Just before I ventured off in mid-September on my regional trade show pilgrimage, I asked how booksellers might answer
a customer who asks, "Can you recommend a novel that is just pure fun?
Everything I read is so depressing. I just want to be entertained."
Reader response has been enthusiastic, diverse and, well, "fun!" (exclamation points being unquestionably the fun book punctuation mark of choice).
Anne Holman of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah, contends that "#1 has to be Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage, followed closely by Towing Jehovah by James Morrow because who couldn't laugh about using God (literally) to feed the masses. And if you've never read Patrick Dennis' The Joyous Season, you're in for a real treat (especially if you live in NYC)."
Although Linda Grana and her colleagues at Lafayette Bookstore, Lafayette, Calif., "prefer the darker side of fiction, literature and classics, we do have over 150 registered book clubs, so we inevitably get asked the 'fun fiction' question. Our answer is usually Jonathan Tropper. He's funny, his characters are well-developed, so much so that you feel you know them, and he's compelling. He's perfect for anything from lovers of dark literature that need a palate cleanser, to book club members who want something lighter for vacation than their typical club selections of the moral/ethical dilemma. My dilemma is the customer who's already read all the Troppers!"
Getting philosophical on us is Joe Foster of Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo.: "My philosophy about reading is a lot like my philosophy about food. I truly enjoy a great meal, and cook them at home as often as possible on my limited bookseller's salary. The truth of the matter is, though, I wouldn't want osso bucco every night, as much as I love it. There are times for gourmet, and there are times when you want to sit on the couch and eat three bowls of Lucky Charms, knowing full well that you're gonna give yourself a stomach ache. It's all about mood and knowing yourself enough to know what you want, and giving yourself permission to indulge.
"Choosing a book for yourself is a fine art. Choosing a good book is relatively easy, I think. We all do it all the time. Matching book to mood, however, is a much more magical and far less obvious task. Doing it for someone else is nigh on impossible . . . and yet, we all do it all the time. Finding a book that is entertaining without . . . pandering to the lowest common denominator, a book that is fun while maintaining its literary merit (and allowing us to maintain our elitist sensibilities) is a challenge."
A challenge Joe doesn't shrink from. We'll list his picks in full (with annotations) at the end of this series, but here's an appetizer: "Marc Estrin's Insect Dreams--The story of Gregor Samsa post-Metamorphosis set against the backdrop of the early twentieth century. Smart, ironic, touching, and funny as hell."
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series was initially recommended as "good fun books--from the 'delightful' angle of fun" by Efrat Lev, foreign rights director, Deborah Harris Agency, Jerusalem, Israel. Efrat later added, "Since I wrote, I read another fun book that I can wholeheartedly recommend for your list: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. You may have heard of the recent film starring Frances McDormand--a movie I have not yet seen, but understand that the story was somewhat changed for the movie (the beautiful young actress character in the movie becomes an American, not English, which really changes much of the subtleties of the story). The book was pure fun!"
Ann Perrigo, director of the Allegan, Mich., Public Library gets right to the point:
- Let's start with fun and mindless: Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series
- Fun and romantic? Susan Elizabeth Phillips
- Fun and high-class? Wodehouse's Bertie and Jeeves or even Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody
- Fun and creepy? Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas or Gil's All-Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
- Fun and bloodthirsty? You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
- Fun and just-plain-bizarre? Frisco Pigeon Mambo by C. D. Payne
What's so funny about your favorite books?