A Dozen Uplifting Books for Book Clubs

We love all types of books but sometimes it's time for a read that doesn't weigh us down too heavily, that lifts our spirits and yet reaches beyond melodramatic cliches. They might not always be "happy" books but the journey is uplifting and worthwhile. Here are a dozen fiction and nonfiction recommendations for exactly this type of book - books that are rewarding to read and discuss, that feel good without feeling mushy. It's a fine line to walk but we believe these do so effectively and will add a heartwarming touch to your book club gatherings.

A Man Called Ove A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Paperback May 2015. 368 pages. Published by Atria Books.

Everyone has a soft spot for cranky "get-off-my-lawn" curmudgeons. Especially those with a heart of gold like Ove (pronounced Oover.) BookBrowse subscribers loved this old man enough to rate A Man Called Ove Best Debut Novel for 2014. There's much to snuggle up to with this endearing tale about a Saab-loving Swede widower and there's no time like the present to catch up before starting on Backman's next book, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry, which publishes this week (and we'll be discussing it in our book club starting June 30.)
Excerpt, review & reading guide

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin

Paperback Dec 2014. 288 pages. Published by Algonquin Books.

When all else is gone, you will still have books -- and love. Is A. J. Fikry, an independent bookstore owner, part of an increasingly endangered species? Living off the New England coast, he certainly seems to think so when lackluster book sales and a string of other troubles compound his misery. Yet life has a way of throwing in second chances just when you need them most. This BookBrowse favorite is as much a celebration of renewal as it is of books.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson

Paperback Dec 2010. 384 pages. Published by Random House.

You couldn't ask for a more stiff upper lip than Major Pettigrew, the quintessential Englishman who loves wry humor and a perfect cup of Darjeeling. Yet this endearing man's life is thrown for a spin when Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a local widowed Pakistani shopkeeper, makes his acquaintance. Drawn to each other by loneliness, a potential union might be defying unspoken societal norms that tie a small English village together. Will it work anyway? This endearing novel won BookBrowse's 2010 Best Debut Award.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

Water for Elephants Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen

Paperback May 2007. 368 pages. Published by Algonquin Books.

Toss your hat into the ring for this high-wire act. Featuring star-crossed lovers in a traveling circus, this was a BookBrowse favorite for 2007. Layered above a truly compelling love story is a look at the Depression era and small town American life. Sprinkled with vignettes that make for transportive reading, this tale of circus freaks and animal acts (including one temperamental elephant) is a surefire crowd-pleaser.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

The Rosie Effect The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Hardcover Dec 2014. 304 pages. Published by Simon & Schuster.

This is the closest thing to a refreshing summer breeze. Don and Rosie first became known to readers with The Rosie Project. Now they're back with an endearing follow-up complete with a potential smaller addition to the family. Your club will enjoy a relaxing, heartwarming, and funny read. After all, everyone needs an occasional touch of whimsy in their lives, right?
Excerpt, review & reading guide

The Elegance of the Hedgehog The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Paperback Sep 2008. 336 pages. Published by Europa Editions.

An elegant apartment building in Paris serves as a microcosm of humanity in this tale which will have you rooting for the underdogs, pre-teen Paloma who plans to end her life when she turns sixteen, and the concierge Renee who hides her varied gifts (and a secret) beneath a vacuous and shy exterior. It takes a Japanese man named Ozu to connect their lives in meaningful and intricate ways in a story that is as much about art, music and literature as it is about essential human kindness. Some may feel that this story has a little too much bitter mixed into the sweet to belong in a list of uplifting books. We disagree.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

Me Before You Me Before You: A Novel by Jojo Moyes

Paperback Jul 2013. 400 pages. Published by Penguin Books.

That old saying about opposites attract just might be true here as Lou (Louisa) Clark takes up a job caring for Will Traynor, a larger-than-life man who has been felled by a devastating accident. Lou and Will couldn't be more different from each other, yet the values that unite them are ones that resonate with all of us. A truly uplifting story, this novel was voted a BookBrowse favorite.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

Unbroken Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Paperback Jul 2014. 528 pages. Published by Random House.

Louis Zamperini was nothing but trouble for much of his boyhood years. Restless, full of spirit, that same boundless enthusiasm would later be an asset when his plane crashed in the middle of the Pacific. After surviving almost seven weeks at sea he washes up on an island occupied by the Japanese and spends two years a prisoner of the Japanese. That he survived despite overwhelming odds is proof that you can keep a good man down but not out. This is a compelling testament to extraordinary resilience and willpower. Tip: Read the book before you watch the movie.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

The End of Your Life Book Club The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Paperback Jun 2013. 352 pages. Published by Vintage.

Great literature is a life raft especially under trying circumstances. When Will's mother is dying, he and his mother decide to punctuate his hospital visits with an unusual book club with a membership of two. The duo share thoughts about books shared and read and through this platform are able to come to terms with death and our frailties. This sad but ultimately empowering book was voted a BookBrowse favorite.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

Grayson Grayson by Lynne Cox

Paperback Feb 2008. 160 pages. Published by Knopf.

Once in a while you have a life-altering moment that reminds you just how small a speck you are in this massive universe. That's exactly what happened to champion athlete Lynne Cox, as she was swimming in the ocean and found herself with an unusual companion: a lost baby whale. Tucked into this story of helping the stranded find safe harbor are larger life lessons about humility and grace.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

The Boys in the Boat The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Paperback May 2014. 416 pages. Published by Penguin Books.

Imagine the symbolism of nine working-class young men from the American West taking down Germany's team rowing for the Fuhrer. A story of true grit and determination and a prime example of teamwork quite literally in action, this is an engaging and rousing read.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson

Paperback Sep 2007. 224 pages. Published by Broadway Books.

America's favorite travel writer will have you in splits as he recounts his irrepressible childhood in the American Midwest of the 1950s. This is a generous helping of nostalgia for those with fond memories of the post-war golden boom years. At the same time, this memoir about growing up is a timeless story, one that will resonate with readers of all ages.
Excerpt, review & reading guide

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