The Best Feel-Good Books to Read When You Need a Pick-Me-Up
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If you’re in the mood for feel-good books that’ll lift your spirits and give you a guaranteed happy ending, this list is for you!
Sometimes as readers, we just want feel-good reads that make us feel warm from the first page to the last page.
While many of the books on this list don’t shy from difficult issues and take us on a journey through characters’ life struggles, each one is rewarding, uplifting, and may help you see things differently.
Of course, a few of these are just plain fun and sure to add a little levity to your reading–you’ll feel great reading them because you’re having so much fun!
In some of these novels, you’ll find a love story–and not always the kind you expect. Sometimes it’s just nice people, being nice to each other–and changing their lives because of it.
Others offer a little magic for when you need to believe in something. Still others offer a relatable story with an upbeat resolution, while others are more outlandish and allow you to suspend your disbelief for a while.
Whatever kind of feel-good book you need, one of the books on this reading list is sure to fit the bill.
Feel-Good Reads to Lift Your Spirits
After the death of her husband, Tova Sullivan began working as a night cleaner at the local aquarium. The job helps her feel useful, especially in her loneliness after his death and her ongoing grief since her 18-year-old son disappeared 30 years ago. When she discovers that Marcellus, the giant Pacific octopus, has been escaping on nightly adventures, the two develop an unlikely camaraderie. When a young man shows up in town, Marcellus realizes he knows something about him, and Tova’s past.
This bestselling novel from 2022 is absolutely delightful. Full of grief and hard things, yes, but Marcellus’ voice is distinctive (and you MUST listen to the audio–the voice actor for him is so wonderful!). His observations about humans will have you chuckling, and his relationship with Tova will warm your heart. My only complaint is that we didn’t get MORE Marcellus (his chapters are criminally short).
The Lonely Hearts Book Club
Author: Lucy Gilmore
Publish Date: March 28, 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Sloane is a librarian in a small town who enjoys a snarky back-and-forth with a curmudgeonly patron named Arthur. When he doesn’t show up as usual, she gets concerned and finds that he’s not well. With his quirky neighbor, Maisie, Sloane starts a book club to ensure that Arthur is cared for.
The two women work their way into Arthur’s life, and the club gradually expands to include other misfits. You’ll love the depiction of book clubs as connection points (even when members have VASTLY different taste!). A lovely novel about the power of friendship, found family, and community.
When Darcy’s husband leaves her for another woman, she goes into a tailspin and holes up in her small hometown. She passes the time reading the town Community Board, and eventually takes a few odd jobs. One leads her to Marcus and his husband, building an elaborate playground for their kids and the whole community. When the town turns against the project, Darcy knows she has to help her new friends.
This is slow-going to start, but it ultimately turned into a delightful story about community and friendship. The message board postings will be familiar to anyone on NextDoor (and they’re actually funny when it’s not your own town!).
Author: Beth O’Leary
Narrators: Alison Steadman & Daisy Edgar-Jones
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Leena, a 20-something overachiever, is burned out and taking a forced 2-month break. She goes to her grandmother Eileen’s house, and they find that Eileen could also use a little shake-up.
So Leena stays in Eileen’s small English town, while Eileen goes to Leena’s London flat. Adventures, quirky characters, and a little romance ensues for both. Put this in the lighthearted, charming, and delightfully cozy read category–and on your reading list.
After living a quiet life alone with his cat and working as a postman, Albert Entwistle is told he must retire. He realizes that he’ll lose his only human connections, so he sets out to make friends–and share who he really is. He’s also ready to find George, the long-lost love of his life.
I loved listening to Albert’s journey to connection and self-acceptance, and the look back on his life story. Albert is a lovely character and he forms a number of delightful friendships. If you liked A Man Called Ove, give this one a try.
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Publish Date: 2022
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism
After graduating high school, Zoey has returned to Mallow Island in South Carolina to claim the apartment her mother left her. The Dellawisp has a small cast of quirky residents, but ghosts also linger here, and they have opinions about how these residents are living.
As Zoey settles in, small mysteries emerge that bring these misfit “other birds” together. A charming novel about community and found family, with the lightly magical backdrop that Sarah Addison Allen is known for.
