Nancy Ling is an Outreach Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read the published version of Nancy Ling's column in the July 21, 2016 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.
Open any paper, stream the news, and soon you will feel overwhelmed with the world. A car bomb killing hundreds in Bagdad, a train going off the tracks in Pennsylvania. Truly it’s a wonder we get out of bed every day and head to work or the gym.
Lately I’ve found myself avoiding many things but reading isn’t one of them. Instead my tastes have changed. Now I’m searching for what I’ve termed a good “Pick-Me-Up” book. No, not a book on dating, but one that makes me smile. While I may be The Queen of Denial, a humorous escape seems like the perfect remedy to this world’s ills.
I’m sure many of you remember that old television ad for Calgon, the bath bubbles that “take you away” from your worries. In that vein, I’m including six books that can also carry you away. (Of course, if you check them out from the library be careful not to drop them into the bubble bath). Here they are:
F In Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson. If you need a laugh, this is the book for you. Of course, teachers will find it amusing, having lived through these foibles in their classrooms, but anyone will get a chuckle. The book is divided by subject, ranging from Chemistry or Math to Psychology or English. Here’s a few samples to give you a taste. Under Biology the question on a test was “What is a fibula?” The student’s answer: “A little lie.” Under Physics: “Describe what happened during the Big Bang?” The answer: “A lot of noise.” And one of my favorites from History and Geography: “Define the term ‘intensive farming.” It takes a special student to reply: “It is when a farmer never has a day off.”
We Are Women: Celebrating Our Wit and Grit by June Cotner and Barb Mayer. This fun and flashy book is a real “feel good” read for summer. By combining vintage photos with inspirational and fun-loving quotations, the authors have created a power-packed package. As Cotner describes it, the pairing of photographs with famous sayings serves to “remind readers how women’s character and strength have endured through time.” So take this one to the beach. You can’t go wrong!
You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry. Over the years I’ve fallen in love with numerous Barry books and he has yet to let me down. This time Barry tackles parenting and family issues with comical finesse. One of my favorite chapters touches on the modern day conveniences that have gone over the top, including a men’s public restroom where you no longer need to flush the urinal. As only Barry can describe it: “This tedious chore is a thing of the past because the urinal now has a small electronic “eye” connected to the Central Restroom Command Post, located deep underground somewhere near Omaha, Nebraska, where highly trained workers watch you on high-definition TV screens and make the flush decision for you.”
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. It’s hard to believe but I haven’t read a book by Anne Tyler until now. Yes, I’ve been living under a rock, but this was a fabulous place to start. This is the story of Ira and Maggie’s marriage. It begins with a bang, literally, when Maggie is picking up her car from the repair shop. Surprised to hear her ex-daughter-in-law on the radio revealing that her one true love is still Maggie’s son, Maggie promptly shoots the car out of the garage into a passing Pepsi truck. Mind you, the car has just been repaired. Thus begins the couple’s literal journey to comfort a friend, Serena, during her husband’s funeral and the metaphorical journey to explore and reignite Maggie and Ira’s marriage. Their adventures are full of the joys and disappointments that await most married couples, all told with Tyler’s perfectly-timed sense of humor. (I hope to watch the 1994 movie with James Garner and Joanne Woodward too)
Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?: True Stories and Confessions by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. Another confession. I love short chapters. They make me happy, and so does this summer pick-me-up. This mother-daughter team really pack a punch and it begins this way: “People go to the beach for lots of reasons, namely, the sand, the sun, and the water. I go for the food.” As Scottoline reveals, growing up in a family of self-described “chubby Italian-Americans” molded her point of view on life. From Hollywood selfies to first dates, Scottoline and Serritella had me in stitches. After all, I can relate to these words: “I have met the love of my life, and it comes in a box. I’m talking, of course, about ThermaCare. The heat wrap you buy at a drugstore that you stick to various parts of your achy body.”
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. Think Des Moines, Iowa, 1950s, in combination with one of the best travel humorists, and you have one of my favorite books of all time. Bryson has come a long way from his childhood in the Midwest, but it becomes clear that his sense of humor started early. Take his view of his mother. He admires that she was a woman who dared to head back into the workplace when few others did the same, but he also revels in the outcome. As he writes, “We didn’t call it the kitchen in our house. We called it the Burns Unit.” He goes on to say, “Happily, all this suited my father. His palate only responded to two tastes — burnt and ice cream — so everything suited him so long as it was sufficiently dark and not too startlingly flavorful. Theirs truly was a marriage made in heaven for no one could burn food like my mother or eat it like my dad.”
Hopefully, one of two of these reads will float your boat this summer. Remember, even the resilient reader needs an escape now and then from this crazy place we call home.