Bookworm bulletin: Spring book recommendations

Now that spring has sprung on campus, arts and life staffers are recommending their favorite books to get truly immersed in the season’s warm weather and beautiful nature. 

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Recommended by Leyla Yilmaz ’25)

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

“The Secret Garden” is one of the many books I’ve read as a child and still cherish today with feelings of warmth, joy and nostalgia. The book follows orphaned Mary Lennox who moves into her uncle’s house in England to discover a secret garden and befriend her ill cousin, Colin. As the two bond and start taking care of the garden, the readers become spectators to a magical story of transformation – one that shows how patches of grass can be transformed into gardens of flowers, grief into gratitude and acquaintances into family.

The pastoral imagery utilized throughout the novel represents the healing nature of spring. When Mary and Colin meet for the first time in the sullen backdrop of winter, Mary is dealing with the loss of her parents and Colin with his disease.. However, as the two start tending the garden and foster a relationship, spring arrives and we see nature heal the two children alongside their surroundings. “The Secret Garden” is an ideal pick-me-up book whose descriptions of spring’s natural beauty will undoubtedly put you in a good mood this quarter. 

“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman (Recommended by Cate Burtner ’25)

“If you don’t get what Walt Whitman’s crotch has to do with American literature, you don’t get American literature.” — My English professor, Judy Richardson, on “Song of Myself.”

Part of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and a classic of American literature, “Song of Myself” is a 1,300-line poem about the idea of the self. I first read this poem as part of an American literature course in which we analyzed the original cover art, specifically the way the rendering of Whitman emphasized his groin. Much like the striking cover art, Whitman’s words hooked the American literary world; his poem defined a quintessential Americanness that is still incredibly relevant today.

The ideas of philosophizing about the self, considering humans’ connections to one another and exploring our relationship to nature are still important in today’s world of technology, social media and climate change. While it is a very long poem full of repetition, alliteration and rhyme, it is also a philosophical text. It was written purposefully and reads beautifully, making for a fantastic read for spring. As the weather gets warmer and you’re sipping your CoHo iced coffee, I recommend pulling out a copy of “Song of Myself” and treating yourself to the wonders of Whitman’s imagination.

“Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Recommended by Miriam Awan ’26)

With campus in full bloom for spring quarter, what better time to reflect on our relationship with the natural spaces around us? “Braiding Sweetgrass,” written by Potawatomi scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer, is an exploration of indigenous botanical knowledge in the face of colonialism and climate change – a “medicine for our broken relationship with earth,” as she writes.   

Kimmerer opens “Braiding Sweetgrass” with a description of the cultural practice itself – a delicate process of weaving the grass into tight braids alongside friends and family, considered sacred by many North American indigenous groups. The collection of essays that follows is as intimate as this tradition. Kimmerer expertly weaves together indigenous North American history, environmental science and stories from her own family’s life with creative flair. Each of Kimmerer’s essays are deeply insightful and a joy to read; despite the heavy subject matter, they each have a distinctly healing quality. If you’re a fan of audiobooks, give “Braiding Sweetgrass” a listen the next time you find yourself on a long, tree-lined walk across campus.

“Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Recommended by Dan Kubota ’27)

This classic details the journey of joyous yet impoverished orphan Anne Shirley. Spunky Anne turns the quiet and “stiff” town of Avonlea on its head with a temper as fiery as her red hair and endless enthusiasm. Her charming personality wins over her adoptive family, the Cuthberts, who are initially hesitant of raising the young girl. Anne’s endearing nature and sincerity is equally as delightful for readers, as we watch her befriend characters she initially got off on the wrong foot with through a series of amusing childhood adventures. Come for the childhood nostalgia, stay for a whimsical tale of coming of age and learning what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself for the first time – in other words, finding your people. 

“Anne of Green Gables” is a whimsical coming of age tale that presents a new definition for family, not those close to you by blood, but those who choose to take you in and love you despite all the odds. Through the lens of innocence that comes with a novel for young “tweens” on the cusp of coming of age, Montgomery crafts a tale of heartwarming friendships, heartbreak and growth that brings the reader, no matter their age or place in life, back to the moments when they too were on the brink of something new.

“Maud Martha” by Gwendolyn Brooks (Recommended by Blyss Cleveland,  P.h.D. candidate)

“The sky was gray, but the sun was making little silver promises somewhere up there, hinting. A wind blew. What sort of June day was this?”

Spring is a time for growth, development and new possibilities. Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Maud Martha” is the perfect novel for those looking to learn how to see the beauty in everyday life. Released in 1953, the narrative unfolds in 34 lyrical vignettes that follow the titular character, an ordinary Black girl growing up in Chicago before World War II. As she reaches adulthood, Maud Martha hones her gift for looking at the world and romanticizing what she sees, even when gray skies cast a pall on everything. In one of my favorite passages, “posts,” Maud Martha muses on how to choose something dependable to make life meaningful. Life is what we make of it, and introspection may be a key source of constancy, no matter which way the wind blows.  

“Okay For Now” by Gary D. Schmidt (Recommended by Grace Zhao ’27)

This middle-grade novel, set during the Vietnam War, blooms with hope and redemption amidst its backdrop of war and desperation. When eighth-grader Doug Swieteck moves from Long Island to a small town in upstate New York, his feelings of alienation are all the more exacerbated by his complicated family dynamics — a dad whose “quick hands” usually land on him, a brother who bullies him and another one fighting in the war.

But upon discovering James Audubon’s “The Birds of America” at the public library, Doug finds himself with spunky new friends and a quest to restore the book’s missing bird prints that have been sold to various townsfolk. Schmidt’s choice to frame each chapter around a different bird print gives the book a delectable naturalistic flavor. Each chapter, Doug assimilates the characteristics of another bird — whether it’s learning to stand nobly in the face of prejudice or strutting confidently into darkness and uncertainty. It’s touching to see Doug grow in his relationships with others and come into his own. If spring is a time of renewal, then the colorful birds and budding friendships in “Okay For Now” are the best accompaniment while you frolic through this season.

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