10 Uplifting Books To Brighten Your Day

The best feel-good books to make you happy and relaxed

10 Uplifting Books To Brighten Your Day
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The best feel-good books to make you happy and relaxed

In these tough times the world is collectively facing, I looked to literature for some solace. In the past few months, I have read some truly uplifting books that helped me deal with the sadness of everything going on around me.

I’ll be honest, these books helped.

They left me with a warm, fuzzy glow in my heart and more energy to face the challenges life threw at me.

I have prepared a list of ten of the happiest, the most positive books you can read that are sure to brighten your day. Some of these are humour, some fantasy, some even deal with concepts of existentialism. The one thing common between all of these books is that when you are done reading, you will feel lighter and happier.

(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount of money — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)

1. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Image: Goodreads

The premise of the book is simple: Ove (pronounced ‘Oo-veh’) is a grumpy yet loveable man who finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

From this deceptively simple premise, the author crafts a plot that is exquisitely intricate and brimming with lessons on personal wisdom and philosophy— all of it adding up to a story that is not just heart-wrenching, but also heart-warming.

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”

Why you should read it

The author’s brilliant writing will make you contemplate. It will leave you with tear-streaked cheeks. It will make your heart fill with a peal of lilting laughter at the joy of having known Ove — a man who doesn’t exist, and yet, he could be everyone around you. He could be within you.

The story is laced with loneliness and the disappointment of life’s numerous failures. Tying it all together is a thread of hope, like a quiet celebration building slowly through the prose. Your heart will flutter with emotions and a smile will curl your lips at this poignant tale of the reawakening of a man frozen by grief.

2. The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Image: Goodreads

40-year-old Linus Baker, a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, is asked to visit an orphanage on an island and prepare a report on whether the home is safe for the six extraordinary children who live there.

What begins as a series of misadventures turns into heartwarming banter and some amusing, light-hearted moments spent between the children, their Master, Arthur, and our protagonist.

“Sometimes our prejudices color our thoughts when we least expect them to. If we can recognize that, and learn from it, we can become better people.”

When I finished reading this book, I closed it gently, as if the pages were sentient and might be bruised. It was hard to immediately identify the sensation in my chest. It took a while, but when it hit me, there was no escaping it: an exultant, bubbling joy pushed back immediately by a sorrow that hadn’t yet sunk its claws in deep enough in my heart — all leading to a rawness that only a novel like The House on the Cerulean Sea can leave behind.

Why you should read it

This is a story about accepting your imperfections and learning to live with them. About getting back up on your feet in a world designed to keep pushing you down. About finding kin among strangers, and understanding that you don’t need to be tied by blood to be part of a family.

3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Image: Goodreads

Written in an epistolary format, consisting of letters back and forth between Juliet Ashton, a young author in 1946 London and several of her contacts and friends. It is just after World War II and the people are trying to reclaim their lives and figure out if and how to move on from the tragedy of the war. There is a personal touch to the letters, and they feel like interesting true stories and anecdotes disguised in the book as random people’s letters to Juliet.

This book has some adorable, often quirky, characters, and quite a bit of interesting (and unavoidably harrowing) tales of WWII history. There is heaps of humour thrown in and just the right amount of romance to leave you with a smile on your face.

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive — all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

Why you should read it

This is one of those rare books that serve to remind us that the written word is a universal language that can speak to even the most distant among us. It will touch you, regardless of age or class. It will remind you why you read: to know that no matter what you are going through, you are not alone.

4. Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Image: Goodreads

A 50-year-old failed novelist receives a wedding invitation from his ex-boyfriend, now engaged to someone else. He can’t say yes for fear of how awkward it would be. And, he can’t say no or it would look like defeat. So, Arthur Less picks the third option. On his desk are invitations to half-baked literary festivals from all over the world. He accepts them all.

Thus begins an around-the-world-in-eighty-days fantasia that takes Arthur Less to Mexico, Italy, Germany, Morocco, India and Japan — and while he gets lost on the journey several times, in the end, he finds himself.

“He kisses — how do I explain it? Like someone in love. Like he has nothing to lose. Like someone who has just learned a foreign language and can use only the present tense and only the second person. Only now, only you.”

This is a mesmerising beauty of a book. I was left speechless and with the certainty that I am not done with the book yet — I will come back, and keep visiting Arthur Less as often as if he is a childhood friend I would rather die than lose contact with.

Why you should read it

You would love the delicate portrayal of human emotions and sexuality, the seamless transition between a mundane, strikingly prosaic present and a rather rose-tinted, honeyed past. This is a splendid book I would recommend to the lovers of literature — those hopeless souls that thirst for happy endings and believe that even in today’s miasmic world, love is possible; that love can be found, and that love transcends love, gender, race, and creed.

5. Normal People by Sally Rooney

Image: Goodreads

Connell and Marianne — two star-crossed lovers who squander every opportunity they get to be with each other and start a stable relationship. As a reader, you can feel their chemistry, the sparks flying off the page each time these two meet. And yet, the characters are blind to the threads that bind them together.

