Books to Pack for Spring Break


Books for Spring Break

It doesn’t really matter what your plans for spring break—taking a vacation, enjoying a staycation, or just dreaming of spring break pasts—as long as you take advantage of an excuse to explore new reading options. Here are a few books to add to your suitcase or your download list this spring.

 

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This is what I’ll be reading during my spring break travels, since it is my book club’s pick for April. The Swans of Fifth Avenue, from the same author that gave us The Aviator’s Wife, is a light read made for an airport waiting area, a beach chair, or an après-ski lounge. Novelist Melanie Benjamin has chosen real characters of the larger-than-life variety, socialite Babe Paley and author Truman Capote, who struck up a strange and intimate friendship in 1950s Manhattan. Their elite social circle makes great fodder for fiction, with a cast including the likes of Clark Gable, the Roosevelts, and Ernest Hemingway. USA Today has called it “a catty, juicy read that’s like a three-martini-lunch.” [Buy the book here.]

Click here for a discussion guide to The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

Click here for a discussion guide to The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

 

Layout 1Perhaps the best news about Ferrante’s novel My Brilliant Friend is that, if you find yourself a fan, you have three more novels to follow it with. This four-part series known as the Neapolitan novels first came on the literary scene in 2012, and the last one was released just last fall. People can’t stop talking about them—and about their mysterious Italian author, whose identity remains a secret (though not for long, if the press and the prying public have their way). The saga focuses on two girls and their friendship as they grow into women, but it likewise tells a story of 20th-century Italy, its politics, and its people. Most readers say this slow-moving tale proves more rewarding with each successive novel. [Buy the book here.]

 

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Though the title may conjure images of birds in budding trees, The Nest, fresh off the press with a March 22 release, actually revolves around a family’s struggle over the trust fund they are within months of claiming. When brother Leo endangers their inheritance by getting into a drunk-driving accident, siblings Melody, Jack, and Beatrice confront him, one another, and their own personal demons as they wonder what will happen if they don’t get the $500,000 nest they’ve each been counting on. The subject sounds serious and the characters could get annoying, but Sweeney manages to turn out an entertaining yet thoughtful read that you can enjoy on a plane or by the pool. Entertainment Weekly gives this debut novel an A- and likens Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s writing to “really good dark chocolate: sharper and more bittersweet than the cheap stuff, but also too delicious not to finish in one sitting.” [Buy the book here.]

 

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Lauren Groff’s Fate and Furies has been around longer than most of the other books in this round-up (since last fall), but if you haven’t picked it up yet, this is your chance. This novel performs best when read in a short time span. The first half—the Fates—presents a marriage from the perspective of Lotto, the happy, unwitting husband. His version is so earnest, his love for his wife so complete, that you know something has to give. And give it does when you get to the Furies. In the second half of the novel, Mathilde doesn’t so much dismantle Lotto’s story as insert a hard-core dose of reality. Is their marriage based ultimately on love or deceit, or the coexistence of both? That’s for each reader to decide. [Buy the book here.]

 

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This novel by my friend Robert Bailey is the follow-up to The Professor, a legal thriller that presses an aging law professor back into service in a case that pits good lawyers against bad business. Between Black and White continues the trials and travails of the main characters from the first book, young Rick Drake and his professor Thomas McMurtrie, but raises the stakes by giving them a case involving their friend Bocephus Haynes. Bocephus, another young lawyer who made an appearance in The Professor, is now facing capital murder charges in the death of the Ku Klux Klan leader responsible for his father’s brutal murder in the 1960s. A review in Publishers Weekly reads, “The plot provides enough twists and surprises to keep readers turning the pages.” [Buy the book here.]

 

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Two families sharing a brownstone in mid-19th-century New York. Two women married to brothers. Two babies born on the same night in the middle of a blizzard. And one secret that binds these mothers together for generations to come. The Two-Family House, a debut novel by Lynda Cohen Loigman, slowly unravels the tangled lives of these two families as deep-seated resentments and thwarted expectations take their toll. You might figure out the mystery at the heart of the plot before it’s through, but that won’t make the reading experience any less worthwhile. [Buy the book here.]

 

 

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With this brand-new story collection, Helen Oyeyemi does it again: takes the reader to an alternate reality that is both fantastically playful and intensely serious. If you are new to Oyeyemi, this is the perfect introduction to her spellbinding brand of fiction, since you can read from the collection a little at a time. The nine stories all deal with the idea of keys which unlock mysteries, labyrinths, hearts, and doors to mystical universes. Having read two of Oyeyemi’s earlier novels, I have no trouble believing BookPages assertion that, in this new work, her “enthusiasm for a world where witches and phantoms coexist with psychiatrists and graduate students is infectious.” Once you fall in love, pick up one of Oyeyemi’s prize-winning novels: Mr. Fox; White Is for Witching, or Boy, Snow, Bird. [Buy the book here.]

 

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Read this book, yes, but—whatever you do—do not read it during spring break. It’s a 700-page gut-wrencher that will leave you utterly spent, slightly angry, and emotionally devastated. So, unless you want to spend your vacation wallowing and blubbering (as I did on day two of my trip), save this must-read for a later time.

 

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