20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your Mood

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When times are hard, these uplifting books can keep you reading

I was looking at the same paragraph I started 10 minutes ago. My concentration was caput. The world around me was going crazy, and my life was spiraling out of control. There seemed no space left for my favorite past time, reading.

South Asian woman  sitting on a sofa reading an uplifting book
Sometimes we need a good book that will help us believe in ourselves and humanity.
Image by wavebreakmedia

Books are always my first choice of activity to escape from the world. But some unique situations require unique books.

Have you been there too? When your regular happy place with a book is not helping?

It could be the book you are reading

Some periods in life are complicated enough without adding on the nuances of literary fiction. Or a complete downer story. Or an over the top violent serial murder mystery or thriller.

While I love almost all genres of books, when I am struggling emotionally, I look for an uplifting novel that will feed me positive messages. I don’t mean saccharine, plotless stories, though—I mean well-written books with an overall uplifting message.

Let’s face it. A novel worthy of your time investment needs characters struggling with some level of personal conflict. If they are too happy, they are also as “dull as dishwater” to quote my favorite author, Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The perfect uplifting book has lovable, relatable characters. We root for their triumph over whatever they’re struggling with, and the book has a satisfying ending. Positive closure. Sure, there could be some crying along the way, but overall, the book is a tale where the right people end up on top.

Today we are amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our towns and cities are locked down, and we are housebound, or nearly so. The news and social media are sucking us into their frightening abyss.

Like many, I am trying to find normal in a very abnormal time

So I have dug through my reading lists and pulled together twenty of my favorite uplifting books. Each has characters I bonded with and a relatable conflict. The unifying theme of all these books is the community of people that pull together to solve a problem. The beloved characters in each book model, in some way, the behaviors and acts of self-sacrifice we are now called upon to perform in our current torn-asunder world.

Here is the list. All of the titles are available in ebook and Audible forms. I find an ebook by the bed at night can be read with the lights out – an excellent way to deal with insomnia. On the other hand, Audible books are often easier to “read” than print when the powers of concentration are suffering.

1-Where the Heart Is

Billie Letts’ love for her home state is embedded in the heart of this book. She shows us an Oklahoma that defies stereotypes and honors the underclass. Her characters are complex and thoroughly human; one cannot help but root for them, ache for them and celebrate with them. I thoroughly recommend this book. Fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde will likely enjoy this book. 

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodWhere the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Published by Grand Central Publishing on June 1, 1998
Pages: 376
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Talk about unlucky sevens. An hour ago, seventeen-year-old, seven months pregnant Novalee Nation was heading for California with her boyfriend. Now she finds herself stranded at a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, with just $7.77 in change. But Novalee is about to discover hidden treasures in this small Southwest town--a group of down-to-earth, deeply caring people willing to help a homeless, jobless girl living secretly in a Wal-Mart. From Bible-thumping blue-haired Sister Thelma Husband to eccentric librarian Forney Hull who loves Novalee more than she loves herself, they are about to take her--and you, too--on a moving, funny, and unforgettable journey to . . . Where the Heart Is.


2-The Braid

I loved this fast-paced novel juxtaposing three women’s lives. The overarching link is a handmade wig. The book intertwines the journey of three women, each essential to the final product. In short, The Braid is an “it’s a small interconnected world” themed book. It works.

Each woman is interesting and has a compelling story. They are interesting because they either expose in creative and heart-grabbing ways, cultural aspects from each woman’s life: the Dalit or untouchable in India, the Sicilian small business owner, or the Canadian lawyer/cancer victim struggling to stay relevant and find her lost selfhood.

My version included book club questions at the end and this would be a fantastic candidate for a club (it is fast enough to read that most members would likely finish it).

