A bower of uplifting delights in trying times

Angela Haupt

THE WASHINGTON POST – One never needs an excuse for craving a feel-good book, but the past 15 months provided plenty. If you’ve had enough darkness and heavy themes, and are longing for a happy ending, here’s an assortment of the year’s best uplifting reads.

MY INNER SKY BY MARI ANDREW

Andrew’s new book is a calming tonic for uncertain times. It has essays and illustrations about overcoming life’s obstacles and learning to embrace “day, night and all the times in between”. Her writing shines in a way that makes the reader feel seen.

IN LOVE & PAJAMAS BY CATANA CHETWYND

This collection of comics, by the author of Snug and Little Moments of Love is warm and fuzzy.

Some of the comics are old fan favorites, others are new, and all focus on relationships – particularly what it’s like when nothing you do is “weird” anymore. It’s a wholesome treat.

IT HAD TO BE YOU BY GEORGIA CLARK

Liv and Eliot are a married couple running a wedding business – until Eliot dies while visiting his young girlfriend, Savannah. Surprise, Liv! It’s also a shock for Savannah, to whom Eliot leaves half the company.

But she sees it as an offering from the universe, and as the two women work together, that optimism helps Liv begin to heal.

THIS CLOSE TO OKAY BY LEESA CROSS-SMITH

A recently divorced therapist encounters a man on a bridge, ready to jump.

She persuades him to stick around for another day – and spend it with her. Over the course of a weekend, the two swap stories and nurture mutual compassion. It’s ultimately a hopeful reminder that it’s OK not to be OK, and that kindness goes a long way.

THE LIFE BY CARRIE FOUNTAIN

Fountain’s poems are social media favourites, beloved for their warmth and intimacy.

In this new collection, she examines motherhood, marriage and the pursuit of a life that’s good enough. Her work is lyrical and relevant.

THE MUSIC OF BEES BY EILEEN GARVIN

Alice, a widowed beekeeper, befriends Jake, a paraplegic teenager, and Harry, who has social anxiety.

At her Oregon farm, the three loners band together to save threatened honeybees – and end up forming an unlikely friendship. It’s a sweet story and a nice reminder that “flaws” can actually be strengths.

ACT YOUR AGE, EVE BROWN BY TALIA HIBBERT

The third novel in Hibbert’s Brown Sisters trilogy is as delightful as her previous books.

Eve – a purple-haired woman who specialises in chaos – finagles her way into a job at a B&B, working for the very uptight Jacob. Expect snappy dialogue and simmering tension that will inevitably turn romantic.

MEET CUTE DIARY BY EMERY LEE

This fun YA novel introduces a sassy teen who writes about happily-ever-afters on his blog.

When it’s exposed as fiction, he tries to save his reputation by entering a fake relationship, which then veers into real-relationship territory. It’s a moving celebration of young love.

THE RIDE OF HER LIFE BY ELIZABETH LETTS

This folk-hero biography is about Annie Wilkins, who rode her horse across the country in the 1950s.

At the time, she was 63 and had been given two years to live. Her journey is full of adventures: run-ins with generous strangers; overnights in town jails; even a marriage proposal. Wilkins embraced it all with optimism and spunk.

IN A BOOK CLUB FAR AWAY BY TIF MARCELO

Three Army wives, who bonded at a book club, are now estranged, but when one needs help, the other two answer the call.

Their reunion is complex but opens the door to forgiveness. The women’s shared love of books makes the novel a great choice for a summer book club.

THE HUMMINGBIRDS’ GIFT BY SY MONTGOMERY

Ah, to be able to fly far, far away. The hummingbird – an inspiring creature – can do that and more. It’s the lightest bird in the sky, able to fly backward and beat its wings more than 60 times a second. This slim book, centred on two abandoned hummingbirds who are nurtured back to health, is ideal for garden reading.

THE GUNCLE BY STEVEN ROWLEY

When Uncle Patrick becomes the guardian of his niece and nephew, no one knows how to behave.

But his silliness turns out to be just what the grieving kids need, and they represent a second chance for the has-been sitcom star. Rowley’s depth and humour will warm even the most jaded hearts.