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Railsware Recommended Reads: Spring Edition

Spring is finally here, and we’re shaking off the winter gloom with a fun list of book recommendations.

A few months ago, Railswarians began sharing their current reads and all-time favorites in our new #bookclub Slack channel. Recommendations have spanned all colors of the literary rainbow, from memoirs and classic fiction to self-help and history books. So, in the typical Railswarian spirit of sharing our discoveries with the world, here are our top reading picks for spring.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Why We Sleep is a deep dive into the impact of sleep on our overall health and longevity. From the secrets of dreaming to the role of sleep in preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s, Walker paints a vivid picture of the intricate relationship between sleep and well-being.

Peter on Why we Sleep book

Peter Laczko

Product Lead

This is one of the most terrifying and terrific books I have ever read. The book can be split into two parts: the first is about why you would be sick, stupid, or dead if you didn’t sleep enough, and the second part is about why it’s impossible to get enough good quality sleep nowadays. My favorite part is about the effects of alcohol. As far as I remember, he closes the chapter like this: “So what can we do to negate the negative effect of alcohol on sleep? Well, unfortunately, the science is crystal clear. We need to go to the pub in the morning.”

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrik Süskind

In Perfume, protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with an unparalleled sense of smell in 1738 Paris. Obsessed with capturing the most exquisite scent, Grenouille becomes a perfumer. His quest leads him to commit a series of gruesome murders to extract the essence of his victims. As he creates a scent that captivates everyone who encounters it, Grenouille becomes increasingly isolated and detached from humanity.

Ivan on Perfume book

Head of Product Marketing

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is, for me, the most vivid and emotionally charged book, in terms of how it describes the surrounding world and unraveling of the main character. My journey to the work began with its film adaptation, and only after watching the movie a dozen times did I finally read the book. Saving it for a vacation allowed me to immerse myself in this wonderful world. Interestingly, both versions remain completely autonomous and unparalleled for me. The main character is portrayed differently in each, but his motives and destiny are nonetheless the same. It was a splendid book with a beautiful style.

The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy

The Gates of Europe is a historical exploration of Ukraine, tracing its complex past as a crossroads of empires and cultures. Through key figures and events, the book illuminates Ukraine’s quest for identity, offering crucial insights into the current conflict with Russia and highlighting repeating patterns in the nation’s history.

Anton on Gates of Europe book

Anton Sivakov

Full Stack Engineer

The Gates of Europe is easy to read, and it’s a great way to get a quick tour of Ukraine’s history. Although it doesn’t go very deep into specific timelines, it’s the perfect starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about Ukrainian history from the tenth century up to the year 2016.

Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton

In Beyond The Wand, Tom reflects on his childhood, discovering a love for acting that led to his iconic role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films at the age of twelve. He shares anecdotes from the set, detailing misadventures with co-stars and the challenges of growing up in the public eye. The book candidly explores the highs and lows of fame, offering insights into Tom’s journey from a young actor to navigating the complexities of adult life post-filming.

Stas on Beyond the Wand book

Stas Sokolov

PR Expert

I can hardly identify myself with millennials or Gen Z, but I’m definitely generation Harry Potter. For those who, like me, grew up with the series, Tom Felton’s ‘Beyond the Wand’ brings this ultra-cozy nostalgic feeling of coming back home. Does Felton provide an intimate look behind the scenes of the Harry Potter films? Yes. Did I expect a candid account of his personal journey and struggles? Well, no, but Tom surprised me. His sincerity makes it not just “another ghostwritten memoir” but a story of growth and resilience. His warmth and humor offered a new perspective on the HP world and the actors who brought it to life. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or just curious about the man behind Draco Malfoy, ‘Beyond the Wand’ would be an enchanting way to spend a couple of evenings.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s works are often noted for their deep examination of human existence, and Orlando is no exception. This novel traces the life of its protagonist, Orlando, through different historical eras, exploring themes of gender and identity. The narrative spans from the Elizabethan era to the 20th century, portraying Orlando’s experiences as both a man and a woman.

Uliana on Orlando book

Uliana Tereshchenko

People Operations Specialist

I was really impressed by Orlando. It’s a beautifully written book, full of ironic comments, rich, poetic language, and vivid descriptions of English society throughout centuries. I left so many bookmarks, a clear sign of just how much I enjoyed this book.

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Jazz explores the love triangle of Violet, Joe, and Dorcas in 1920s Harlem. The story unfolds against the cultural backdrop of the Jazz Age, examining themes of forbidden love, betrayal, and societal shifts.

Viktoriia on Jazz book

Viktoriia Ivanenko

Content Manager

Jazz is a top pick in my library. What I truly enjoy is that with every page turn, it’s like diving into a jazz improvisation session, where the cityscape comes alive, and complex relationships get even more complicated. Read it and you’ll be transported to the bustling streets of 20th-century New York City, where prose, love, race, and a New World dance to the beat of jazz. This novel will make your fingers snap to the rhythm!

The Joy of Small Things by Hannah Jane Parkinson

The Joy of Small Things is a collection of reflections sourced from Parkinson’s Guardian column. It examines the mundane aspects of life that bring pleasure, such as pockets, clean sheets, and canceled plans. Written in a heartfelt style, this book encourages us to find happiness in simple, everyday moments.

Catalin on Joy of Small Things

Catalin Dragutescu

Full Stack Engineer

I saw the cover and thought it was cool, but after taking a closer look, it really did seem like a fun book. It brings good spirits, chapters are 2-3 pages long and talk about those simple things that we often ignore, even though they could bring us a lot of happiness. I think of reading a chapter like drinking an espresso – you take a sip and it gives you a boost of energy. So, here’s a short quote from a chapter on coffee: “The problem with good coffee is that once it grasps the taste buds […] it is difficult to go back to any old sludge.” I return to this book whenever I want to feel a little bit better.

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

Shark Heart explores the choices we must make for the people we love. It follows the unconventional love story of Lewis and Wren, whose first year of marriage takes an unexpected twist when Lewis is diagnosed with a condition that turns him into a great white shark. As Lewis undergoes a physical transformation, Wren grapples with their evolving relationship and confronts memories from her past.

Leonie Lacey on Shark Heart

Leonie Lacey

Technical Content Writer

I wasn’t sure what to make of the plot at first, but the author did a great job of executing a complicated, rather disturbing idea. The story was painfully realistic with its themes of grief, loneliness, and loss, and I was moved to tears more than once. I particularly loved Habeck’s lyrical style and vivid description. One thing I didn’t like, though, was the novel’s formatting. It had super-short chapters (often only half a page long), and a strange, unpredictable structure.

Wrapping up

We hope you enjoyed this compilation of books and reviews from our talented team! With any luck, you’ve found something to add to your spring reading list. If so, good news — this is just the first installment of many to come. Keep an eye out next season for our top summer picks!