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodThe Braid by Laetitia Colombani
Published by Atria Books on September 24, 2019
Pages: 224
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In this unforgettable international bestseller, three women from very different circumstances around the world find their lives intertwined by a single object and discover what connects us—across cultures, across backgrounds, and across borders.
In India, Smita is an untouchable. Desperate to give her daughter an education, she takes her child and flees her small village with nothing but resourcefulness, eventually heading to a temple where she will experience a rebirth.
In Sicily, Giulia works in her father’s wig workshop, the last of its kind in Palermo. She washes, bleaches, and dyes the hair provided by the city’s hairdressers, which is now in short supply. But when her father is the victim of a serious accident, she discovers that the company’s financial situation is dire. Now she must find a way to save her family’s livelihood.
In Canada, Sarah is a successful lawyer and twice-divorced mother of three children whose identity is wrapped up in her work. Just as she expects a big promotion, her life is shattered when she’s diagnosed with cancer.
A moving novel of hope and renewal, The Braid is a celebration of womanhood and the power of connection and perseverance.


3-The Persian Pickle Club

I picked this book originally because it centers on a group of women who quilt together. And I love quilts. The title also piqued my curiosity. It turns out, Persian Pickle refers to a quilt pattern (also a term for Paisly).

My mother was an avid quilter following the footsteps of at least 2 prior generations of quilters. She belonged to a quilting group and it was always a pleasure to get together with them during my trips back to Iowa. Her quilting group, like the Persian Pickles, provided the most incredible support to my mother and all of us during her last illness and death. Quilters, in short, rock!

There is nothing more powerful than a united group of women and that is what this book portrays. It may not have the most lyrical language, but the words were genuine and spoke to me.

When my mother passed away she left me several unfinished quilts I promised I would complete. Wish me luck. I know if her friend Elsie is reading this post she is smiling right now.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodThe Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas
on September 15, 1995
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It is the 1930s, and hard times have hit Harveyville, Kansas, where the crops are burning up, and there's not a job to be found. For Queenie Bean, a young farm wife, a highlight of each week is the gathering of the Persian Pickle Club, a group of local ladies dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their quilting skills to good use. When a new member of the club stirs up a dark secret, the women must band together to support and protect one another. In her magical, memorable novel, Sandra Dallas explores the ties that unite women through good times and bad.


4-Motel Pool

What a surprise and delight this novel was. I read the book for a 50-states reading challenge – I had to search for a book featuring Nevada, and I struggled (sorry Nevada).

I saw Motel Pool was rated pretty high on Goodreads and the description piqued my interest so I gave it a go. So glad I did. I have said it before, but it is worth saying again – reading challenges helped me to find many books I never would have discovered otherwise.

Now…this book hooked me immediately. Surprisingly, Fielding’s novel is both a ghost story on top of a gay romance. Not a book I would gravitate to typically. But it ended up being just the kind of book I love.

The protagonists had to complete journeys, literal and figurative. When they completed their tasks, I was left with much to think about: what gives a person happiness, what is the value of life, and how the first impression of people is often wrong.

Motel Pool is just a wonderful, suspenseful, well-crafted novel.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodMotel. Pool. by Kim Fielding
Published by Dreamspinner Press on May 12, 2014
Pages: 206
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In the mid-1950s, Jack Dayton flees his working-class prospects in Omaha and heads to Hollywood, convinced he’ll be the next James Dean. But sleazy casting couches don't earn him stardom, and despair leads to a series of poor decisions that ultimately find him at a cheap motel off Route 66, lifeless at the bottom of the pool.
Sixty years later, Tag Manning, feeling hopeless and empty, flees his most recent relationship mistake and takes to the open road. On a roundabout route to Las Vegas, he pulls over to rest at an isolated spot on Route 66. There’s no longer a motel or pool, but when Tag resumes his journey to Vegas, he finds he’s transporting a hitchhiking ghost. Jack and Tag come to find much-needed friends in each other, but one man is a phantom and the other is strangely cursed. Time is running out for each of them, and they must face the fact that a future together may not only be a gamble... it may not be in the cards.


5-Last Bus to Wisdom

Where has Ivan Doig been all my life? I only discovered him, again, because of the 50 States reading challenge. This novel IS Montana. Not only do I feel like I have traveled back to the state, but also back to the 1950s.

Ivan Doig sure can tell a story, and this Audible narrator was one of the best. I enjoyed this story from beginning to end, even finding myself laughing out loud. There were surprises and twists that kept me engaged and the characters were original and genuine.

There just wasn’t anything not to like about this novel if you want to experience the American West through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy having the adventure of his life. 

