Books for the Lockdown – Happy and Funny

By now I’ve been working from home for two full weeks. I got into the prison habit of counting days. Even though I obviously still go out, but we got to a point when 200m trip to Tesco’s is the longest trip during weekdays. Of course, I do exercise and try to be nice to myself to stay sane. But I thought as more and more of you may be in the same boat it may be worth sharing some good book recommendations. I’ll do it over the next few weeks, starting with what you probably need most now: happy and funny books (you all know being happy and being funny is far from the same thing).

So here we go, in no particular order…no sorry scratch that, I’ll do it in alphabetical order by title, because why not:

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

A classic of a comic genre. The book is a merciless parody of the rural melodramas, that were apparently very popular in 1930s. The book was absolutely hilarious, which I do appreciate because it seems good comedy books are even rarer than good comedy movies (even though I managed to assemble a decent list here). I also think it must be fantastic when adapted for the radio.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden – Elizabeth von Arnim

This is a book that may make you happy or frustrate you, depending on your living quarters. If you do not have a huge house and a garden, you may find it a tiny bit annoying. On the other hand, if you have a vivid imagination, this one will transport you out of your room to a much larger space. The book is escapism pure and distilled, which really is what we all need now. Something to remind us that the world can be a good place, even, or maybe especially when we focus on small pleasures.

Eureka Street – Robert McLiam Wilson

This one is a firm favorite of mine. I think by now I owned at least four copies as people I recommend it to tend to steal the copy they’ve been borrowed. It is pretty amazing how a book about the Troubles can be so funny. And yet here it is. It is also a book about love, it claims so itself. The cast of characters could not be funnier and I guarantee you will remember Roche and his charm forever.

Let Me Tell You – Shirley Jackson

Now this book is not necessarily funny in its entirety. It is an assembled collection of Jackson’s writing, so it contains some short stories, which tend to be more serious. But it also contains essays and texts grouped as ‘humor and family’ and those are the real gems. Jackson’s sharp and witty observations about her family will have you laughing out loud. Make sure you warn your family in advance. Also, you may end up looking at them and the house appliances a bit more suspiciously. Shirley Jackson’s imagination at its best.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson

A fun modern-day fairy tale. Miss Pettigrew’s dreary life is utterly transformed when she meets Delysia LaFosse. Miss Pettigrew navigates the high society with her new accidental employer. Saving her more than once from grave troubles. All this in a light tone with a tinge of British irony.

My Cleaner – Maggie Gee

This is one of the books that are funny in places. But it also touches on really difficult topics, like casual racism. On the other hand, it is so full of warmth that it will definitely improve your mood. Marie Tendo is hard to resist character. Pretty soon you’ll want her in your house to give you an encouraging hug or a thwack in the ear. It is a moving description of the relation between two women who could not be more different if they tried and yet have a lot in common.

Radio Free Vermont – Bill McKibben

Another uplifting story, this time about people who stand up for what they believe in. A book about a community movement, about peaceful ways to rebel. But most of all about people coming together, which is exactly what we need at this time (not literally of course!!!). It is a book about going back to living locally, about downsizing but also paying more attention to what we do and how we live instead of madly rushing. With all of that said it also is a lot of fun.

The Geography of Bliss – Eric Weiner

The title explains it all. But beware, you may find this one frustrating if you are longing to travel. Weiner basically goes around the world trying to understand what makes some countries happier than others, and what makes us happy. Is it money, safety, boredom, wanting less or wanting more? He also does it in a very entertaining manner intertwining anecdotes and observations from his travels with more scientific information about people and happiness.

The Guide – RK Narayan

A book about the life of cheating and conning one’s way, but told with such contentment and utter joy it will bring smile to your face. Also, if you happen to be in a cold country it is nice to couch travel to warm India. Raju is a great guide, even if he isn’t an awesome saint. A book full of humor and peace.

The Hearing Trumpet – Leonora Carrington

If you need something batshit crazy this is your book. I cannot call it anything else. Written by a surrealist artist Leonora Carrington it effectively is a novel equivalent of surrealism in visual arts. Do you remember when you were a child and there was no limit to your imagination? When you would come up with the craziest stories and nothing was really impossible. When you would question the status quo, not to fight it, but just because you didn’t know what status quo means and you didn’t really have to know? This is how this book feels like.

This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay

Yeah, well it is an extremely funny book. Until it isn’t anymore. Still, it is written with all the love for NHS, the only institution that can save us now in the UK. But also, the same one that has been stripped to its bare bones by decades of governments not wanting to invest. Well there you go, now it comes back to bite us. How can we expect nurses and doctors to work 48-hour shifts or longer? How can they be exempt from the most basic regulations of the labour code? And how much trust do you have in the mental capacity of a person that has not slept for the last two days? How capable would you be? Next time doctors and nurses go on strike we should all support them, they do it for us, for our safety.

Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) – Jerome K. Jerome

Yes, this one can also be annoying, it is a book about a trip and being outdoors with other people. On the flip side, really very little goes well with the trip. Our trio could not be less capable with the boat or camping. So, you can have some comfort in our old good friend the Schadenfreude. And again this is a really funny book and shockingly enough it hasn’t aged much.

Warto Żyć – Lejb Fogelman

The title translated roughly as It is Worth to Be Alive, which speaks for itself. Fogelman is a great story-teller, he obviously loves talking, and if he can talk about himself, all the better. His story is peppered with anecdotes of the famous and powerful people he interacted with, most of them really funny. He also seems to be set on enjoying his life to the fullest, whether it is partying, working, traveling or discovering the world, he does all those things with passion. He is, of course, a bit of an egocentric, and the word humble would probably not describe him well either, but his gift for storytelling saves the book.

Why Mummy Drinks – Gill Sims

A really funny and light book, in some ways in the vein of Bridget Jones Diary. It will make you laugh, and it will make you nod understandingly even if you don’t have ‘moppets’. Because life throws all those weird, unnecessary small obstacles at all of us, and we all know they are the only thing that keeps us from being our best selves, i.e. perfect wholesome people

What books do you read during this time to keep your mood up? Leave your recommendation in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Books for the Lockdown – Happy and Funny

      1. I just got a Terry Tempest Williams book, When Women Were Birds. It seems meditative and distracting and that seems like a good idea right now 🙂 And I’m going to read a “memoir with recipes” that seems like it might be a funny one, Everything is Under Control. Some laughter helps everything now too 🙂 Thanks for sharing these!

        Liked by 1 person

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