In case you live in a cave (and there's nothing wrong with that), you probably have heard of the Chicken Soup series of books. There have been 21 so far and 38 million people have purchased them.
The recipe for the Chicken Soup books includes inspiration, self-help, humor, love, pain, teaching, learning and a big dose of reality. These elements can be found in the stories between the covers. What makes the series successful is that the stories are very moving, and they come from regular people.
There are several different kinds of Chicken Soup books geared toward different people. The very first book is called Chicken Soup for the Soul. Since its first printing, there have been many offshoots including Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, and Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul.
Since the original Chicken Soup for the Soul, there have been five other "portions" of that original recipe. My review focuses on the edition titled A 6th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
This book (as well as the other five originals) divides its inspirational stories into eight sections, which are listed below.
1. On Love
2. On Parenting
3. On Death and Dying
4. On Teaching and Learning
5. Overcoming Obstacles
6. Live Your Dream
7. A Matter of Perspective
8. Eclectic Wisdom
The section titled On Love offers 22 different stories on the subject of love. A father who lost his seven year-old son in a shooting attack by bandits in Italy told one of my favorite stories in this section. What was supposed to be a family vacation became an unspeakable tragedy.
I remember the hushed room and the physicians standing in a small group, hesitant to ask crass question about organ donation. As it happens, we were able to relieve them of the thankless task. We looked at each other. "Now that he's gone, shouldn't we give the organs?" one of us asked. "Yes," the other replied and that was all there was to it.
From there a tragedy provided miracles as several lives were saved by the organs from one special boy and two generous parents. The father then describes how the entire country of Italy and even the world was touched by this act.
There is also a wonderful story of adoption, another of an orphaned colt and the love it was able to find in another being.
In the section titled On Parenting, I found a great little essay about a young high school student and his most prized possession: an old truck. This boy worked hard on the truck, sanding it and painting it. As a gift, his parents gave him some new upholstery for the seats. Then, one day the boy slammed the truck door too hard and it shattered the back window. There was no money to fix the window, so the boy had to drive the truck the way it was.
One day, while the boy was in class, it started to rain. From his seat the boy could see his truck and the rain beating down on his new upholstery. Then, he saw his parents race into the parking lot. They had bought a sheet of plastic, which they used to cover up their son's truck and protect his seats.
In his essay, the boy goes on to say he just started crying right there in class, seeing his parents do this for him.
My parents were with me through every high and low in my life, always supportive and proud of my accomplishments, I never think of them as gone. I've got all their stories, and that keeps them nearby always.
What makes the story even more memorable is its author, who happens to be Jay Leno.
We'd be here forever, if I listed all my favorites, so I'll just mention one more very quickly. It happens to come from the On Death and Dying section. When Michael Ted Williams died, he left his wish to have an Elvis-type funeral. The description of this funeral was so funny, it helped me to see the celebration of a life rather than the loss itself.
I think that's why these Chicken Soup books are so successful. They provide different perspectives of some of the very same problems we go through every day.
I read this book cover to cover and that wasn't such a good idea, as I seemed to experience every imaginable emotion in the process. Some stories made me want to laugh, some made me want to cry, others gave me the opportunity to sit back and ponder life.
Should you read this book, I recommend you take it a couple of stories at a time. Reading straight through is like one big emotional roller coaster, trust me.
I highly recommend A 6th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul to everyone. It makes you think and what's really important and puts life in perspective. It is an ideal gift for someone you care about or that special person who needs a little joy in life.