Meredith hasn’t left her house in three years. She has a remote job, a cat she loves, her puzzles, and her routines. Her traumas keep her up at night and her past haunts her, but the four walls feel safe. When two new friends enter her life, Meredith’s world starts to look a little bigger. If she can find the courage, she just might be ready to step out the door.
I loved reading about Meredith’s journey through her trauma into her friendships. This is not a light read (and triggers abound, so be mindful), but it’s a life-affirming, character-driven story that will have you rooting for Meredith. An excellent choice for readers who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
Daniel is a 20-something man living with an illness that has largely stolen his mobility and speaking ability. Nonetheless, he leads a rich life with a supportive (and hilariously spacy) best friend and a wonderful caregiver. When he witnesses a young woman get into a car–and then she disappears–he knows he has to do something.
Daniel is sharply observant, insightful, and hopeful–you’ll love being in his head, as well as the small moments of comedy in this lovely and funny story. An easy read and sweet story that packs a punch.
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Author: Katherine Center
Publish Date: 2022
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Hannah is an Executive Protection Agent who travels the world protecting the elite. Her clients are usually wealthy but under the radar, so her assignment to protect famous movie star Jack Stapleton from a stalker fan is out of her comfort zone. Jack’s visiting his sick mother and doesn’t want his family to know about the stalker, so he asks Hannah to pretend to be his girlfriend. She reluctantly agrees.
This, of course, is a love story, and it’s fairly predictable. I loved Hannah and Jack’s relationship and how they enjoyed one another, with their light banter and inside jokes. It was such a realistic portrayal of the weird little worlds we build inside of our close relationships and it was so much fun to read.
Arlo Dilly is a DeafBlind man in his twenties. He is bright and curious, but also isolated within his Jehovah’s Witness community and by his controlling uncle. When Arlo decides to take a college writing course, interpreter Cyril reluctantly agrees to the assignment, uncertain of his tactile sign language skills. Cyril and Arlo soon open new worlds to one another, as Cyril teaches Arlo about the rights he never knew he had, and Arlo shows Cyril what it means to be brave and take risks for love.
Despite the many serious themes in this book, this was at times laugh-out-loud funny, with wonderful characters and so much heart. One of my favorites of 2022.
Alexis is a successful ER doctor in Minneapolis, obligated to carry on her family’s medical legacy. Daniel is a struggling innkeeper, shouldering his own family’s legacy in the small town of Wakan. A chance encounter leads to an unexpected connection that Alexis knows can’t last, but she and Daniel are drawn to one another.
Soon, she’s returning to Daniel and Wakan, where the small community welcomes her in ways no one ever has. But a lifetime of obligation and relentless pressure make this a forbidden love; their worlds are simply not compatible. Both the community and Alexis and Daniel’s enjoyment of one another make this a delight; if you’re into Hallmark Christmas movies (and this is VERY in that vein–without the Christmas), this is for you.
I have to say, Unlikely Animals is one of my favorite weird reads ever. Collectively narrated by the gossipy…residents?…of a local cemetery, the focus of this story is the Starling family. Emma has returned to New Hampshire from California, back because her father, Clive, is dying of a brain disease. Clive is hallucinating animal friends and ghosts who keep him company, and is obsessed with finding Emma’s former best friend, Crystal, who has disappeared.
On top of all this, Emma also has a touch of magic about her–the ability to heal small things. Between the magic, the ghosts, the visions, and the graveyard gossips, there’s a lot of levity here, mixed with very real crises of drugs, disease, and the disappearance of a young woman. Despite these dark themes, it’s not a spoiler to say that this had one of the most delightful endings in recent memory.
Killers of a Certain Age
Author & Narrator: Deanna Raybourn
Publish Date: 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery & Thriller
Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have been assassins for the Museum forty years, hunting Nazis and the world’s most evil people. But on a cruise to mark their retirement, they realize that they are now the targets. Using their lifetime of old-fashioned experience, they have to turn the tables on their own employers in order to survive.
A book about assassins may seem a strange choice for a feel-good books list, but the outrageous storyline, the thrilling adventure of 60+ year-old assassins taking down bad guys, and the satisfying premise (how can you not cheer for Nazi hunters?) all made this an irresistible fast-paced, light, and funny thriller.
