Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Smile

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Oh, this prompt!

I’m going to go with comfort/cozy reads on this one, the books that gave me a smile and made me feel warm and fuzzy (but not in a heartwarming crying kind of way), instead of books that left me with a belly-ache from all the cackling.

These are the books I look back on and my lips just tug up at the corners in fond memory. Note I’m restraining myself here by not having a Vorkosigan book!

Books That Made Me Smile

Giant Days by John Allison

This series is my whole heart. The university escapades of Susan, Esther and Daisy kill me, and I love McGraw and Ed. While Esther’s gothic dark side and Daisy’s pure innocence had me rolling and giggling, I gravitated towards semi-feral Susan, who was just a delight (also, her sometimes sharp teeth killed me). I wish I had had these comics when I was in college, because they are the kind of escapism I most needed: comforting, funny, and filled with strange friendships and mundanely wild endeavors.

Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

I love this duology, and I wish that there were more of them! The mere mention of them makes me want to pick them up and read them all over again (ditto to Giant Days) because they are the definition of cozy reads. Bitty is adorable, Shitty is surprisingly not shitty, the other hockey bros are a delight, and the burgeoning romance kinda comes out of nowhere but 100% works. I never thought I’d love anything involving hockey (or really any other sport), but damn this just hits a sweet spot.

And if you’re thinking that this post is going to be nothing but graphic novels, you might be right. I’m flying by the seat of my pants with this one so who the hell even knows what’ll come next.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Okay, this is a bit of an outlier, but hear me out. Yes, there are two of them—the novel and the graphic novel, and no neither of them are exactly warm and fuzzy because they delve into some topics that make you sit back and think a minute (particularly if you’re a whyte woman), but the coming of age story that baby lesbian Juliet experiences is just so there.

The novel is spectacular, the graphic novel is even better, because the illustrations are phenomenal.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I’m already breaking my rule about no crying books, because this is a bit of a crying book (in a good way, I swear!). However, I think about this book and the journey it took me on, and smile at how much it resonated with me in the moment that I read it. I feel like it’s a book meant for every millennial who was raised to just find their purpose and everything would fall into place and be perfect and beautiful (like that annoying saying of “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!”), and then slowly realize that life is not like that, and that it’s okay to just exist in the world. Additionally, there’s a huge cli-fi element that is just so fitting for right now and for our future as humans on this fragile Earth.

Witchmark by CL Polk

Another book with some heavy subject matter (war, PTSD, slavery, government corruption) that nevertheless handles the subjects extremely well while having world-building that just delights (minus the awfulness of the world itself) and a main character who I just want to hug. Plus, there’s a soft love story, thrilling bicycle chases, and so much compassion and resilience and just everything I want in a book in addition to a really good plot that parallels a lot of issues in today’s world without being heavy-handed about it.

This is How You Lost the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Yes, I also cannot believe that the book with the most purply of prose has made it onto a list of books that make me smile. However, this book works that purple into every single sentence, and it works, dammit. It’s sapphic and funny and weird as hell and everything about it is just so delightful.

It’s a mishmash of my childhood, combining the wonky warfare of Halo’s Red vs Blue with the over-the-top antics of Spy vs Spy, coupled with the combative yearning of Romeo and Juliet meets The Lake House, and well, it’s just perfection.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Ugh, yes, I know. Of course this book is on this yes, and yes I’m a basic bitch but this book is good so whatever. While I wasn’t really feeling the romance between Alex and Henry, the alternative world of this book was exactly what I needed. I needed the secondary characters, I needed a president who expressed her emotions through PowerPoint, I needed Cash and Amy and Zahra and Rafael Luna and Oscar Diaz, and I needed a world that was, to quote McQuiston, “what was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek parallel universe needed to be an escapist, trauma-soothing, alternate-but-realistic reality.”

In the midst of the horror show that was the Trump Administration, I needed this book (and still need it, because things are a touch better but not by a whole lot).

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

How to describe this book based upon that title and that cover? Well it’s uh, not about a cow or a dairy girl becoming prom queen or whatever. It’s a heartwarming coming of age story of a girl who doesn’t speak a whole lot, learns to speak and gets some confidence. The cow is because she’s the daughter of dairy farmers, and I have no idea what the crown is about? Because she’s a dairy queen (seriously, weird title), and has silently taken up all of the work on her family farm after her dad’s hip gets shattered in an accident. However, DJ is a basketball player who decides to try football out after helping coach the backup quarterback, and ends up doing really, really well, and well, there are other things, and reading this made me feel less alone in the world.

And fuck it, I really need to reread this again! Also, it’s a trilogy and the next books are whammies.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

This was one of my favorite books as a kid (and the favorite book of one of my childhood best friends, who read it over and over and over, something I could never do and was always kinda jealous of). I still enjoy rereading it on occasion, particularly when I’m feeling a little low or need to pull out of a slump (although Goodreads informs me I have not read this since 2013, which is a travesty), and the thought of Ella always brings a smile to my face.

What books make you smile?

One thought on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Smile

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