As the wise and cheeky Brit comedian-actor-writer Stephen Fry once said, “Having a great intellect is no path to being happy.” Sometimes, the more you know, the more miserable you are, and if you’re in a funk, it might be healthier for you to put down that esoteric, existential, tragic novel you’ve been reading and pick up something like Bridget Jones’s Diary or anything by Jackie Collins (RIP). Something juicy and funny and romantic and uplifting — because who ever said good books have to be dark?
Some high-minded people might call these books “guilty pleasures,” but if it’s making you feel good and it’s not hurting anyone, what’s there to feel guilty about? Think about it.
If the shorter days and colder nights of fall are getting you down and you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not allowed to crack open a breezy beach read until the Summer Solstice, you might need to rethink your reading material. Ditch the Proust for a romantic novel or a book about a Dolly Parton-loving teen that challenges her own body image issues by entering a beauty pageant, and see if you don't feel just a tiny bit better.
Take your pick from these 12 books if you’re in the mood for something that’ll make you feel good, rather than something that'll make you feel deep and intellectual and depressed. Because, seriously, that might be fun when you’re a brooding preteen listening to Morrissey and writing angsty poems about leafless trees and rusted wheelbarrows or whatever, but when real life comes knocking, sometimes you just need to kick back and laugh.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Murphy’s new book is about Willowdean Dickson, a Texas teen who decides to enter the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant despite the fact that she’s not a Size 0 like the other girls. Her hero is Dolly Parton, not Taylor Swift. It’s a funny, relatable book about accepting yourself and accepting love, even if (especially if) you think you don’t deserve it. Any book that has Dolly Parton as its patron saint is guaranteed to make you feel better, and Dumplin’ delivers.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan
If you’re in the mood for a juicy romance set in Jamaica about a woman who meets a super-hottie and has a lot of life-changing sex, this one’s for you. You can picture a sunny Jamaican beach while you’re holed up in your apartment during a snowstorm this winter. Then go watch the movie version with Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs. He’s bare-chested for a lot of the movie, and his six-pack abs are on full display, so... you're welcome.
Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart
Shteyngart’s memoir made a ton of “best of” lists in 2014, and for good reason. It’s hilarious. He writes about his family emigrating to the U.S. from Russia, his young years as a misfit (aka a “little failure”), and his love of writing and reading. It’ll tug at your heart and then make you cry from laughing.
Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
Robbins’ surreal, funny love story will pull you out of a funk faster than you can say “Nor’easter.” The love story takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes, and, like most of his books, you really have to read it to understand what the hell it all means. It’s hard to read this one and not crack a smile.
Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
OK, this might not be a light a fluffy comedic caper. In fact, it might be one of the more serious books on the list. But it’s so beautifully written and, at times, humorous, it’ll at least distract you from whatever it is you’re brooding about. If you want to get lost in a book and tune out the world, check it out.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Maddy has a rare condition that keeps her from venturing outside. But when Olly moves in next door, her whole world is turned upside down and she learns the meaning of love, and risk, and taking chances. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be cured of your seasonal affective disorder.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bee goes on a quest to find her mom Bernadette, who has gone MIA, and the result is a smart, funny, satirical novel about mothers and daughters and family and identity. It’s whip-smart and you’ll probably devour it in a weekend.
The Sweet Valley High Series by Francine Pascal
None of the books on this list are fluffy (far from it) except maybe Sweet Valley High. And that’s OK! Maybe you just want to lose yourself in the ridiculous lives of good twin Elizabeth and bad twin Jessica for a few hours. I say go for it.
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Next to Sweet Valley High, this is probably the most… bubbly book on the list. Its has sex, scandal, drugs, fame, fortune! It’s like a retro Sex and the City or Girls with lots and lots of pill-popping. Be sure to check out the movie version. too.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
This children’s classic is a good one to revisit for a quick escape. Who says you have to be in elementary school to read it?
Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler
Comedian/actress/host Tyler was a self-proclaimed nerd growing up, and her very funny memoir is all about embracing what makes you different and letting your awkward flag fly. The subtitle is Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation, which most of us can relate to.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Kaling’s new memoir might just be better than her first. She talks about career, family, dating, juice cleanses, and the perils and perks of fame. It’s also inspiring. And entertaining. And, of course, extremely funny.
So clear your nightstand, put aside the philosophical texts and deep, dark poetry, and make room for Valley of the Dolls and Dumplin’. Because sometimes it’s smarter to read a book that makes you feel good than a book that makes you ask questions like, “What does it all mean?!” or “What is the meaning of life?!” These books will make you think, but they’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy while you're contemplating the deeper questions, like why is Jessica Wakefield such a bitch sometimes?