First, Kurt Vonnegut’s If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? It is a slim collection of his speeches at school and university graduations. At the heart is the premise, adopted from his Uncle, that when life is good one must pause and say ‘if this isn’t nice, what is?’ It is a mantra that I have adopted and repeat to my son on holidays, on days when the air is crisp and the sky is blue, and when we are all tucked up together reading in bed. This phrase is an antidote to my pessimism and fits his natural zest for life.
I was prompted to read Vonnegut’s speeches by this letter to the US government, regarding his son’s consciousness objector status during the Vietnam War, ‘There’s no hope in war‘. I can only aspire to be this articulate, thoughtful and brave in my parenthood.
Next, Sam Philips’ Everywoman. Sam Phillips celebrates women. Her tone is upbeat, her anecdotes raw, real and often funny and she clearly aims to inspire. She’s beckoning to the women behind her to follow her lead. ‘If I can do this then so can you’, she practically yells from the page.
Each chapter is Phillips’ ‘truth’ on a theme – violence, equality, sisterhood, motherhood etc. – and her chapter ‘The Truth About Trolling’ is a great first person contribution to ‘The internet is a bad bad thing‘ .
I think every woman would go away from this book heartened.
My final recommendation is My Life in France by Julia Child. Her zeal for life is astounding and jumps from the page. She had me wanting to skip over to Paris to learn to cook at Le Cordon Bleu. But it’s not really about cooking or celebrity, it’s a book about love, partnership, passion and playing the cards that life deals you well.