On the sunny side of the book shelf

In the wake of what The Onion said “could only be described by witnesses as the goddamned week to end all soul-crushing weeks,” I found myself, along with most of America, in a dark mood.   The horror in Boston, the horror in Texas, the horror…well, everywhere it seemed, and nowhere to go to get away from it.  Facebook?  An endless loop of anger, grief, speculation, and uninformed rants.  Ditto for Twitter, all of network and cable tv and pretty much everyone standing in line at Starbucks.  I couldn’t wait for my bedtime reading to take me away from the insanity being parsed like Bill Clinton’s testimony on the Lewinsky affair.

Problem is, that I’m reading a downer of a book.  Breasts by Florence Williams is a smart, well-written (although badly copyedited), lively discussion about our most objectified and misunderstood of body parts.  Unfortunately, the book has more in common with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring than a Jackie Collins novel.   Basically, Ms. Williams argues that this most intelligent and adaptive of glands is also the most vulnerable to environmental toxins and the chemical stew that we are all bathing in 24/7.  Well, that was not the escapist literature I needed to take my mind off current events.

So, I eagerly accepted my son’s invitation to watch a movie with him.  But, he’s currently obsessed with all things Harry Potter and wanted to watch The Goblet of Fire.  You know, the one where that cute kid from Twilight dies and Voldemort is getting more and more powerful and evil.  What the….

By the end of that movie, I was desperately looking around my bookshelves for the happiest, peppiest, most life affirming book I could find.  Note to self, get more light reading in the house.  I finally settled on Nora Ephron and David Sedaris.  No, they’re not all that happy, but they reliably make me laugh and after that kind of week, humor is definitely healing.

What do you read when you feel like everything’s going to hell in a handbasket?  Share your upbeat choices…puhleeeze!



12 Responses to On the sunny side of the book shelf

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    My experience has been that although there are alway’s a few amusing reads out there, wit isn’t something this generation of writers is very good at, most of their efforts being in the category of “Hey, look at me-I’m being Funny!!!” (insert laugh cue cards here) So, I’ll make a couple of film recs intead… Try the Howard Hawks version of The Thing from 1951; (and make your kid watch it with you) not so much for the scary sci-fi part, but the snappy can’t-keep-us-down-we’re-wisecracking Americans dialogue, and the way they run toward radioactivity instead of away from it. And since Jonathon Winters recently left us, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, just to see what Route 66 and pop culture looked like in 1962. (The Jim Backus hangover part should be a serious lesson about binge-drinking for the younger set) And a weird little classic about Beatlemania called I Wanna Hold Your Hand, an early Spielberg film. All will be educational for the whole family and a nice antidote for the all-Boston, all-the time stuff you’re getting on CNN…

    • D.C. DaCosta says:

      Your comment about “Hey, look at me-I’m being Funny!!!” is all too true.
      My kids will say, “You’ve got to look at this video/read this article” and then they get made when I say, “Yeah, but it might have gone like THIS instead”.

  2. Tamara says:

    Invariably, I turn to children’s books (chapter books and young adult) for comfort. Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland and The Secret Garden and Tuck Everlasting and Harriet the Spy and so much more.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Mary Poppins books. Anything by Robert Fulghum.

  4. Joelle says:

    Well, at the risk of sounding redundant (look two posts down)….I turn to the Betsy-Tacy books, usually the high school and older ones. in particular, Besty and the Great World.

    And for an adult read, I like Jane Austen for comfort and fun.

    I’ve actually recently started reading humourous romances (and admitting it). I wrote a piece on that here: http://joelleanthony.com/daily-writings/maybe-im-a-romantic/

    Nevil Shute is probably my all-time comfort read, though. They have real world issues, so they’re not all sweet and light…in fact, rarely, but they are such incredibly good stories you get swept away in the same way something like Gone With the Wind sweeps you away in spite of the topic of war. I’m not talking about On The Beach, of course, but books like Pastoral, or An Old Captivity, or A Town Like Alice. My personal favourite is probably Trustee From the Tool Room.

  5. EDWARD says:

    Speaking of breasts, did you ever read Philip Roth’s book about THE BREAST? It’s a send-up of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” with all the profundity and pathos removed. It’s light, jovial reading about breasts . . . what you were looking for, I think, in the first place. I think personally I prefer flipping through back issues of THE NEW YORKER and looking at the cartoons I may have missed or forgotten. It would be beneath me to blog about breasts, say nothing more, and leave the impression I have no interests beyond that. Although I have as many lofty and pretentious interests as the next guy, your post moved them to the back burner.

  6. Kellie Lovegrove says:

    If you’re wanting something from general fiction, I would suggest Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I always laugh out loud at least three times before I’m finished. Anytime I need a book to make me laugh I pick up one and read a few chapters.

    Also, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series (middle grade) is a lot of fun. My husband and I have read all of them and were very sad when the series ended. If you haven’t read them, they would also be good to read with your son. If he likes Harry Potter he’ll like Artemis Fowl.

    Of course, there’s always Dr. Seuss. Just try and tell me you don’t smile while you’re reading his books.

  7. D.C. DaCosta says:

    P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories.
    Hmm. No one mentioned “Pollyanna”…?

  8. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Ditto on the Artemis Fowl; I remember when the series started and Time Magazine had a review that was seething with PC rage over the fact that somebody had the nerve to introduce a boy character who didn’t have any noble characteristics and didn’t learn any Serious Life Lessons!

  9. Anything by Katherine Center, especially Everyone is Beautiful. She has a new one coming out next week. I liked the first few Stephanie Plum books for humour and action, but a few books in, the crimes became more twisted and perversely violent. That turned me off. Always Jane Austen. The Shoemaker’s Wife is an epic story set in Italy and turn of the (last) century New York.

  10. My favorite dog-eared trashy chick lit classic: Valley of the Dolls. It’s the literary equivalent to chocolate-covered Pringles.

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