Two funny books about death: Recharge by Rachel Lopez
Every once in a while, the internet feels generous and throws you a freebie. A few years ago, I found an online library with a bug in its system that put its 3,000 books as free to download. It’s not the bonanza you imagine. Most books were banal bodice-rippers - post-Twilight cross-species romances in which the werewolves are “surprisingly gentle”. One title, however, caught my eye: All My Friends Are Dead, with a cartoon illustration of a dinosaur on the cover.
It’s a strange little book. A handful of pages, one or two illustrations per spread, barely a line or two of text per page, and short sentences. But it’s hilarious and sharp in ways that will have you reading it over and over, and smiling each time. Pretty unusual for a book about death.
All My Friends Are Dead features the lonely survivors of those whose friends have died. The writer-illustrator team of Avery Monsen and Jory John consider the dino and the dodo finding common ground, and a hunched-over grandpa (his dead-friends list goes from “most” to “all’ as you turn the page). Socks mourn the loss of their mates. A jug of milk says “All my friends expired on Tuesday”. A brooding baker tells you “All my friends are bread”. You’re meant to feel sorry for them all, of course. But also laugh.
The book was an underground (get it?) success when it was published in 2010. Someone posted an animated GIF of the first 10 pages to Tumblr, and it became the site’s most reblogged and liked post at the time. The book became a national bestseller without ever getting a mention in literary supplements or book festivals. And fans rallied to get the authors to publish a sequel. They did.
The 2012 follow-up, All My Friends Are Still Dead, includes old buddies (that dino and dodo) and new characters. Lonely angels (’All my friends are still alive! Jerks!), a robot who can’t understand friendship, lottery tickets and lollipops remind you that, hey, everything dies. We can grieve for the dead, but still celebrate the living. This book, to no one’s surprise, is a bestseller too.
The books demand nothing of you. They offer wisdom, but no gyaan. And they know when to stop. As do I.
(Over the moon about something that’s still under the radar? Tell me at email@example.com)