,” said Stephen. We stood sniffing the air.I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
“There’s quite a bit of softness in it, isn’t there?” I said. “I shall think of this as spring rain — or am I cheating? You know I always try to begin the spring too soon.”
This novel – narrated by the most likeable character you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting – reminds me of spring for a number of reasons. It was written during WWII by Dodie Smith (yes, as in the author of A Hundred And One Dalmatians) when she was nostalgic for carefree better days. She set the novel in an unspecified year in the 30s and it follows the eccentric Mortmain family, who live in genteel poverty in a ramshackle English castle, for the months of March through October. Our sixteen-year-old main character, Cassandra, grows up throughout this time, falling into first love and finding her own place in her family and as a writer. While we literally journey into spring (the season Cassandra is constantly searching for in the landscape around her throughout the first chapters of the novel) we also experience the themes of hope and possibility it brings. Cassandra’s honest, sincere, and hopeful narration carries this novel through the seasons and by the time the novel closes and autumn mists start rolling across the hills, it feels like we have followed through on the promise of growth and been rewarded with its fruits in the form of a more mature (yet equally lovable) narrator and landscape.
Stephanie Pickrell, Website Editor:
“Have you ever wondered why we silly girls are giving birth when there’s a war on?”
“Surely God . . .”
“God, God . . . He’s just a good accountant with an eye on the debit as well as the credit column. There has to be a balance. One life is wasted, another is born.”Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Regarded as the book that propelled Tokarczuk to international notoriety and to the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018, Primeval and Other Times presents a fabled history of Poland’s political turmoil throughout the 20th century. Despite the heavy background, the book itself centers on growth, birth, and motherhood, with a trace of nostalgia for simpler (if not necessarily easier) times. For me, the novel represents a double nostalgia, not only in my familial history, but in my childhood memories of walking through fields and picking berries in a place not unlike the town of Primeval. And most importantly of course, the city of Kraków, Poland announced in 2019 that they would be planting a forest named Primeval in Tokarczuk’s honor, reflecting literature into real-life growth.
Vanessa Simerskey, Marketing Director & Design Editor:
I peeled the skins off and put the flimsy, limp-looking green and yellow chiles in the molcajete and began to crush and crush and twist and crush the heart out of the tomato, the clove of garlic, the stupid chiles that made me cry, crushed them until they turned into liquid with my bull hand.“The Moths” by Helena Maria Viramontes
I can’t help but associate spring as a time for drastic transformations and bountiful vegetation. However, Viramontes’s short story “The Moths” is a reminder that transformation isn’t always a smooth transition but has the capacity to be rough and cruel while still turning out something beautiful, like chiles turning into salsa as they burn your eyes. While the vegetation can take on different forms, so does the abrasive young Chicana in this story who grows into her “bull hands” and embraces her ancestry and herself.
Savannah Mahan, Poetry Editor:
“[grow] over whatever winter did to us, a return/ to the strange idea of continuous living despite/ the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,/ I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf/ unfurling like a fist, I’ll take it all.”“Instructions on Not Giving Up” from The Carrying by Ada Limón
For spring reading, I ask you all to read The Carrying (2018) by Ada Limón. The collection contains poems of grief, infertility, love, illness, and desire. With images of horses, trains, gardens, stray cats, seeds, trees, dying raccoons, and Kentucky landscapes, Limón meditates on the cycle of growing/living and losing/dying in our natural and political world. This quote especially illustrates the leaving of old hurt to embrace new beginnings. Limón does not erase the pain to make room for ungrounded optimism. She shows us that “the hurt [and] the empty” are still there, but it is nothing we cannot “grow over.” We recognize and observe this mess but also recover from past seasons. These poems show that spring will always happen, no matter how long or how many snow storms there are. With Limón, we leave the winter and the coldness to find some spots of sunlight to live in. I always find warmth in this collection of poems, and I hope all of you do too.
Sloane Smith, Prose Editor:
“Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy — one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure, but turn out to have been the pleasure itself.”Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
While this may seem like a summer read, I think for me it’s a spring read for a few different reasons. The first reason, of course, is that I originally read it in the spring. The second reason is that it captures the spirit of travel and adventure of the summer months that I always start looking forward to during the spring. The third reason is that this book is full of waiting, just like spring is always full of waiting, in my opinion. The main characters are always growing tired of where they are, no matter how glorious the location is, and yearn for the next adventure, the next stage of their lives. Only later, looking back, do they realize how important their time had been. Spring is one of those in-between periods for me that ends up being beautiful to look back on.