Mike C Recommends

With warmer spring weather on the way, many of us are emerging from our winter hibernation to spend time on the streets, trails, and parks. I like matching this season with a few of the books that bring a sense of rootedness and connection to the people, places and the natural world we inhabit.

Some of my favourite writers remind us to do this by paying attention to the little details in day-to-day life that sometimes get missed: the subtle smile of a partner, the chorus of birds harmonizing at sunrise, the oh-so-normal but oh-so-violent chase of two squirrels sparring in the trees; a young toddler's unbreakable obsession with the ant crawling on the window sill. And now that the frost is gone, many of us will soon turn our gaze downwards to tend our gardens and celebrate every little sprout popping out of the ground. Few things are better at keeping a person connected to the world than digging in the dirt!

Here are a few titles for young and old that remind us to notice the little details, changes and connections that add depth to our days.

Titles for Adults

The Book of Delights book jacketThe Book of Delights by Ross Gay 

The first nonfiction book from award-winning poet Ross Gay is a record of the small joys we often overlook in our busy lives. Among Gay's funny, poetic, philosophical delights: a friend's unabashed use of air quotes, cradling a tomato seedling aboard an airplane, and the silent nod of acknowledgment between the only two black people in a room. But Gay never dismisses the complexities, even the terrors, of living in America as a black man, the ecological and psychic violence of our consumer culture, or the loss of those he loves. More than anything else, though, Gay celebrates the beauty of the natural world–his garden, the flowers peeking out of the sidewalk, the hypnotic movements of a praying mantis. (From the Publisher)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek book jacketPilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

It is an exhilarating meditation on nature and its seasons—a personal narrative highlighting one year's exploration on foot in the author's neighbourhood in Tinker Creek, Virginia. In the summer, Dillard stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall, she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she collects pond water and examines it under a microscope. She unties a snake skin, witnesses a flood, and plays 'King of the Meadow' with a field of grasshoppers. (From the Publisher)

Upstream book jacketUpstream by Mary Oliver

Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labour, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from Shelley, Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe, and Frost, the great thinkers and writers of the past, to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion. (From the Publisher)

Orwell's Roses book jacketOrwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit

Sparked by her unexpected encounter with the surviving roses he planted in 1936, Solnit's account of this understudied aspect of Orwell's life explores his writing and his actions—from going deep into the coal mines of England, fighting in the Spanish Civil War, critiquing Stalin when much of the international left still supported him (and then critiquing that left), to his analysis of the relationship between lies and authoritarianism. Through Solnit's celebrated ability to draw unexpected connections, readers encounter the photographer Tina Modotti's roses and her Stalinism, Stalin's obsession with forcing lemons to grow in impossibly cold conditions, Orwell's slave-owning ancestors in Jamaica, Jamaica Kincaid's critique of colonialism and imperialism in the flower garden, and the brutal rose industry in Colombia that supplies the American market. The book draws to a close with a rereading of Nineteen Eighty-Four that completes her portrait of a more hopeful Orwell and a reflection on pleasure, beauty, and joy as acts of resistance. (From the Publisher)

Children's Titles

When Spring Comes book jacketWhen Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes

Animals and children alike watch as the world transforms from the dark and dead of winter to a full and blooming spring.



Last Stop on Market Street book jacket
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

A young boy rides the bus across town with his grandmother and learns to appreciate the beauty in everyday things.



Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt book jacketUp in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

Up in the garden, the world is full of green--leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt is a busy world of earthworms digging, snakes hunting, skunks burrowing, and all the other animals that make a garden their home. In this exuberant book, discover the wonder and activity that lie hidden between the stalks, under the shade of leaves . . . and down in the dirt. (From the Publisher)