Finding Uplifting Fiction that isn’t genre specific like Romance or ChickLit is quite difficult. Since you’re unlikely to have these on your shelves, I’m including a link to a longer Goodreads List described also described as Uplifting:
When you close these books you feel happy to be alive, secure that life is worth living, and motivated to get out there and live an awesome life.
Some of these books may deal with the dark side of life, but they still convey that overall it is good to be alive and leave you feeling uplifted.
GoodReads Top 100 Uplifting Fiction
A lot of the books on their list are children’s classics or novels by familiar authors such as Jane Austen and Elisabeth Von Arnim (I’ve read Elizabeth & Her German Garden and The Enchanted April); others are more contemporary and were popular when they were published like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, The Life of Pi, The Secret Life of Bees, The Goldfinch, The Shipping News, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
None of my choices are on that list, but these five below are my personal favourites.
Top Five Uplifting Fiction
1. Two Old Women by Velma Wallis
Inspired by an Alaskan legend, this is a wonderful short read featuring the original inhabitants of the interior of Alaska; nomads they moved about in search of food according to the weather.
During a particularly harsh winter the group makes a decision regarding the two old women, which results in a sudden change in their attitudes and demands that they recall and put into practice everything they have learned over their long lives. It’s a wonderful, inspiring story, an ode to the importance of sharing experiences through friendship and community and a warning against complacency.
2. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This book is a modern classic in America, so I expected it to be a slower read than usual, but I was totally hooked right from its opening pages.
Not only is it a compelling story of a woman’s search for fulfillment, it is an elevating study of character and consciousness emphasized by the use of dialect that draws the reader into the narrative as if it’s being read to you. A unique and exciting reading experience once you get into the rhythm of it.
3. The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain
Antoine Laurain is a French author who writes whimsical, humorous novellas and this was the first translated into English. They’re a guaranteed light, uplifting read. The President’s Hat is about what happens when President Mitterand leaves his hat behind in a restaurant and someone else picks it up. That person too leaves it behind, and so on, it is a nod to the nostalgia of Parisian life told as a kind of fairy tale, with its connection to a revered hat-wearing President of the 1980’s, whom Laurain describes as being like a noble Florentine Prince. Also inspired by the loss of a much loved hat and an active imagination!
His other books are similarly uplifting, The Red Notebook, Vintage 1954, or the slightly darker Smoking Kills.
4. The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
This is a wonderful story of octogenarian neighbours Hortensia and Marion, living in a suburb in Cape Town, South Africa. They’ve both had successful lives, run their own businesses and are on the same neighbourhood committee, but their similarities act as a reason to divide them rather than support each other. One day an unforeseen event forces the women together. Could this long-held mutual loathing transform into friendship? Is it really possible to love thy neighbour? Easier said than done.
It’s a story that reminds me a little of A Man Called Ove, except I didn’t like Ove and wouldn’t put that book on my list, but this one definitely, these two are far more interesting to hang out with than Ove ever was! And this novel was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017, a worthy contender in my opinion.
5. The Italian Chapel by Philip Paris
Inspired by a true story, this is a tale of Italian prisoners of war, transported from the North African desert to the freezing cold of Orkney, (an archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland), at the beginning of winter 1942.
In a testament to the wonders of the human spirit, despite insufferable conditions they build a chapel, one of the most enduring icons of hope and peace to come out of WWII.
The novel introduces us to key characters and imagines them achieving this incredible feat. It is a story of optimism, resourcefulness and the things men do to keep their spirits up when the circumstances are against them. An easy, light read, moving without being overly sentimental, knowing this wonderful refuge still exists today makes it all the more special.
Philip Paris has also written a non-fiction account of the true story behind the chapel. Orkney’s Italian Chapel: The True Story of an Icon. In my review he wrote a comment, saying that he and his wife had returned for the 70th anniversary of the chapel’s completion and met up with several family members of the key artists who built the chapel, as well as 94 year old Gino Caprara, an ex Orkney POW who travelled from Italy for the event. There were many tears shed during those few days together.
Further Reading Lists
Top Five Spiritual Well-Being Reads
Top Five Nature Inspired Reads