Friday, January 3, 2014

Books That Turn My Frown Upside Down!

Certain books make you feel certain emotions.  The Fault in Our Stars = extreeeeme sadness.  Stephen King novels = afraid.  Danielle Steel/Nicholas Sparks = nausea.  50 Shades of Grey - ...well, y'know.  I'm not going to talk about those books today.  I'm going to talk about books that I put down feeling nothing but happiness.  These are the kinds of books that I can turn to when I have had a bad day, that, when I open their pages, provide an escape to a world much different than mine.  Today I'm in need of that kind of story.  If you are too, keep reading and maybe you'll find something that can improve your day.  (All photos from Goodreads)

Happy Photography Books

The Family of Man - Edward Steichen and Carl Sandburg
This coffee table photo book is full of inspiring photos of people around the world, portraying emotions that all humans feel.  I love flipping through it, and I am particularly inspired by the photos depicting children.  A great book.
Underwater Dogs - Seth Casteel
All of these dogs have such manic and joyful expressions on their faces as they jump into the water, and they really are a joy to look at.  If you read this blog, you'll know that I love dogs, and this happy book of wet dogs is a must for any fellow dog-lover.

Happy Inspiring Books

How to Be Single - Liz Tuccillo
 Though I am no longer single, this book still inspires me as much as it did when I was without a significant other.  It's a fairly cheesy chick-lit novel, yes.  But there is definitely something here that makes it more than that.  It's well-written, and the plot has an Eat Pray Love vibe to it that really appeals to me.  The four female protagonists are all friends, and they're all single and bored.  Growing tired of the boredom, they decide to travel around the world, interviewing other women and asking them how they deal with the single life.  It might be a worn-out plot, but I was actually really inspired by this - it made me want to pack my bags up and travel!  I also hear there is a movie in the works.

My Year With Eleanor - Noelle Hancock
In this memoir, the author has been fired from her prestigious job, and during her career, she seems to have lost herself.  Struck by Eleanor Roosevelt's quote, "Do one thing every day that scares you," she decides to do just that and pursue a "Year of Fear."  It's a memoir goal that has definitely been done before - by Jen Lancaster and AJ Jacobs, to name a few - but it seems fresh in this book.  A nerve-wracking dive with sharks and a stand-up comedy gig are just a few of the things she makes herself do...and all of these things result in huge benefits for her self-confidence.  Very inspiring to me - there are so many things that scare me, and it would be a great test for myself to face some of those things.

Happy Funny Books

Hyperbole and a Half - Allie Brosh
Much of the material in this hilarious illustrated memoir comes from the author's blog, but since I had never read her blog before, it was all new to me.  I rarely laugh aloud at books or movies, but this one definitely had me laughing.  It wasn't so much her words - though her stories of her "simple-minded dog" were definitely funny - but her messy comic-strip-esque drawings that got me.  I was wiping away tears of laughter by page 4.  I don't really know how to explain it, other than to say that to me, it was comedy genius.  There was also a portion about depression that was perhaps the best explanation of the illness I've ever come across.  Even Jared found this funny, and books are basically the bane of his existence.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson
It wasn't until after reading this memoir that I became a fan of the author's blog, The Bloggess.  (Also her hilarious Twitter account).  This memoir contains stories of growing up in rural Texas with a taxidermy-obsessed father.  No reviews can do this one justice.  The Bloggess definitely has her own brand of strange humor, and it appealed to me for sure.

Happy Magical Books

The Magicians - Lev Grossman
I'm not sure if I've mentioned this book here before, but if I have, I'll do it again.  Because it's just that good.  Prior to this novel (and The Night Circus), I was not really a fan of magical realism - besides Harry Potter, of course.  It just never clicked for me.  However, this book blew me away.  It can be described as a sort of Harry Potter goes to college/The Chronicles of Narnia for the adult set.  The protagonist, Quentin, misses his childhood, along with the beloved book series he used to read, a Narnia-ish series about the land of Fillory.  After being unexpectedly admitted to a college he's never heard of, Quentin enters another world - a world of sorcery - all while still experiencing the life of a typical college student.  His friends and him also come to find...Fillory is a real place.  I know how it might sound, but this one is worth a read.  Seeeriously magical.

Calling Invisible Women - Jeanne Ray
Clover is a middle-aged mother, and she wakes up one day to find that she is invisible - literally invisible.  However, her son and husband don't seem to notice.  She realizes then that she was invisible to them way before she was actually invisible.  After discovering that there are other women out there in her predicament, she tries to get them out of their unfortunate situation.  This was funny and sweet, though the premise is a bit sobering (women going unnoticed by their husbands).  Very captivating and smart, with some great female protagonists.

Happy Sweet Books

All There Is - Dave Isay
The author is the founder of StoryCorps, which goes out on the streets collecting ordinary people's extraordinary stories.  These particular stories are about courtship and commitment.  Some are sad, others are joyful.  But all are extremely sweet and touching.  A great collection of real-life love stories.

Love at First Bark - Julie Klam
Yes, I know, yet another dog book.  This is one is extremely short though; it can be read all in one sitting.  A warm little memoir about dog rescue and how it can change your life.  This book really spoke to me, and I have a lot of respect for this author and her soft spot for dogs.  Her goal of finding dogs in need amazing homes is a goal I'd like to share; becoming more involved in dog rescue is definitely something I'd like to do.

Happy Berg Books

The Pull of the Moon - Elizabeth Berg
I used to be obsessed with this author; I tore through her past work after reading this particular novel.  Her book on writing is the single best writing tool I've ever come across.  I was super pumped to spend a week in San Francisco with her on a writing retreat...but she canceled at the last minute.  :(  Since then, her newer novels haven't had quite the same effect on me.  However, this one is absolutely amazing.  A middle-aged woman is bored with her marriage - she needs a change.  She abruptly decides to "take a break" and take a solo road trip.  Along the way, she follows her heart and comes home a new, refreshed woman.  It's not a groundbreaking plot, no.  But the writing is absolutely exquisite.  If I was one for highlighting in books, nearly ever other beautiful sentence would be bright yellow.  Just great writing.

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted - Elizabeth Berg
This is a book of short stories, and the title story is actually called, "The Day I Ate Whatever the Fuck I Wanted."  Each story can be thought of as women breaking free from convention and expectation, whether it be by eating an entire box of donuts or by starting a middle-aged dating service.  I loved this.  Very very inspiring and upbeat.  Read this if you need a boost.

As always, happy reading!

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