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodLast Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
Published by Riverhead Books on August 18, 2015
Pages: 453
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The final novel from a great American storyteller.

Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in Ivan Doig’s beloved Two Medicine Country of the Montana Rockies, a landscape that gives full rein to an eleven-year-old’s imagination. But when Gram has to have surgery for “female trouble” in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate–bossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical—is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German, and Donal can’t seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate  packs him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But as it turns out, Donal isn’t traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him. In the immortal American tradition, the pair light out for the territory together, meeting a classic Doigian ensemble of characters and having rollicking misadventures along the way.
Charming, wise, and slyly funny, Last Bus to Wisdom is a last sweet gift from a writer whose books have bestowed untold pleasure on countless readers. 


6-Something Like Happy

When I picked it up, I wondered if this book would be hokey given the subject, but it wasn’t. The characters were original and well fleshed out and I ended up caring for them and invested in their experiences. That is always a sign of a good book for me.

Plus, that dear Scottish doctor is swoonable = perhaps I developed just a bit of a crush.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodSomething Like Happy by Eva Woods
Published by Graydon House on September 5, 2017
Pages: 384
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With wry wit and boundless heart, Eva Woods delivers an unforgettable tale of celebrating triumphs great and small, seizing the day, and always remembering to live in the moment.
“It's simple, really. You're just meant to do one thing every day that makes you happy. Could be little things. Could be big. In fact, we're doing one right now…”
Annie Hebden is stuck. Stuck in her boring job, with her irritating roommate, in a life no thirty-five-year-old would want. But deep down, Annie is still mourning the terrible loss that tore a hole through the perfect existence she'd once taken for granted—and hiding away is safer than remembering what used to be. Until she meets the eccentric Polly Leonard.
Bright, bubbly, intrusive Polly is everything Annie doesn't want in a friend. But Polly is determined to finally wake Annie up to life. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it's that your time is too short to waste a single day—which is why she wants Annie to join her on a mission…
One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy. Annie's convinced it's impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey that will force her to open herself to new experiences—and perhaps even new love with the unlikeliest of men—Annie will slowly begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, there's still joy to be found in the world. But then it becomes clear that Polly's about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.
"Simply irresistible!" -Library Journal
“A special book that will make you laugh through your tears with its heartfelt take on happiness and friendship.”—Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake


7-Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Of all the books on this list, Eleanor Oliphant is probably the one you have most likely read. I see it on book lists all the time. And for good reason. This book grabbed me and did not let go.

Books with broken characters working towards redemption always appeal to me. Especially those with a character, like Eleanor, who is set on an accidental path set in place through prior traumas.

I fell deeply in love with Eleanor and was cheering her on from the first chapter.

This novel covers some tough ground as it digs into Eleanor’s past, but I enjoyed traveling along with her journey and meeting the people who help her along the way. I will keep a fond place in my heart for Eleanor. If you enjoyed A Man Called Ove I think you would enjoy this novel.

I listened to this book with Audible and the narration was wonderful. The Scottish accents were delightful, yet not too hard to follow by this American ear. 

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Published by Pamela Dorman Books / Viking on May 9, 2017
Pages: 336
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No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she'll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.
Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
the only way to survive is to open your heart.


8-Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Well this is some title, isn’t it? And, yes, there are some graphic descriptions within, but all in context my friends, all in context.

One reason I read books is to learn about other cultures and other people. This book delivered. I knew virtually nothing about the Punjabi Sikh people before reading this book and I thank the author for sharing her story. Punjabi Widows made me laugh and cry, often at the same time. Some days, I stayed in my car to keep listening even when it meant I was late arriving for meetings.

The story did break my heart at times – for the pain of loneliness and loss that some of the women in the book experienced. Many of us will relate to the depictions of the intergenerational struggles.

Interspersed between the deep storylines lies laughter and wonderful erotic stories – tales of womanhood that needed to be told. I will think about this Original with a capital “O” book for a long time.

When I know a book will stick with me, when I know I will recommend it to others, when I know I will seek out more by this author and when I know I have experienced something truly original and special – I give it 5 stars. This book gets 5 stars.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodErotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Published by William Morrow on June 13, 2017
Pages: 304
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A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages—a spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.
Every woman has a secret life . . .
Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.
Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.
As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s "moral police." But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.