It is the story of a boy and a girl who are made for each other and everybody in the world realises this except the kids themselves. Starting from school to college, stretching all the way to post-graduation, Marianne and Connel spend time in abusive relationships, in the company of people who are blind to who they are, just because their ego and their low self-worth would not let them stay with each other.

“It’s funny the decisions you make because you like someone, and then your whole life is different. I think we’re at that weird age where life can change a lot from small decisions.”

I don’t generally enjoy Young Adult love stories, but, this was different.

Why you should read it

The premise might sound familiar, but, Sally Rooney makes her characters unique. They stand out because of their way of looking at the world, the decisions they make and the aspirations that drive them. You will fall in love with the author’s attention to detail, the little gestures and expression changes she highlighted to show us what the characters actually want, irrespective of what they are saying.

If you love good old romances, this is among the best of them.

6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Image: Goodreads

The premise of the book is that Bernadette Fox, a wealthy agoraphobe with a teenage daughter and an emotionally absent husband, disappears before taking off on a family trip to Antarctica.

The book is strewn with amusing, entertaining characters — some you’d love to hate. But, it is not all fluff and humour. The author does a marvellous job of blending the bizarre with moments of clarity that reveal the depth of her characters and her theme. After all, comedy always works best when it nudges at our most vulnerable spots and shows us that there are other people who have those imperfections, too.

“Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.”

Why you should read it

I read this book on a plane and some parts were so hilarious, I burst out laughing at random moments. I pity my co-passengers for that flight, but, honestly, this book acts as the perfect mood-lifter. The ending will leave you wanting, nay craving, for more of the story and these brilliant, well-crafted characters.

7. Eleanor Olliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Image: Goodreads

Eleanor is a clinically depressed 31-year-old, bumbling through life and showing us the world through her eyes. She has a perfectly-functioning world, and her mental illness is not a part of her identity.

The way she looks at the world is unique, and at parts, completely relatable. Some parts of the story are endearing, some gut-wrenching, and some are laugh-out-loud funny. In spite of that, the book gives the reader a lot of food for thought to chew on.

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

Why you should read it:

This book makes for an incredible read that had my heart juggling between one emotion and the next. Eleanor is a truly memorable character that will stay with you for a long time. You will love how well the author dealt with the protagonist suffering from a debilitating mental illness, without resorting to cliches. When the final page is turned, you will be left with this warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart of a lovely book you would cherish for years to come.

8. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Image: Goodreads

If there was an award for a book with the best protagonist, it would be this one!

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul, he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

The narrative is original and captivating. The first chapter might give the impression that this is going to be a heartbreaking tale (who likes sad stories with dogs?), but read on, for this is a beautiful story that needs to be told.

“I know this much about racing in the rain. I know it is about balance. It is about anticipation and patience…It is about believing that you are not you; you are everything. And everything is you.”

Why you should read it

Maybe because the cover has the head of a dog? Jokes apart. This is a truly excellent story — the writing, the plot, the characters — all just breath-taking. This is one of those books that everyone should read once — it has the perfect ending to perk your spirits up when you are having a bad day.

9. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Image: Goodreads

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, lives in a graveyard and is raised and educated by ghosts. He has a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead.

With such a chilling premise and an ominous title, you might believe that this is a horror story, but in truth, this is a coming-of-age tale filled with brilliant epiphanies that will make you smile and introspect in equal measure. The beautiful illustrations only add to the wonder and mystery of the book.

“It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.”

Why you should read it

This book is a real joy to read. The magic of the graveyard is fantastic and develops in interesting ways throughout the story, and the ghosts and creatures that inhabit this world make for a delightful cast of characters.

The most fascinating part was watching Bod grow older, but the ghosts remain at the same ages. His interactions with the same ghosts are different with each time jump, and that makes for a delightful read. This book, without doubt, is a masterpiece of storytelling.

10. English, August: An Indian Story by Upamanyu Chatterjee

Image: Goodreads

Agastya Sen, known to friends by the English name August, is a child of rich Indian parents. His friends go to Yale and Harvard. August himself lands a prize government job. What promises a stable future and a secure income soon turns into a torture of sorts as the protagonist finds himself surrounded by incompetents, cranks, time wasters, bureaucrats, and crazies.

Anyone who has been to a government office in India will be able to relate to this book and the sweet aftertaste it leaves on your tongue. The humour is subtle at places, and rip-roaringly in-your-face at others. It is one of the few Indian novels I have read that touches upon existentialism. The plot and characters are imaginative and August’s often-hilarious observations and thoughts add life to the dreary office scenes.

“We are men without ambition, and all we want is to be left alone, in peace so that we can try and be happy. So few people will understand this simplicity.”

Why you should read it

Though written in 1988, this is a timeless story that still strikes the right chords today. The author’s writing has that uncanny ability to take the reader into a trance — one that will force them to keep turning page after page until the last chapter is done. This book is a joyous experience that will leave you with a smile when you are done reading.

Final Thoughts

Hope you liked this list. I might have missed out on several of your favourite books. Do let me know if there are any more you would like to suggest. For more book reviews, follow me on Goodreads.

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