The following is my opinion. Strongly-held, but my opinion. Feel free to have your own. That's what comments are for.
I asked friends for their input in two categories: lovable loonies and alternate worlds -- fiction, unless they could make a very compelling case otherwise. Now I have a new reading list, too.
We begin with lovable loonies. My all-time number one favorite book, perfect for beach, book club, hospital bed, you name it, is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. You know, there were other gospels that didn't make the original cut. I don't think this one would have, either. Nevertheless, it had me at this sentence: The first time I saw the man who would save the world, he was sitting near the central well in Nazareth with a lizard hanging out of his mouth. It seems Joshua (Jesus) was entertaining his little brother, who kept smashing the lizard's head with a rock, whereupon the savior of the world would put it in his mouth, bring it back to life, and hand it back to his little brother. Practice for later. This gospel fills in the missing years of Jesus' life and explains the invention of cappuccino, judo and grace. A loonier evangelist you could not find. So that's number one.
Another Christopher Moore pick, though out of season, is The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror. It reintroduces a character from Lamb. And boy, is he stupid. The lovable loony is the sheriff's wife, a former actress who played a Xena-type warrior and never quite got out of character. In a sub-plot and nod to O'Henry, she quits her meds to save up for her husband's Christmas present, while the sheriff plants an acre of pot.
Actually, the whole purpose of this blog piece is to get more people to read my second favorite book, Lucky Dog by Mark Barrowcliffe -- a talking dog named Reg who helps a helpless loser win at poker -- the helpless loser being the only one who can understand what Reg is saying, of course. After first meeting him, Dave goes on meds. So Reg gives Dave the silent treatment, because his feelings are hurt . Notice the running theme, meds. This is a Prozac Monologues list. Eventually Dave misses Reg's conversation, quits his meds and figures out that Reg gives him an advantage at the gaming table. It's all about smell. You've got the mob, a rich old lady, a love interest, the world from a dog's point of smell and redemption. What more could you want for summer reading?
A friend reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut -- whom I already started rereading a few months ago. Vonnegut makes reference to his lovable loony, Eliot Rosewater in a couple of books. Rosewater gets his own book in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Maybe he has a touch of psychosis (but only some of the time.) Maybe he is a hopeless idealist. Maybe he just needs to say no. But he is indeed lovable and a volunteer fireman. Bonus loony: Kilgore Trout.