9-The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Harold Fry and the cast of characters he meets on his walk are just plain delightful. Enough said.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry, #1) by Rachel Joyce
Published by Random House on July 24, 2012
Pages: 320
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Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.
Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.
Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him - allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.
And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.


10- The Story of Arthur Truluv

This uplifting book, set in Missouri, is a delightful read, good for a sunny warm wonderful weekend. Or good for a cloudy day and time. It will brighten your spirits

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodThe Story of Arthur Truluv (Mason, #1) by Elizabeth Berg
Published by Random House on November 21, 2017
Pages: 240
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A beautiful, life-affirming novel about a remarkably loving man who creates for himself and others second chances at happiness.
A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.


Want more suggestions? Spark your wanderlust and escape everyday life with this list of outdoor adventure books by and for women.

11-This Tender Land

This is storytelling at its absolutely best. I was looking forward to Krueger’s release of this book, but it blew away my already high expectations. This may be his best novel yet. I was completely hooked and finished it in a long single session.

This novel made it to my top books of 2019 for the year.

If you enjoy historical fiction, a bit of adventure and love having heroes to root for you will enjoy this book and fall in love with the “four vagabonds”.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodThis Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
Published by Atria Books on September 3, 2019
Pages: 450
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For fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing, a magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.
1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.
Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.


12-Don’t Let Me Go

Oh – Catherine Ryan Hyde I love you. She totally “gets” trauma. Her stories have the most wonderful heroes and heroines. I just love every single book she writes.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodDon't Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Published by Black Swan Books Ltd on September 29, 2011
Pages: 422
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Sometimes a child knows better...
GraceTen-year-old Grace knows that her mum loves her, but her mum loves drugs too. And there's only so long Grace can fend off the 'woman from the county' who is threatening to put her into care. Her only hope is...
BillyGrown-man Billy Shine hasn't been out of his apartment for years. People scare him, and the outside world scares him even more. Day in, day out, he lives a perfectly orchestrated silent life within his four walls. Until now. . .
The PlanGrace bursts into Billy's life with a loud voice and a brave plan to get her mum clean. And it won't be easy, because they will have to confiscate the one thing her mum holds most dear . . . they will have to kidnap Grace.


13-We Are Called to Rise

This novel takes a fresh, contemporary and heart-wrenching look at how people respond to their worst experiences.

It juxtaposes three families and their interconnected stories reminding the reader that even though some events are random and horrific, sometimes the most beautiful connections and growth stem from those traumas.

I have been thinking a lot about trauma lately and how we need to do better to make sure all children feel secure – secure in family, home and sustenance. McBride demonstrates that she is neither a stranger to trauma nor unfamiliar with compassion. It felt good to read this book. If you enjoy Catherine Ryan Hyde I predict you will like this debut. 

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodWe Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride
Published by Simon Schuster on April 28, 2015
Pages: 320
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“Your heart will break…then soar” (Redbook) when, far from the neon lights of the Vegas strip, three lives collide in a split-second mistake and a child’s fate hangs in the balance.
Avis thought her marriage had hit a temporary rut. But with a single confession in the middle of the night, her carefully constructed life comes undone. After escaping a tumultuous childhood and raising a son, she now faces a future without the security of the home and family she has spent decades building.
Luis only wants to make the grandmother who raised him proud. As a soldier, he was on his way to being the man she taught him to be until he woke up in Walter Reed Hospital with vague and troubling memories of how he got there. Now he must find a new way to live a life of honor.
Every day, young Bashkim looks forward to the quiet order of school and the kind instruction of his third grade teacher. His family relocated to Las Vegas after fleeing political persecution in their homeland. Now their ice cream truck provides just enough extra income to keep them afloat. With his family under constant stress, Bashkim opens his heart to his pen pal, a US soldier.
When these lives come together in a single, shocking moment, each character is called upon to rise. “You’ll be thinking about these characters long after you finish this haunting, heart-wrenching, and hopeful book” (Houston Chronicle).


