Sunday, August 9, 2009

Funny?



Here are some of the books I've read this summer: Columbine. Home. The Lonely American. The Thing Around Your Neck. Still Alice. Hana's Suitcase.

Bleak, all.

It was only after I started reading the essays in Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction that I realized how dark my reading has been this summer. I read essays on a school shooting, alcoholic parents, a mother who didn't want her child...dark, dark, dark.

Does everything good have to be sad?

Here, then, is my question: What can I read that is good, really really good, well written, with sparkling purposeful characters leading generous lives? Ideas?

I'm not asking for recommendations for throwaway novels, summer reads. I'm seeking books that are Must-Reads.

Are they out there? Any thoughts?

Not sappy happy. Literate happy.

I've thought and thought and I've come up with almost nothing. Tom Sawyer. Anne of Green Gables, maybe.

Anything else?

23 comments:

  1. I went to look at my bookshelves to answer your question, only to realize that my literary tastes are dark too!

    But I do have a couple of books you might be interested in. Chaim Potok's The Chosen is a wonderful little book that will also teach you a ton about Orthodox Jewish culture. Also, Shreve Stockton's memoir The Daily Coyote is a great real-life story accompanied by awesome photographs. (Her website is dailycoyote(dot)net.)

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  2. Oh, hmm, if you're into literary happy instead of chick lit sappy, The Great Perhaps is good if you like post modern weirdness (it's happy, promise). Into the Beautiful North is not quite a beach read but also not a beach read. I'm reading On Beauty, right now and it's great but I haven't finished it so it might be sad. Good luck! I've been reading so-so books lately and am waiting for that "best book ever" feeling to strike any day now...::whistles and twiddles thumbs looking at the sky::

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  3. Okay! Excellent! Some possibilities. I'd never have thought a Chaim Potok book would be funny. Thoughtful, yes. Funny, no. But I will seek it out. And the others suggested....

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  4. The first thing that comes to mind is the Jasper Fforde books. Wacky, funny, and laden with literary references. I love them, and they're a really good break when I need a change.

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  5. What a tough question. I'd second Amanda's recommendation of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, but I'm not sure I can think of any others. Most of my favourites are inherently tragic.

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  6. Jasper Fforde is one good choice, although I'm stuck on the first of his Thursday Next series right now as I'm on a Michael Connelly binge.

    Another that readily comes to mind is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. Or pre-Fforde and from a BBC series for which he helped write, The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy. In other words, mostly British folks seem to be funny, at least, literary funny. :)

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  7. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (a novel from the 1920s) cheered me up no end last February. And I would definitely recommend Alan Bennet's The Uncommon Reader (if you have not already read it).

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  8. I've read some of the Fforde books and I've liked them. I've also read Hitchhiker, Enchanted April, and The Uncommon Reader. All great ideas. Any more?

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  9. Actually, The Chosen isn't really funny but it is very life-affirming.

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  10. HOw about the Geography of Bliss? It really had me thinking about what makes me happy and how to pursue it more. And I would recommend the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society... HAPPY reading! I realize I had a bleak July, too, in terms of reading choices...

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  11. How about The Actor and the Housewife? There are moments of sadness, but overall the novel is positive.

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  12. How about "Nation" by Terry Pratchett?

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  13. I will check out the titles I've not yet read, including Nation and Actor and Housewife. Life affirming sounds good, as well.

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  14. this is a question I have often pondered...but I am no closer to a definitive answer than ever!

    JOANN

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  15. I felt that same way after reading a few books ending with The Blue Notebook, just the darkest book ever! I was ready never to read a dark book again! I do have a review up today of a book you might find amusing - about sheep who solve a crime: "Three Bags Full" by Leonie Swann. It's very cute.

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  16. In reviewing my latest favorite reads, I also find that they are substantive and somber. I will recommend a book I happened across at the library and enjoyed very much - Travel Writing
    by Peter Ferry.
    Right now I am on vacation and found a book on the shelves here at our rental cottage in Maine. It is The Best of Outside: The First 20 Years. The writiing is amazing and there is tremendous variety in the pieces with well-known authors like Jane Smiley and Jon Krakauer, but others - more obscure, but also with great talent.

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  17. Thank you for all the suggestions. But I think perhaps I have discovered a basic truth for myself: The most highly acclaimed books are dark. Perhaps there are no brilliantly written yet funny books....

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  18. Try some Wodehouse. Or Angela Thirkell. Or Beverley Nichols.

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  19. Hi Deb,

    NPR has put out a list of the "100 Best Beach Books Ever," though many are more literary than beach-reading-light, I'd say. Here's the list:

    http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/2009/08/nprs-100-best-beach-books-ever.html

    I'm just getting around to reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and I'm enjoying it as a break from heavier books. I want to read a couple of others from the list, but I don't know (yet) how literary or how light either is: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

    Do you like Barbara Kingsolver's books? I thought Prodigal Summer was fun to read. I also enjoyed her nonfiction, especially High Tide in Tucson.

    How about YA (young adult) novel? Do you ever read any of them? I recently learned a lot about Wales while enjoying the story in A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond. I'm not sure I'd call is "must read," though.

    Sometimes, reading good books that are less than stellar gives my mind a break and makes me more ready to tackle the heavier, darker themes. I even rave about some children's books, like The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron:
    http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/2007/08/higher-power-of-lucky-by-susan-patron.html

    and Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney:
    http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/2007/03/favorite-childrens-book.html

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  20. Lots of ideas here. Thanks, Kristen. (Though, come to think of it, do I ever like the books you like? Not sure...) And I will look closely at the NPR beach book list....might be some good ones here.

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  21. I thought Hana's Suitcase was a wonderful book. yes, sad b/c about the Holocaust, but really a beautiful story.

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