Reading group: what book should we read to cheer us up in April?

There are plenty of things we want to avoid spreading at the moment – but at least we can share a little joy. So for this month’s reading group, tell us about a book that makes you feel good, makes you feel close to the human being that wrote it or otherwise gives you that glow of happiness.

My natural cynical disposition would normally be wary of going so mushy, but right now my feeling on that is: bite me. (Or at least, whatever the safe, social-distancing equivalent may be.) It’s also worth saying that the book you love doesn’t have to be a straightforward feelgood read. For instance, I get that lovely glow when I read the famous opening sentence of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson: “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” I love his willingness to transgress, to speak uncomfortable truths and to indulge in dangerous behaviours so we don’t have to. And a scan of my shelves revealed which books brought out that inner sigh: Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and even Proust. I’d never want to claim that the French genius is an easy read, but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to hug a fictional character harder or stronger than when poor old Marcel relates his sadness at his grandmother’s death …

Cheering books are also fine, and needed right now. In recent days I’ve sometimes felt that if I just wrap my arms around my Terry Pratchett pile, then the waves won’t take me. I’ve longed to visit the beautifully tended gardens of Blandings Castle with PG Wodehouse. I’d even quite fancy a few days in Hogwarts. And there’s The Inimitable Charles Dickens. I’ve been slowly reading A Tale of Two Cities over the past few weeks, and spending time with Boz’s beloved, friendly voice has made me feel almost as energised as doing PE with Joe.

So please tell us about a book you love in the comments – and if you can explain why, so much the better. Towards the end of the week, I’ll print out the nominations, put them in a hat and the one that gets pulled out will be the book we read together in April. It’s going to be a fine use of our distanced time.

The Guardian

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