The evening of April 23rd, 2021, is World Book Night! This year, the World Book Night organisers have chosen the theme “Books To Make You Smile”, which is about, unsurprisingly, books which make you smile! Given the events of the past year, we think that this theme is a very good one – and highly necessary! What better escapism than a good book that makes you grin, after all?
Courtesy of World Book Night, you can grab yourself a free copy of the short story collection, Stories To Make You Smile, as a paperback, an ebook, or as an unabridged audiobook, by clicking here! Free books certainly always make us smile 😀
But why stop at one book when there are zillions out there that can cheer you up and bring a smile to your face!? Now, as “zillions” can be quite an overwhelming number of books to sift through, the library assistants and librarians from SGS LRCs have chosen some of the books that make us smile, to recommend to you! Because recommending awesome books also makes us smile. Smiles all round then? Hooray!
Books That Make SGS Library Staff Smile 🙂
The books that have really brought a smile to my face over the years are those by Bill Bryson – Notes From a Small Island and A Walk in the Woods in particular, have lovely observational humour and real laugh out loud moments too.
Currently I have been reading the Yorkshire Shepherdess books, following the story of TV’s Amanda and Clive Owen and their family – again a wonderful insight into the difficulties they face on a daily basis but with real genuine warmth and humour that life on a farm with 9 children brings.
The one book that is my all time ‘turn to’ book for making me feel happy is Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie – set in the Slad Valley which is local to Stroud. When I read it, I can hear Laurie’s lilting tones in my head and the descriptions of a valley I know so well, wrap around you like a warm, comforting hug. It’s like coming home.
And finally, for gentle feel good understanding of one’s own feelings during difficult times – Wintering by Katherine May who explores how we all connect with nature when maybe not all is well in our lives.
For a “Book That Makes Me Smile”, I’m going to choose Amari and the Night Brothers, by B. B. Alston!
It just has that lovely, cozy feel: Harry Potter and Men in Black vibes!
There are plans to make a movie and you can certainly see that happening. It was such a fun, fantastical ride.
You can borrow Amari and the Night Brothers from SGS LRCs!
I just loved how the characters were described and the tricks that they played on each other always made me laugh. This quote still makes me smile now “if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
Another book that always makes me happy is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This one has good memories for me as I always read it to my younger sisters on Christmas Eve. I love how the main character has a chance to look over his life and the mistakes he has made. When he wakes up on Christmas morning, it always makes me smile when he calls out to the boy on the street and asks what day it is. He then realises that it’s not too late to change and make up for the errors of his ways 🙂
The first “book to make you smile” that I am going to recommend is a bit of a wild card option. It’s called The Fate of Fenella, and it has twenty-four separate authors, none of whom were allowed to talk to one another during the writing. And yes, it is every bit as chaotic as that would suggest…!
Published in 1892, in The Gentlewoman magazine, The Fate of Fenella was described by its editor as “an experiment in consecutive novel writing”. What that basically means is that they rounded up 24 popular authors at the time (including Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker!) and asked them to write one chapter each, with each writer taking the story off in their own direction! Sort of like that weird, surrealist game “Exquisite Corpse”, except… as a published novel in a proper and respected magazine. GOOD STUFF!
The result is a convoluted melodrama which rivals the most ridiculous plotlines in any modern soap opera. The writing style is, as would you expect, fantastically all over the place, and characters change their personalities (and, on occasion, hair and eye colour…) with some frequency. One chapter will be light-hearted and fun, the next uncontrollably melodramatic – and even more fun! And yet, somehow you really do end up truly invested in these awful/brilliant characters, sitting on the very edge of your seat, waiting to see what happens next! Late Victorian chaos at its very best, and guaranteed to make you smile 😀
You can read The Fate of Fenella for free on WikiSource!
Another book that never fails to make me genuinely laugh out loud (which can be quite awkward if reading in a public place…) is Jerome K. Jerome’s, Three Men In A Boat, To Say Nothing Of The Dog. Even though this book was published in 1889, the humour, hidden wisdom, and unfortunate situations often feel as relevant today as they were 132 years ago.
From the very first chapter, the comedy is effortlessly engaging. The book begins with our “hero”, J., reading medical journals and convincing himself he is suffering from every illness he reads about – painfully relatable to anyone who has ever found themselves on WebMD at 11pm whilst suffering with a mild headache, now deathly certain that you in fact have smallpox….! From there, the novel carries on in a deliciously meandering, rambling way, alternately poetic and blunt, following the three main characters (to say nothing of the dog!) as they undertake a mildly disastrous, always hilarious, holiday “for their health” on a boat down the River Thames. Comedic escapism at its very best, from one of the masters of modern satire.
My next choice is not a single book, but a whole entire author – P.G. Wodehouse! You can pretty much pick up any book by Wodehouse and be guaranteed an utterly joyous ride filled with sparkling humour, elegant plots, and unsurpassable prose. Finishing a Wodehouse book always leaves you with the feeling that whilst all may not be well with the world, there is still a jolly lot of good in it.
My personal and particular favourites are, perhaps obviously, his Jeeves and Wooster series, and, less obviously (or at least less famously) the Psmith books.
The Jeeves and Wooster books follow wealthy, kind-hearted, woolly-headed, young committed bachelor Bertie Wooster, as he flails and stumbles through a world of meddling aunts, newt-lovers, red-headed girls, would-be fiancés, and plenty of brandy & soda, with the capable assistance of his intelligent but ruthless valet, Reginald Jeeves. Bertie is the sweetest of chaps, and the world in which he lives, though often filled with complication, is a wholly pleasant one, containing few problems greater than getting out of accidental engagements, helping pals get into engagements, and stealing cow creamers from cantankerous uncles. Filled to the brim with beautiful, light, hilarious prose, sharp, occasionally scathing, wit, genius wordplay, and a cast of characters you can’t help but fall in love with, the Jeeves and Wooster books are absolutely my go-to when I feel in need of cheering up. Tally-ho!!
The Psmith series, also by Wodehouse, is of a similar ilk, although perhaps a little more rooted in the “real world” than the Jeeves books. This series follows best friends Rupert Psmith (the “P” is psilent…) and Mike Jackson from their schooldays through to their only vaguely more mature adulthood. Together, the pair traverse first the world of the boys’ public school system; then the exciting city of London and the slightly less exciting (for them, if not the reader!) world of international banking; followed by an adventure in wild America, complete with gangsters, corrupt politicians, rough and ready boxers, and the cutthroat world of journalism, all via the hard-hitting magazine, er, Cosy Moments. Through the bright, varied, and compelling casts of ensemble characters, Mike and Psmith shine together as lifelong best friends always at the epicentre of some new chaos (usually thanks to Psmith…).
The Psmith series is just so much fun, and whether you find inspiration in the steady stoicism and long-lived loyalty of Mike, or in the ambitious audacity and dare-devil dreaming of Psmith, you can’t fail to come away with a lightened heart and a smile on your face!
All of the Psmith books can also be read for free on Project Gutenberg – start here, with Mike And Psmith!
Giant Days written by John Allison and illustrated by Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin, is guaranteed to make you smile! The comic series follows Esther, Daisy and Susan at university, from Fresher’s Week all the way to graduation, as they survive reinventing themselves and living away from home for the first time.
When stories about 18–21-year-olds are so rare, Giant Days is a gem that bridges the YA and Adult categories. Perfect for whether you want a glimpse into uni life or want to reminisce about shenanigans from years gone by! It’s a relatable, silly, slice-of-life masterpiece!
Let us know in the comments which books make YOU smile 😀