Today’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish, is all about mood reading. I’ve recently discovered that I’m very much a mood reader. It’s something that I long suspected but never really articulated. Participating in the TBR Triple Dog Dare has made me realize that I make reading choices not by any sort of logical reading method, but purely by what I’m in the mood for. If I last read a fun, “light” read, I’ll often go with a darker book. If I read a heavier literary fiction title, then I crave a good crime thriller next. I can’t take too much of the same type of book in a row, it seems. Having to pick within my own physical TBR shelves at home has been a real challenge to my usual way of choosing books. But I’m glad I am participating, if only to learn more about what drives me as a reader.
I decided to write about books that made me feel good. Not all of these are necessarily what I call a light read, but they all leave me feeling good about the world. And don’t we need more of that these days?
- The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. The Queen stumbles upon a mobile library on the palace grounds, takes up reading, and hijinks ensue. A real delight for book lovers.
- Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. I could have listed any number of Pym’s books here, but I chose what is probably her most read work. Mildred Lathbury is not married, or romantically involved in any way, yet she creates meaning for her life in 1950s England – being useful to her neighbors and her church, as so many other “excellent women” of the time do. A quietly funny and wise novel.
- The “44 Scotland Street Series” by Alexander McCall Smith. One Goodreads review called it “Seinfeld in Scotland,” by which he means not much happens. But unlike “Seinfeld,” it’s such a warm-hearted, charming series, full of the kinds of conversations about love, meaning, art, friendship, parenting, and all the things that make life good. I always enjoy an installment of this series.
- Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen. I like all of Allen’s books, but this one is my favorite. If you like a Southern setting and a bit of magical realism with your romantic storylines, Allen’s your woman.
- Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. A lovely novel of manners set in a small English town. Love blossoms between a widowed English military man and a widowed Pakistani shop keeper, much to the chagrin of small-minded people in both families.
- The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. I couldn’t let this list go without including one of my favorite picture books. Ferdinand the bull wants to just sit quietly and smell the flowers, which is pretty much my life’s ambition too! Only his mother and the other bulls and the bullfighters all seem to want him to be a fighter, just because he’s big. I’m glad to say that my son enjoys this quiet, sweet tale too.
- It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness by Sylvia Boorstein. “Becoming aware of fragility, of temporality, of the fact that we will surely all be lost to one another, sooner or later, mandates a clear imperative to be totally kind and loving to each other always.” I am not a Buddhist, but I think anyone of any faith tradition can benefit from Boorstein’s warm, loving wisdom. This is a book to keep and read over and over again, when the world (or your own mind) is becoming too much to handle.
- Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. One of my favorite novels ever. It’s messy, and moving, and funny, with multiple storylines converging beautifully to convey the beauty and sadness of love and life. Walter obviously loves his characters. I’m stupid for this book.
- The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner. I read this quite a few years ago but I remember loving it. It’s a funny and really interesting exploration of just what makes a person happy – how much of it has to do with democracy, or money, or climate, etc? I’m a sucker for a well-written travel memoir anyway.
- Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe. A childhood favorite that holds up really well reading it as an adult. So funny! The scene with Chester the cat and the steak is priceless. The actor Victor Garber does a great audio book version, by the way.
So those are ten of my good-mood-inducing picks. Have you read any of these? Do you have any particularly happy/comforting/life-affirming titles of your own you’d like to share?