The Book of Joy ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

This book. THIS BOOK. Everyone needs to read it. It’s amazing. Just actually amazing. This book speaks to the soul.

The Book of Joy, written by Douglas Abrams as a record of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, explores joy, the cultivation of joy, and the relationship between joy and suffering. I picked it up at the recommendation of one of my professors. As someone who has struggled with happiness, I found this book really resonated with me. There was so much that I read and went “yup, I know how that feels” or “yeah, that roughly sketches a pattern that occurred in my life.” And wonderfully, I related to their suggestions for ways forward, their approaches to generating positivity in a too-often negative world.

I also appreciated that The Book of Joy is not pretentious, as perhaps one might be inclined to fear. As the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu say through Abrams in the prologue, “You don’t need to believe us. Indeed, nothing we say should be taken as an article of faith. We are sharing what two friends, from very different worlds, have witnessed and learned in our long lives.” The Book of Joy does not aspire to tell you how to think or live; it does not claim to have all the answers. It wouldn’t translate very well to an inspirational TED Talk or smartly written blog post or clever YouTube video about 10 Ways You Can Increase Your Happiness TODAY! Rather, The Book of Joy invites you to think for yourself and consider the ideas presented and hopefully to find a better way forward yourself.

So please read this book. But don’t just read it. Read it and contemplate it. Take your time with it. Marvel in it. Slow yourself down with it. It won’t entertain you like the internet will. It won’t kindle passion, anger like the news can. You won’t feel a battle cry erupt within your throat.

But you will find in this book the seeds of a better you, a happier you, a more joyful you. And the seeds of a better us, all of us. The seeds of a better humanity through better humans. The seeds of a more joyful humanity through more joyful humans.

The only remaining question will be what you want: joy or suffering.





Good Omens ~ Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

So I finally finished Good Omens. It took me long enough. I don’t usually read this slow, but I’ve had so much going on. I suppose that’s just the way it is sometimes.

This book has been around for some time now. 27 years, to be precise. That’s older than me. This book is old enough that the copy I read has a foreword in which the authors discuss writing the book and something that might count as an afterword that discusses the book’s status as a “cult classic.” From what I can tell, those who know it and love it, know it and love it thoroughly.

Considering, however, that I am now officially an adult and hadn’t even known of the existence of this book despite having heard of the authors and considering this book is older than today’s newest vanguard of adulthood, discussing this book seems to me to contain merit beyond me spewing my opinions at you. Not that spewing my opinions at you isn’t reason enough. Opinion-spewing is fashionable these days.

My favorite part of Good Omens is the humour. Now, if you have read this book or pick it up in the near future, you will say to me, perhaps with a twinge of sarcasm

“That’s very nice, but the whole thing’s a bloody handbook on comedy.”

True, but that’s why it’s so brilliant. The book never stops being funny, which is absolutely incredible. Even comedy movies need to take a break from being funny for a moment, probably because the writers have run out of jokes and think that humour and character development are mutually exclusive. This is the book to prove them wrong (which, of course, makes me wonder where they’ve been all these years because they’ve had 27 years to mend the error of their ways).

Furthermore, the comedy is smart. Sometimes, it’s even borderline satiric. It’s satire that’s having way too much fun. It’s satire that’s challenging ideas and telling you smart things while cracking you up so hard you’ll spill your tea (or coffee or cocoa; whatever you drink while you read, I suggest you set it down first).

Good Omens qualifies, then, as a fun read. You can read it on the train or in a plane or after a particularly stressful day. It’s the type of book you can read before bed. It won’t leave you weeping. It’s lighthearted.

Another bit of the book’s magic is in the seamless blending of fantastical and mundane elements. I have not yet read a Terry Pratchett book, but I do know that this overlapping of worlds is something Neil Gaiman does well and, frankly, often. The idea of taking a traditional story and bringing it to today’s reality and reimagining it within those bounds is very Neil Gaiman.

What are these fantastical elements, you say? What is this story reimagined? That is where you pick up the book and find out for yourself.