Springtime in Santa Barbara is my favorite time of the year. From the smell of the jasmine flowers in bloom, to the mustard plants popping off everywhere, to the unbelievable green of the surrounding hills (which, fun fact, have made me shed tears over their beauty), I can’t get enough of the seasonal changes. Spring also has a special place in my heart as it marks the start of the Persian New Year, or Nowruz. Nowruz took place this past Sunday (the first day of spring!), and I quietly celebrated by going on my favorite sunset bluff walk, letting my senses marvel in the sights, sounds, and smells around me while contemplating my goals for this new year.
The following books evoke feelings of spring, bringing with them themes of change, acceptance, and growth. I also selected quick, easy reads designed to get anyone out of a wintertime reading slump. They are perfect for roaming audiobook listens or picnic accompaniments.
Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane follows May Attaway, a gardener at a university who finds herself granted a brief sabbatical, which she decides to fill by visiting old friends. What follows is an exploration of female friendship in the digital age, filled with wit and literary references, tenderly narrated by May. I personally enjoyed Attaway’s deep ruminations and the detailed flora descriptions in this novel.
Exploring a different facet of female friendships, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal has a fun and playful air about it, while exploring heavier topics such as complex cultural norms, identity, and misogyny. Nikki, the book’s protagonist, is living a life at odds with her family’s expectations, having dropped out of law school and working at a bar. While running an errand for her sister at the local Punjabi temple, she sees an advertisement calling for a creative writing instructor to Sikh widows. She takes the job and finds that these widows (and the stories they want to tell) are definitely not what she expected.
Technically, the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman opens up in the fall, as a new year of high school begins for Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson. However, their friendship develops and crushes form through the springtime, and the overall art style of the graphic novel is lousy with spring vibes. I am usually not the biggest fan of the Young Adult genre, but this graphic novel stole my heart with its wholesome story, and I found myself smiling throughout this read.
Becky Chambers has quickly become one of my favorite authors due to her incredible storytelling in the Wayfarers series. Several months ago, in need of a Becky Chambers fix, I started listening to her novella A Psalm for the Wild-Built and was blown away by how much of a punch this story delivers in 160 pages. Chambers’s incredible ability to create fantastical, futuristic worlds and alien societies that address today’s topical and very human issues shines in this novella, where she has a tea monk and a robot become unlikely traveling companions who contemplate the question “What do people need?”
I can’t talk about flowers in bloom and springtime texts without my mind going to Mary Oliver. Whether you’ve been reading her for years or haven’t had a chance to pick up her work yet, consider visiting her poetry this season. I currently have my housemate’s copy of Dream Work on my bedside table and have enjoyed picking it up and reading a few poems as an addition to my nightly ritual.
In case my mentioning of Nowruz sparked interest in learning more about Persian culture or Iranian experiences, I highly recommend picking up Daniel Nayeri’s memoir, Everything Sad is Untrue. This middle-grade book is told in diary entry form, as Nayeri describes his childhood experiences as an Iranian refugee in Oklahoma, his life in Iran (and his family escape), and the feelings of alienation that came with it. His story is simply and beautifully told, completely heartbreaking while being full of love.
I hope, dear reader, that these books touch your heart as much as they have mine. I am also always looking for book recommendations (spring related or not), so if you feel like sharing, reply to this email and share away!
Sending well wishes for good reads your way,
LOCAL BOOK SPOTLIGHT
We at the Independent get many books sent to us by local authors, sometimes too many! It’s practically impossible for us to read and review them all, but just because we are busy bees does not mean that they aren’t worth the attention. In an attempt to not completely drop the ball, we have compiled a list of books here that have a local spin. They are all either written by a local author, feature someone in our community, or have another tie to Santa Barbara. I urge you to look through this list. Perhaps you will find your new favorite read!
If you are a local author and would like us to feature your book in this section, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
INDY BOOK CLUB
Indy Book Club is a monthly community book club hosted by the Santa Barbara Independent and the Santa Barbara Public Library, where we read and discuss books on a wide range of themes and genres. Join in on the literary fun!
March’s Indy Book Club Selection: Vincent & Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Publisher’s Synopsis: The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers’ lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend, Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the love of the Van Gogh brothers.
Get Your Copy: Borrow a physical copy from the Santa Barbara Public Library, listen to the audiobook on Hoopla, or read the ebook on Libby. Catch up on our previous cover story on the Van Gogh exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art here.
March Book Club IN PERSON Discussion: Wednesday, March 30, 6 p.m., on the patio at Municipal Winemakers, 22 Anacapa St. Wear layers as it can get chilly.
We would love for you to come and chat about the book with us! It is very informal, and we usually spend about 30 minutes chatting about the book and then the last 30 minutes giving recommendations and chatting about other books we’ve read.