Today is the vernal equinox (hello, spring!). So you know what that means around here, don’t you?
It’s time for me to share my . . .
BUT FIRST . . . just a quick reminder. Tomorrow (Tuesday, March 21) is our Read With Us discussion day for The Shipping News. Bonny and Carole and I will be sharing discussion questions on our blogs, and then, in the evening at 7pm (Eastern time), we’ll be gathering to talk about the book on Zoom. If you’ve read the book – or watched the movie – please join us for our blog or Zoom discussion! All are welcome to join in. We actually discuss the book — and we have a lot of fun, too.
If you plan to join the Zoom, please leave a comment or send me an email (see the sidebar for an email link). I’ll be sending out the Zoom invites later this afternoon.
And now, back to my Top Five post.
Each quarter, right around the solstice or equinox, I think back on the books I’ve read over the previous 3 months, and I choose my top five. So, here goes: my Top Five Books from this past winter (the link listed for each book will take you to a published review of the book, not an Amazon link):
First up, I have my winter-favorite, Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin. What a lovely, delicate book this is! I loved Violette’s story, so tenderly told and beautifully written (and beautifully translated, as well). It’s a story of love, loss, grief, and resurrection, yes – but, bottom line, it’s a story of caretaking . . . of being a good steward, a good friend, a lover of nature . . . of building a family. I was completely immersed in the story right from the start, and loved the way it . . . spooled out over time, criss-crossing and circling back for a gradual reveal that was both deeply satisfying and heartfelt. Fresh Water for Flowers is multi-layered, with perfect pacing, endearing characters and a beautifully rendered setting. (If you’ve read and enjoyed Still Life by Sarah Winman, you might like this book, too. It’s got a similar vibe.) (I gave this book 5 stars, and I recommend it all the time.)
Next up, I’ve got Fight Night by Miriam Toews. I really loved this story! It’s filled with love and hope and . . . fight! (All the fights . . . the fight to live, the fight to grieve, the fight to love, the fight for dignity. All. The. Fights.) Miriam Towes is simply . . . a master. She writes compelling stories with deep hooks and characters who can do all the heavy lifting. Her dialogue sparkles. Her pacing is perfect. Her emotional impact is deep. And, of course, there is humor. (I love a book that can make me laugh and cry on the same page.) Fight Night is a delight! (I gave this book 5 stars.)
Then, there’s this quarter’s Read With Us selection The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. I’m sure you’ve heard quite enough about The Shipping News from me at this point, but . . . it’s a good one. I have read this one at least 4 times since 1993 (it’s tied with A Prayer for Owen Meany for my most-read book as an adult), and I still find something new to love about it every time I read it. It’s fabulous! Really fabulous. Quirky characters, sharp writing, incredible location, and the second best Christmas Pageant in fiction (the winner, of course, being the Christmas Pageant in A Prayer for Owen Meany). If you’ve never read it, give it a try. You’re in for a treat! (I’ve given this one 5 stars . . . over and over and over.)
Next, I’ve got The Queen of Dirt Island by Donal Ryan. (I was so eager to read this one, I ordered it straight from the UK on it’s release date there. I don’t do that very often.) I’m a huge Donal Ryan fan. He creates such lovely prose – poetic and lyrical – while still keeping everything crisp and spare. His dialogue is fantastic, too! In The Queen of Dirt Island, Donal Ryan employs sharp, short chapters (each is only 2 pages long; they’re more like vignettes, really) to give us quick little glimpses into the lives of his characters. These vignettes work well to forward the story in a natural time progression over the life of the titular character’s daughter, Saorise. The pacing is good, the character development excellent. It’s a beautiful novel all around — highly satisfying, self-contained, subtle, and just a joy to read. (I gave this one 4 stars.)
And then, just sneaking in at the buzzer, I’ve got Birnam Wood, the brand new novel by Eleanor Catton. Oh, my. I’m still kinda catching my breath after this one. What a ride! This novel is billed as an “eco-thriller” and once it gets rolling (which does take a while, by the way), it is a total Thrill-O-Rama. Great writing, an intricate plot, and characters that just . . . keep evolving . . . all worked to keep me on the edge of my seat. I will admit, the beginning is slow and a bit dense. But in retrospect, I think that slow start was rather brilliant. Y’know . . . kind of like the beginning of a roller coaster ride. Once you get to the top, it’s a thrill-ride all the way to the end. (I gave this one 4 stars.)
And . . . there you have it! My Top Five Books from winter 2023.
How about you?
What books would make it onto YOUR Top Five list for winter?
If you’re looking for my previous Top Five lists, I’ve moved them. Now you can find them in my Field Notes (just click in from the menu bar at the top or bottom of any page) — or click here.