Another year of pandemic life is almost in the books – and once again, we needed soothing reads to get through it. Some of these titles are funny; others made us want to cry happy tears. All were tonics during a difficult, uncertain time. Here are 13 of the year’s best feel-good reads.
“Good Eggs,” by Rebecca Hardiman
An 83-year-old firecracker of a woman can’t stop shoplifting, so her son hires a caretaker to monitor her – and gets more than he bargained for. Such is the premise of Hardiman’s debut novel, which centers on three generations of a rowdy Irish family with a lot going on. There’s joy, dysfunction and, ultimately, heartfelt second chances.
“Eight Perfect Hours,” by Lia Louis
Depending on your reading speed, “Eight Perfect Hours” also might describe the time you spend with this novel. It’s about Noelle, who gets stuck on the road in a blizzard with no food, drink or phone charger – but wait, who’s that handsome man knocking on her window? Lest you think this sounds like the start of a horror story, it’s a poignant rom-com about two strangers and the power of fate.
“Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy and His Family,” by Melissa Shapiro and Mim Eichler Rivas
Piglet is a social media superstar. But before that, he was a two-pound deaf, blind pup without a home. Shapiro, a veterinarian, took him in and fell in love. This sweet story details Piglet’s transformation from a traumatized, anxious puppy into a confident, spirited pink dog and his adventures with his new family.
“The Road Trip,” by Beth O’Leary
Addie and her sister – a lovable pair – are road-tripping to a wedding when a car slams into the back of theirs. It’s occupied by Addie’s ex, Dylan, who’s headed to the same place and soon sitting in the sisters’ back seat, along for the ride. The next 300 miles are hilarious, awkward, frustrating and utterly charming. O’Leary’s latest is an entertaining and quirky rom-com.
“When Sharks Attack With Kindness,” by Andrés J. Colmenares
Colmenares describes his popular Instagram comics as “a big visual hug that tickles you at the same time,” and this hardcover collection delivers the same. It’s about sharks – ostensibly predators but, in Colmenares’s world, cute creatures that strike only with kindness and positivity. Prepare to smile a lot, just as widely as those friendly finned fish.
“The Comfort Book,” by Matt Haig
Do you ever wish your future self could pop in and reassure current you that everything is going to be okay? Haig’s book is exactly that kind of tonic. For years, he wrote notes to himself that he intended to read in dark times; “The Comfort Book” is a compilation of those short meditations. It’s a validating and hopeful gift.
“Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship,” by Annabel Abbs
Step right into a Victorian kitchen in Abbs’s new novel, which is based on the life of Eliza Acton, one of the first modern cookbook writers. In this retelling, Eliza – who wants to be a poet – is convinced to instead learn how to cook. She discovers she loves it, and she and her assistant develop a unique partnership as they evolve as humans and chefs.
“Little Pieces of Hope: Happy-Making Things in a Difficult World,” by Todd Doughty
On the day the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, Doughty made a list of the things that made him happy: the music that opens “All Things Considered,” a juicy burger, yellow tulips. This joyful book features lists, essays, playlists and quotes that circle back to that central idea: finding the good in even the darkest circumstances. Keep it on your nightstand and read a few pages every day.
“The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot,” by Marianne Cronin
Lenni, a terminally ill 17-year-old, meets Margot, who’s 83 and wrestling with her own approaching end. After realizing that their ages add up to 100, the two set out to create 100 paintings that represent their combined century of life. While, yes, there’s a terminal illness at the center of the novel, it’s a beautiful, tender ode to friendship, love and our chosen legacies.
“The Party Crasher,” by Sophie Kinsella
After Effie’s parents divorce, her dad rebounds with a significantly younger, money-grabbing woman. Then Effie’s childhood home, Greenoaks, goes up for sale. She sneaks into the “house cooling” goodbye party to recover her beloved Russian dolls, and while she’s hiding under tables and peeking through doors, she makes a kaleidoscope of discoveries. It’s a delightful read, full of Kinsella’s signature warmth and charm.
“Unfollow Your Passion,” by Terri Trespicio (forthcoming Dec. 21)
At last, here it is: permission to ditch everything. Trespicio helps us reevaluate what society has taught us we need, like passion and plans and a bucket list. It’s quite liberating to realize that there’s more than one way to live a life that means something, and that you can do so without leaving your comfort zone.
“Carla and the Christmas Cornbread,” by Carla Hall
This children’s book by Hall is almost as comforting as digging into one of the chef’s famous dishes. It draws on an event from her youth: On Christmas Eve, Little Carla eats a sugar cookie intended for Santa and then enlists her grandmother to right the wrong. Expect a cozy holiday read-aloud and a hankering for homemade cornbread.
“Bliss: Beaches,” by Randall Kaplan
If you’re beach-starved, Kaplan’s gorgeous collection will help fill some of that void. Expect stunning coastline photos of California, Hawaii, French Polynesia and many other spots. Leafing through it is almost as good as meditating on a real beach – and who knows? Maybe you will be soon.