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When you’re in the mood for a heartwarming book to read, try this list of uplifting novels that are sure to boost your mood. Feel-good books are the perfect escape when you just need an infusion of happiness in your life. Some of these books will make you laugh, while others will just give you the warm fuzzies. Read on for the list!
Raise your hand if you’ve had moments when you’ve struggled to find hope or happiness these past few years?
We’ve been stuck at home, worrying about disease, racial injustice, politics, climate change, natural disasters, the economy…and on and on. Just about everyone I’ve spoken to has struggled at some point.
When it just gets to be too much, there is one place I turn for a quick pick-me-up:
The dogs of the internet.
There is nothing that gives me a quick boost of serotonin than a goofy photo or video of a dog filled with pure joy and unreserved enthusiasm for life.
Bonus if it’s perfectly captioned with the dog’s internal commentary.
(I am also in favor of unlikely animal friendships, cats, and babies and their dog friends. SEND THEM ALL.)
Related: 8 Heartwarming Books for Dog Lovers
But as much joy as I get from dogs online, the joy is fleeting, and it doesn’t help if I’m immersing myself in other media that’s relentlessly bleak.
That’s a big reason I’ve gone light in 2021 for the More Joy, Less Stress reading challenge (go grab your free printables to follow along!). One of the categories this year is heartwarming, uplifting books–something many of us could use more of in our lives.
If you tend to read serious fiction, it can be easy to stay in that lane and never veer toward lighter fare. In some ways, it makes sense: you want to use your reading time wisely, and there are so many “important” books to read.
But heartwarming books and lighter reads and can be delightful palate cleansers that provide a small burst of energy and hope amid the heavier stories.
Heartwarming novels are the goofy dog videos that interrupt an afternoon of doom-scrolling–but for our reading lives, and with more staying power.
So when you’re next in need of a feel-good book, try one of the heartwarming novels on this list that are sure to give you a dose of hope and happiness.
Heartwarming Books for When You Need an Uplifting Read
Author: Talia Hibbert
Chloe Brown has made a list of things to do to get a life. After years of tucking herself away, dealing with chronic pain, she wants to get out there again–take risks, have some fun. The first step is getting her own place, and befriending the burly superintendent there is NOT on her list.
Red is not so fond of Chloe either, but he’s also intrigued. This, of course, is a rom-com, so the path from dislike to banter to romance is predictable, but it’s also sweet, funny, and uplifting. Both Chloe and Red have past hurts and issues that they’re dealing with, and they support one another so well. Both work hard to be their best selves, and to “fill in the gaps” for each other.
This was my choice for the reading challenge, and it’s a great choice if you want a book that will make you happy! (Note that this is very open-door and steamy, so skip it if that’s not your thing.)
Author: Linda Holmes
On the verge of leaving her husband, Evvie Drake gets word that he has died in an accident. In a confusing swirl of regret, grief, and anger, she struggles to move on.
Her best friend Andy introduces Dean, a professional baseball player recently sidelined. He needs some downtime and an escape from the spotlight, and she needs to pay the bills.
Delightful and charming, but also realistic. The romance wasn’t instant, but hard-won as Evvie and Dean each worked through their difficulties. Wonderfully narrated by Julia Whelan (my favorite audiobook narrator).
Author: Morgan Rogers
Grace Porter has finished her PhD in astronomy and is ready to move into her successful career. But her field doesn’t seem quite as ready to welcome her–a biracial lesbian–into the fold.
When she wakes up in Vegas–married–she has dim memories of the night, the girl, and the magic. Thrown into crisis, she decides to take a break and find the girl–and maybe herself.
There is a lovely romance in this book, but the love stories that truly shine are between Grace and her friends. Even with this support system, she–and all of them–need to face the things everyone does: loneliness, confusion, identity, mental health, and finding their path.
Author: TJ Klune
Linus Baker is a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, and Extremely Upper Management has just tasked him with visiting an orphanage on a remote island–filled with children who have terrifying abilities. Charged with determining whether the children are being properly cared for, Linus is scared. But he has a job to do, and he will do it well–even in the face of the Antichrist.
This magical book took me a while to get into–it is pretty over-the-top and out of my wheelhouse–but eventually the charm took hold. It has a wonderful message of acceptance and creating family, and it was also quite funny. Pick it up when you’re in the mood for something really different that’s sure to make you smile.
Author: Rebecca Serle
Dannie Cohen–a successful lawyer who’s just gotten engaged–is rocked when she awakes in a different apartment, with a man she doesn’t know. She’s five years in the future and can’t imagine how she got there.
And then she wakes and is back. But she can’t shake the feeling that she’s on a collision course with that vision of the future. She tries to move forward and does–until she meets the man from her vision.
This is a love story, but not in the way you expect. Note that it may be a little sad if you want pure happy reading, but it has great characters and relationships; I couldn’t stop listening.
Author: Casey McQuiston
In a fictional White House family, Alex is a golden boy with eyes on a future in politics. He has a quiet rivalry/fascination with prince Henry of Wales that usually has little effect on his life–until a tense encounter forces them into a false PR campaign highlighting their “close friendship.” The two grudgingly go along, until their smart banter turns to real friendship–and then to more. The unrelenting spotlight and the difficulties of two political worlds don’t make their romance easy.
