What books do you read to cheer yourself up?
Do you go to Alexander McCall Smith for the wry take on human nature, or do you prefer the essays of David Sedaris? Perhaps you enjoy the mishaps and misunderstandings of Jeeves and Wooster or do you opt instead for the nostalgia of polite society with Barbara Pym, Nancy Mitford or Stella Gibbon?
When I've worked in the bookshop, there's hardly a day goes by when someone hasn't asked for a book which might lift the spirit, bring comfort and escape, or raise a smile.
While I always take pleasure in recommending the right title to suit the person and the mood, finding something which will help someone forget their hospital bed, their recent disappointment or bad news has always seemed a particular responsibility.
And finding a funny book is so very difficult because humour seems such a personal, subjective matter.
So I was particularly interested in reading about the Comedy Women in Print prize this week, not least because I'd read a number of the shortlisted writers - Beth Leary's 'Flatshare' (clever idea and brilliantly executed), 'Queenie' from Candice Carty-Williams (a Bridget Jones style account of the struggles of a young, professional black woman seeking love, friendship and fulfilment), and the remarkable and always outstanding Jeanette Winterson. The winner was Nina Stibbe for her recent book 'Reasons to be Cheerful' which I devoured a few months ago for the title alone (the descriptions of working in a dental surgery are very funny in my opinion but Jenni Murray revealed on Woman's Hour that she hates going to the dentist so couldn't enjoy that element of the book!).
We will all find different things amusing, at different times, for different reasons, I'm sure, but this is certainly a good list to work through. (And for another amusing read, I'd also recommend 'Anyone for Edmund?' which I'm reading for the BBC Radio Suffolk book club this month - scroll down for details.)
But it was a differentr literature prize which stole the headlines this week, and there wasn't much to smile about.
While it had seemed that Hilary Mantel was a shoo-in to win this year's Booker Prize, and break records as the only person to triumph three times, instead the judges decided she shouldn't even make the shortlist. American debut novelists dominated and with their work widely being described as 'bleak', 'depressing' and 'violent', it will be interesting to see how these books fare in sales with readers. Perhaps we need some time and distance from our current circumstances to be able to appreciate these titles fully?
The Browsers Booker Book Group agreed with the judges on just two of the titles in the shortlist so it will be interesting to find out who is declared the winner, in November. But in the meantime, we're approaching the end of the month for our regular book discussion...