Feel good books to brighten your day

Image: Penguin

The world being as it is right now, we all need a pick-me-up now and then – something to give us hope or a truth or just an escape from these turbulent times. Nothing feels better than to be reminded of the sheer beauty of human life. So, from books about friendship and truth to ones about love, happiness and the human body, here is a selection of uplifting reads that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe (2019)

This year's Comedy Women in Print winner, Nina Stibbe's coming-of-age romp follows Lizzie, a wise but unworldly 18-year-old desperate to get away from her “drunk, divorcée, nudist, amphetamine addict, nymphomaniac, shoplifter” mum. So off she runs to the bright lights of Leicester, gets a job as a dentist's assistant and throws herself into life as a “busy city woman”. It's a story brimming with high jinks, awkward encounters, hair-raising driving lessons, battles with athlete's foot, a toe-curlingly weird boss and a boyfriend who prefers bird-watching to sex.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy (2019)

Now more than ever, we need our friends. And Charlie Mackesy's book about friendship, kindness and connection is the perfect tonic for these uncertain times. It's not really a narrative, rather a collection of quiet, heartfelt musings and conversations between four unlikely pals as they contemplate life's most important lessons. It was the runaway hit of the year, selling more than half a million copies in its first four months, encouraging, inspiring and lifting readers up and down Britain.

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes (2020)

This comedy drama about love, loyalty and the secrets we keep from each other is a laugh-out-loud ode to the power of family. It tells the story of the Caseys, an esteemed Dublin family prone to success. But beneath the surface lurks a sewer of resentment and interpersonal tension primed to explode. While that may not sound like the happiest of setups, its feel-good credentials lie in Marian Keyes' expert comic timing and gossamer-light touch that makes life's most serious issues suddenly seem so reassuringly relatable.

 

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley (2020)

Is modern life making you lonely? For Julian Jessop, in Clare Pooley's beautiful meditation on human connection, loneliness is clawing at his soul. So, tired of hiding it from the world, he starts writing his innermost feelings in a notebook, then leaves it in a local cafe for someone else to find. Soon, a chain of people – from a corporate lawyer desperate for a baby to a social media influencer – pick it up, share their deepest truths and are brought together by the shared realisation that even the smallest acts of honesty can transform the way we live.

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (2016)

Leon is a mixed-race boy of eight with a white baby brother (different dads), called Jake. But when their mother suffers a nervous breakdown, social services to step in and the beloved brothers are sent into care. Soon, though, they are separated when a family adopts Jake because, as their foster mother tells Leon, “Jake's a white baby. And you're not... Life isn't fair.” From there, it's up to Leon to find a way to reunite his family in Kit de Waal's uplifting and quietly humane tale of brotherly love, motherly failure and the fundamental goodness in people.

Who Cares Wins by Lily Cole (2020)

Any sensible person can see we're in trouble. Species and habitats are collapsing; the wealth gap is widening; the planet is warming; politics is dividing – all of which could mean “we become the first species to document our own extinction”, writes Lily Cole in this optimistic book about how to make better choices for a happier future. The model and environmentalist uses an array of experts to offer answers to the world's problems that never feels patronising or soap-boxy. Instead, it's a life-affirming argument for hope and doing the right thing.

The Body by Bill Bryson (2019)

When life grinds you down, there is one sure-fire way to put it back into context: to marvel at the skin-sack of flesh, bone, blood and bacteria that makes you what – and more importantly, who – you are. So let Bill Bryson, in his inimitable way, take you on a journey from your hair follicles to your toenails, via all the rest, in this expansive ode to the mind-blowing magic of the human body. It will, in short, make you realise – if you didn't already know – quite how wonderful you really are. That, and the truly staggering amount of graft your body puts in, through every second of your life, to keep you that way.

Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day by Captain Tom Moore (2020)

At the age of 100, Captain Tom Moore has seen more tomorrows than most of us. They weren't all good days, though many of them, he'll tell you, were. But that's not the point. The former war hero and record-breaking NHS fundraiser has lived the kind of life few human's achieve. And this is his story, from his humble Yorkshire childhood to his coming-of-age on the battlefields of Burma to when he raised almost £33 million for the NHS by walking circuits of his garden ahead of his 100th birthday.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013)

This story about a middle-aged autistic man's search for love is like a warm stove against your chest. Don Tillman is a genetics professor with an issue with making meaningful connections. So he devises The Wife Project, a scientific 16-page questionnaire to find The One. That's when Rosie falls into his orbit, and she fits none of his criteria – "the world's most incompatible woman.” Soon he learns that happiness is no mathematic equation, and love makes its own rules in Graeme Simsion's endearingly comic story that burns with humour and heart.

Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain (2020)

Nothing cheers you up like a good cake, and this new collection from The Great British Bake Off winner-turned national treasure Nadiya Hussain will have you whipping up a sugary masterpiece in no time. More than just great recipes though, Nadiya Bakes is an insight into what makes Hussain tick and showcases her skills as a writer (she's also authored two novels) as well as her culinary prowess. A testament to the awesome powers of food from one of our most cherished TV stars.

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