14-Harry’s Trees

What an enchanting, heartwarming and creative novel. I am surprised this book has not found a wider audience. This is a novel where you develop a strong positive attachment to the characters. Even the “evil” characters in this book are nuanced enough that the reader has compassion for them.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodHarry's Trees by Jon Cohen
Published by MIRA on June 12, 2018
Pages: 432
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The first thing you learn when you climb a tree is to hold on. Now it’s time for Harry to learn to let go…
Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane, lifelong lover of trees, works as an analyst in a treeless US Forest Service office. When his wife dies in a freak accident, devastated, he makes his way to the remote woods of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, intent on losing himself. But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She, too, has lost someone—her father. And in the magical, willful world of her reckoning, Oriana believes that Harry is the key to finding her way back to him.
As Harry agrees to help the young girl, the unlikeliest of elements—a tree house, a Wolf, a small-town librarian and a book called The Grum’s Ledger—come together to create the biggest sensation ever to descend upon the Endless Mountains…a golden adventure that will fulfill Oriana’s wildest dreams and open the door to a new life for Harry.
Harry’s Trees is an uplifting tale about love, loss, friendship, and redemption. Fans of Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove and Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will find in its relentless good humor a much-needed remedy for these fraught times


15-The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman is a delightful, original historical fiction novel. It conjures a fictional tale from two truths about rural Kentucky during the Great Depression. First is the horse pack libraries of the region. I think I was drawn to the story in part because of its similarities to the horse and donkey mobile libraries in Ethiopia, a project I love and support.  Kids with access to books, read. I love thinking about kids (and adults) with access to books.

And who my age doesn’t remember the bookmobile libraries coming through their neighborhoods? So I loved this story.

The novel second storyline makes it even more interesting because it features a young woman with methemoglobinemia – one of the Blue People endemic to the region. The genetics and its appearance in an extended family in Kentucky is an interesting story in and of itself.

Most people who enjoy historical fiction and also enjoy books such as Before We Were Yours will likely find this book an excellent read.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodThe Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on May 7, 2019
Pages: 308
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In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.
Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government's new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a powerful message about how the written word affects people--a story of hope and heartbreak, raw courage and strength splintered with poverty and oppression, and one woman's chances beyond the darkly hollows. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Packhorse Librarians in literary novels — a story of fierce strength and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.


16-The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

If you are a SciFi fan, here is your uplifting book. I am including it because I LOVED the way Becky Chambers makes the reader think about how we classify people and behaviors.

This book is a keeper – and the first of a series about the Wayfairer crew. I love all three books in the series. The world-building and range of sentient beings Chambers creates is fun and mind-stretching. She explores what it means to be part of a multispecies crew and galactic alliance to a depth not usually accomplished in contemporary science fiction.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on July 29, 2014
Pages: 518
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Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space-and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe-in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.


17-These is My Words

I.loved.this.book. Everything about it, except the title. The book is written in diary form, but the grammar is normal – nothing like the title which I find a bit odd and almost off-putting.

It might not be Haute literature but it was one riveting story with a strong, kick-ass woman lead. This is historical fiction at its best. Sara’s emotional range is palpable as she dealt with the harsh conditions of the 1880’s pioneer life near Tucson, Arizona. I drove through that region recently and thought a lot about how hard it would have been without my air-conditioned 4-Runner.

I dare you not to enjoy this book.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodThese is My Words by Nancy Turner
Published by Harper Collins on February 17, 1999
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Literary, Westerns
Pages: 384
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In a compelling fiction debut, Nancy E. Turner's unforgettable These Is My Words melds the sweeping adventures and dramatic landscapes of Lonesome Dove with the heartfelt emotional saga of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.
Inspired by the author's original family memoirs, this absorbing story introduces us to the questing, indomitable Sarah Prine, one of the most memorable women ever to survive and prevail in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s. As a child, a fiery young woman, and finally a caring mother, Sarah forges a life as full and as fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes and our grandest dreams. She rides Indian-style and shoots with deadly aim, greedily devours a treasure trove of leatherbound books, downs fire, flood, Comanche raids and other mortal perils with the unique courage that forged the character of the American West.
Rich in authentic details of daily life and etched with striking character portraits of very different pioneer families, this action-packed novel is also the story of a powerful, enduring love between Sarah and the dashing cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot. Neither the vast distances traveled nor the harsh and killing terrains could quench the passion between them, and the loss and loneliness both suffer only strengthen their need for each other.
While their love grows, the heartbreak and wonder of the frontier experience unfold in scene after scene: a wagon-train Sunday spent roasting quail on spits as Indians close in to attack; Sarah's silent encounter with an Indian brave, in which he shows her his way of respect; a dreadful discovery by a stream that changes Sarah forever; the hazards of a visit to Phoenix, a town as hot as the devil's frying pan; Sarah's joy in building a real home, sketching out rooms and wraparound porches.
Sarah's incredible story leads us into a vanished world that comes vividly to life again, while her struggles with work and home, love and responsibility resonate with those every woman faces today. These Is My Words is a passionate celebration of a remarkable life, exhilarating and gripping from the first page to the last.



