Uplifting Books: 10 Feel-good titles to boost your mood
Sometimes you just need something uplifting – whether you’re working through a hard time in your life or having a down day, a book can often be just the thing. Not only a distraction taking you to another place, but also offering hope, stories have so many positive qualities for mental health.
Neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield says ‘stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end – a structure that encourages our brains to think in sequence, to link cause, effect, and significance.’ This, no doubt, helps us to better put things in our own lives into perspective. Books can also help us to wind down and de-stress.
In addition to this, a 2006 study found that when smell, texture, and movement words were read or heard in a story, the brain registered them in the same way it would if we were experiencing these things for ourselves. This could mean that novels can help us feel more alive.
There is also evidence to suggest that reading or listening to the interactions of fictional characters in stories is interpreted by the brain as similar to a real-life social encounter. Here, stories can help us to better understand others – to empathise – and to understand the world from their perspective.
The science certainly points to books having a positive impact on our mental well-being. Aside from this though, the type of story itself sometimes feels important for lifting your mood.
With this is mind, here are 10 uplifting books for when you need to escape, de-stress, or find a little hope – or just to read or listen to whenever, just because you can:
- Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past.
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Haroun’s father is the greatest of all storytellers. His magical stories bring laughter to the sad city of Alifbay. But one day something goes wrong and his father runs out of stories to tell. Haroun is determined to return the storyteller’s gift to his father. So he flies off on the back of the Hoopie bird to the Sea of Stories – and a fantastic adventure begins.
- Prodigal summer by Barbara Kingslover
From her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin, Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. She is caught off-guard by a young hunter who invades her most private spaces and confounds her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer’s wife, finds herself unexpectedly marooned in a strange place where she must declare or lose her attachment to the land that has become her own. And a few more miles down the road, a pair of elderly feuding neighbours tend their respective farms and wrangle about God, pesticides, and the possibilities of a future neither of them expected.
Over the course of one humid summer, these characters find their connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with whom they share a place.
Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, spoiled Mary Lennox is certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty – unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite Manor hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him too.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows
It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.
- I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love.
- The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4 by Sue Townsend
Adrian Mole’s first love, Pandora, has left him; a neighbour, Mr. Lucas, appears to be seducing his mother (and what does that mean for his father?); the BBC refuses to publish his poetry; and his dog swallowed the tree off the Christmas cake. Why does it happen to him?
- The Thread by Victoria Hislop
A beautiful and epic novel that spans nearly a hundred years, The Thread is a magnificent story of a friendship and a love that endures through the catastrophes and upheavals of the twentieth century – both natural and man-made – in the turbulent city of Thessaloniki, Greece.
We hope you like these recommendations, and if you read or listen to any of these books let us know what you think!
Is there anything we’ve missed? Which books have you found uplifting?
All of these books are available in audio for Listening Books members on CD, to stream, or to download.
This post was written by Holly Newson for Listening Books to help raise awareness for World Mental Health Day, which is on 10th October 2015. You can find out more about the day and the about Mental Health Foundation on their website.
Picture credit: *AC85 B9345 911s, Houghton Library, Harvard University