A Spring Reading List
While autumn tends to be the season where we read to get ourselves ready to spend months of cold weather indoors, embracing coziness and warmth and for some, the academic spirit, whether we find ourselves on campus or not, spring is a season of reading for rebirth. Winter is over, sunlight stays with us for more of the day, and heavy books, academic books get stored away. It can be a season of recovery – too much darkness, too much studying, too much burnout – and so, a season that calls for familiarity and comfort, sometimes even rereads of old favorites rather than exciting new releases.
As such, this first Attic spring reading list is full of books we’ve picked up time and again to soothe ourselves – classics for our modern era. It’ll be followed up with a more contemporary one – including releases from recent years, but this one is dedicated to all of you finishing your academic years and finding yourselves in need of a little comfort reading or a mental refresh.
Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery – Let’s face it, Anne is always on our minds. Earlier this week, our Perfume Columnist Mishka answered a reader request for perfumes that Anne Shirley would wear, and I’ve been fighting the itch to pick up my favorite copy ever since. Joyful and imaginative, yet somehow equally grounded, Montgomery’s Anne books have been a lifelong source of comfort. I read them obsessively as a child, and I went back to them after dealing with academic burnout, like a blossom-filled hug for when you’re tired. While Anne of Green Gables itself is a source of joy, my favorite books of the series to revisit are the later ones – notably Anne’s House of Dreams. (Bonus: check out Anne With an E on Netflix for an updated take on the series. Sometimes you need to watch your favorite story to relax.)
The Enchanted April, Elizabeth Von Arnim – A beautiful 1920s novel that follows four women who have nothing in common but who decide to travel to Italy together to escape the dreary London spring. They struggle, they bond, they find love. The Enchanted April is the happiest of Von Arnim’s novels, and it’s one that will transport you to a flower-filled villa in Italy within just a few pages (and either inspire or save you a trip in the meantime). It’s my favorite to flip through when I wish I could just take off and rest by an Italian lake.
Diary of a Provincial Lady, E.M. Delafield – The perfect calming read if you have a love for Wodehouse and social satire but wish you could read more of it, from the same era, but by and about women. Diary of a Provincial Lady had me laughing out loud from the first page, and it’s now well-established as a favorite.
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen – Another lifelong favorite, Sense and Sensibility is maybe the most soothing of Austen’s novels… or maybe I just think so because the 1995 Ang Lee/Emma Thompson adaptation of the novel is my go-to period drama to relax. About three sisters and their mother following the death of their father, the novel is is full of family and love – beautiful, calming, and even aesthetic due to its gorgeous cottage (a downgrade for the family but a dream for most of us). The novel is a masterpiece best enjoyed at this time of year.
If Beale Street Could Talk, James Baldwin – A beautiful novel, evoking some of the purest forms of family and romantic love I have ever seen written. The story of a young woman battling the legal system to help get her fiancé out of prison after being falsely accused of a crime, If Beale Street Could Talk rings true to the world that still exists forty some years after the novel was written, and does a stunning job at infusing emotion into every dynamic and action involved. I am currently halfway through Another Country and Notes of a Native Son, but If Beale Street Could Talk is the one still haunting me.
The Secret History, Donna Tartt – Asparagus is in season, my darlings. I used to think of The Secret History as an autumn book (ahem, as the ultimate campus novel), even though I myself first read it in May, but our Lee Clark set me straight ages ago. After all, the most important thing the novel does is give importance to asparagus, right? For real though, The Secret History is such an extra, ridiculous, yet aesthetic murder-centric academic novel that it will suck you in and away from whatever it is you want to escape in the moment. The novel I read once upon a time (2014) when my doctor told me not to read for a week and to relax.
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett – Another childhood classic to revisit for comfort. The Secret Garden was one of my favorites as a young kid – about a young orphaned girl who leaves India to live with her uncle in his dreary house in Yorkshire but manages to bring happiness to everyone around her, the novel is a typically Hodgson Burnett/Edwardian fairy tale that ought to be sappy but is just right. (Bonus: If you don’t want to reread The Secret Garden but wish you had some Hodgson Burnett novels about older characters, look no further than The Shuttle, recently republished by Persephone Books.)
Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust – A book in French! It happens. I had a strong love-hate relationship with Proust whenever I studied his work in school and then at university, but lately, I’ve felt a slight nostalgia for it and his flowy prose. Du côté de chez Swann is a rambling book about nothing and everything at once that could take you through an entire season, but sometimes it’s just what you need, especially with a cup (or many) of tea and your favorite pastries. (English edition here.)
Howard’s End, E. M. Forster – The perfect read for a rainy spring day, Howard’s End is my favorite Forster novel. (Bonus: watch the Merchant Ivory adaptation.) Full of drama and intrigue and country houses and umbrellas and intellectual city life in the 1900s, Howard’s End is a mood unto itself. More orphans (#edwardiana duh), more love, more subtext. Read it, and then get back to me.
The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter – What’s spring without a few fairy tales? Angela Carter’s collection consists of feminist rewritings of our favorites and is a stunning classic.
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Olivia Gündüz-Willemin is Editor-in-Chief of The Attic on Eighth. She has multiple literature degrees and is dedicated to reading her way through the world while trying to stay as calm as possible.