It’s been a tough election season. No matter who you ended up supporting, I’m sure you are glad that we have four whole years before the next presidential election cycle. I know I’m exhausted from all the negativity, and I am looking forward to getting lost in something more comforting. Here are some cozy, feel-good books to cleanse your palate.
Imagine looking out into your yard and seeing a robot. This is the opening of “A Robot in the Garden” (Doubleday, 2015) by Deborah Install. Ben is good at failing, so when he sees a slightly broken little robot named Tang, he decides he’s going to try to fix him, and not fail for once. Alas, when he brings Tang home, Ben’s wife Amy deems it the last straw, and leaves. So he can add marriage to the list of things at which he fails. Ben and Tang set out together to get Tang fixed, and in the process Ben gets a little “fixed” too. This book is a funny, insightful look at humanity and coming into one’s own. And while Ben’s transformation is heartwarming, adorable Tang is the real star of this story.
Another heartwarming read comes from Fredrik Backman, author of “A Man Called Ove” (Atria Books, 2014), which has recently been adapted into a movie. Backman’s newer book, “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” (Atria Books, 2015), tells the story of 7-year-old Elsa, who acts old for her age and is regularly bullied by her classmates. Elsa’s escape is the fairy tales her grandmother tells, set in the Land-of-Almost-Awake for which Granny has crafted a whole set of heroes, villains and myths. When Granny dies, she leaves Elsa the task of delivering letters to the people in her life who she has offended. Elsa must face the scary real world, but she was appointed a Knight in the Land-of-Almost-Awake, so she tries her hardest to be brave. This book perfectly captures how imperfect humans are, and does so in an earnest, touching way.
In “This Was Not the Plan” (Touchstone, 2016) by Cristina Alger, workaholic widower, Charlie, is close to becoming a partner in his law firm, but after his drunken speech about the company is posted on YouTube, he ends up jobless. Now he is home for the summer with his quirky 5-year-old son, Caleb. Charlie is quickly overwhelmed by parenthood, as he tries to be the dad his late wife would have wanted. After realizing how much of Caleb’s life he was missing when he was working long hours, Charlie considers that there might be more to life than making money. This book is amusing and heartfelt, and the growing father-son relationship the reader gets to witness makes it quite memorable.
If you’re in the mood for something a little different, a tiny bit darker, but hilarious all the same, “Good Omens” (HarperTorch, 1990) by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett might fit the bill. This book is about the end of the world. A prophecy foretells the apocalypse, and an angel and a demon (who’ve come to enjoy their cushy lifestyles) work together to prevent it. When the two authors wrote it, Gaiman would write his bit, then read it to Pratchett to try to make him laugh, and vice-versa. This exchange led to the creation of a story that, while not exactly heartwarming, will make you laugh until your stomach hurts.
“Tiny Beautiful Things” (Vintage, 2012) by Cheryl Strayed, the author of “Wild” (Knopf, 2012), is based on Strayed’s online advice column “Dear Sugar” from the literary magazine The Rumpus. This book is a collection of advice, and not every single one is heartwarming. In fact, some are raw in both language and subject, but the compassion Sugar (Strayed’s pseudonym) possesses is astounding. These tidbits of wisdom are interwoven with stories from her own past, so it reads a little like a refreshing, honest and oh-so-soothing memoir. This may not be a book that you are able to read straight through, but it might come in handy when you need a pep talk.
Literary Links, compiled by library staff, appears monthly in the Ovation section of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Each article contains a short list of books on a timely topic.