On this, the fifth day of the 30 Day Book Challenge, I must confess to a book that makes me happy (nawwww). And I sit here and think “but books in general make me happy.” However, I am trying not to repeat the same books too many times during the 30 days, and so that rules out a number of books that make me happy, which makes the decision substantially easier.
One of the tricky things when picking a book that makes you happy is not to fall into the trap of picking a book which in itself is happy. I say this because some of the books that have made me the happiest have actually been quite melancholy, and have had sad endings. So with this in mind, the book I’m going to choose for this is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany, and tells the story of Liesel Meminger, who steals her first book after the death of her brother, on her way to live with her new foster parents. As the story progresses, narrated by Death (an unusual but effective narrative device), we watch Liesel forge relationships with her foster parents, with the local neighbourhood, and with a Jewish man called Max who they hide in their basement, to save him from the fate of many other Jewish people. Max and Liesel forge a special friendship, and Max creates sketchbooks for her which tell part of his own story, these sketches actually appearing in the novel. She also befriends the mayor’s wife, who allows her to peruse, borrow and “steal” from her private library, a privilege in a time of book burnings.
This book makes me happy because, despite the horror of the time, and of some of the events in the story, there is such a strong beauty that shines through the story, and through some of the characters, and the strength of these characters is so convincing, almost definitely the same character traits that would have enabled people to have lived through these times and circumstances. Sometimes a book is just so damn good, so unarguably good, that it makes you happy just to have been able to read it, and to share it with people (something I have done a lot with this book). Lastly, this novel also celebrates the power and magic of books and storytelling, and that makes me happy.
If you haven’t read this yet, I strongly recommend it; it is definitely one of my favourite books of all time, and makes me happy just looking at it again.