By Lauren Jones, Amy Wright, Ana Matute and Sam Chambers
Each year, 8 August marks Happiness Happens Day: an annual American celebration of joy, and a reminder to seek out happiness and share it with loved ones. To mark this year’s celebration, we are sharing some recommendations for books that we enjoy in the hopes that maybe they’ll bring you a small slice of happiness!
We Should Not be Friends: The Story of a Friendship by Will Schwalbe
A heart-warming and hilarious memoir, We should not be friends: the story of a friendship is the story of theatre kid Will, and jock Maxy’s, unlikely lasting friendship, stemming from their college days. Although initially not seeing eye to eye, the pair learn a lot from each other, including that stereotypes are no excuse for judging someone before you know them.
Based on a true story, it was really interesting to see how the continued relationship between the pair developed and overcame hurdles such as distance and the tribulations of life. The male-centred memoir combined with the emotional and vulnerable reflective nature of the memoir made for a touching read, that wasn’t without its lighter moments. An easy read in the best sense of the phrase, this book is a great pick to celebrate Happiness Happens Day because it’s a stark reminder that there’s so much to be happy about and grateful for, even when things don’t go 100% to plan!
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
Stanley Tucci’s Taste is a heartwarming and uplifting food memoir about Tucci’s upbringing in an Italian American family, and the influence that food has had on his life. Told with charm and enthusiasm, the book is a celebration of food and its importance and place within the family. The actor has had a fascinating life and has had the chance to experience a variety of cuisines in various countries. His food centric stories are rich with nostalgia as he shares the memories he has of meals his family made and ate together. For those who are inspired by Tucci’s culinary tales, the book includes several informative recipes throughout, which are a pleasure to read whether you intend to use them or not. It is Tucci’s sense of humour, along with his passion, knowledge and love of good food that makes this a truly feel-good read that is bound to make you smile.
Bestiary: The Selected Stories by Julio Cortázar
Reading Cortázar is a unique experience that always brings me happiness, as all his books show a different way to see the world, to approach what happens every day, and to understand there is a place where the “marvellous real” can happen, as Carpentier said it.
This selection of tales is ideal to approach Cortázar’s narrative and its powerful way to tell stories, in which he makes a world completely different from the things we have seen before. Bestiary: The Selected Stories is perfect to twist the genres we read, and see a little bit of his Latin American view.
Some people may call it magic realism, but the truth is that before that American tag, Carpentier had already reflected on this type of narrative, as for him and many writers what is called magic realism, it is a marvellous reality they have every day. So, perhaps one of the best way to feel close to Latin America and have fun with what seems unreal, is by exploring it through one of the writers lesser known in English countries, Julio Cortázar.
Venetian Gardens by Monty Don and Derry Moore
For those of us who like to do a bit of potting and planting, the fecund oeuvre of gardener, author and broadcaster Monty Don, is a happy place. A jointly written accompaniment to his BBC special exploring the Adriatic, Don’s most recent offering is a guided tour of Venice’s some 500 gardens, many of which go ignored by tourists, tucked away behind romantic squares or grand Rococo churches. With the same familiar tone of paternal encouragement he employs every week as host of Gardeners’ World, Don’s gentle prose takes us from the heart of the city out to rural Veneto and the great estates of the old Venetian gentry, such as the impressive Giordarni Giusti gardens outside Verona.
As always, Don sprinkles in some interesting facts but never too many. This is a glossy happy book of sunlit levity replete with beautiful colour photographs. For those in need of comforts — Don has been admirably public about his own bouts with depression — Venetian Gardens offers three: a friendly voice, beautiful gardens and good prose.