This was a fun audiobook listen with sweet romance (it’s a little steamy), witty banter, and insider-y political maneuverings. A great choice if you’re looking for an uplifting romance.
Author: Abbi Waxman
Lilian Girvan is still grieving her husband, who died in a car accident three years ago. Her life is full with her two young daughters, her job as an illustrator, and her sister, who helps keep everything on track.
When her job requires her to take a gardening class to illustrate a book, she thinks it will be a fun activity for all of them. She doesn’t count on a class full of quirky people who become unlikely friends–and an intriguing instructor who makes her wonder if she might be ready to date again.
This audiobook hit my sweet spot for audio fiction–light, easy to listen to, a little funny, and a fast-moving story.
Author: Clare Pooley
When elderly Julian Jessop leaves a notebook in Monica’s cafe, she is intrigued by the question inside: “What would happen if you shared the truth?”
So begins the notebook’s journey through six strangers, each examining their truths and finally coming together to form unlikely friendships.
Filled with quirky characters and lovely connections, this is a little bit rom-com but more of a feel-good story that’s the perfect comfort read (or listen).
Author: Jandy Nelson
The story of twins Jude and Noah, who are inseparable in childhood but barely speaking as teens. Noah is sensitive, artistic, and in love with the boy next door, while Jude is outgoing and a little wild. Alternating narratives slowly unfold the story of how they were divided–and their attempts to come back to one another.
A beautiful, imaginative YA novel that is also a great read for adults. It’s not as light as many of the books on this list, but it is emotionally resonant and the relationships here will stay with you for a long time.
Related: 17 Books About Sibling Relationships
Author: Matt Haig
Nora Seed is ready to end her life–she sees nothing good ahead and only looks back with regret on the paths not taken. But before that decision can be made final, Nora finds herself in a library–one unlike any other.
In this library, Nora can open any book and explore those untaken paths. What would her life have been if she had been a champion swimmer? A rockstar? If she’d married her ex? As she explores the possibilities, she must decide: will she choose one of these alternate lives, go back to her own life, or end it altogether?
I loved this highly imaginative exploration of the “what ifs” we all occasionally contemplate, and the questions raised by this deep-dive into them.
Author: Rebecca Makkai
Ten-year-old Ian is a bookworm who young librarian Lucy Hull helps smuggle books past his overbearing mother. He also might be gay, much to the horror of his parents, who have sent him to anti-gay classes with Pastor Bob. When he shows up after hours at the library with a plan to run, Lucy suddenly finds herself an unwitting kidnapper, driving Ian halfway across the country with a half-formed plan to save him.
Moral questions and gray areas abound and aren’t always satisfactorily resolved, which may frustrate some readers, but the point here is less about moralizing than it is about having the courage to save yourself. Also a great choice if you love books about books.
Author: Hazel Prior
Ellie is a housewife in the English town of Exmoor. She’s a little lonely and bored, and one day on a walk, she stumbles on a barn. In the barn is Dan, a talented harp maker. Sensing her discontent, Dan gifts Ellie with a harp. When her controlling husband protests, Ellie begins visiting in secret to practice on her harp.
Dan and Ellie strike up a friendship that becomes increasingly important to both of them. When Ellie discovers a secret that changes Dan’s life, her own secret is also in jeopardy.
This is an utterly charming book, and fantastic on audio. Dan is endearing–he’s likely on the spectrum–and his narrator is perfect.
Author: Beth Morrey
Missy Carmichael is lonely and full of regret. At 79, she spends her days alone in her big old house in England, nursing sherry and past hurts, and missing her son and grandson in Australia, and her estranged daughter. When Sylvie and Angela, along with Angela’s young son, push their way into Missy’s life, she is both hesitant and hopeful. And when a dog is brought into the mix, she gets more than she bargained for.
Readers who liked A Man Called Ove will enjoy Missy Carmichael. The circumstances and voices are different, but the heartwarming and unlikely friendships feel much the same. This is delightful on audio; Angela’s raw bluntness alongside Missy’s genteel fussiness occasionally made me laugh out loud.
Author: Laurie Frankel
Rosie and Penn are raising a loud, unique family of five boys. From science to stories to knitting to costumes, the family is full of quirks that are embraced and nurtured.
So when 5-year-old Claude declares that he wants to be a girl, his parents support him. Soon Claude has become Poppy, a girl to all outside the family and accepted as one within his family. But secrets weigh heavy, time can’t be slowed, and the safety of childhood and family can’t shield Poppy from difficult future decisions and the outside world forever.
I loved this story of imperfect parents whose hardest lesson isn’t accepting a child who is different, but accepting that facing the difficulties and fears is sometimes the best way to be supportive.
Author: Madeline Ffitch
Helen arrives in Appalachia with her boyfriend, full of dreams of living off the land. It goes south quickly and he leaves while she sticks it out. Her neighbors, a couple named Karen and Lily, are expecting a child and need to move, so Helen invites them to live on and share ownership of her land.
Bent on being independent, together, the three women and the little boy, Perley, build a house, devise systems for surviving, and negotiate their relationships with one another. But soon the outside world begins encroaching on their lives in ways they didn’t expect.
This book is a little grittier than many on this list, but it combines so many themes: the families we create, living off the land, life in Appalachia and poverty, and rugged femininity, all told in multiple riveting voices.
What are your favorite heartwarming, happy books to read? (Note that I will also accept animal photos and videos!)