These are strange times. Across the world people are working from home, distancing themselves, avoiding travel, and trying to safeguard their loved ones.
We’re all trying to do our bit to keep each other healthy and minimise risk, but it’s a worrying, stressful time for a lot of people.
Which is why I wanted to recommend some cosy/comforting, sweet, and uplifting books that will hopefully bring a smile to your face and a little positivity to this period of uncertainty.
Most of these books are pretty heart-warming and fun, but some do have a few dark themes, so I’ll try and list them in the content warmings (CWs) in case you want to avoid them.
Gentle and fun, this YA contemporary is about food, school, and working out what you want to do in the future.
Jack and Pepper’s families run rival food companies, and it’s all smooth sailing until they start a Twitter war over a sandwich. They begin growing closer in real life, but they still don’t know they’re fighting each other online.
This contemporary has witty, fun dialogue and a cute ending that will bring you some cheer.
The Paper and Hearts Society
This is such a sweet YA novel that involves books, doughnuts, and dancing.
When Tilly moves in with her gran, she makes a new group of friends and ends up going on a literary road trip with them. While on the road, they learn things about themselves and each other that ultimately strengthens their friendship for good.
CWs: Bullying and emotional manipulation/gaslighting.
Everything Leads to You
I recently read Everything Leads to You for the first time and I’m pretty sure I described it as a sunset that makes you realise how vast and beautiful the world is.
And I stand by that. Every time I imagine a scene in this book, I imagine them awash with sunset colours. With those colours comes a comforting warmth that’s ideal for a time of stress or worry. I loved this book and
CWs: Homophobia, rejection from an adopted parent, drug abuse, drug overdose, death of a parent.
My So-Called Bollywood Life
This book has so much heart and many endearing romantic scenes. Our main character Winnie is an ambitious and energetic film fan who loves Bollywood movies and wants to go to film school.
Her and her boyfriend’s love was supposedly written in the stars, but when he cheats on her and is then made chair of the student film festival (a position she was aiming for), she has to carve out a new path for herself.
This book is a great diverse read and even comes with a list of Bollywood film recommendations.
CWs: Infidelity, racial profiling, suggestions of stalking.
I was Born for This
This is a cute and uplifting story, exploring fan culture, friendships, and how fame affects young people. It explores human connections with integrity, curiosity and discernment, and I think that’s why it’s so cosy.
There’s very little romance in the story, but there’s so much platonic love between characters. Angel, Jimmy, and Rowan say ‘I love you’ often, and it’s doesn’t hold any less power or meaning, for being platonic rather than romantic.
CWs: Panic attacks, anxiety, Islamaphobia, racism.
Fundamentally, this is a novel about revolution; teenage girls in a small-town high school begin learning how their voices can help them unite against injustice.
It shows feminism as a positive force for good, and illustrates how the movement can be used to change lives.
Moxie is far more than just your average high school coming-of-age story, it’s a coming of agency and a coming of ardour. And it’s such a feel-good, uplifting book.
Red White & Royal Blue
I couldn’t write a list of sweet, uplifting books without including RWRB.
It’s such a feel-good book, funny contemporary that’s pretty much guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. It made be burst out laughing more than any other book in recent memory and I had so much genuine fun reading it.
It’s an ideal pick for anyone who needs a bit of a boost in the form of light-hearted banter and romantic tension.
CWs: Homophobia, absentee parent.
Sci-fi and fantasy
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
This is one of my all-time favourite fantasy books and despite some dark scenes, I do find it an uplifting read.
I think it’s the fact that many of the characters come together and unify to fight the evil that’s brewing. But it’s definitely also the fact that a young woman discovers who she truly is. We love a good hidden identity plot twist.
CWs: Violence, on-page death.
Sabriel, the book, is filled with a calm, quiet courage that makes you feel at home in the fantastical lands of the story.
This calm quiet courage comes from Sabriel, the character, who is easy-going and never complains about the trials she has to undertake. Her resourcefulness makes her immediately easy to like and desbite the magic drama and tense moments, there’s something very comforting abotu this book.
