I don't know about you, but whenever I can steal some time to just sit and read, it improves my outlook on life. If it's something dark and humorless I feel better about my own life. If it's a bit dry and boring, I am usually being educated along the way. This doesn't count reading in bed, which for one thing, isn't sitting and for another, it just puts me to sleep. But that stolen hour mid-day, ah, that's the luxury. So it comes as no surprise that reasearch shows that reading improves mental wellbeing and reduces stress by 67%.
Acknowledging this fact, the Reading Agency in England has come up with a list of 'mood enhancing' books which will be promoted in libraries all over England in 2012. I assume that anyone with time to check out my blog, also must have time to read – or at the least should be making time – so as a public service here is the list...with my comments in parentheses.
The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond (chick-lit)
Being Human by Neil Astley (poetry)
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (detective humor – one of my very favorite authors, although I prefer his Thursday Next series)
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani (part of a relationship series)
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee (memoir)
Couch Fiction: A Graphic Tale of Psychotherapy by Philippa Perry (graphic novel)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (children's)
Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord (novel)
Life According to Lubka by Laurie Graham (humorous fiction)
Life with the Lid Off by Nicola Hodgkinson (memoir)
A Little History of the World by EH Gombrich (children's – but a good place for those of us without degrees in history to start)
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (fiction)
Men at Work by Mike Gayle (chick-lit)
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (travel – ANYTHING by this man will make you smile out loud)
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (classic fiction – if you like this, go right straight to Love in a Cold Climate)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (children's)
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (fantasy)
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (humor)
Stop What You're Doing and Read This! By Charlie Oatway (essays)
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (fiction)
That Awkward Age by Roger McGouch (poetry)
To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell (chick-lit)
Trouble on the Heath by Terry Jones (Humor)
Waterlog by Roger Deakin (nature – just went to the top of my must read list)
A Winter Book by Tove Jansson (autobiographical stories)
You will note that this is not just a list of funny books, books that will make you laugh out loud or giggle, but books that will make you feel better about yourself, or the world. It's a wonderful genre-bending list and I particularly appreciate the inclusion of poetry and children's fiction. Some of my favorite books (such as Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series) are considered children's or young adult. I like to think that I am a young adult, it's all a matter of perspective. Somewhere there must be a list of “Children's Books for Adults”, and when I find it, I will pass it on.
I would have added something (anything) by PG Wodehouse to this list. Also, something from Anthony Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, or one of the Miss Read books. All of these have been functional de-stressers for me at some point in my life.
I have only read about a quarter of the books on this list, but I can testify that they were all well chosen, so I tend to trust the rest of it. If I ever finish the stack of books beside my bed, and the stack next to my sofa, and the metaphorical stack on my Kindle, and (I must admit it) the stack in my bathroom...I'll know where to go next.