The best uplifting books for right now

Escaping into a book has never seemed as appealing as it does right now. Here’s our edit of inspiring, funny, happy books to make you smile.

by   Izzie Price
07/04/2020

We’re living in a frightening, unknowable and, for a great many people, very lonely time. So we’ve compiled a list of the happiest, cosiest, most uplifting books we can think of to help readers weather this bizarre storm. We’ve got you covered, whether you’re looking to be inspired by Amelia Abraham’s Queer Intentions, moved by Sara Crewe’s powerful tale of kindness in A Little Princess, or simply want to share a laugh with Bridget Jones. Read on for our selection of books that are guaranteed to lift, exhilarate and hearten.

The best uplifting fiction books

Dear Mrs Bird

by AJ Pearce

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The year is 1941, London is at war, and to say wartime spirit is alive and kicking is a radical understatement. The story centres on Emmeline Lake, who – contrary to her desire to become a ‘Lady War Correspondent’ – unwittingly takes up a position at the Woman’s Friend magazine, answering heartfelt letters from women seeking advice. The book is saturated in positivity but manages to steer clear of saccharine: a warmer, jollier book you will struggle to find.

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Bridget Jones's Diary

by Helen Fielding

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If ever a mood-lifter was needed, it’s now. Accompany Bridget Jones as she pours her thoughts and feelings about dating, friendship, work and family into her much-loved diary – and chortle throughout. Whether it’s Bridget crashing home after one too many glasses of Chardonnay at her favourite haunt Cafe Rouge, or attempting to keep things cool with the enigmatic Daniel Cleaver by leaving a would-be seductive message on his answering machine which she then frantically attempts to delete, this book is guaranteed to leave readers in stitches.

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The best uplifting classic fiction

A Little Princess

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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This is a heartfelt ode to the transformative power of kindness. Young Sara Crewe is born in India into wealth and riches, and when she becomes a pupil at Miss Minchin’s girls’ boarding school in London she is treated as a princess. Sara is not spoilt, though. On the contrary, she shows unfailing kindness and generosity towards those less fortunate than herself, be it her fellow pupil – awkward, ungainly Ermengarde – or Becky, a servant at the school. When Sara’s beloved father dies, leaving her penniless and at the mercy of the unforgiving Miss Minchin, the girl’s character is put to the test like never before. This classic book is a testament to love and goodness.

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The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

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“Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way!”

There never was a more beautiful ode to the simple pleasures of life than this. The book centres on Rat, Mole, Badger and – of course – the iconic Mr Toad as they form unlikely yet unshakeable bonds of friendship and navigate their particular swathe of the river bank, their adventures culminating in a momentous battle with the more sinister inhabitants of the spooky Wild Wood. 

‘Home’ is a dominant theme throughout, as Mole demonstrates when he confesses his unbearable homesickness to Rat. “I know it’s a – shabby, dingy little place . . . not like – your cosy quarters – or Toad’s beautiful hall – or Badger’s great house – but it was my own little home – and I was fond of it.”

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Pollyanna

by Eleanor H. Porter

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At the heart of this book is the ‘Glad Game’ – which tells readers all they need to know about what’s in store. Young Pollyanna is sent to live with her formidable Aunt Polly following the passing of her beloved father. Aunt Polly lives a strict, meagre life, very different to the riotous, colourful world Pollyanna enjoyed with her father. But Pollyanna brings with her the game she and her father invented together – a game that involves finding joy in every situation, no matter how bad – and consequently lights up Aunt Polly’s house in a way that never before seemed possible. 

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The best uplifting poetry

Poems for Happiness

by Various

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We don’t usually advise judging books by their cover, but in this instance the aesthetics speak for themselves. Part of the exquisite Macmillan Collector’s Library, this pocket-sized treasure comes complete with gold-foiled edges and ribbon markers, making it a source of delight before it’s even been opened. And the contents don’t disappoint – read on for famously soul-affirming works such as ‘How Do I Love Thee?’ by Elizabeth Browning and ‘My Heart Leaps Up’ by William Wordsworth, as well as lesser known texts for readers to enjoy.

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She is Fierce

by Ana Sampson

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Anyone seeking a little inspiration should turn to this thoughtful, rousing anthology of poems collected by Ana Sampson. Divided into sections such as ‘Friendship’, ‘Love’ and ‘Freedom, Mindfulness and Joy’, this is an uplifting collection of poems by inspiring women. Maya Angelou, Carol Ann Duffy, Emily Dickinson and Margaret Atwood are just some of the contributors,  with many more female writers offering wisdom and countering the patriarchy – all in the form of lyrical, melodious poetry.

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The best uplifting non-fiction

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective

by Susannah Stapleton

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Any fans of Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes or inspiring true stories will enjoy this fascinating account of the life of Maud West, a female detective who ran her own London-based detective agency for over 30 years during the ‘Golden Age of Crime’. Author Susanna Stapleton includes stories by Maud herself about her many and varied cases, which are so astoundingly salacious and outlandish that they beg the question: could they possibly be true? Especially bearing in mind the necessity for Maud of keeping her identity secret in what was a vastly male-dominated business. Stapleton tries to uncover who Maud was, and what she really did, with twists and cliffhangers galore making this the perfect go-to for readers seeking distraction.

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Wilding

by Isabella Tree

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True stories don’t get much more inspiring than this: written by the aptly named Isabella Tree, it’s the tale of what was once an economically unsustainable farm run by her and her husband. In a project now known as the “Knepp Experiment”, they gave nature free rein and stepped back to let it take its course, whilst utilising free-roaming animals (including cattle, ponies, pigs and deer). Their land is now a home to rare species, such as turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies, and is a buzzing, joyful ecosystem in and of itself. This book is a transformative tale of hope, determination and the magical, strengthening power of nature.

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Queer Intentions

by Amelia Abraham

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Author Amelia Abraham decided to explore the political and cultural aspects of the LGBTQ+ world, determined to discover how much progress we’ve really made over the years. What does acceptance truly look like? What is the cost? And what about those in less liberal parts of the world? Who is getting left behind in the fight for visibility and equal rights? Overflowing with journalistic insight, as well as personal, heartfelt anecdotes, this book radiates empathy and warmth. It serves as a lifeline for those who need to feel heard and seen, and alerts readers to the loving, inclusive LGBTQ+ community. Queer Intentions is sure to uplift and encourage readers.

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The best uplifting biographies

Me

by Elton John

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If you want to be taken on a rollicking and entertaining ride: look no further. The first and only official autobiography by one of the most iconic singer-songwriters of all time, Me packs a significant punch. Elton evocatively describes his childhood in the London suburbs when he dreamed of becoming a pop star; his drug addiction, kept secret for over a decade; and finally, what it was like to come clean, find love with David Furnish and become a father. In amongst the brave confessions and frank revelations are glimpses into the glittering, electric, star-spangled world of the music industry, making this wonderful book a source of escapism as well as inspiration.

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Gotta Get Theroux This

by Louis Theroux

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Louis Theroux is one of our most entertaining and well-loved public figures. In his revealingly honest memoir – dubbed ‘absorbing and surprisingly candid’ by the Telegraph Magazine – he paints a vivid picture of his quirky, varied and eclectic career, from a childhood riddled with anxiety to his phenomenally successful documentaries. 

The book draws on his natural observational skills and dry wit, whilst also shining a light on the darker areas of his career, such as the moment when the revelations surrounding Jimmy Savile – one of Theroux’s former subjects – were brought to light.

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