Readers, I’ve had a stack of hard-hitting literary fiction sitting on my nightstand—unread—for weeks. My brain is seriously rebelling at the thought of reading any heavy or serious books right now.
I’m in the mood for lighthearted, warm and cozy, bright and frothy reads. And I wholeheartedly believe in letting your mood dictate your reading choices. If I force myself to pick up one of my highly anticipated literary titles right now, I’m sure I won’t enjoy it as much, or give it the attention it deserves.
If, like me, you’re leaning towards the lighter side of your reading tastes lately, today’s list is for you. I’ve rounded up some of my very favorite feel-good books for when you need extra bookish delight in your life.
I love these books because while they feel light and easy, they have serious substance beneath the surface. Their themes leave me thinking long after the final page, and their characters remain memorable. These books are about people who are trying their best, who are loving one another even if they’re screwing it up sometimes, who make mistakes and get back up. And that sounds perfect to me, for right now.
This may be my favorite Liane Moriarty novel. Alice is 29, expecting her first child, and crazy in love with her husband—or at least she thinks she is, but then she bumps her head and wakes up on the gym floor, to find that she’s actually a 39-year-old mother of 3 who’s in the middle of divorcing the man she apparently hates. She doesn’t know what’s happened to her these past 10 years, or who she’s become. She’s about to find out. Interesting, readable, and surprisingly thought-provoking. I inhaled this in one sitting, but found myself mulling it over for weeks after I finished. More info →
Warmhearted and richly told, this story begins in tragedy: in the very first sentence, the reader learns that Kate lost her husband in a tragic accident. But in a plot I wouldn’t dare attempt to describe to you, Kate is able to get a glimpse of what her life becomes because of that loss—and it’s not all sorrow and heartbreak. Harmel uses her strange jumping-off point to explore how suffering shapes our lives in surprising and even hopeful ways. Don't worry: it's not at all depressing, and Harmel's a great storyteller. More info →
Center's novels are light and fun, but they run surprisingly deep, and are emotionally wise. Libby is attempting to rebuild her life, and that of her two kids, after her husband died in a car crash two years ago. But she's finally had enough of living with her crazy mother, and moves out to the Texas hill country to try out a new life on her crazy Aunt Jean's goat farm. This short and easy read has a familiar arc: girl in a mess, girl sees the light, girl finds happiness, yet its themes of family, forgiveness, and redemption make it worth your while. And this story is coming to the big screen this month, in a feature film starring Josh Duhamel and Leslie Bibb. More info →
De los Santos novels have all the characteristics of good binge reads: good storytelling, likable characters, and beautiful writing. Cornelia is a hopeless romantic, obsessed with the epic love stories portrayed in classic films, but floundering in her own life. Everything changes the day a Cary Grant look-alike walks through the door of the coffee shop she manages. Of course she falls for him, and strikes up an unlikely friendship with his 11-year-old daughter. Cornelia's family provides friendly, witty support as she navigates big transitions and tough decisions. More info →
After her family (or what's left of it) impulsively moves from California to Connecticut, Amy has to get her car cross-country. There's just one problem: because of a tragic accident, Amy doesn't drive. Enter Roger, an old family friend who volunteers to come along for the ride, and who is dealing with his own heartbreak. Before long, the two friends decide to ditch her mom's carefully-orchestrated route in favor of the scenic route, stopping to see familiar haunts, old loves, and plenty of small town America. Matson adds color to this sweet story with emails, receipts, and playlists galore. Be forewarned: this YA novel is sure to inspire wanderlust. More info →
This YA novel is a crowd-pleaser; it's one of the books I most often recommend. When a girl-next-door type suddenly finds herself in an elite California prep school, she has to figure out how to navigate this new privileged world while still grieving her mother's death. When she gets an email from an unidentified boy who calls himself "Somebody Nobody" offering to be her spirit guide to her new school, she doesn't want to say yes—but she really needs his help. A sweet and fun teen romance, but also a pitch-perfect portrayal of the grieving process. I couldn't stop myself from cheering for Jessie as she put her life together again. More info →
This sweet, bookish novel is perfect for those who dream of owning their own bookstore someday. When Nina's job as a British librarian is cut due to budget deficits, she takes a leap of faith and opens a bookmobile in a tiny Scottish town. The bookmobile and its treasures transforms one townsperson at a time and Nina's life is revitalized as well. Now that's the power of a good book! More info →
In this engaging coming-of-age story, we meet Jade, a 16-year-old African American girl struggling to navigate two worlds—that of her wealthy mostly-white high school, and the poorer neighborhood where she lives with her family. This is a nuanced but easy read about feeling out of place, coming into your own, and the perils of good intentions. I loved this one, and my tween girls did, too! More info →
I had a difficult time choosing which Jennifer E. Smith novel to choose, because they all feel like comfort reads to me. Alice doesn't believe in luck, at least not the good kind. But when she buys her friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday, she picks the good ones: 31 (Teddy's birthday). 9 (the number of years they've been friends). And for the Powerball number: 13 (the date both her parents died, 13 months apart, making her an orphan). That unlucky number wins him 140 million dollars. Teddy promises her the money won't change anything, but of course it does. A novel of love, family, fate, and Chicago, and one that you could read in the course of one happy afternoon. More info →
This is laugh out loud funny, tender, and written in a fresh voice, which you might not expect given the premise. Lilian's husband died in a car accident in front of their house four years ago and she hasn’t been quite ready to move on. Lili is no longer stuck in her grief, but she is in a rut, and generally okay with it: life with her daughters is enough. But when she's given a special project at work to illustrate a book about vegetables, she's signed up for their six-week garden class, introducing Lili (and the readers!) to a delightful cast of fellow gardeners. An unlikely community forms, and no one is quite the same by the time the class ends. More info →
"Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single, Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there's an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations were of secondary importance." How's this for a twist? In this utterly delightful P&P-inspired retelling, set in contemporary Toronto, Darcy becomes Khalid, a devout Muslim man whose mother is trying to marry him off. I loved the supporting cast featuring good friends, a cousin dreaming of a Bollywood-inspired wedding, an embarrassing mother, and a Shakespeare-quoting grandpa. If you're a P&P devotee, this is a delight. If you've never read the original, you can still enjoy this story about love, family, obligation, and romance. More info →
Aspiring ballerina Chloe Pierce dreams of attending a famous dance conservatory, but her protective mom forbids her from applying. When her mom is away on a trip, Chloe creates a secret plan to drive across the country to audition. What she doesn't plan for is her annoying neighbor Eli and his dog Geezer hitching a ride. With an upbeat soundtrack and determination, Chloe and Eli grow closer as they deal with obstacles on the road. The title comes from the famous Jackson 5 song, and Kristina Forest includes a fun playlist at the end of the book. It's the perfect thing to read on a sunny afternoon. If that's not enough to get you to pick it up, the blurbs from Nic Stone and Nina Lacour should help. More info →