Feel-Good Books and Other Necessities

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I have a new friend this week in GoodReads. Grand total = four. This should be a really great idea. I love to get a great book recommendation. The other day my cousin Lonnie and I were coming back from lunch and she gave me a book to read: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Lonnie is like me; we’re library book people. I guess it’s in the DNA on our father’s side. We’re too practical to spend money on fiction when it’s available for free. The library system could be the greatest invention of all time. Thank you, Benjamin Franklin.

After Lonnie reads a book, and if she really loves it, she’ll go to the Half Price Books store in Palatine, and she’ll try to find it for cheap. Potato Peel was a dollar, so she bought it to give it away. Brilliant! Maybe I’ll do the same. Although I won’t schlep to the store, I’ll order it used on Amazon, and pay the $3.99 shipping. I hate to drive. Back to my new used book: I am devouring it! This is a story set in Europe, post WWII, written as a collection of letters from very clever, and very nice characters. It got me thinking: what makes a good book recommendation?

I’ve been burned too often by book clubs, Web sites and even Oprah’s picks that tout a book as “don’t miss.” I looked back at my own top-favorites list; every single entry has a strong main character with a positive attitude. Sorry Jodi Picoult—there’s not a dysfunctional heroine in the bunch. It’s fascinating to get into a story with horrendous subject matter and come out of it uplifted. Think about The Glass Castle. Jeannette Walls wrote a memoir that should have been heart wrenching. Poverty, alcoholism, neglectful parents, yet I finished the book and was better for having read it. I can see how the right mindset causes you to rise above your circumstances.

Have you ever had a conversation with a Debbie Downer? She’s telling you a story, so depressing and hopeless, you walk away ready to slit your wrists. It’s happened to me, but when I go back over what she’s told me, I can put a totally different spin on the very same facts. Same with books. One author can write from the perspective of gloom and doom and another can always find the sunshine. Read any Fannie Flagg book. You’ll have a smile on your face from the very first page. After you enjoy the communion with your happy book, extend the experience, and enjoy the sunshine of positively upbeat prayer.

Small Wonders”

I praise You for the tiny glories
I am often too busy to see:
the irregular scallop of a maple leaf,
the impossible yellow of a dandelion,
the perfection of untrammeled snow.

For the scrap of sunlight the cat finds
in the darkened hallway,
I thank You.

For each sudden splendor:
the tickle of grass,
the dizzying dome of sky after rain,
the cozy smell of someone I love,
I exalt You.
Your beauty bursts my heart.

—Lori Strawn,


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