Spring Classics to Read Outside

Article by liz

This fortuitous change in weather has lured many of us outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave your books inside! With daylight savings time upon us, it stays lighter later, which makes this the perfect season for reading in the fresh air. I’ve always considered spring a time for thinking about my roots, both personal and literary. In that spirit, here are some of my favorite classics, new and old, that were truly meant to be read outside.

The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again Cover Image
ISBN: 9780547928227
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - September 18th, 2012

If you haven’t read J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT, I’d first like to apologize to you for your sad and joyless childhood. On a more positive note, now is the perfect time to catch up in anticipation of the final film in Peter Jackson’s trilogy adaptation, coming out this winter. It’s easy to envision yourself in the Shire, the idyllic home of the hobbits, when it’s warm and glorious outside. If it’s pouring, you can always hide under an overhang as Bilbo and the dwarves do to avoid a thunderstorm in the Misty Mountains. Or, if you like, read the latter half of this book under the shade of your favorite tree, and pretend you’re in the forest of Mirkwood, fighting spiders and drinking with the Elves.

Cymbeline (Modern Library Classics) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812969429
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Modern Library - September 13th, 2011

While his name may call to mind stodgy, stolid tomes, let me assure you: Shakespeare is the springiest of writers. There’s a reason Shakespeare In The Park is such a huge hit! The sunny season is the best time to settle in at your favorite park and read some Shakespeare aloud, either by yourself or with a handful of friends. You get to play all the best characters, and you can experience Shakespeare’s language the way it was meant to be: performed aloud! CYMBELINE, one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays that’s currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance, is a fairy tale perfect for spring reading in Houston’s changeable weather, as it takes place in both the warm plazas of Rome and the cool, misty hills of Wales. I like to call CYMBELINE “Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits,” since it features all of his most famous plot devices in one play: star-crossed lovers, incorrectly-assumed adultery, girls dressing as boys, long-lost royal sons, mysterious sleeping potions, epic miscommunications, and a massive concluding fight scene! This play will get you out into the open air and on your feet.

Northanger Abbey (Penguin Classics) Cover Image
By Jane Austen, Marilyn Butler (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780141439792
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - April 29th, 2003

I know not everyone likes warm weather, so if you’re not quite ready for winter to be over, pick a high, windy spot and give yourself some goosebumps with WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Emily Bronte’s lonesome, chilling descriptions of the haunted moors of northern England are best experienced with a breeze on your face and a scarf to draw tightly around your neck. If you’ve already read WUTHERING HEIGHTS or would like something a little less gloomy for your spring read, try NORTHANGER ABBEY, Jane Austen’s romantic, spot-on satire of the popular Gothic novels of her time. With the help of a cold, spooky breeze, the titular abbey’s chilly drafts and possibly murderous history may spook you just as much as they do Catherine, Austen’s imaginative young heroine.

The Talented Mr. Ripley Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393332148
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 1st, 2008

Headed to the beach for a belated spring break? Make sure you put THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY in your beach bag. Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thriller is the perfect beach read: her evocative prose conjures not only sympathy for her devilish titular character, but also the glitzy sun and surf of the 1950’s Italian Riviera. Set up your umbrella on the beach and immerse yourself in Tom Ripley’s idyllic world of swimming, boating, and obsession with the identities and glamorous lifestyles of his rich friends.

Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393307054
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 17th, 1990

Eventually, as all Houston residents know, it’ll become much too hot and sticky for much more outdoor activity. On the last weekend you think you can get away with it, slap on some sunscreen and your favorite hat and read Patrick O’Brian’s naval classic MASTER AND COMMANDER in the heat. Pretend you’re ruddy-cheeked and windblown Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey (or his better half, ship’s surgeon and spy-cum-naturalist Dr. Stephen Maturin), standing on the sun-baked deck of a sailing ship, and that all the humidity is the ocean’s salt spray blowing in your face. The best thing about MASTER AND COMMANDER is that you’ll be so engaged in the brilliant action and historical detail that the weather won’t even faze you.

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