The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

beach-street-knitting-societyFeeling a little bit like an English version of Jan Karon’s Mitford series (charming setting, eccentric characters, quirky stories about everyday life) The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil is a fun read, perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Jo Mackenzie’s husband manages to get himself killed in a car accident just a few minutes after telling her that he wanted a divorce, forcing Jo to pack up her life and her two boys and start over. They leave London to take over her Grandmother’s knitting shop in the seaside town of Broadgate Bay. There they encounter overly friendly dogs, resistance to change and a run-down house and shop.  Jo’s best friend Ellen, a famous newscaster in London, keeps things from getting too sweet with her sarcastic observations, and a chance encounter with a celebrity adds some glamor. Jo and her boys soon find themselves part of a circle of friends and neighbors that are always willing to help and a new life that is interesting and satisfying.

Knitting fans will recognize the characters that frequent the yarn shop and take part in the new knitting group Jo forms. The dialogue is sharp and witty and Anglophiles will appreciate the many British references (Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Liberty, etc) and the British slang. This is the first title of a projected series (the second in the series has already been published in England) so watch for more of these charming and funny stories.

April Fool’s! — Humor on Display

binder-twine3Did you know that April is National Humor Month?  What better way to start it off than with an April Fool’s joke!  Tickle your funny bone and find some easy April Fools joke ideas in the current issue of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine.

If you’re a fool for fun, or just want a good LOL (laugh out loud) book, check out some of these authors: Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry or Steven Colbert.  Plus, we also have joke books and cartoons (such as Garfield) and sound recordings of several comedians,  so you have lots of options.

Here’s a favorite of mine by a local author, D.D. Dunn — it’s called Binder Twine ‘n Bandaids: Homegrown Humor from the Heartland. Her “Pretty as a Picture” describes the ordeal many of us may remember in getting ready for the all-important annual school photo.  I don’t think they offered re-takes in those days, either!  Her “First Date” story is hilarious, too! Have fun reading!

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

I’m reading the funniest book! It’s called Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas. I picked it up at the last Women’s Connection (TWC) meeting, but the library does have copies at both buildings. Dumas, an Iranian-American, is the featured speaker at the November 5 TWC meeting, when the group traditionally hosts an international author. If you can go, do — but be prepared for some belly laughs!

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. There’s one scene in particular, in which the author describes a time she is waiting in a crowded medical clinic, when the receptionist mispronounces her name. Badly mispronounces it! Now with a first name like “Firoozeh,” you would probably expect some of this, but in this case, both her first and last name (her husband is French) are really butchered.

The author freely admits that her first experience in the United States, at the tender age of seven, was a very favorable one, and that people were very kind to her and her family. She’s quick to note, however, that this was before the hostage takeover of the embassy in Iran, and that later Iranian immigrants often faced open hostility.

There are lots of anecdotes that many can identify with — her father attempting to teach her how to swim, her not-so-fun experience at summer camp, and the seemingly endless supply of relatives coming to visit. More importantly, though, this book goes a long way in gently educating us Americans that Iranians are human, too. Not to mention funny.

Dumas has also written Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American at Home and Abroad. Enjoy!


A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

The Appalacian Trail (AT), a continuous hiking trail spanning the eastern United States from Georgia to Maine, has been the source of many adventures and stories but by far the funniest (and arguably the best) is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

Bryson, middle-aged and overweight, decides to reconnect with nature and America by hiking the often arduous AT. He recruits long-time friend Stephen Katz who is even less athletic than Bryson (he packs for the hike by filling his backpack with candy bars – and nothing else) and sets off optimistically. What ensues is both laugh-out-loud funny and thoughtful, beautiful and provocative. Although the pair end up hiking only parts of the trail (the beginning and the end plus several day hikes in the central section), their experience is no less authentic than those of a thru-hiker.

Along the way Bryson (one of our best writers) fills you in on the history and lore of the trial, the varied accounts of the towns scattered along its length, the unique and beautiful landscape and wildlife of the areas crossed (although the chapter on bears is likely to keep you awake at night whether you’re in a tent or at home), insights into human nature and the value of keeping your friends – even those that drive you nuts.

But most of all, you’ll laugh. A lot.