Good Housekeeping published a list today of 60 Books That Will Make You Happier and I found it a kind of strange list, full of books like Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and the ever-annoying Eat, Pray, Love. But that got me thinking about the books I've read that made me happy. Not necessarily happy I'd read them--almost any book does that--but a book that made me laugh or gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I read a lot of noir and horror; sometimes I need a warm, fuzzy feeling from my fiction. Here's a list I made:
1. Michael Malone's Handling Sin. This is a road trip book about a man chasing down his rascal of a father and discovering he has half-siblings. His full-of-life best friend comes along and it's all set in the south. And gets it totally right. Malone also writes wonderful mysteries.
2. Eudora Welty, The Ponder Heart. This is a novella and it's also very southern. Seems Uncle Daniel POnder, a confirmed bachelor, has married a young woman who spends all her time reading magazines and making "the kind of fudge anybody can make." This is a lovely take on small towns and families and will make you smile.
3. Cyde Edgerton, Walking Across Egypt. The first book of Clyde's I read was The Floatplane Notebooks, which is a family saga told from multiple points of view, including that of the kudzu vine wrpping the house. This is a quick read, a book about an independent old lady and her dog and a young boy in need of love.
4. Sharyn McCrumb, St. Dale. I am a huge fan of McCrumb's Appalachian Ballad es with their dual timelines. This stand-alone book is not a mystery at all, but an ensemble piece about a tour group visiting NASCAR sites as a summer vacation. It comes across like one of those multi-plot movies the late, great Garry Marshall used to make--New Year's Day or Valentine's Day, or a summer version of Love, Actually.
5. Joe Keeena, Blue Heaven (not to be confused with the 1990 Steve Martin movie My Blue Heaven). This is a rollicking novel about two dead broke best friends in New York who decide to marry for the wedding presents and other loot and the hijinks that ensue. There's a running bit about a character who fancies herself a designer coming up with the wedding dress that's hilarious.
6. Rita Mae Brown, Bingo. Again, a character-heavy novel set in the south. My grandmother lived with me when I was a child and the old ladies in this book remind me so much of her, especially in a scene where two woomen get so competitive in a game of bingo that they start attacking each other with their dab-a-dot markers. (They're apparently called Do-A-Dots these days, but if you ever went to a bingo hall with your grandparents, you know what I mean.) there are sequels! I love this book but hate Brown's super-sweet cozy mysteries.
7. Beverly Cleary, Beezus and Ramona. Actually, I loved all the books that Beverly Cleary wrote. She was the first "author" I followed. I remember going to the library to get her books. she's 101 years old!!! I loved the books because I had a little sister I loved and we had neighbors and the book seemed like the even-better version of my own childhood.
8. Ellen Raskin, The Westing Game. I love, love, love this book. It's a puzzle about a wealthy man who intends to leave his fortune to whoever can solve a puzzle. It involves multiple characters in various families and it's a wonderful story about friendship and families and expectations and dreams. Raskin wrote other, similar books (The Disappearance of Leon, I mean Noel) but this one is her best.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. If you ever wanted to play Mary in the pageant, you will totally appreciate this, especially the snarky comment about that one perfect little girl who puts vaseline on her eyelids to make them shine. This is a comic novella with a soft heart and it will make you laugh as well as think. Robinson later expanded the series to include other tales about the raucous family at the center of the story.
10. Patrick Dennis, The Joyous Season. Patrick Dennis is best known for writing Auntie Mame, but this story about siblings conniving to get their divorced parents back together is, in my opinion, a lot more fun. (Think of it as a New York version of The Parent Trap.) The brother and sister are very likable and are what Eloise might be like if she were older.
11. Jannel Cannon's Stellaluna. This is a children's book with magnificent illustrations--the story of a mother bat looking for her baby. (There's one wonderful illo of the mother cradling her baby in her wing that will make you go "aw.") Cannon also wrote and illustrated a book about a snake, but it hasn't gotten the traction this lovely book--an instant classic--has received.
12. Janet Evanovich, One for the Money. This is the first of the long-running Stephanie Plum series and I remember laughing out loud when I read it. The characters were fresh and funny and the hint of romance was nice, and the family stuff totally relatable. It was more about the characters than the mystery and I devoured it, and all the sequels. (She published a book a year, so every February, the paperback would come out.)