The Optimists Club: 5 Must-Read Books

The Optimists Club: 5 Must-Read Books

Join the Optimists Club with these 5 must-read books.

1. Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

“To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light—these were John Steinbeck’s goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years. With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. Along the way he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and the unexpected kindness of strangers.”

2. Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game by Dan Barry

“From Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Dan Barry comes the beautifully recounted story of the longest game in baseball history—a tale celebrating not only the robust intensity of baseball, but the aspirational ideal epitomized by the hard-fighting players of the minor leagues. In the tradition of Moneyball, The Last Hero, and Wicked Good Year, Barry’s Bottom of the 33rd is a reaffirming story of the American Dream finding its greatest expression in timeless contests of the Great American Pastime.”

3. Undaunted Optimist: Essays on Life, Laughter and Cheerful Perseverance by Chris Rodell

“Ever wonder how old you’ll be in heaven? Why couples always sleep on the same side of the bed? How to respond when a stranger mistakes you for an old friend? What happens when you get tick bit in a ‘sensitive’ place? Or how you will feel when your daughter tells you she doesn’t want to dress up for Halloween anymore? And, gee, if marriage is so great then how come there’s no Mrs. God?

“Chris Rodell wonders about stuff like that all the time.

“He wonders about holidays, occupations, traffic, marriage and if refrigerating your deodorant adds zing to your morning.

“Yes, it’s a wonder-full life.

“It’s a complicated world out there and it takes a nimble mind to sort it all out. Rodell does it with style, warmth, an engaging euphoria and undaunted optimism that lets every reader know he enjoys being human and enjoys human beings.

“‘Rodell writes about America the way Sinatra sings about New York, unflinching about the gritty realities, but with abiding affection and relentless positivity about the future.’—Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge”

4. Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

“Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.”

5. Life’s Journey According to Mr. Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way by Fred Rogers

“For all the roads we choose to travel, and even those we don’t, Fred Rogers has an observation, a story, some insights to share. Whether you’re facing graduation, a new job, a new baby, marriage, any change in your life–expected or not–the wisdom that Mister Rogers offers can contribute mightily to the grace with which you handle the change.

“With sections titled Who You Are Right Now, Loving and Being Loved, and Guided Drift, Fred addresses the scope of human transitions. It all comes down to knowing we’re valuable, and that we’re worthy of that value. As Fred would say, ‘You don’t have to be anything more than who you are right now.’

“In her foreword, Joanne Rogers shares the Fred she knew. With stories from their life together, the joys as well as the struggles, Joanne shows how Fred looked at life as a journey–with the ups and downs and in-betweens.”

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UNDAUNTED OPTIMIST by Chris Rodell