This was one of the top books I read in 2018.

As the title implies this book has the pace and tone of a piece of music composed as plainsong. The people are plain; their pace is methodical. These are farmers on the Colorado plains. This novel honors ordinary people struggling with ordinary lives.

Maybe it is my Iowa upbringing but there is something familiar and heartwarming to me about the book set in the Midwest, Central and High Plains. This body of literature seems overlooked in contrast to witty, cynical, sarcasm laden novels set in major cities. I suggest giving this book a spin and see how you enjoy ordinary people.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodPlainsong by Kent Haruf
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on April 3, 2001
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Small Town & Rural, Family Life, General
Pages: 320
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National Book Award Finalist
A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.
In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they've ever known. From these unsettled lives emerges a vision of life, and of the town and landscape that bind them together—their fates somehow overcoming the powerful circumstances of place and station, their confusion, curiosity, dignity and humor intact and resonant. As the milieu widens to embrace fully four generations, Kent Haruf displays an emotional and aesthetic authority to rival the past masters of a classic American tradition.


19-At Home in Mitford

This is the first book of a long series. The first volume was published in 1994 and it continues to be a top seller. I have read almost all of them, and my father just started the series. We both just plain love Mitford and all its wacky lovable inhabitants.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodAt Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
Published by Penguin on 2017-08
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Romance, Family Life, General, Small Town & Rural
Pages: 528
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The first novel in #1 New York Times bestselling author Jan Karon's beloved series set in America's favorite small town: Mitford.
It's easy to feel at home in Mitford. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are generally lovable. Yet, Father Tim, the bachelor rector, wants something more. Enter a dog the size of a sofa who moves in and won't go away. Add an attractive neighbor who begins wearing a path through the hedge. Now, stir in a lovable but unloved boy, a mystifying jewel theft, and a secret that's sixty years old. Suddenly, Father Tim gets more than he bargained for. And readers get a rich comedy about ordinary people and their ordinary lives.


20-News of the World

This novella, about an itinerant newsreader and a little girl, recently returned from her adopted life among Kiowa Indians, took me by surprise. The story and narration were absolutely captivating.

I think this story particularly resonates with me because of the psychological parallels with international adoption. With both, trauma is followed by total immersion into an adopted culture – how do children make sense of it all? And what happens if there is assimilation back into the original culture, as in the book?

It is complicated. While native abductions and international adoptions are not identical, of course, there are some very interesting nuggets of similarity – like language. The girl’s acquisition of the Kiowa language and loss of English seems so similar to what my children experienced it was eerie to read.

I find that novels or stories where I genuinely bond to or like the characters are my favorites. This one passed that test, taught me new things, and started me on a journey of exploration and introspection. I think that qualifies as a 5 star read.

20 Uplifting Books That Will Improve Your MoodNews of the World by Paulette Jiles
Published by William Morrow on October 4, 2016
Pages: 209
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In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.


Writing this post brought back memories from when I originally read the books. They brought me smiles and solace. Even when my world goes crazy, the right book seems to come into my hands just when I most need it. I hope when your world turns asunder, you will also find the right book with the message you need in your life today.

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”

– Mortimer J. Adler

Your turn now

What books have helped you through a rough time? I want to hear and so does the rest of the sssnoolife tribe. Post your recommendations in the comments section.

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