You remember Henny Penny. She was that chicken who kept running around warning the sky was falling, because an acorn hit her on the head. “The sky is falling” has come to indicate an alarmist who’s lost touch with reality, or a hysterical gloom-and-doomer.

Guilty as charged. Just call me Henny and hand me an umbrella. Lately lots of acorns seem to be raining down. One in four American teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. Thousands of children in Angola, Congo and the Congo Republic are being cast out of their families as witches and left to fend for themselves, or even killed. An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. A survey of American teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that fewer than half the respondents knew when the Civil War (that’s the War Between the States to my southern friends) took place. Twenty percent didn’t know whom we fought against in WWII, twenty-five percent couldn’t identify Hitler. The U.S. has five percent of the world’s population but almost twenty-five percent of its prisoners. Something like 47 million Americans have no health insurance. Gas is $3.50 a gallon. Linens ‘n Things is filing for bankruptcy. The latter doesn’t seem so serious, but there are widespread retail store bankruptcy/closures across the U.S. which is going to impact a lot of people. It’s damned hard to find good news.

I read to escape inconvenient reality, so of course I picked up Paris: The Secret History by Andrew Hussey. Fabulous book, but talk about thousands of years of blood running through the streets (and you thought it was limited to the French Revolution). Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. “We’ll always have Paris” might not be such a good thing, no matter what Bogey said to Bergman in Casablanca.

So, cheer me up—or wallow in the pit of despair with me. What’s your favorite funny book guaranteed to make be smile again? Share your good news or your worries about the future. We’re all in this together. Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

The painting is Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street: Rainy Day (1877).