The best books to make you laugh & cry

The Books I Picked & Why

Goodbye, Vitamin

By Rachel Khong

Book cover of Goodbye, Vitamin

Why this book?

After a broken engagement, Ruth arrives home to stay with her mother and her father, who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Spare, poignant, and honest, this novel chronicles a daughter’s attempts to navigate a new normal with her “erratically lucid” and “lucidly erratic” parents. While the topic is innately heavy, somehow Khong manages to make the book light and as much about the narrator’s own flaws and struggles as about the illness at hand. It’s refreshing and touching and all the things—and also written in an unusual structure with mini vignettes throughout.


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This Is Where I Leave You

By Jonathan Tropper

Book cover of This Is Where I Leave You

Why this book?

Equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious, this almost farcical book tells the story of Judd Foxman, who isn’t having the best week: his father has died, his wife is having a public affair with his boss and now he’s forced to sit shiva with his entire dysfunctional family. It’s rare that a novel makes you laugh out loud, but also well up. I guess I might feel a personal connection here, being Jewish and having attended many shivas myself. But Tropper has a way of telling the story that makes your laughter like its own therapy.


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A Man Called Ove

By Fredrik Backman

Book cover of A Man Called Ove

Why this book?

Ove doesn’t want help. Ove wants to be left to kill himself in peace. But his damn chatty neighbors, and one irritating cat, keep interrupting. As he mourns the death of his beloved wife, this aging curmudgeon finds a renewed sense of family and purpose in the most unexpected places. In this day and age, I think anything that makes you feel good about humanity is worth its weight in gold. This book is just charming and feel-good and attacks serious topics with a kind of levity and authenticity that makes you feel like a member of the neighborhood. Like all of us, Ove is a deeply imperfect being, but we love him all the same.


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Heartburn

By Nora Ephron

Book cover of Heartburn

Why this book?

First of all, Nora Ephron is a genius, so there’s that. In this story, based loosely on the writer’s own life, Rachel Samstat is grieving, but it’s not because someone died. It’s because sometimes she wishes someone would. In this seminal novel, the main character, a pregnant cookbook author, discovers her husband is in love with someone else and finds herself at once cursing him and wishing to have him back. Sometimes in life, we mourn though no one has perished—we mourn a part of ourselves, a time in our lives, a relationship that’s fractured or changed. I just find this to be such a truism and, of course, this story takes you on a tumultuous journey underscored by Ephron’s signature wit and humor. It’s iconic.


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Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction

By J.D. Salinger

Book cover of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction

Why this book?

Okay. Fine. Maybe I only think this book is about loss because I know that, in later books, the same Glass family suffers losses and this sets the stage. But this is a story about a promise that is never realized and a relationship that is becoming progressively distant—and, in it, there is a sense of being lost if not having experienced a loss, specifically. In it, Buddy Glass takes Army leave to attend his brother’s wedding, but his brother never shows up. Somehow, Buddy winds up stuck in a limo with a group of disgruntled guests from whom he tries to hide his identity. In his sense of isolation, but also his awareness of the situation’s absurdity, we find humor and also sadness.


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