17 of the best feel-good books

·6-min read
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping

I don't know about you but after the difficult 18 months we've had the books I'm really wanting to read are the ones that lift my spirits and warm my heart. I read more than ever. Grabbing my book and knowing I can escape what's going on in the real world for an hour or so has been sanity saving.

The books I'm wanting to read right aren't suspenseful thrillers or dramas about dysfunctional families. Instead what I'm craving are funny, charming stories where I know nothing too bad will happen and where I'm guaranteed a happy ending.

If you're in need of a pick me up (and, quite frankly, who isn't?), these feel-good reads will put a smile on your face.

Photo credit: Macmillan
Photo credit: Macmillan

Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce

If you loved Dear Mrs Bird, you’ll be delighted that there’s a sequel to the story of plucky trainee journalist Emmy. In this new book we’re thrown back into Blitz-torn London where Emmy uncovers a story about a munitions factory where women are being exploited. Just as filled with humour, heart and poignancy as its prequel.

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Photo credit: Simon & Schuster
Photo credit: Simon & Schuster

The World at My Feet by Catherine Isaac

Ellie is an Instagram gardening influencer with 56.6k followers – but what they don’t realise is that she secretly suffers from agoraphobia and lives in a cottage at the bottom of her parents’ garden. Told She’s such a relatable character that you can’t help but want well for her and I was genuinely shocked when the reason for her struggles was revealed. The ending moved me to tears.

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Photo credit: Quercus
Photo credit: Quercus

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

If you enjoyed The Flatshare, you’ll love this new novel from the same author. This story has everything you want to lift your spirits: laughs, romance and lovely characters you connect with emotionally. After high-flyer Leena is forced to take a sabbatical from work, she and her 79-year-old grandmother Eileen decide to swap lives. As Leena struggles to fit in with small village life, Eileen tries online dating in London.

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Photo credit: HarperCollins
Photo credit: HarperCollins

Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

The success of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine has blazed a trail for books about offbeat characters, and this is one of the best I’ve read. Missy is approaching 80 and is lonely, until a chance encounter. A joyful read about the power of people in saving each other.

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Photo credit: Bantam
Photo credit: Bantam

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

This story of six strangers all drawn together by a notebook in which people share their secret thoughts and feelings is a lovely read. When Monica finds a notebook in her café, she discovers inside it the story of neighbour Julian, a once-famous artist who is grieving his late wife. A reminder of the importance of friendship and reaching out to others.

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Photo credit: Sphere
Photo credit: Sphere

Days Of Wonder by Keith Stuart

Once in a while, along comes a book that genuinely touches you. Days of Wonder is a bittersweet novel about a single dad and his daughter, Hannah, that made me laugh and cry in turn. Every year theatre manager, Tom, puts on a special performance for Hannah, who has a life-limiting heart condition, but as her health deteriorates and the theatre comes under threat from developers, the pressure is on him to pull off something very special. With a cast of wonderful, believable characters, this is magical story about love, hope and not giving in.

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Photo credit: Orion
Photo credit: Orion

The Lido by Libby Page

86-year-old Rosemary and 26-year-old Kate are united by their campaign to save a local swimming pool. Libby Page’s debut is heart-warming story about friendship, community and the power of believing in yourself.

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Photo credit: Trapeze
Photo credit: Trapeze

Five Steps To Happy by Ella Dove

Five Steps To Happy is the page turning debut novel by GH feature writer Ella Dove. The story of how actress Heidi has to find a new future after a life-changing accident is based on Ella's own experience. Lovely writing and engaging characters.

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Photo credit: Quercus
Photo credit: Quercus

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

I love the idea behind this clever rom-com: Tiffy and Leon share a flat – and a bed – but have never met as she works days as an editor and he works nights as a nurse. It’s funny and charming but there are moments of real poignancy, too. Guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.

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Photo credit: Picador
Photo credit: Picador

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

In wartime London, Emmy dreams of being a lady war correspondent but instead finds herself typing up the agony aunt page column at Woman’s Friend, where she can’t help but add her own advice. This charming, joyous debut is a love-letter to female friendship and the Blitz spirit. A warm hug in book form.

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Photo credit: Two Roads
Photo credit: Two Roads

The Keeper Of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

In this charming novel a celebrated writer spends years collecting lost objects and trying to reconnect them with their owners. On his death, he leaves it all to his assistant to carry on his work.

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Photo credit: Penguin
Photo credit: Penguin

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Funny, charming and heart-warming, this debut is a gem of a novel about a rather awkward university professor’s search for love. I loved this unconventional romance and although its sequels don't quite match the original, they're worth a read too.

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Photo credit: Black Swan
Photo credit: Black Swan

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

One morning Harold sets out to post a letter and begins a journey that will change his life. There are moments that are unbearably moving but ultimately it's an uplifting, big-hearted read.

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Photo credit: Black Swan
Photo credit: Black Swan

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson

This comic memoir of Bryson's misadventures as he and a friend attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail is so funny it will make your stomach ache from laughing! At a time when we can't get out into nature ourselves, this is the next best thing.

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Photo credit: W&N
Photo credit: W&N

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Told through a series of emails and documents, this is the story of Bee and her madcap mum, who goes missing on a trip to Antarctica. Maria Semple’s novel is hilarious, hugely enjoyable – and truly original.

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Photo credit: Abacus
Photo credit: Abacus

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

A bookseller who prescribes novels to his troubled customers – but can’t heal his own heartbreak – is the hero of this wonderful novella. It was a huge hit across Europe and is a must-read for anyone who believes in the transformative power of books.

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Photo credit: Penguin
Photo credit: Penguin

One Thousand Stars And You by Isabelle Broom

A trip to Sri Lanka is Alice's last hurrah before she settles down to a life of domesticity with soon-to-be-husband, Richard. There she meets Max, a veteran recovering from a traumatic injury and soon has to make some very difficult decisions. The will-they-won't-they romance is really well done but it's the gorgeous descriptions of Sri Lanka that I especially loved.

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Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

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