A deadly pandemic. Protests against racial injustice. Unemployment at levels not seen since the Great Depression. Seismic social upheaval. Wrapping your mind around 2020 presents challenges most of us never imagined facing. Many of us struggle to find the energy to get excited about anything. We’re so overwhelmed, it’s tough to find things to feel good about.
Fortunately, books exist. Whatever your preferred format, paper, electronic, or audio, books can help you process what’s happening around you, learn about experiences and perspectives different from your own, help put your fears into perspective, or provide respite. Books, in short, can make you feel good. Here are a few that do that for me:
- A Step So Grave by Catriona McPherson. Set in the 1930s, this offering in the Dandy Gilver series pays homage to Golden Age Detective fiction without sacrificing a contemporary feel.
- Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett. A cozy with a Black amateur sleuth. ‘Nuff said.
- Lies She Told by Cate Holahan. A domestic thriller with a strong, independent female protagonist who drives the action instead of reacts to events.
- Fer de Lance by Rex Stout. His entire Nero Wolfe series, actually. Because Archie Goodwin.
- The Return of Retief by Keith Laumer. The entire Retief of the CDT series. Sci-Fi, not mystery, although the hero, Jame Retief, sometimes solves a crime. I love this series because its satire disguised as genre fiction and it’s hysterical AF.
- The Password to Larkspur Lane by Carolyn Keene. The whole Nancy Drew series (until the 1980s when they morphed into Sweet Valley High rip-offs). Mysteries that showed me girls can solve problems and save the day with their own wits and bravery. No need to wait for a prince on a white steed.
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In addition to the math references (which I missed until I read The Annotated Alice), another story of a girl who saves herself—and has awesome adventures in the process.
- Han Solo at Stars End by Brian Daley. Another Sci-Fi. This is a prequel tie-in to Star Wars: A New Hope, written before Disney, before the cartoons, before Episodes 1-3. This was an impulse buy at an airport newsstand back in the day when mass market paperbacks were common. I imagined Harrison Ford in my head as I read it. Han Solo will always look like Harrison Ford to me.
- “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” by M.R. James. One of the spookiest ghost stories I’ve ever read. I love a spooky ghost story. I also love David Suchet’s narration for the Audible version. Sir Christopher Lee narrates some of M. R. James’s other ghost stories. If you’ve never heard a story read well, stop right now and listen. Suchet’s and Lee’s voices amp up the spooky factor. You’ll feel as if you’re sitting by the campfire on a chilly October night. Or, for historical accuracy, in front of a fire in M.R. James’s Cambridge chambers on a chilly Christmas Eve. Ssh! What was that noise?
What books make you happy? Tell us here or over on the Facebook page.