Books are magical things that can transport us out of the very depths of despair and back into the bright places of the world. If you're in need of a pick-me-up, I have 15 uplifting books that will soothe your soul in dark times, because everyone deserves to be a little bit happy.
I have a confession to make: I don't often read feel-good books or watch feel-good movies. It's not that I don't want to be happy; I don't want to be made happy. I can't shake the feeling that a lot of the cheer is forced in inspirational books and movies, because I'm just cynical like that.
If you're like me, then you should know that the uplifting books I've picked out for you below are not sappy joy-fests. Each of them has some bitterness to temper the sweet. They acknowledge that, yeah, the world can be pretty terrible at times, which means you probably won't feel like throwing any of them against the wall because YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE, HAPPY BOOK!
Oh, just me? OK.
In all seriousness, although I'm a huge fan of reading sad books when I'm sad, there's something about a good, heartwarming story with a little bit of sadness. Check out the 15 uplifting books that I think will soothe your soul in dark times, and share your favorite non-sappy, happy books with me on Twitter!
1'Milk and Honey' by Rupi Kaur
A poetry book centered on healing, Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey has taken the Internet by storm. Kaur's minimalist poetry draws from her experiences in adolescence and young adulthood. Although many of these memories are horrific, Milk and Honey manages to draw out their silver linings.
2'Furiously Happy' by Jenny Lawson
Bloggess Jenny Lawson's second book, Furiously Happy, contains stories and snippets of her experience living with mental illness, told with her signature sense of humor. Seriously, just wait until you get to the part with the sharks and the urine and the Dilaudid. You'll thank me later.
3'Kitchens of the Great Midwest' by J. Ryan Stradal
Kitchens of the Great Midwest was one of the first books I picked up after a long reading slump, and I'm so glad I did. J. Ryan Stradal's debut novel unwinds over a series of events in the life of Eva Thorvald, the acclaimed chef responsible for elite pop-up dining experiences. It begins with Eva's father, Lars, and ends with the biggest and most important event she has done to date, but the real beauty is in the journey.
4'Texts from Jane Eyre' by Mallory Ortberg
You know how Tumblr posts with head-canon conversations between fandom characters are all the rage now on social media? Sure you do. Texts from Jane Eyre is like that. Mallory Ortberg's book is full of conversations between your favorite writers and characters that you will be bursting at the seams to share with your friends.
5'The Windfall' by Diksha Basu
After Mr. Jha receives an unexpected inheritance, he packs up his family and moves into an ultra-rich neighborhood, where he immediately sets out to blend in with his new neighbors. But being part of the nouveau-riche comes with its own set of problems, and the Jha family will have to sort out their priorities in this comedy of manners from Opening Night author Diksha Basu.
6'A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian' by Marina Lewycka
When their elderly immigrant father begins dating a much-younger woman, estranged sisters Vera and Nadezhda put aside their differences to join forces against her. While the daughters' effort to protect Nikolai from a suspected gold-digger turns up secrets from their family's Ukrainian past, he busies himself with the creation of his life's work: a complete history of tractors, written in Ukrainian.
7'The Great Passage' by Shion Miura
As aging dictionary editor Kohei Araki reaches retirement, he finds a friend and protege in Matsuya Majime, a young upstart collector and linguist. Together, the two men begin to work on bringing Araki's lifelong dream, a massive history of the Japanese language titled The Great Passage, to completion.
8'Goodbye, Vitamin' by Rachel Khong
When history professor Howard Young's dementia grows to be too much for his wife to bear alone, the couple summon their 30-year-old daughter Ruth home to help care for him. Fresh off the loss of a fiancé and a job, Ruth knows that this isn't the life she planned, but diving into the running of her parents' household might be exactly what she needs.
9'The Family Fang' by Kevin Wilson
Years after their parents involved them in their public performance art, the grown-up Annie and Buster Fang return home following career mishaps that have put them in poor health. When the older Fangs disappear, Annie and Buster must decide whether they can really stand life without their parents.
10'The Impossible Fortress' by Jason Rekulak
Billy Marvin wants two things in life: to own a copy of Vanna White's Playboy centerfold, and to become a video-game designer. While he and his friends flesh out a plan to get their underage hands on the girlie mag sold at the corner store, Billy befriends the store owner's daughter, Mary, who might just help him make his video-game dreams come true.
11'Mr Iyer Goes to War' by Ryan Lobo
In this retelling of Don Quixote set in modern-day India, the eponymous hero spends his nursing-home days reading sacred texts. When a concussion grants him a vision, Lalgudi Iyer awakens with a new understanding of his life: He is a reincarnation of the ancient hero Bhima, and he must vanquish the demon Bakasura.
12'The Nest' by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Shortly before the four Plumb siblings are scheduled to receive their large inheritance, the titular "Nest," big brother Leo Plumb gets into a drunken car accident with a young waitress, jeopardizing the money his brothers and sister have counted on to solve their own problems. When Melody, Jack, and Beatrice confront their brother, years of tension spill over and the little family must talk about what really matters.
13'Startup' by Doree Shafrir
A startup founder, a tech blogger, and a newly employed mother of two take center stage in this debut novel from BuzzFeed writer Doree Shafrir. When her search for a scoop scandalizes an up-and-coming mindfulness app, Katya and startup employee Sabrina have to uncover the truth behind the viral news story.
14'Rabbit Cake' by Annie Hartnett
After 12-year-old Elvis Babbitt's somnambulist mother drowns, the Alabama preteen launches a full-scale investigation into both her family's handling of the tragedy and the real story behind her mother's death.
15'The Book of Polly' by Kathy Hepinstall
Shortly after her husband dies, Polly Havens finds herself nearing 60 and unexpectedly pregnant with her third child. Unapologetically cantankerous, Polly raises her daughter Willow on her own. Years later, when Willow's fears about Polly's advanced age appear to be on the verge of coming true, she dives into her secretive mother's past for answers.