Top 10: Feel Good Books

Of late, I’ve been asked a number of times for book recommendations from people who are going through difficult times: facing serious illness or bereavement. They are looking for books that will lift their spirits. When it comes to literary fiction these are surprisingly thin on the ground. But here are ten that never fail to make me feel better.

The Humans by Matt Haig

An alien from an advanced race comes to earth and lives for a while in the body of a human. A delightful portrait of the absurdity of being human, as well as the wonderful parts, like love, and connection.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The story of a disastrous affair between a Hollywood actor and his rejected paramour somehow manages to be something deeply touching.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

The heartwarming story of an ordinary young woman, making important changes to her own life, in the face of a changing world.


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman’s ridiculous attempt to find the perfect wife using statistics makes for lots of laugh-out-loud moments in this light-hearted rom-com.

The Rich Part of Life by Jim Kokoris

Perhaps my favourite feel-good book of all-time and one I’ve reread several times, and bought as a gift for others. When Teddy and his family win the lottery, it teaches them many lessons about what really matters in life.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

A book of letters to agony aunt ‘dear Sugar’ and her responses. Covering issues from the trivial to the heartbreaking it is funny, warm, inspiring and life-affirming.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

A small boy comes to terms with his father’s death in 9/11. Quirky and uplifting.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Who knew a nervous breakdown could be so funny? Semple writes about coping (or failing to cope) with life’s challenges with such insight, warmth and humour, bringing levity to a potentially dark subject.

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

Alex Li just can’t get his shit together! His attempts to are incredibly endearing and also amusing.

Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama

I find the Dalai Lama to be one of the most compassionate and inspiring people I’ve ever encountered. Whether or not you have any interest in Buddhism, his autobiography is a wonderful read.

Your turn:  What are your favourite feel-good books? Are there any from my list that resonate with you?

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5 thoughts on “Top 10: Feel Good Books”

  1. You’re right, they are hard to find. I’ve read two of those you list here – the Simsion and Foer. I agree re Simsion, and the Foer though it’s been a long time since I read that one. Brooke Davis’ Lost and found also fills the bill even though its subject is loss and grief.

    Another one that I read quite a long time ago is Kent Haruf’s Plainsong. It’s a book that every time I think of it, I feel warm even though I really don’t remember the plot or the characters anymore!

    And, of course, there’s always Pride and prejudice. What can be more feel good than Lizzie and Darcy getting together!

    1. I didn’t even consider the classics but Pride and Prejudice is a great thought – Anne of Green Gables is a feel-good book for me too.

      Someone on Twitter also mentioned Kent Haruf which I found surprising because I imagined his books to be rather gloomy.

  2. I agree, ‘The Rosie Effect’ is an uplifting book, and ‘Plainsong’ by Kent Haruf makes you ‘feel-good’, as Sue says. Another one I’d add is Mao’s Last Dancer—it shows the power of determination and optimism. There’s so many more titles I could add here that have given me a lift just when I needed it, including a few well-written romances—sometimes it’s just nice to escape for a while knowing there’s always a happy ending.

    1. That’s three votes for Haruf’s Plainsong – I definitely have to check that out. I have never read mao’s Last dancer – it sounds like an incredible story.

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