It’s May – and maybe it’s the spring cleaning bug but I’ve been dreaming of cleansing my playlists. Suddenly, the music I’ve been listening to all winter just feels too, well, wintery and I want some music for spring.
This impulse seems to have trickled into my reading tastes as well so when I set out to pick three books for May, I decided on three that trend towards the musical in a specific way.
Olivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer
Sometimes, when I’m tired or I’ve had a long day or I simply need a bright little spot of light in my life, I open an Olivia book. There’s just something about Falconer’s little pig that makes me smile. In Olivia Forms a Band, Olivia can’t get anyone in her family to join in with her – so she becomes the whole band (after all, that morning her mother had told her she sounded like “five” people). And she sure feels that music (even as her family is wincing). There is something so joyful in the way a small child (or pig!) connects with the sounds he or she can produce (even when the adult world doesn’t always find them melodious).
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
This book is everywhere – and for good reason. Jandy Nelson’s writing, simply put, sings. The musicality of the language sucked me in from the first paragraph. While reading, I felt bathed in language and voice. In the first paragraph we know this: band geek Lennie’s big sister has just died, her mother left them long ago, and she’s suddenly thinking waaaaay too much about boys. All of these conflicting emotions paralyze Lennie and she retreats. This novel explores first love in the wake of deep grief and all the conflicting emotions in between told beautifully in Nelson’s musical voice.
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
Sometimes I read a book and feel like I share a frequency with that author – like there’s a radio station tuned just to us. One of these stations I keep tuning into is author Nick Hornby who writes broken, sweet, funny characters. His are not large characters – no spies, no world-trotting professors or movie stars. Even his (former) rock star in Tucker Crowe is middle-aged and concerned with school pick-up and prefers reading Dickens in the quiet of his own home. Hornby isn’t about plot – he’s about character (and I love that about him). He creates interesting, often down on their luck characters, and then sets about making us love them not because they heal or do grand things but mostly because they muddle through and this, somehow, charms me. In Juliet, Naked, Hornby gets back to his musical roots (this one I loved in the way I loved High Fidelity all those years ago), but in this novel, there’s a wiser, older Hornby at play who appreciates that its life’s oddities that make it worth living.