Is it just me or is the overall situation all over the world (COVID! GEORGE FLOYD! INDIA-CHINA SKIRMISHES!) making you dig deep as well to find even the smallest of things that will bring joy? I can’t be the only one feeling this way, right?
And if you know me at all, you would know that books have been a never-ending source of joy for me since like forever. While I do get in some “serious” reading done too, a lot of my book picks are typically light reads, and leaning heavily towards romance.
Over the last few months, even as I made my way through my reading list, I found myself dipping into my Kindle to read snippets of certain books that I’d read previously in an attempt to infuse more smiles and a little dose of escapism into my days. And oh! what a joy it has been to revisit some of these books.
I wanted to share this list of feel-good books that will make you smile in case you’re looking to add some moments of joy and escapism too! :)
1| The Flatshare – Beth O’LearY
(first mentioned in this roundup of books)
This was definitely one of the sweetest books I’ve ever read. It was a superb debut offering from Beth O’Leary, and is definitely one of those books which will totally warm your heart.
The premise of the book* was quirky enough to begin with: Tiffy Moore needs to find herself a cheap flat pronto. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash and has a flat. Somehow they come up with a solution that works – Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and they swap places in the evening/night.
With that in mind, I knew I was getting into a lighthearted read, but I did not expect to like the book as much as I did. I promptly bought a copy for my mom, and she ended up loving it too.
Now, coming back to Tiffy and Leon – well, they don’t end up meeting till late, late in the book, and yet, even sight unseen, a strong friendship develops between them, mostly via Post-It notes (seriously, they made me want to introduce Post-It notes into my own marriage!!!). They start getting comfortable with each other, cook meals for each other, share their stories, all over Post-It notes.
The characters are also so well drawn. Actually, having read Beth O’Leary’s second novel The Switch* as well, I’ll say that she really does spend a lot of time in crafting the central characters. You end up knowing them closely, and it’s almost like you’re sitting right beside them, observing them, that’s how invested you get in their lives.
Both Tiffy and Leon are strong characters, with their own quirks and complexities, and the buildup to their physical meeting is fantastic. They forge an unlikely relationship and the sweetness of their love story definitely left me with a warm fuzzy feeling. Would totally recommend!
2| Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuinton
(first mentioned in this roundup of books)
Oh, this book*! It’s probably the one that I keep going back to the most. Whenever I am just itching to read something sweet and lovable and charming, and my current read just doesn’t fit the bill, I quickly browse back to this book on my Kindle and read a few pages at random. Mission accomplished – smile on my face restored! :)
Seriously though, when it comes to sweet romances, this book is one of my top favourites! It’s about an unexpected love story between the son of the US president, Alex, and a British prince, Henry, who are forced to carry on a show of fake bromance for the sake of public relations, but soon they end up truly, whole-heartedly falling for each other.
Red, White and Royal Blue* is the perfect combination of happiness and hope, and I found myself rooting for the unlikely couple all throughout. They are hot, sweet, adorable and just so full of heart and big dreams! Their emails to each other, their late night phone conversations, their secretly stolen meetings, in all of that, their friendship, chemistry is so palpable.
One of the best things about the book apart from the central romance was that almost all additional characters were also so well-written. The dialogues throughout the book, be it between the White House Trio, or Alex’s conversations with his mom, Alex & Henry’s conversations… it’s all really fantastically written, and I was completely invested in all of the characters all throughout the book.
Of late, the book has also been featured on many roundups of the best LGBTQ+ books in recent times, and while I am certainly no expert, I think it’s an accolade that Red, White and Royal Blue truly deserves. I liked how the “gay love story” angle is not hyped up unnecessarily, and Alex’s whole confusion over his sexual identity is also thoughtfully portrayed. So, while it maybe a great LGBTQ+ love story, if you ask me, I think it’s just a great love story, period.
Nearly 10 months since I first read the book*, and I can’t seem to stop gushing about it, or smiling with my whole soul whenever I think about it. This book is literally the very definition of “books that will make you smile”. :P
3| The Rosie Project* – Graeme Simsion
(first mentioned in this roundup of book)
This book* first caught a lot of attention when it appeared in Bill Gates’ recommended reading list. Obviously, that’s some bar of high praise. And of course, after that mention, the book started getting absolutely hyped up!
Usually, these over-hyped books end up disappointing me, maybe because the expectation and the build-up is insane. But I am happy to report, The Rosie Project* did not disappoint.
Don Tillman, a professor of genetics with noticeable quirks, has recently been told by his neighbour that he would make a great husband. After some reflection, he embarks on a scientific method to identify his potential partner, which naturally includes a questionnaire, as one does when looking for their lifelong partners. :P
Rosie Jarman is on a project of her own – to find her biological father, and Don agrees to help her, using his expert DNA skills. On paper, Rosie is nothing like what Don’s analytical mind tells him his ideal partner should be like, but she is warm, smart, and does not suffer fools gladly. Somewhere along the way, as the Find-My-Father project takes off putting the Find-My-Wife project on the back burner, Don starts to realise that finding love is more complicated than what a questionnaire can deduce.
