We could all use a jolt of sunshine right now, and we don’t mean the Vitamin D-containing kind. After a year-plus of quarantine, our moods have tanked and we’ll take any pick-me-up we can get. That said, we’ve all consumed more than our fair share of booze and carbs in an effort to feel better, but how about reading
books instead? At least reading won’t leave you with a brutal hangover or an unseemly gut.
We’ve hand-picked 10 books guaranteed to get your dopamine pumping. They aren’t necessarily all books about how to be happier (in fact, several feature deeply unhappy protagonists), but the overall effect of
reading these narratives is you’ll feel refreshed, renewed, and ready to engage with life again. Dig out your library card and hit up the stacks or order them through Amazon. Just get reading already. A more uplifting outlook is just a few pages away…
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'Portnoy’s Complaint' by Philip Roth
Deemed by the New Yorker as "one of the dirtiest books ever published," this novel focuses on Philip Roth's most notorious (and controversial) character, Alexander Portnoy. It's written in the form of a monologue directed at Portnoy's analyst, whom he's seeing to deal with sexual issues, from fornicating with raw liver as a teen to becoming a p*ssy-chasing adult. You won't be able to put this book down -- and you won't stop laughing.
'Dear Committee Members' by Julie Schumacher
Winner of the prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor, this satirical novel is written in the form of recommendation letters by cranky creative writing professor Jason Fitger. The middle-aged academic manages to share at least as much of his professional and personal failures, plus self-pitying rants, in the missives as he does information regarding the students he's supposed to be recommending. If you've ever been to college and/or feel jaded about academia, this book will have you shaking your head in commiseration.
'Tomcat in Love' by Tim O’Brien
Aging womanizer and professor Thomas H. Chippering is at the center of this humorous novel by the author of
The Things They Carried. Tom returns to his small Minnesota hometown to seek revenge on his ex-wife and her new husband, a plan which inevitably goes awry. Watching a grown man face-plant in both his personal and professional lives has never been so much fun.
'Vacationland: True Stories From Painful Beaches' by John Hodgman
John Hodgman, a former correspondent for
The Daily Show, penned this memoir about relocating from Massachusetts to Maine. While that plot sounds dull on the surface, in the hands of a skilled humorist like Hodgman, it's perfect material for a lot of wry observations, snarky one-liners, and big belly laughs.
'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin
If you've ever wondered if you can be just a tad bit happier, the answer is definitely yes. But how? That's the question Gretchen Rubin set out to answer when she embarked on a year-long experiment that incorporated ancient wisdom, modern science, and popular culture to boost her mood. Each month centers on a theme and includes actionable, measurable goals that you, too, can aspire to. If a kick in the pants is what you need to be happier, this book delivers it.
'The Book of Joy' by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
The power to cultivate more happiness in your life is within you. That's the inspiring message of this tome by two of the happiest guys on the planet: the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. It was written from a conversation between the two holy men who discuss everything from their hardships to hope to the eight pillars of joy. This is a book you'll want to return to again and again for guidance in different stages of your life.
'The Old Man and the Sea' by Ernest Hemingway
When you're tempted to give up, turn to this classic novel by Ernest Hemingway and be infused with determination. Santiago is a Cuban fisherman who finally hooks a large marlin after a long stretch without a catch. Over a series of days, he struggles with the fish, ultimately losing it, but the experience teaches him to not surrender to defeat.
'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D. Salinger
While middle school was a miserable time for most of us, it's also probably when you were first introduced to
The Catcher in the Rye. Relive the adventures of angsty Holden Caulfield as he escapes prep school in Pennsylvania and wilds around New York City for three days.
'Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs' by Chuck Klosterman
Sometimes what makes us happy is to indulge our baser nature. The literary equivalent of so-bad-it's-good TV, this cultural critique by Chuck Klosterman covers everything from Pamela Anderson to online porn to punk rock.
'Where the Sidewalk Ends' by Shel Silverstein
If no one read to you from this iconic children's poetry book when you were a kid, we feel sorry for you. You were truly cheated out of a happy childhood. Make up for that now -- or revisit your favorite poems -- by cracking open this whimsical, inventive, and funny book that's been delighting readers of all ages since 1974.