CWs: Disappearance of a parent, violence.
At its heart, this book is a sci-fi adventure of the finest kind. The blend of action and tender moments is spot on and the characters were joyously likable. There’s drama, tension, and jaw-droppingly good twists.
The moments with the crew on the ship have a very cosy feel, and the battle to save everyone makes this a feel-good read.
This book might seem like an odd choice for a list about uplifting reads, since it’s about dying. But it’s actually about what happens after death and the place that we go in ‘the end’.
The characters go to Elsewhere, a comforting ‘heaven-like’ place with good beaches and kind people. There, they gradually start to de-age backwards until they’re reborn again.
The discussions of grief and family, and acceptance of death are what make this book so (surprisingly) uplifting. You might have a small cry, but it’ll be the cathartic kind.
This is a collection of short queer stories, all written by LGBTQIA+ authors.
And my goodness are they feel-good. Each story has a positive message and a happy ending, which is exactly what a lot of people will want right now.
CWs: Bullying, transphobia, anxiety, depression, homophobia, violence, off-page death.
The Language of Thorns
I absolutely loved this short story collection. The prose is lyrical, enigmatic, and full of fairy tale wonder.
The stories are full of strong women, satisfying moral conclusions and, often, a happy romantic ending.
And the illustrations. Oh the illustrations. They’re nothing short of stunning. You could read this collection for those alone (but don’t because the stories are amazing).
Classics and literary fiction
I recently listened to Little Women on audio and wow, is it a cosy read. All those descriptions of them having Christmas dinner and sitting round the fire with each other. COSY.
The way each girl grows up and finds her path and happiness in life is good for the soul. Yes, there are trials and sadness, but the girls always try to see the positives, which is why this book made the list.
CWs: Death of a family member, sexism.
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado is probably my favourite of all Shakespeare’s plays. It’s just so damn funny.
Yes, a lot of the plot comes from miscommunication, which I’m not usually a fan of, but Beatrice and Benedick’s snappy dialogue makes up for it. A lot. Benedick preens and makes himself seem important and Beatrice just cuts him down with a few words.
There are some pretty tempestuous scenes in the climax, but there’s a happy, romantic ending for both couples. And I’m very much here for that right now.
CWs: Accusations of infidelity, (ye olde) sexism, misogyny, violence.
When I think of uplifting books, this is always the book that immediately comes to mind.
It’s the story of an Andalusian shepherd boy, Santiago, who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. While travelling, he meets many people who influence his journey.
Santiago doesn’t know what the treasure is, but he begins to realise that it may lie within, rather than being a physical thing.
I have a lot of love for this story; it’s powerful and shows the deep connections we form with other people. Definitely one to read if you want to feel a bit lighter spiritually and emotionally.
I read the first book in the Everyday Angel trilogy recently and it was the epitome of uplifting.
This book is about Aria, an angel who comes to earth to find her charge and help her through turbulent times. But Aria also learns things about herself and her gifts.
This is a lovely, heart-warming story with messages about family, friendship, and discovering what you enjoy.
CWs: Death, violence.
Tilly and the Book Wanderers
Ever wished you could jump into a book and join your favourite characters? Or that your favourites might come to life and step out of their novels?
Well that’s exactly what happens to Tilly, a young girl living above her grandparents’ bookshop. One day she discovers that characters are leaving their pages and joining her in the shop and is determined to find out why.
This book is a bibliophile’s dream. It perfectly conveys the humble magic of books and the joy they can bring.
Hopefully this list gives you a few recommendations of heart-warming, comforting, and uplifting books to read when things are stressful.
If you’re wondering why there aren’t many fantasy books mentioned here (especially since it’s my favourite genre), that’s because I have another post coming soon about escapist books to read in stressful times.
Let me know if you decide to pick any of the books on this list, and please share your recommendations for uplifting reads. What are your go-to books when you need a fun, light-hearted read?