Bruh. These are some trying times. Every day brings another headline that sounds like something out of a Jason Bourne movie, a Margaret Atwood novel or an article by The Onion. I think I’m finally starting to understand the appeal of those Instagram accounts that feature nothing but puppies and bunny rabbits. After a long day of Trump Twitter, xenophobic micro-aggressions and terror-filled news, I can see how one might find solace in photos of chubby hedgehogs.
We all know though that my chosen comforts are books and tea. When my day has been for the birds and I need to make sense of things, decompress or just quell the urge to pop a racist in the throat, I go straight for that bookshelf with a hot cup in hand. Side note: a post on my favorite teas will follow soon.
More often that not, I choose an old flame with a rich history when I need a little pick-me-up, a little Harry Potter, a little Agatha Christie, a little Jane Austen to curl up with and breathe. There are some days, however, when a warm cup of dried leaves soaked in water and a classic just won't do the trick: I need tequila and something to make me laugh to keep me from going all ragey.
These four picks for the days when you too need a little levity to interrupt a heavy day are no-brainers in that they each meet the LOL criteria and are smart, insightful and touching in addition to being plain old funny. I’ve placed each one on my nightstand and read a chapter or two every night before bed as a self-care ritual. I end my night with hope and a chuckle, plus tea or perhaps that tequila.
Without further ado, I bring you four fun reads to get you out of whatever funk you might find yourself in. Emjoy!
Vanessa+ Benedict Bookington III
#1 - Modern Love by Aziz Ansari
This books rings so many bells for me. It’s by a person of color, it's a thoughtful analysis of dating and romance today (subjects that clearly continue to evade my understanding), and for real though, it’s funny AF.
Full disclosure: Aziz’s comedy hasn’t always my cup of tea; sometimes I’ve found it meh and other times it’s made me cackle out loud most unattractively. The book had some good buzz about it though, so I figured hey – I bought it with a coupon anyway. Well …. I had to cover my mouth with my hand a few times to keep from laughing out loud in public. Ansari’s observational humor coupled with just how GOSH DAMN RELATABLE the struggles he discusses are made me a fan from the very first few pages.
To be clear, this isn’t just a 250-page collection of jokes or even essays – this book has a bibliography and shit. Ansari did actual homework here and I don’t mean that he just hoed it up on Tinder one summer. He assembled research groups on Reddit, picked the brains of well-known social scientists and of course discussed his own dating experience to come up with this smart and endlessly witty look into what the pursuit of love looked like then and what it looks like now. Hint: letters and hand-holds vs. emoji and dick pics.
A couple favorite passages:
“Today we’ve become far more accepting of alternative lifestyles, and people move in and out of different situations: single with roommates, single and solo, single with partner, married, divorced, divorced and living with an iguana, remarried with iguana, then divorced with seven iguanas because your iguana obsession ruined your relationship, and, finally, single with six iguanas (Arturo was sadly run over by an ice cream truck).”
“Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that. Ideally, though, we’re lucky, and we find our soul mate and enjoy that life-changing mother lode of happiness. But a soul mate is a very hard thing to find.”
#2 - Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Right off the bat, let me just put it out there that Sedaris is sooo f*cking weird. At his book signing a couple of years ago, he made small talk while working away on the title page of my book and that of a friend with some Sharpies. When he was done, I saw that he’d drawn a golden gun on my page and a bloody knife on my friend’s. This is just David’s way, both in his stories as in real life. He lets you have it all, whether the light in which he’s framed in his stories is a great one or not. Sometimes he’s a little out there but he is nothing if not authentic.
Me Talk Pretty One Day is my favorite of his works, a collection of essays that can more or less be split into two parts. The first half contains stories of his upbringing, including the adjustment of moving from New York to Raleigh, North Carolina when his father was transferred there for work. The second half focuses on his move from New York to Paris with his partner as an adult.
My favorite story from the whole collection is undoubtedly “You Can’t Kill the Rooster,” a bit about Sedaris’ younger brother Paul. Paul is the only of his siblings to be born in North Carolina and "spoke much like the toothless fishermen casting their nets into Albemarle Sound" by the time he was two years old. This guy is the quintessential bull in the China shop and his every curse-filled word is seemingly a gem of comedic glory, a brash contrast to Paul's loyal and endearing nature. Paul will call his father to day, "Motherfucker, I ain't seen pussy in so long, I'd throw stones at it." He's also the son that rushes to be by his father's side when his house is damaged in a hurricane, bringing a cooler full of beers and a pail of candy he names the Fuck It Bucket to cheer him up.
While there is something to be enjoyed in Sedaris' many writings, this is how I like him best: telling honest and ridiculous stories about his family and childhood and the adult (and often equally ridiculous) observations that reflection upon them brings.
#3 - Diary of a Diva by Barbarella Fokos
Barbarella Fokos is a writer, columnist, emcee and Emmy-winning producer native to my hometown of San Diego. She was discovered by the San Diego Reader in 2004 when a staff member came across her blog and asked her to write for the Reader. She wrote her “Diary of a Diva” column for twelve years, moving on very recently when she and her equally talented photographer husband decided to focus on making documentary films. They’ve started their own production, Salt & Sugar Productions, and continue to pursue their love of art and storytelling.
I followed Fokos’ column faithfully and was jazzed when the Diva announced she’d be releasing her first book on the tenth anniversary of her column, a collection of her best/favorite pieces from the column with some added commentary and retrospect. She writes about her big, loud, crazy family, her relationship with her husband (whom she met online back when doing so still carried the creepy stigma), and is very candid about her struggles with anxiety, depression and a very real case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Hers is the type of writing that I aspire to when blogging. She is a true storyteller: candid, thoughtful, humorous and self-aware.
This collection is, given the subject matter, not always funny – sometimes it’s sad and even difficult to read. One moment you’re laughing when she talks about her Snow-White complex and learning the hard way that squirrels, though cute and fluffy, do bite; the next you’re reliving a moment of debilitating panic and feel your heart hurt for her as you witness one of her breakdowns. Her honesty in all things is for me her greatest appeal: the good, the bad, the ugly and the in between all pull no punches. That transparency is a refreshing reminder that even super successful people don't have their shit 100% together all the time.
#4 - The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson
I didn’t include a cute little photo of this selection because I read this as an eBook. Holy shitake mushrooms, I laughed so, SO hard reading this one. It’s an Australian romantic comedy about a man named Don, a genetics professor on the autism spectrum whose brilliance is matched only by his social awkwardness. He decides its time that he found a wife and then approaches his search for a mate through a scientific, evidence-based approach that he dubs The Wife Project. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how well that turns out.
In the middle of his project, he meets a bartender named Rosie whom he immediately deems as “unfit” for The Wife Project; in spite of his snap judgement, an unlikely relationship blossoms– because duh, this is a rom-com. The course of their courtship brings one laugh-out-loud-like-a-crazy-person scene after another. My most LOL of all LOL moments takes place when he teaches himself to dance. He approaches that endeavor like he would any other: with research and study. He practices with a skeleton at the university and oooooh eeeeem geeeeee, you’ll fall out when he takes his new moves for a spin.
What makes this book so entertaining is that it’s narrated from Don’s perspective. You’re along for the ride with his awkward thoughts, hilarious assumptions and an obliviousness to his social ineptitude as well as his endearingly comical attempts at romance. You’ll cringe and you’ll laugh but you’ll also feel the warm and fuzzies. It's refreshing to spend time with a character on the spectrum from a perspective not often explored in books.
So there is is! Comment below with your favorite funny reads or pick-me-ups. Happy reading!