10 fun books to read in dark times
Sometimes the best escape from the dark times swirling around us is a good, fun book, dammit. And as luck would have it, right now there are a bunch of new releases that are highly entertaining, delightfully funny and 100% Trump-less. Here are four I’ve read and loved, and six I can’t wait to start.
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
Katherine Heiny’s collection of short stories Single, Carefree, Mellow was one of my favourite books of the past few years, so I had terribly high expectations for her first novel, Standard Deviation. I am pleased to report it was exactly as wry, funny, insightful and wistful as I hoped it would be. The book operates as a sort of slice of life, following one family over the course of a year or so. It’s a brilliant and often hilarious portrait of marriage and parenthood, and Heiny uses her gift for language to perfectly capture the idiosyncrasies of her characters. It’s the kind of book you can slip into like a pair of comfortable pants, and feel immediately at home in the prose. If you’re looking for an enjoyable, wise, well-written novel about relationships and modern life (with no violence, deep trauma or dark themes), then look no further than Standard Deviation.
Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain
This book is SO. MUCH. FUN. It’s a kind of modern day, female, American version of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. Chloe Snow documents a year of her life as a freshman in high school through diary entries, and her angst, drama and intense feelings remind me of my own diary when I was that age. The diary format is easy and addictive to read, and the book’s strength is its extremely funny, distinctive voice. Chloe Snow has a lot to learn about her parents, her friends and her romantic relationships, and following along with all the highs and lows is immensely enjoyable.
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
If you’re having withdrawal from watching Riverdale, then I have just the book for you. In fact, it’s probably a little insulting to compare the two, because Riverdale suffered from some really incoherent writing decisions, and One of Us is Lying does not. What the two have in common is that they are teen drama murder mysteries. One of Us is Lying begins as a riff on The Breakfast Club (a bunch of students trapped together in detention) before focusing on its central whodunit (one of the students in detention dies under suspicious circumstances). Along with unravelling the secrets and lies surrounding the death, One of Us is Lying gives the reader plenty of teen angst and squee-worthy romance. This is a perfect book to read in a single sitting, and I guarantee it will delight and entertain you. I loved it.
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Jami Attenberg’s All Grown Up follows Andrea through her life as a single women living in New York in her thirties and forties. The book is cleverly structured with each short chapter focusing on a different person in Andrea’s life. All Grown Up is blackly humorous and while it does touch on some very sad topics, Attenberg is never sentimental or cloying. Andrea’s complicated relationship with her mother is especially funny, and her many underwhelming experiences with the men who move in and out of her life are perfectly rendered. Attenberg has a style of humour all her own, and if you enjoy this novel, she has a backlist of other great books to explore (although I think this one is my favourite).
Theft by Finding by David Sedaris
I haven’t read this yet, but please: it’s the diary of David Sedaris. Covering everything from 1977 to 2002, from the times he was young, broke and cleaning houses for a living to his first meeting of his long-time partner Hugh. It’s bound to be as witty, heart-warming, life-affirming, silly and enjoyable as everything else he’s ever written. If you’re a fan of his work, it’s a must.
The Hot Guy by Mel Campbell and Anthony Morris
I’m a sucker for a smart rom-com, whether on screen or page. This book is a rom-com about a film nerd filled with pop-cultural references, so it’s bringing together many things I love – romance, humour, books, film, TV, Melbourne (I believe there’s even a cameo of Cinema Nova in there). Our reviewer Bronte says it’s ‘a fun, frothy romantic comedy that skewers the genre, even as it embraces it’.
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
This is the third book in a trilogy. I loved the first book in the series, Crazy Rich Asians, so much that I am savouring the opportunity to sit down and read book two and three back to back. This is escapism at its finest. There are crazy billionaires. There is extreme family drama. There is serious high fashion. There are secrets, lies, weddings, break ups, social climbing and scheming, so much scheming. Buy them all, I say. BUY THEM ALL RIGHT NOW.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
At least three of my colleagues have read, loved and recommended this book to me, so it’s outrageous I haven’t gotten to it by now. Our reviewer Stella said: ‘I doubt I will enjoy another book in 2017 more than Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin… she has reinvented the slacker comedy to produce a wry, witty and heartfelt family drama.’ The novel follows 30-year-old Ruth, who is dealing with a break up and the prospect of moving back home to help her mother care for her father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s – all of which sounds depressing, but I am assured it is not. I can’t wait to read it.
Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
This is a fantasy novel for people of all ages that has been getting rave reviews and looks like an absolute delight. Our reviewer Dani describes it as: ‘like Firefly with magic and card-throwing in place of guns and traditional weapons. It’s a three-man Guardians of the Galaxy (with a sarcastic squirrel-cat in place of Rocket Raccoon). I loved it so much, I have re-read it twice since my initial read.’ That’s a seriously great endorsement, and I plan to buy this book not just for myself but for half my family as well.
Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes
This isn’t the type of crime book I’m normally drawn to, but its description of Clueless meets Agatha Christie intrigued me. Party Girls Die in Pearls is set in 1985 at Oxford University, with a detective duo of two college students investigating an on campus murder. The author Plum Sykes writes for Vogue magazine, so there’s bound to be plenty of high society hijinks within its pages. If you’re looking for some frothy, silly, 80s murderous fun, this could be the book for you.
Nina Kenwood is the marketing manager for Readings.