Seasonal Reading

Oh, isn’t it lovely outside with all the leaves turning various shades of burnt amber and the sky being a beautiful azure blue and the sun still shining even though it is very nearly October? How I love the changing seasons. England might be a rubbish place to live a lot of the time as it does rain considerably more than in other places (except for Scotland, and Seattle, apparently) but one thing it does do well is clearly delineating between seasons. In our green and pleasant land you know when it’s Autumn, and then when it’s Winter, and then when it’s Spring, and then when it’s Summer. I find this reassuring. I enjoy structure. This is why I work in an office.

I also like reading seasonally. There are certain books that evoke a particular season for me, perhaps because the first time I read them was during that time of year, perhaps because the action is set in that season, or perhaps just because they give me the feeling I associate with certain months. Some I have discovered fairly recently, and will be re-reading at the same time next year, others are old favourites that I always pull out for a comfort read, year after year.

There’s nothing like curling up with Jane Eyre beside my mum’s fire while the wind and rain lash against her lovely French windows and I am all safe inside, reading about Thornfield and the wild moors and Jane hearing Rochester’s cry on the wind… there is also nothing like sitting outside in the summer with the sun on my back and the delicious smell of roses in the air, reading about Emma matchmaking amongst the shrubbery. When I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie I can smell pencil shavings and feel the excitement of a new school term, and imagine walking to school through the park, kicking up the golden leaves….it is pure autumn to me. And The Secret Garden is my ultimate spring book; the time of year when all is coming alive again, when hope springs eternal, when the sun is back and new plans are made, the story of Mary and Colin and their transformation from surly sickly things into healthy robust funloving children is wonderful and always gives me a real feeling of being revived after a long, cold and often dull winter.

Some of my favourite seasonal reads:

Autumn

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Unless by Carol Shields

The Brimming Cup by Dorothy Canfield

Winter

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Possession by A S Byatt

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Spring

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Summer

Emma by Jane Austen

The Go Between by L P Hartley

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

Do you have any books that you associate with certain seasons? Comfort reads that you return to at the same time of the year, every year? Or is it just me? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

**Edited to add, for all interested parties: The Children’s Book is progressing well…nearly 200 pages in and I am enjoying it immensely! Just a shame there are another 400 pages to go!**

17 comments

  1. I had never really thought about seasonal reading before, as I used to live in a tropical country and it was the same all year round. But now that we're in Canada, I've begun to think about it and was planning to do more of it next year. (This year would be impossible as I've committed to so many reading challenges and they completely dominate my reading choices.)Thinking back on my past reads, I've failed to really associate each book with a season, but a few I can think of a measly few: The Trembling of a Leaf by W Somerset Maugham and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, both for summer. And Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata for winter.I'd love see more suggestions from you or your readers.🙂

  2. I do read seasonaly, but probably find myself turning to specific authors rather then books. I find in the winter I love short stories and that's when I look for things likr George Mackay Brown because he has a sort of told by the fire quality, also comfort reads like Georgette Heyer. Spring I like things like Stella Gibbons, Elizabeth Von Arnim and Gavin Maxwell, and summer it has to be nice long books so as not to be getting up to look for new ones, Robertson Davies, and Harry Potters do very well.Autumn is probably my favourite reading time, and then it's as much Victorian Melodrama as I can cope with.

  3. My seasonal reads are mainly in October. I tend towards gothic horror and classic mysteries by Wilkie Collins and company.There are a few books I reread regularly and find that I like them at a certain time of year. Summer is good for Sandra Cisneros I agree, and also for How to Make an American Quilt (Whitney Otto). A Moveable Feast (Hemingway) and I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith) in late summer, early autumn. Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)in the autumn, anything Orwell in the dead of winter, Enchanted April (Elizabeth von Arnim) and Walden (Thoreau) in the spring.

  4. The classics have definitely become my subject of choice during colder months these past few years. Have you ever witnessed someone reading Bleak House on the beach?R and I took a trip to London, leaving exactly two years ago to this very day. It was much cooler in your city but that made the cups of tea all the nicer to hold while we walked in the evenings.As a very interested party, I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying your book!

  5. Some wonderfully apt seasonal reading! The Enchanted April is perfect for Spring and Dr Zhivago for Winter.Autumn to Winter I do love to curl up with a gothic read and/or classics; I think that Her Fearful Symmetry should be perfect for the current season. I do intend to pay more attention to my reading in relation to season in the future; I find it a far more enjoyable reading experience when I can actually physically relate to the climate described.

  6. What a lovely way to look at the changing seasons.There's something about autumn that makes me reread childhood favorites like the Betsy-Tacy books and the Little House series. Perhaps it is nostalgia and the comfort of the familiar. I reread Beverley Nicols in the spring and dream of a garden and colorful neighbors, and Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet series is a wonderful beach reread. I'm drawing a blank thinking of a winter reread, but that may have something to do with the fact that it is very hot here and feels like it will never be winter again!

  7. What a wonderful post Rachel! I think Autumn has to be my very most favourite season of the year, I love the browns and greens all mixed together in abundance. I have only recently started thinking about reading seasonally after starting The Sensation Season its a very interesting idea and will be looking at more of your choices if I see them around.

