More Stories like So Much Cooking
July 3, 2018 9:48 PM   Subscribe

So Much Cooking is gentle and kind, about people being good to each other, and I want more stories like it.

Can be short stories or books.

Doesn't have to be fictional, but I'm not looking for articles, I'm looking for stories.

I'm trying to articulate what it is that isn't in most of the books I've read, but which So Much Cooking has in abundance and made me realize "THIS, this is what I want to be reading more of". So everything that follows is me rambling on about this a bit, but be aware that I really haven't fully figured it out yet and feel free to ignore everything below and just recommend anything that feels like So Much Cooking.


While I would particularly like "being kind" being the main narrative motive or theme, I'm fine with it as a sort of strong sub-theme.

I feel a little iffy on how to define this-- although I can say that of every favorite author of mine that sprung to head while writing this post, the only one who seems to sort of scratch this itch for me is Ann Leckie.

Plenty of books have themes around being good/bad, justice/injustice... It feels like I've read plenty that deal with personal goodness eg honor, integrity, or that deal with not doing interpersonal badness (don't be violent, or racist, etc). Maybe also lots of them sort of show the murky middle of, like, coming to respect someone you didn't respect...

So any of that isn't specifically what I'm looking for.

I'm looking for books about actively, proactively, positively, being kind and nice to people. Where it's a big, celebrated theme of the book, or where it's accepted as a major priority of the protagonist, or where it's just part of the cultural air of the book's setting and imbued into it. Where the narrative treats the characters with charity/dignity, also. Warm stories.
posted by Cozybee to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I guess another way of putting the request is I'm pretty impressionable, I walk away from books thinking in the voice of the book's POV for a few hours, and the feeling of walking away from a book where the POV was very kind and therefore so were my thoughts for a while is something I want more of.
posted by Cozybee at 9:54 PM on July 3, 2018

Zenna Henderson comes to mind. Jo Walton's overview of her work covers the upsides and minor downsides well.

I understand you want written stories, but under the heading of SF/F with people being kind to each other, you might like the anime Flying Witch--currently ad-supported at Crunchy Roll--or, without SF/F elements, the manga Yotsuba&! In spite of originally appearing in shōnen venues, they're full of super low-key slice-of-life stories where people are just really nice to each other and mildly funny things happen.
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:28 PM on July 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you are open to books that are more all-ages than pitched strictly to adults, the Owly graphic novels and storybooks are very much in this vein.
posted by praemunire at 11:56 PM on July 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know exactly what you mean about walking around with a work of art's POV in your head. My recommendation is a movie rather than a book, and it seems kind of odd, but it has helped me and my family more times than I can count. "The Castle", from Australia, starring Michael Caton.

First time watching, you begin to cringe and think, "Oh, it's not nice to laugh at these people, they're ...they're ...they're SO HAPPY!" They love each other, they're kind to each other, the world is basically a wonderful place. Our extended family uses catchphrases from the movie all the time, and we're the better for it. When you live directly next to the airport runway, and you say - and mean - "Location, location, location!". When every dinner is a marvel of cooking ("seasonings!"), and every treasure "goes straight to the pool room!" -- it's a treasure, it is, mate.

IMDB says it was released in 1997; Amazon says 1999. You can watch it on Amazon streaming for $2.99. but you have to type in "The Castle Michael Caton". Look for Eric Bana in a tiny role.

I hope you love it as much as we do.
posted by kestralwing at 3:02 AM on July 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

+1 to The Castle, an Australian classic.
Feel the serenity!
posted by wowenthusiast at 5:09 AM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've recommended it before, but Simon Van Booy's short story collection Tales of Accidental Genius feels very much in this vein, to me. From a review: "Simon Van Booy weaves a collection of short stories linked by the common thread of “accidental genius.” He finds this accidental genius in random acts of kindness, in coincidences and small ironies, and within the inspiration that sometimes emerges from personal tragedies so encompassing and commonplace that something pure must occasionally grow from them."
posted by drlith at 5:21 AM on July 4, 2018

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison.

And it’s been a long time since I read it, but Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe?
posted by songs about trains at 5:45 AM on July 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not precisely what you describe, but you might enjoy Laurie Colwin, specifically Happy All The Time.

Nick Hornby, How to Be Good, is about being good on a more personal level.

I love that short story, thank you.
posted by theora55 at 6:08 AM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Two great books about kindness that I've read recently are both all-ages YA comics. They also both started out as webcomics, so I've included those links as well:
  • The Tea Dragon Society (webcomic/book): A very gentle story about people who take care of pet dragons, which grow magical tea leaves from their bodies (stay with me), and it's also about friendship and community among folks of different ages/genders/abilities, in a low-key, non-preachy way. It creates a super compelling (and again, incredibly gentle) world that I wanted to live in.
  • As The Crow Flies (webcomic/book): A story about two girls on a summer camp hiking trip. It looks at experiences of feeling marginalized and excluded, but in a way where it feels like the characters can explore those experiences safely and be taken care of.

posted by ITheCosmos at 9:53 AM on July 4, 2018

The (completed) webcomic Always Human might hit the spot.
posted by wintersweet at 11:33 AM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

And I have to come back to mention The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, in which people are generally kind and reasonable.
posted by wintersweet at 12:17 PM on July 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love The Castle and Zenna Henderson. I’m not a religious person , but Jan Karon’s Mitford books give me that optimistic feeling, as does Ann Lamotte.
posted by purenitrous at 2:11 PM on July 4, 2018

Here's recent article from Optimistic Fantasies to Chase Away the Grimdark Blues
posted by Lexica at 6:03 PM on July 4, 2018

What an excellent question! I don't know if I've ever put it into words, but I think this genre is my favourite type of book.

Martha Wells' Books of the Raksura really embodies what you're asking for. It features a collectivist, matriarchal society of dragon-like shapeshifters which comes pretty close to what I'd consider a workable utopia. There are a lot of glimpses into the Raksura's cultural practices: conflict resolution, collectively raising of children, living and crafting sustainably, collective mourning. They're a society that cares for all of its members, provides a place for everyone to belong, overcomes trauma together, etc. — it's really lovely to read about.
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 5:21 AM on July 5, 2018

Some other books which have a cozy, gentle, kind feeling:

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Anne of Green Gables
Discworld: can be quite satirical, but the outlook of the narrative is, overwhelmingly, "be kind and sensible to the world"
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 5:28 AM on July 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

If movies are OK, I'd vouch for Breakfast with Curtis. The actors are all friends and neighbors of the filmmaker. Just a little slice of life. A bit of friction between neighbors but even that is based in kindness.
posted by bricoleur at 5:49 PM on July 6, 2018

Thank you for asking this great question.

I think you might really like books by Eva Ibbotson. They tend to be considered children's books or YA, but I really enjoy them. I'd recommend starting with One Dog and His Boy. If you like that, you might also enjoy The Dragonfly Pool and A Countess Below Stairs.
posted by kristi at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2018

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge.

Might come across preachy but they do leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling.
posted by dostoevskygirl at 4:44 PM on July 7, 2018

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