Do you ever complete a book and just think, “Well, that was a good time!”?
There are books that are good, but deep or dark. There are books that are light and easy, but come & go without fanfare or memory. But, there are some books that are simply FUN to read.
Here are some books that came to my mind when I thought about good-time reads. They aren’t necessarily my favorite books, but for certain seasons of the year or times in life, they are worth it! (And, because my reading life is mostly literary fiction and memoir, I’m sure there are plenty of worthy, missing entries! Please share your own in the comments.)
Romantic Comedy — Curtis Sittenfeld
A solid, pleasant, good-time of a novel set in the writers’ room of an SNL dupe. Like all of Curtis Sittenfeld’s works, Romantic Comedy was reliably well-written. But, this particular setting, and heavy influence by Colin Jost’s book (see below), made it lighter fare and really easy to enjoy (without being treacly).
Nothing to See Here — Kevin Wilson
This is the original book I thought of for this list, because when I put it down, I literally thought, “That was a good time.” I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the book overall*, but it was so different and silly and outrageous (and quick-to-read), that blasting through it was simply an enjoyable experience.
*I read the novel a 2nd time for my book club, and all 3 of us who had re-read it liked it more the second time through. Maybe because the bizarre plotline (kids who spontaneously ignite) was out of the way and it was easier to enjoy the jokes and characters.
[ Also: If this is a 101 level outrageous book, and you are looking for a 301, try The Sellout by Paul Beatty, a “whirlwind satire” on race relations (one Goodreads reviewer described it as “not for the faint of heart or tired of mind.”)]
The Blue Castle — L.M. Montgomery
This book, written for adults by Anne of Green Gables’ Montgomery, is, well, I suppose a 1908 version of a “good time”. Like Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, it is set in a different era for women, but with a modern-day relatability. The Blue Castle is described as “romantic”, but the real fun of it is when mild-mannered Valancy learns she has one year to live, and rebels against the expectations of her buttoned-up family. It feels like a current story in an old setting, and is a delight.
The Art Thief — Michael Finkel
Released last summer, this nonfiction details the account of the world’s most prolific art thief, who amassed over a billion dollars (!) worth of Renaissance art in Europe… so that he could enjoy it in his own attic. So shocking and unbelievable, this little read is outside of my usual fare, but was well worth it!
Lessons in Chemistry — Bonnie Garmus
The ultra-popular debut novel from 2022 is not without its issues, but I really did enjoy it. In fact, I think I told a friend that I loved it, and I’m not the only one; the tv rights were optioned and season 1, starring Brie Larson, is already in the books (so to speak) on Apple TV.
If I assess it too closely, I agree with many of the critiques in this review. But, if you’re out for a fun read and can suspend some disbelief, go for it.
Yellowface — R.F. Kuang
This wide-eyed pageturner was a blast to read, if a bit (a lot!) awkward & uncomfortable. Satire, in-joke, dark humor... Yellowface is sharp and outrageous.
The Eyre Affair — Jasper Fforde
So, listen, I do not have a lot of experience with old-timey fiction! I’ve only read one Jane Austen novel and zero Brontës. 🤷♀️ Sorry!
This novel (the 1st in a series) is a book-lovers book. A mix of, let’s say, sci-fi, mystery, and literature nerdiness? The story is an alternate universe setting where a criminal steals the original Jane Eyre manuscript and a "literary detective" time-travels to recover it, meeting characters from within the book along the way. Very imaginative and goofy. A good time if you are into that!
A Very Punchable Face — Colin Jost
A laugh out loud memoir from an SNL mainstay (and inspo for the aforementioned Romantic Comedy because of his marriage to ScarJo). When I listened to this book on audio, I hadn't watched Saturday Night Live in over a decade, and wasn't familiar with him at all. It wasn't a deterrent for me, though I am a fan of comedy as a craft and behind-the-scenes, so I was teed up.
Also: Tina Fey's Bossypants and Mindy Kaling
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? — Maria Semple
Don’t watch the (bad) movie; or, if you have, forget all about it. Really, the movie is just not good!
But, this book is SO enjoyable, I'd put it right near the top of my list of all-time fun reads. Don't worry about reading the blurb in advance just dive right in and find yourself in Bernadette's Seattle "home".
The Rosie Project — Graeme Simsion
Has everyone already read this one (and its sequels)? I loved it. So did my husband. It's like being inside Sheldon Cooper's head.
Garlic & Sapphires — Ruth Reichl
Food critic & editor Ruth Reichl has written 5 memoirs, but this one is the most fun. She begins by recounting a story from her L.A. to New York flight, shortly after the announcement that she would take over the coveted role of NYT Food critic. A fellow passenger recognizes her & informs Reichl that every kitchen in New York already has her picture up on the wall.
She decides that the only way to properly assess the food & atmosphere in restaurants across the city is to don disguises. As she creates these outfits & wigs, she develops personas to go along with them, then shares with readers her stories of bopping around the city, experiencing the highs, lows, and personal memories of dining out.
If you are a foodie, you will especially love this. But, I think that the glimpse into 90s class structure in NYC is fascinating, and her job is so unique, it is a fun ride-along.
Dear Fahrenheit 451 — Annie Spence
It has been many, many years since I listened to this book, a librarian's collection of faux love letters and break-up notes to various books from the stacks. Checking out the reviews, I am affirmed that many readers found it highly entertaining, though some found it snarky and "trying too hard."
I remember it as clever, hilarious, and a lot of fun.
I want to note these authors & book, as well, though I haven't read them!
And, I personally do NOT enjoy the genre of what I’d call “quirky/cutesy-trauma”, where a lighthearted spin or goofiness is applied to very serious, dramatic, traumatic topics & experiences (abuse, neglect, suicidality, etc.). However, if you have enjoyed any of the books below, you may like some of the others!
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine — Gail Honeyman
- Anxious People — Fredrik Backman
- Lost & Found — Brooke Davis
- The Midnight Library — Matt Haig
- A Man Called Ove — Fredrik Backman