  8. I don't think I do. If anything I think I read things counter to the current season. When it is stinking hot here in DC in the summer I like to read things with lots of cool weather. And in the winter when things have been gray for too long, it can be nice to pick up something sunny.Of course I read all the year through, but there is something so cosy and wonderful about reading in the fall and winter.

  9. Oh, yes, Persuasion in autumn and Little Women in winter. I love that Little Women opens at Christmas and the girls give away their breakfast.

  10. What a fun post! I've seen the movie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie but not read the book…in fact, the only one of your Autumn selections i've read is Persuasion. For Winter, I've read all but Doctor Zhivago, which I want to read this year! For Spring, I've only read The Secret Garden and for summer I've read Emma and Goodnight Mister Tom.I'll think about my own seasonal reads and probably do up a post about them.🙂

  11. Oh Rachel you are indeed a kindred spirit! Persuasion in the autumn, Emma in the summer, An Enchanted April in the spring. Yes yes yes. And of course, a christmas carol always read by me on Christmas Eve, Little Women read at Christmas too. Bleak House is a winter read but David Copperfield is summer' Impossible to read Ethan Frome any other season but the winter but the Age of Innocence is summer.I wonder why this is?

  12. Claire – Yes I can see that when the seasons are all the same, seasonal reading becomes pointless! Definitely try it next year, I find it really enhances my enjoyment of certain books to read them during the 'right' season. I shall look up the books you suggested, thank you.Desperate – Glad you like reading seasonally too. You are so right about Autumn and Melodrama – there is no other time more perfect for it!Heather – It seems a lot of us find Autumn an atmospheric time to read. I LOVE the film of How to Make an American Quilt so I will check out that book. And yes, Thoreau is perfect for Spring. I love his writing and hope to visit Walden pond one day.Darlene – You must come back! It's been two years since I was last in the States and I miss it very much. I want to come over again very soon. Winter is so perfect for curling up and reading those longer books, with plenty of tea of course!Claire – Exactly. I find I get so much more from a book when my experiences are echoing those of the characters in the book. I also love gothic stuff in the Autumn and Winter…it must be those darker evenings.Makedo – I've never read any of those books you mention but I've always wanted to read the Cazalet series – they would be perfect summer reads!Simon – Thank you. Yes, Autumn is perfect for sensation type books and you have picked a brilliant challenge for this time of year!Thomas – That is such an interesting way of looking at things! I just don't think I could read a classic in the summer though, unless it was something by Edith Wharton or Willa Cather, and I could feel the sticky heat they write about.Vintage – Yes! That breakfast part is one of my favourite bits!Eva – thank you. You should read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, it's wonderful! I look forward to your post!Elaine – Bleak House and the Whartons are on my list of books to read. Hopefully I will get around to them this winter. I love that you agree with my Austen timings – the action does happen through all of the seasons but somehow it just *feels* right to read them at certain times. I'm glad you understand!

  13. I also live in a place where we have distinct seasons–especially hot summers and cold winters. My seasonal reading is usually the opposite of what the weather is like–if that makes sense. Unfortunately the weather can be extreme here. Last year when it was 15 degrees below zero and I was walking to the bus stop (with ice forming over my scarf covering my face!) I could only think of books set in hot places (to get my mind off the cold). Likewise in the heat of summer (though this past summer wasn't too bad really) when I am drooping from the humidity all I can think of is something set on the cold Canadian plains! But I do know what you mean by certain books evoking a certain season–I especially like long Victorian reads in the fall and winter! And I need to get back the Byatt book, too. I started it, but it's so heavy to carry on the bus and walking it's been sitting patiently on my night stand for far too long!

  14. Danielle, I could not live in a place that cold! You are far hardier than me! Yes I can totally relate to wanting to read the opposite…the literary equivalent of 'think warm thoughts, think warm thoughts!' when freezing cold!

  15. I study Egypt and read all associated Egyptian fiction and/or Egyptian Historical Fiction during the summer – every summer.Her Fearful Symmetry will forever be a January book for me now.I love Joseph Rykwert in the fall. Along with many of the old classics – Austen, Bronte, Radcliffe. I love seafaring novels in the spring – coming out of winter so that I remember the cold described about the ocean, but just enough sun and possibly a swimming pool to enjoy the rest.Your winter reads were spot on.

  16. I’ve been looking for a list exactly like this for a long while. I don’t know you personally so I hope you don’t mind me commenting but I have just bought Treasure Island, Through the Looking Glass, The Secret Garden, Around the World in Eighty Days and Three Men in a Boat as an attempt to remind myself that Spring is on its way and that green fields exist beyond the grey streets of South London (where I’m studying). Oh and in Autumn and Winter I like Charles Dickens and any Gothic horrors.

    1. Hi Scott – of course I don’t mind you commenting! Seasonal reading is lovely and picking those books that remind you of the changing seasons is very uplifting, I find. Autumn and Winter are perfect for gothic and victorian novels – I can cope with the long, cold, dark nights much better with a ripping chunkster of a novel by my side! Hope you are enjoying South London – I was born and bred there and I miss it, greyness and ugliness and all.

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