When spring rolls around and we’re blessed with long, sunny days, I suddenly start craving light, fun reads. I gravitate towards books I can race through in just a few days. This season’s picks include: a mouth-watering memoir, a ballet-themed novel I’ve been meaning to read for over a year, a travel memoir from my new favourite author, a critically-acclaimed short story collection, and a murder mystery translated from the Spanish. Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney
In this deliciously crafted memoir, chef Michael Gibney gives us a no-holds-barred account of 24 hours in the life of a sous chef in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen.
Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review saying, “Gibney is as skilled with words as he is with his 11-inch Sujihiki knife.”
Why I picked it: I devoured the first chapter in the bookstore. Four Seasons in Rome: a memoir by Anthony Doerr
In his memoir published in 2006, Doerr finds out he won the prestigious Rome Prize on the same day his wife gave birth to twins. The prize included a year in Rome complete with an apartment, a writing studio and a stipend. Doerr takes us along on his adventures — leaving behind the comforts of home and moving his family to the Eternal city, reading Pliny and Dante, and raising twin boys in an unfamiliar place.
Bookreporter.com on the author, “He describes characters on the street so vividly that we can believe we’ve met them ourselves, and he does it all with such humility that it is as if we were having a conversation with the guy next door.”
The author of the widely popular debut novel Seating Arrangements spins us into the beautiful, demanding, mysterious and often dark world of professional ballet. This story stars Joan, a young American dancer who helps Soviet ballet star, Aslan Rusakov, defect in 1975. A love affair ensues, but Joan knows that, onstage and off, she is destined to remain in the background. Abandoning all hopes of becoming a prima ballerina, Joan hangs up her pointe shoes, marries a good man and settles down in the suburbs of California with him and their son, Harry.
Booklist gave it a starred review, calling it, “A supple, daring, and vivid portrait of desire and betrayal.”
Why I picked it: I’ve been meaning to read this one for over a year now. I picked it for its ballet theme.
Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight
In her highly-anticipated new thriller, McCreight transports us to the affluent suburban town of Ridgedale, New Jersey where a dead newborn baby is found in the woods near the town’s prestigious university campus. A gripping story of intersecting lives, the power of buried secrets and the past coming to light.
Library Journal says, “This tightly spun sophomore effort will please fans of Amelia. McCreight has a keen grasp of the epistolary technique and is adept at providing readers the puzzle pieces they need to build a broader picture.”
Why I picked it: I’ve been raving to everyone about Reconstructing Amelia which I devoured back in December. So I was over the moon when I found out that McCreight had a brand new novel due out this month.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
In his bestselling debut novel, Swedish blogger and author Fredrik Backman tells the story of a cranky yet loveable old man who’s peaceful world is flipped upside down when a boisterous young family moves in next door. A hilarious, feel-good tale of love and community.
Shelf Awareness gave it a starred review, saying, “A Man Called Ove is exquisite. The lyrical language is the confetti thrown liberally throughout this celebration-of-life story, adding sparkle and color to an already spectacular party.”
Why I picked it: It was on the staff picks table at my bookstore. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Set in the 1950s, the first of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels introduces us to Elena and Lila. Growing up on the tough streets of a poor, vibrant neighbourhood in Naples, the girls come to depend on one another before anyone or anything else.
The Times Literary Supplement describes it as, “Stunning. An intense, forensic exploration of the friendship between Lila and the story’s narrator, Elena . . . Cinematic in the density of its detail.”
Why I picked it: Italy, Italy, Italy. Redeployment by Phil Klay
I am making good on my promise to read more short stories this year. In this collection of twelve short stories, ex-Marine Phil Klay drops the Iraq and Afghanistan wars squarely in our laps. He takes us to the frontlines and shows us what happened to the soldiers when they returned home.
The New Yorker’s George Packer calls it, “The best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars.”
Why I picked it: I read one of Klay’s short stories online and it sealed the deal for me. The Asylum: True Tales of Madness from a Life in Fashion by Simon Doonan
With more than twenty years of industry experience under his stylish belt, no one is better equipped than Doonan to give us the scoop on the fashion world. In his hilarious collection of autobiographical essays, the creative ambassador of Barneys New York has witnessed models unable to work for fear of ghosts and watched Anna Wintour remain perfectly calm while the ceiling fell-literally-in the middle of Fashion Week.
Leandra Medine, blogger of The Man Repeller raves, “In The Asylum, Simon Doonan’s comedic genius explodes out of highbrow shoe boxes.”
Why I picked it: Fashion, psychology and giggles all rolled into one. Enough said.The Infatuations by Javier Marias
This will be my first novel by the world-renowned Spanish author. In this murder mystery/love story, Maria stops off at the same café every morning. So does the married couple she observes during her visits. She envies their seemingly perfect life until one day, the husband ends up dead. Maria approaches the grieving widow, offers her condolences and finds herself sucked into the murder mystery.
Los Angeles Review of Books raves, “Marías’s novel weaves an intricate web, but its triumph is in the power of its narrator. Marías has found the ideal voice—detached, inquisitive, and vigilant—for one of his finest novels.”
Why I picked it: The cover hooked me and the opening line reeled me in. Queen Sugar: A Novel by Natalie Baszile
In her debut novel, Baszile follows the story of Charley Bordelon, a young African-American widow and single mother who gives up her life in Los Angeles and moves to Louisiana to run her inherited sugarcane plantation. A heartfelt tale of family, community, courage and resilience.
O Magazine has this to say about this debut, “In Queen Sugar, two bulwarks of American literature—Southern fiction and the transformational journey—are given a fresh take by talented first time novelist Natalie Baszile . . .”
Why I picked it: Stories that warm the heart get me every single time. They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson
In this humorous and touching family memoir, Johnson and her three brothers experience mixed feelings when their ninety-three-year-old mother dies. Left with the task of selling their Lake Ontario home, the siblings set to work sifting through the contents of its twenty-three rooms. The exercise stirs up childhood memories, reveals new facts about their parents and shows them who they were and what they valued.
Earlier this month, the 68-year-old author was awarded the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize for this captivating debut.
Why I picked it: It came highly recommended by the manager at Indigo bookstore. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
Inspirational speakers and psychologists Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend share their wisdom on the God-given gift of boundaries. They look at boundaries from a biblical standpoint and show us how to go about setting healthy boundaries with the people in our lives.
Howard G. Hendricks, Chairman, Center for Christian Leadership says, “Boundaries is the ‘Untold Story’ – the other side of love and servanthood that we need so desperately but that we hear so little about.”
Why I picked it: I often say ‘yes’ when I should say ‘no’.
Do your reading preferences change with the seasons? What’s on your reading list this spring?