Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center is a book about starting over. Helen Carpenter is thirty-two years old and has been divorced for a year. She is just fine with how her life is going, thank you very much, but if she actually thinks about it, she really needs to take a break to try and put herself together again. Her much younger brother, younger by ten years, mentions off-hand about a wilderness survival course. Thinking that this is exactly what she needs, Helen decides to sign up and give it a try. Right when she’s getting ready to leave, her brother’s best friend, Jake, tells her that he is also coming on the trip and just so happens to need a ride. Great. This life-changing journey has turned into a cross-country trip with her younger brother’s annoying best friend. Not what she wanted at all.

The wilderness survival course that Helen has signed up for is three weeks long and puts her and a group of people smack dab in the remotest part of a mountain range in Wyoming. Her fellow survivalists are nothing like what she was expecting. Instead of the hippie folks and rugged back-packers she was envisioning, Helen finds herself at orientation with a group of college students all significantly younger than her and who are basically doing this course as a way to get college credit. The person in charge doesn’t even look like he’s out of high school, for goodness sake! Helen is clearly out of her element. This point is further emphasized when the instructor lays out a series of very strict rules. Helen is in way over her head.

In order to begin this course with a clean slate, she tells Jake to pretend like he doesn’t even know her. She wants to begin anew. This sort of backfires on her when Helen realizes that Jake has become the popular guy and also that no one else in her group really likes her that much. Such begins Helen’s road to rediscovery, a wilderness survival course that is nothing like she thought it would be with people she wasn’t expecting. With sore, blistery feet, a medical emergency, a summer blizzard, and love blooming on rocky trails, Happiness for Beginners is a breath of fresh air as Helen works to remake herself into the new person she wants to become.


This book is also available as an Overdrive eAudiobook, which is how I listened to this book.

Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen

good dogGood Dog. Stay. by Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlen, is a delightful little book. It’s short, sad and sweet. Of its 82 pages, only 32 of them are text – the rest consists of expressive black and white photographs of adorable dogs gazing back at you with the liquid, loving eyes.

The book is also sad. The author reflects back on the life of her devoted black Labrador Retriever, Beau, who was part of her family for almost fifteen years. And yes, it does deal with the dreaded decision of having to put Beau down as his infirmities multiply and worsen. So keep your Kleenex handy, but your mind open. This is a tribute to all good dogs as well as an uncanny observationof what we humans can learn from our canine friends, fo what they can tell us withoug using words.

The book is also sweet – or bittersweet, to be more precise. It’s heartwarming, even humorous in parts. But the essence of the book is best expressed in its very last sentence, “Sometimes an old dog teaches you new tricks.” Recommended for dog lovers everywhere and perfectly appropriate for reading during these “dog days” of summer.