Don’s mannerisms probably come across as the very compendium of all cliches that you expect in a person who has Asperger’s, but I think it (mostly) ties in well with the story on the whole. The dialogues are sparkling and really, the book seems to be written for being made into a movie (which is not surprising given that Graeme Simsion initially intended The Rosie Project* to be a screenplay).
4| A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
What a joyful, delightful book* this is!
Ove is not, though. He’s in fact, the very opposite of joyful and delightful. His wife’s death has made him into a real grinch, and despite all that annoyed exterior, he’s really just lonely. He’s dealt with a lot of loss in his life, and he would rather that he be left alone to own devices, and that people follow rules as they should, and not interfere in his life, or his home.
The young boisterous family that moves in next door, has no such intention. Little by little, and much against his typical nature, he gets drawn into their lives until they become a near permanent feature in his life. And of course, a host of other neighbourhood shenanigans ensue, and much against his usual distance, he finds himself getting entrenched into relationships.
The build-up to the “blossoming” of Ove is so beautifully portrayed. Yes, he might be a grumpy old man, but at the core of it, Ove’s journey highlights that almost of us crave meaningful human connection, and that the desire to be needed by others, or seen as valuable, is nearly universal.
While I’ve included this book in the list of “happy happy books”, I wanted to point out that certain portions of the story are just plain sad, especially certain incidents in Ove’s past. However, Backman does a great job of infusing the difficults bits with just the right amount of lightness. And as the events around Ove’s present day life evolve, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face, especially all the interactions with Parvaneh and her family.
5| Wonder – R.J. Palacio
I’ll admit first up – yes, Wonder* is meant for probably younger teens. And yet, something about the story is relevant for just about everyone.
Kids can be mean AF. Even if they don’t really mean to. 10-year-old August, born with severe facial deformities, knows that first-hand, having been labeled as freak by both kids and adults. And yet, he’s developed a sweet sensibility and an amazing ability to laugh at himself.
Having been home-schooled all his life, August will now start attending a private school. As would be natural, he has mixed feelings about this development, and he after some initial trepidation, he chooses to face it head on. He makes some new friends, but also encounters a few bullies.
The short book* is his journey through the school year and the experiences that he has. The ending is a tearjerker, in the best way possible. I was happy-crying my way through the end. You’ll be hard pressed to not like August and his personality and his undeniable courage.
Wonder is a story that will make you think and pause, and laugh and cry. So yes, please ignore the fact that it is an out-and-out YA novel, and enjoy Auggie’s courageous journey through fifth grade in a brand new school.
6| The Happy Ever After Playlist – Abby JImenez
(first mentioned in this roundup of books)
If you’ve ever wondered what having a relationship with a hunky celebrity would be like, you’ve picked the right book*.
Two years after her fiance’s death, Sloan Monroe is still in mourning. Expect for her dear friendship with her best friend, Kristen and her husband, Josh, Sloan has pretty much become a recluse and nearly given up on her artistic talents. And then, one day, while stuck in traffic, an adorable pup literally jumps onto her lap, and forces her to take care of him till she locates the pup’s actual owner.
Well, it’s a romance novel, so you know how this plays out – yes, she falls in love with the pup’s owner, Jason, when she finally meets him. Jason is an up and coming musician, and the chemistry between him and Sloan is REAL.
The buildup of their relationship has a lot of teasing and flirting, but once things get ON between them, there’s a lot of action that starts happening. He has to leave for a 14-month tour and in an impulsive decision, she decides to join him. The brutality of a tour tests their relationships in more ways than one, and there’s plenty of drama that happens.
The climax is mighty clichéd but adorable, and so incredibly well written. I mean, I felt I was right there in the stadium where it all takes place. Wow.
Jason’s character has been written as a well-rounded, emotionally adjusted man, which I loved, and can we seriously have more of that please. And I loved Sloan’s journey, as she finds her way from grief to happiness and all the growing up she does in between.
I adored this escapist love story*, and I literally couldn’t stop smiling as I read it in pretty one go! :)
7| Love and Other Words – Christina lauren
(first mentioned in this roundup of books)
By now, I’ve read almost all of Christina & Lauren’s romance novels (the standalone ones, that is). In their lineup, there are no real duds so as to speak of, but some are definitely stronger than the others. Love and Other Words* happens to be my very favourite of their entire works.
Marcy and Elliot meet as teenagers, and quickly bond over books and the written word. They quickly go on to become the very best of friends, and yes, eventually, they fall in love. It’s all going peachy, until one heartbreaking day, after which they don’t meet until a chance encounter in a coffee shop nearly a decade later.
They somehow end up picking the pieces, and rediscover their old friendship (and chemistry) all over again. This is a book about second chances, but even in seeking that, there has to be a lot of healing and unpackaging that needs to happen, which Marcy and Elliot soon discover.
I absolutely loved the storytelling, especially of teenage Macy & Elliot’s friendship and romance. These are two adorable characters and have been written with so much depth, that even the predictable aspects of the story become sweet, and yet not cloying. Their story develops slowly, and while you know how it is going to turn out, the build-up has you invested, and I was racing through to find out what the mystery event was that tore them apart. Anyway, all in all, beautifully told romance*, and they totally had me enthralled.
Have you read any of these books? What would you add to the list? Have I missed any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!
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