Today I’m sharing my favorite books of this spring – from March – May. This is a weird Spring! We were on total lockdown here in my house for about 6 weeks and I had 6 year old and 4 year old foster daughters. We’ll see how that impacted my reading!
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Every quarter I round-up my most-favorite books and share them here. If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may recognize some of these books, as I’ve talked abou them there. If you like learning about great books and you are NOT subscribed over on YouTube, you are missing out! I share reading vlogs, monthly round-ups, and all kinds of fun bookish stuff. You can scroll down and see my whole Reading playlist or click on Videos to see my most recent videos.
I read 25 books in the three months of March – May. That’s 9 more than in the three months of winter. I’m pretty sure this is because I was home more and while the kids watched cartoons or played outside, I read. Of these 25 books, 10 were mysteries, 7 were Literary Fiction, and 3 were a part of my Jane Austen reading, where I tried to work through all of Austen’s 6 published works. It was going great at the beginning of March, but by April I couldn’t focus enough to keep going. I plan to pick the remaining three up this fall. Of the 22 books that were NOT Jane Austen, 6 of the books were written by women of color. I’m tracking this so that I can be sure I’m reading from a diversity of authors. The books I read this season were just SO good, I had so many books that are my favorites of the year (maybe the decade), it was hard to narrow it down, but I stuck with the books I think many of you will like, based on our discussions on Instagram. By the way, if you’re not talking to my over on Instagram, go tell me that you’re listening to the show! Snap a photo of your screen and tag me or shoot me a DM, I’m @taraswiger.
Before I dive into telling you about my favorite books, I am so excited to tell you about this podcast’s FIRST EVER SPONSOR. It is Hank Green, NYT best-selling author of the upcoming A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor. Hank is also half of one of my favorite youtube channels, VlogBrothers AND my fave audio podcast, Dear Hank and John.
Hank wanted his publisher to sponsor a ton of small podcasts, but they said that was too weird. So, instead, Hank took 5% of his advance from the book and did it himself.
OK, so Hank’s first book An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was one of my favorites of 2018. It follows April May, who gets thrown into super-famousness when she uploads the first video about a weird sci-fi worldwide event. But it’s really about creating a brand and internet personality around yourself, is not the same as being yourself and what are the outcomes of that? How do you stay a person when the “brand” and personality become super-famous? I loved it and I am always recommending it to anyone who is creating and publishing online. It’s out in paperback now.
The sequel and conclusion to that story, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor comes out July 7th. I’ve already pre-ordered my signed copy! You can find it wherever books are sold, and Hank has said he’s adding some extra bonuses to the audio book, so you can grab it there as well. In the shownotes I’ve linked to Bookshop.org so you can buy this book and support indies and Libro.fm where you can get the audio book directly from an indie bookstore. And of course, head to hankgreen.com where you can find everything.
If you get it, lemme know! We can do a little reading group on Instagram in mid-July!
Support indie Bookstores
Now, on to my fave books of Spring 2020.
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Last summer I read everything by Riley Sager (there’s a link in the shownotes to my vlogs about them) and I was soooo excited for this book to come out. It was published on June 30th, but I read an advanced reader copy. It follows Maggie, whose father wrote a very famous book about the haunted house that they lived in as a child. Maggie thinks it was all fiction, but her parents won’t talk about it. When she inherits the house she moves in to try to figure out (and fix it up to resell it) and the book alternates between Maggie’s present day mystery and the book her father wrote about her childhood experience in the home.
I knew nothing about what the book was about going in, or I might not have picked it up (I don’t read a lot of horror), but it was so so good! It wasn’t really horror, it was much more a psychological thriller.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
This list is in no particular order, but since we just talked about a little horror, I have to tell you about this book. It is so weird and so wonderful. Set in a middle-class suburb in the 90s, a bunch of housewives have a True Crime book club (which they tell their husbands in a bible reading group!). So when a sketchy guy comes to town, they’re ready to see him for the serial killer he is…except they’re housewives, so no one in their life respects them. This book is funny and fast-moving and a little bit of horror. It also does an excellent job of exploring what motherhood and womanhood is like when you serve others and no one respects you or listens to you.
I talked more about this book in this reading vlog
The City We Became by NK Jemisin
First off, I hope you know NK Jemisin already if you like fantasy or sci-fi. She’s the only person ever to win 3 Hugo awards in a row for the three books in her Broken Earth trilogy. The City We Became is more sci-fi than fantasy, it’s set in modern New York City, where a pandemic of white tendrils begins to spread. Cities who reach enough complexity and maturity are “born” and become embodied in a person. But New York is so diverse it becomes embodied in 5 avatars who have to find each other and work together to save the city from the creeping tendrils. This book is super fun and fast-moving, it’s like the Avengers meets HP Lovecraft, written by a black woman who celebrates diversity and inclusion.
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
Also in the “set in our world but kinda sci-fi/magical” is We Ride Upon Sticks. This is a super-80s book, where the Danvers HIgh School field hockey team learns about the salem witches and sees if they can use their magic to win at field hockey. The best thing about this book, for me, is that it’s told in a collective first person. “We” did this, “we” did that. Each chapter spends time with a different girl and you can see how much she needs the sisterhood of the team and how she’s navigating her life as a teen in the 80s. It is so good and funny and I really had no idea how it was going to resolve until the very end.
Queenie by Cadace Carty-Williams
I talked about this book in a video about . The blurbs call it a mix of “Bridget Jones and Americanah” but, man, it’s so much deeper than Bridget Jones. A single Black woman is navigating a recent break up, in London, while trying to find a place to live and struggling at work. The real heart of this story is how it handles the mental health and Queenie’s experience trying to get better on her own, spiraling out, how her traditional Carribean grandparents think about mental health. It is so good and so true. I hope it’s not a spoiler to tell you that Queenie’s depression looks so so much like mine, it just felt really real. And yet, the book still manages to be funny and fun to read.
The HIlarious World of Depression by John Moe
So while we’re talking about funny depression, we gotta talk about this book! I LOVE the podcast The Hilarious World of Depression, where John Moe interviews funny people (often comics and writers) about their depression. When I’ve had a bad bout of depression, and I can’t focus enough to read, this is the one podcast I can stand to listen to.
So I was like, really excited about his book, which I get as an ARC from NetGalley. In this book, the author tells the story of his own depression – when it started in adolescence, when it showed up, all the not-great ways he tried to handle it (what do you mean avoidance isn’t an effective treatment?!) and how he manages it now. He also explains how the show began, so if you're a public radio nerd like me, you will likely enjoy that. I recommend that you read this book if you or anyone you know has suffered from depression, it will help you understand how their brain is telling them things that are not helpful to improving how they feel.
Courtroom Thrillers I loved:
These were a few really good reading months! Check the show notes below where you’re listening or watching for links to all the books, or head over to my website, TaraSwiger.com/podcast308 the full written transcript.
When you purchase the book using my links, I earn a tiny percentage, which if you’re buying on Amazon, goes to buying food and clothes for foster kids and if you’re buying on Bookshop, goes to new books! I get most of my books at my local library, so check yours out because libraries are amazing. Lots of my faves came from the Book of the Month Club.
I’ll be back in August with new episodes about enthusiasm, confidence and mental health!