just plain rambling

Happy or Uplifting Reads? Asking for a friend... sort of

There’s an email from a friend in my inbox, looking for books that are “happy or uplifting,” for someone recovering from major surgery. I sent a list that I know left me feeling happy & uplifted, but not everyone has the same taste (for starters, presumably not everyone needs every book to be describable as “quirky”), so I asked my friend if I might post something to my blog, to see what others might suggest.

She said yes and then… and then the post languished in my drafts folder for almost a year.

So, I don’t even know if my friend’s friend is still in need of some uplifting reading (I truly hope that she has recovered by now), but I know I am. Who isn’t, really? Here’s my list, what would you add?

Synopsis: Curmudgeonly bookseller sees his life changed (for the better) after someone leaves something very important behind in his store. Quirky, loveable, flawed characters, and a story line that keeps you guessing until the end about whether or not it’s going to keep you guessing. A bit of mortality & sadness, but with a treatment that doesn’t leave you hopeless (or emotionally beat-up).

I LOVED this book. Here’s what I said about it on Goodreads:

I am going to read this book again. I am going to read it to read the beginning already knowing the ending. And then I am going to read it to take it apart, look at all the pieces, and figure out why I like it so much. And somewhere in there I’m going to see if my book club will read it, because I so much want to talk about it.

This brings quirky to a whole new level. Friends who have read it have either loved it (I did), or just didn’t get into it (which I can understand, it’s odd). But a delightful read, if you DO get into it. And while not a sequel, I just finished The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden which I’d say is the same brand of quirk, and worth a look if you liked 100 Year-Old Man, but I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy it as much.

I don’t know how to describe this one without using the word “quirky” again. How about, “genetics professor with a touch of Asperger’s decides to take a scientific approach to finding a wife, but abandons the project to help someone he meets, even though she’s clearly not wife material.” You can kinda see where this is going, but it takes some twists and turns along the way. Has the advantage that, if you like it, there’s a sequel, The Rosie Effect. Again, worth a look if you enjoy The Rosie Project, although I didn’t quite like it as much. (Hmmm… a trend. I think I need to write a post pondering the sequel question.)

A story told in letters between an author in London and an unlikely reader in the island of Guernsey during Nazi occupation. You wouldn’t usually considering something with Nazis in it to be “light”, but that’s really just the backdrop, so don’t let that deter you. Full disclosure: I didn’t love this book as much as I expected to, for reasons that I couldn’t explain without revealing the ending, but many, many people loved it, and definitely uplifting and hopeful.

Charing Cross Road

Another one that just occurred to me is Charing Cross Road. It has some similarities with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, in that it’s told in letters (this time between an American author and a bookseller in London). And, again like Guernsey, I didn’t like it as much as I expected to. A major difference, however, is this one is NON-fiction. They are actual letters from an actual human being. When I discovered this, I saw the book totally differently, and liked it better. I wish I’d realized it before I started reading!

Come Thou, Tortoise

Back to quirky again. From the Goodreads description: “A delightfully offbeat story that features an opinionated tortoise and an IQ-challenged narrator who find themselves in the middle of a life-changing mystery.” I first read this just before boarding a plane (an airport bookstore find, helped along by the Goodreads barcode scanner and Allison‘s reviews), when you read the opening scenes you’ll see why this added to my enjoyment. But this is not a prerequisite to enjoying the book.

Where’d You Go Bernadette

I’m going to steal from Goodreads again: “Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.” I really enjoyed this, no heavy stuff, although I think the plot faltered a bit near the end. Still a fun read, not too heavy.

Over to you…


  1. I find as I get older that I’m less and less interested in sad books. A good cry is always cathartic but in general I’m looking for peppy and upbeat in my reading now, too.

    Love all your choices here. My favourite go-to when I need a laugh is an oldie – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos. Some other gently positive titles are This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia (you should RUN out and get it, everyone I’ve loaned it to loved it) and lots of titles by Alexander McCall Smith, who writes very gentle mysteries, like even quieter Agatha Christie novels.

    1. Thanks Lynn! I didn’t even know Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a novel – I’m going to assume it was the basis of the Marilyn Munroe movie (at least, I think there was a movie…). This Must Be The Place sounds quite intriguing – have added to my GoodReads list. And I’m trying to remember if I’ve read Alexander McCall Smith… I want to say I picked something up after hearing an interview with… Eleanor Wachtel? Sheila Rogers? Anyhow, will definitely poke around there. Thanks!!

      1. P.S. Yes! The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency! I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it, but the series just fell off the radar. ‘Twas the days before GoodReads I think ;).

  2. One that I recall really enjoying – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal … by Christopher Moore … I think it qualifies as quirky too …

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