5 books you need to add to your spring reading list

Sep 07, 2023
There's nothing like getting stuck in a book in the fresh spring air. Source: Getty

With the start of the new season comes an ever-growing list of things to do as we clean up from winter hibernation and prepare for the end of the year, but adding to your list of things to do doesn’t always have to be work.

Why not add to your TBR (to be read) pile instead?

Carefully selected by those who are immersed in the world of words, the Starts at 60 Book Club has five more entertaining recommendations for your TBR list (which is probably already over a mile long).

So, when you need a break from all the spring cleaning you need to do this season, delve into your list of spring reading instead and lose yourself to the literary worlds at your fingertips.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams


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For those with a fascination with history and words themselves, The Dictionary of Lost Words is the perfect addition to your home library. This historical novel offers an immersive experience to readers and has a high ranking of 4.5 stars.

In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.

Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word bondmaid flutter to the floor unclaimed. Esme seizes the word and hides it in an old wooden trunk that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Recommended by Book Club member Lorraine Parker who said the book was a captivating read that changed her own perspective of language. 

“The author’s “love-hate relationship with words and dictionaries” shines through,” her review read.

“So much so that my own perspective and awareness of words and their meanings has been so heightened. A very different and heart rending must read.”

Cottage by the Sea by Debbie Macomber

If you want to start the season off with a heartfelt read, Cottage by the Sea is a great place to start. This adorable contemporary romance has a ranking of 4.5 stars, with many readers

Rocked by tragedy, Annie Marlow returns to the one place she knows she can heal: the cottage by the sea where she spent many happy childhood holidays with her family.

There, Annie meets Keaton, a local painter with a big heart; Mellie, the reclusive landlord Annie is determined to befriend; and Britt, a teenager with a terrible secret. With them her broken spirit starts to heal.

Then events threaten Annie’s new idyll. And when the opportunity of a lifetime lands in her lap, she is torn between the excitement of a new journey and the pull of the haven – and the man – she has come to call home. Will she be able to make her new-found happiness last?

Cottage by the Sea comes recommended by Book Club member Jennifer Larmar, who said she fell in love with the author’s works when this particular book was gifted to her.

“Debbie Macomber writes tender novels that gently pull you into the comings and goings of a plethora of interesting – and often hurting – characters,” she said.

“They’re just perfect when you want something that takes you to a quiet place where you can reflect and simply get lost in a new and less-frantic world for a few hours. I give it 7.5.”

The House of Now and Then by Jo Dixon

Calling all lovers of mystery thrillers, this one’s for you! All about the “consequences of discovering the truth”, Jo Dixon’s debut novel The House of Now and Then was shortlisted for 2023’s The Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction and holds a 4.3 star rating.

After a humiliating public scandal, Olivia is hiding from the press in a remote Tasmanian house when an unknown man knocks on her door, seeking Pippa, a woman who once lived there. His father, Jeremy, has died, leaving behind a letter for this mysterious woman. Olivia wants to help, but can she risk revealing her own sordid past?

Thirty years earlier, bohemian wild-child Pippa and her best friend Jeremy spend a perfect summer in the house. Pippa falls deeply in love with local boy Leo, and they begin to plan a life of adventure together, much to the displeasure of his conservative and controlling family. One night Leo leaves the house to confront his parents … and is never seen again.

As Olivia is drawn into solving the mystery, the unexpected and tragic story of Pippa, Jeremy and Leo is slowly uncovered. At the same time, a path to reclaiming her own life opens, if only she has the courage to take it.

This suspenseful novel comes recommended by Book Club member Julia Priestly who said: “Enjoyed Jo’s debut novel. Set in my home State of Tasmania the house is the common denominator.”

“Characters linked across time and place. A mystery to solve. I picked a few of the twists but not all. It’s a five star from me,” she said.

Immaculate by Anna McGahan


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When you pick up this book you’re agreeing to be challenged in all things loss, identity and moving on. With a rating of 4.3 stars, Immaculate isn’t your average read. 

All Frances wants is a cure for her daughter, but that would take a miracle, and miracles aren’t something Frances believes in anymore.

Newly divorced from her pastor ex-husband and excommunicated from the church community she once worked within, she wrestles alone with the prognosis of her terminally ill child. Any suggestion of ‘divine intervention’ is salt in the wound of her grief. So when Frances is forced to take in a homeless and pregnant teenage girl who claims to have had an immaculate conception, she’s deeply challenged.

But sixteen-year-old Mary is not who she seems, and soon opens the door to perspectives that profoundly shift Frances’s sense of reality, triggering a chain of astonishing events. It seems that where there is the greatest suffering lies an unexpected magic. Frances begins to hold hope for her family’s future, but the miracle prayed for is not always the one received.

Immaculate is a provocative and tender exploration of loss, identity and healing, and the secret worlds we hide within in order to survive.

Recommended by Book Club member Karen Jones who said she found Immaculate to be beautifully confronting, especially being a woman of faith herself.

“The book is painful, tender, thought provoking and yet it glimmers with a childlike essence of joy and simple wonder,” she said in her review.

“This book is beautiful. Eloquent yet painful and so beautifully written by Anna McGahan it won the Australian Vogel’s award. Well deserved.”

The Tea Ladies by Amanda Hampson


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Who remembers the tea ladies and trolley service around the office? Bringing more than just a warm smile and hot beverage, these women have been turned into sleuths in Amanda Hampson’s crime novel The Tea Ladies, holding a 4.1 star rating.

They keep everyone’s secrets, until there’s a murder…

Sydney, 1965: After a chance encounter with a stranger, tea ladies Hazel, Betty and Irene become accidental sleuths, stumbling into a world of ruthless crooks and racketeers in search of a young woman believed to be in danger.

In the meantime, Hazel’s job at Empire Fashionwear is in jeopardy. The firm has turned out the same frocks and blouses for the past twenty years and when the mini-skirt bursts onto the scene, it rocks the rag trade to its foundations. War breaks out between departments and it falls to Hazel, the quiet diplomat, to broker peace and save the firm.

When there is a murder in the building, the tea ladies draw on their wider network and put themselves in danger as they piece together clues that connect the murder to a nearby arson and a kidnapping. But if there’s one thing tea ladies can handle, it’s hot water.

Book Club member Sue Kitto recommends The Tea Ladies, saying it’s a great book to read for entertainment.

“A fun read! Humble tea ladies become unlikely detectives,” she said.

Do you love to read? Join our Starts at 60 Book Club here. 

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