Finlay Donovan Is Killing It
Author: Elle Cosimano
Publish Date: 2021
Genres: Fiction, Mysteries & Thrillers
Author Finlay Donovan is struggling. Her book isn’t finished, she needs to make some money, and her ex-husband is threatening to sue for full custody of her kids. When she’s mistaken for a contract killer while discussing her book with her agent, she finds herself in the path of the local mob, hiding a dead body, dodging the police, and stealing the too-weird-to-be-true events for her novel.
I don’t typically rate a book like this five stars, but it was just so absurd, so fun and funny that I couldn’t put it down and loved every minute. This is the first in a series–grab the others as well!
Dani Brown is a PhD student bent on academic success–and on staying single. When security guard (and former famous rugby star) Zaf rescues Dani during a firedrill, they are quickly memed as couple goals. It’s embarrassing, but Zaf also sees a chance to get publicity for his children’s sports charity–and spend time with Dani. Dani agrees to play along and soon their fake relationship doesn’t feel so fake.
This is the second in Hibbert’s Brown sister trilogy, and Dani and Zaf are just as charming as Red and Chloe were in Get a Life, Chloe Brown. It’s a sweet, steamy, feel-good romance, perfect for summer reading.
Andrew’s job takes him into the homes of people who have recently died alone, searching for their next-of-kin (or money for a funeral). He has cultivated a lie to his coworkers that he has a wife, a family, and a home. In reality, he is actually alone, nursing old hurts and losses.
When a new coworker joins him on his outings, he sees the potential for friendship and a less lonely life. (Also titled “Something to Live For” in some stores.) A heartwarming tale for anyone who loves reading about an unlikely friendship.
Harriet and Wyn were the perfect couple. When they both arrive at their friend’s beloved vacation home and learn it will be sold, they know they can’t tell their dear friends they broke up five months ago. Harriet’s “happy place” has turned into one of deep discomfort, but she needs this one last trip, and she’s sure everyone else does, too.
As they white-knuckle through their lie, their chemistry–and Harriet’s confusion over their sudden breakup–leads to cracks in the facade. Emily Henry’s romance novels feature relatable characters and earnestness that feels like a warm hug. Anyone with lifelong friends and a meaningful “happy place” will love this.
English librarian Nina Redmond has lost her job–and the world of libraries is changing in ways she doesn’t like. Ready for new beginnings, she decides to buy a van and start a roving bookstore in the Scottish Highlands.
This cozy book about books is filled with charming characters, sweet romance, lots of book love, and a setting so vivid you can almost smell the fresh air. Try the audio version if you love a light story about books and enjoy a good Scottish brogue.
Crazy Rich Asians is a funny, voyeuristic look at the lives of a group of wealthy families in Singapore–crazy rich, and sometimes just crazy. The news that one of their own is marrying Rachel, an American of modest background, causes an uproar in this high society.
The fabulous tour of Singapore and inside peek at the filthy rich is by turns shocking, amusing, and an excellent balance of light and smart. The movie adaptation is worth watching as well!
The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club
Author: Faith Hogan
Publish Date: 2021
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Elizabeth and Jo are friends who live in a small town on Ireland’s west coast. When Elizabeth’s physician husband dies and leaves her with a mountain of debt, Jo asks her daughter, Lucy, to take over his surgery while Elizabeth sorts things out. Lucy arrives from Dublin with her teen son and seems in need of healing herself. Jo lets the two in on her secret: midnight plunges in the ocean bring peace.
As the three try to sort out their lives, the midnight swims become central–and become a community rallying point when Jo has her own challenges to face. A charming, heartwarming story, filled with wonderful friendships.
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
Author: Lori Nelson Spielman
Publish Date: 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
When Emilia’s great-aunt Poppy invites her and her cousin Lucy on a trip to Italy, the 29-year-old’s quiet life is shaken up. Poppy has promised to break the “curse” that’s kept all second-born daughters in the family from marrying.
As they travel, Emilia discovers secrets about her family, her aunt, and herself that will change her life forever. This lovely read is charming and escapist, with an undeniably dreamy Italian setting that’s sure to lift your spirits.