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A blog for everything bookish

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Books that are just plain nice

Following on from my last post about The Housekeeper and the Professor it got me thinking about books that are just really nice reads. You know those days where you just want to read something uplifting, something that's not filled with drama or sadness or vampires or violent death, but that carries you along on a rainbow coloured cloud into the warm arms of happiness and leaves you feeling refreshed with a sense of peace and bliss? Those kinds of books. They do exist, though they are as rare as the Kitti's hog-nosed bat. Let me tell you about a few that I have found...

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin
This is the first book I always think of when I think of 'nice' books. The story of four women, at first strangers, who together hire a castle in Italy for a month and over the course of the month are changed, casting off their fears and the troubles that plague their lives. And in the process discovering love, not just of Italy but of each other. After reading it, you feel like you've had a month's holiday yourself.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Siddhartha, as were many of Hesse's books, is heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy and as a result it's definitely zen-like. Following the life of Siddhartha Hesse explores human development; how we go through love, trials, we gain friends, family, knowledge and how the acquisition of knowledge in itself is not enough to bring us peace and enlightenment. How there is more to it than that, but how it is all within our reach. If we are just willing to trust and love and try. A beautiful, profound and inspiring book, Siddhartha is a book to read once a year just to remind yourself that enlightenment, however you see it, is possible.

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
What is it about Italy? Another story that starts in Italy, this time Florence, and follows a young woman, Lucy, on a path towards love of a young man, George, who 'insults' her by kissing her in a poppy field on a day trip to the countryside outside Florence. Of course the path is not smooth. Lucy's concern for 'appearances' and George's apparent lack of self-control (or perhaps openness) which Lucy's conservative upbringing had not prepared her for. But it all comes good in the end, of course. Another sweet, uplifting book.

The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western by Richard Brautigan
I could have picked just about anything by Richard Brautigan barring In Watermelon Sugar which, whilst strange, errs on the depressing side. The Hawkline Monster is an odd story about two criminally minded cowboys hired by Miss Hawkline to hunt down a monster she believes has killed her father. And what is it about that umbrella stand that's so strange? A seriously odd but fun book-child of the 60s summer of love.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
There's a Grandmother and her six year old granddaughter, an island, and lots of strange Scandinavian wisdom. Like everything written by Jansson this has a kind of strange bohemian beauty to it. Not much happens, but there's a lot of love and sweetness and a kind of old, profound type of wisdom. Indescribably lovely.

If nobody speaks of remarkable things by Jon McGregor
Okay, there's maybe some drama here and I have to admit this book does make me cry, but there's an ordinary street in an ordinary summer, a lot of love, a lot of self discovery, a bit of tragedy, and a whole load of poetically beautiful writing about traffic lights.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
There's a little tragedy in this (isn't there always!) but mainly it's a beautiful love story told through a series of emotionally charged recipes. If nothing else, it'll make you want to eat!

Mr Palomar by Italo Calvino
I don't think this little book is quite loved enough. A series of stories about the part-time philosopher, Mr Palomar, and his musings and experiences of the world. Not a novel, but a series of interlinked stories which get you thinking about what's good and curious about the world. I love Calvino's mischievousness and his keen eye. A beautiful book to dip into and out of.

What 'nice' books have you encountered?