Most of the books I read are somewhat dark. I like murder mysteries, unlikable characters, complicated relationships, and unreliable protagonists. But sometimes, I need something light, something that will encourage me or make me smile. I’ve gravitated to more of these types of books over the past few years. (Maybe because of the global pandemic. Who’s to say?) If you’re looking for more books to uplift you, here are eight books for when you need some hope.
The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson
Maggie Banks is adrift and wondering what to do with her life, so when her best friend asks her to come to a small town called Bell River to manage her family’s indie bookstore for a while, Maggie says yes. However, when she gets there, Maggie realizes the bookstore is only allowed to sell classic books that most readers aren’t interested in anymore. She starts hosting secret author events and keeps a hidden inventory so the head of the literary society doesn’t stop her plans to diversify Bell River’s reading. The loveliest thing about this book is the community of characters who come together, enjoying all different types of literature and demanding change at the bookstore. Book lovers will feel warm and fuzzy inside after reading this contemporary gem.
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
Matt Haig is a prolific writer who’s open about his struggles with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. He’s written about those topics in Reasons to Stay Alive and The Midnight Library, but The Comfort Book is the most recent Haig book I’ve read, so I’m going with that one for this list. The Comfort Book is what it sounds like: a collection of lists and stories about comforting things. If you’re ever in a dark place and don’t have the strength to read a full-length book, this book would be great to flip through as a reminder about the goodness that awaits you in the world.
Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet
Like I said in my 2022 favorites post, Dinosaurs was a wonderful surprise. Gil is the protagonist, and the novel starts when he walks from New York to Arizona to start his life over after a devastating breakup. He moves in next door to a family and quickly gets involved in their lives, becoming their friend and mentor to their young son. Gil is independently wealthy, yet he’s consistently looking for ways to volunteer and give back. Lydia Millet deftly explores male friendship and tenderness, reminding readers how fragile but beautiful life can be.
I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer
I Hope This Finds You Well is a witty and inspiring collection of blackout poetry made from mean and nasty notes Kate Baer has received. She takes the words of anonymous internet trolls and turns them into art. Witnessing Baer take hate and turn it into beauty is good for my soul.
The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri J. M. Nouwen
The Inner Voice of Love is a collection of journal entries Nouwen wrote during a time of deep depression and doubt. His heartbreak spills onto the page, yet Nouwen ultimately rests and finds his identity as a beloved child of God. I remember a night shortly after I graduated from college when I felt adrift and afraid of what was next; I picked up this book, opened it to a random page, and the words were exactly what I needed at that moment. I always pick up this slim book when I need spiritual encouragement.
The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done
by Kendra Adachi
The Lazy Genius Way might seem like an odd choice for a booklist about hope, but that’s precisely what this book has given me. As an enneagram one, I struggle with perfectionism. The pressure to perform, excel, impress, and have it together at all times can be exhausting and overwhelming, two symptoms of burnout. When I’m in that “I’m overwhelmed and don’t know what to do” headspace, I turn to Kendra. The Lazy Genius Way isn’t a self-help book with steps every reader must follow to achieve a perfect life. Instead, it’s an invitation to name what matters so that readers can design a life that works for them. As a result, I’ve returned to this book time and time again to find clarity and inspiration.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
I just recommended Wintering in my Five Winter Reads post, but I like it enough to include it on this list too. I can’t always remember specific details or plot points of the books I read, but I can usually remember how a book made me feel. This book feels like comfort itself and gives readers permission to slow down and take care of themselves during life’s challenging moments.
You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves
edited by Diana Whitney
One of the greatest joys of my reading life is reading the perfect book at the perfect time. I had that experience when I read You Don’t Have to Be Everything. I picked it up and read it on a night when I felt sad and overwhelmed, and the poems were just what I needed to feel uplifted and hopeful. In addition to the poetry, this book is full of bold colors and illustrations, reminding me that I often need beauty in my life to come out of a slump. You don’t have to be a girl or a teen to enjoy this book, even though that’s the intended audience; any poetry lover will appreciate this diverse and inspiring collection.