reading list of life-affirming books for the sensitive and soft-hearted

I’ve been compiling a list in my journal of books that I want to read this year.  It is mostly fiction, as fiction is one of the great loves of my post-kid lifetime that I have mostly let slip away, and I miss it a lot.

But making this list involved a great deal of careful curation. I read reviews and browsed book lists and took notes. I had my eye out for words like “poignant” and “life- affirming” and avoided words like “dark” or “tragic.” There are entire worlds inside those covers- and there are many that are not good places for me to visit.

As I’ve grown older and gotten to know myself better,  I’ve come to accept that I will carry the stories and characters of the books I read, and the movies I watch, and the news stories I listen to, around with me long after the books have been hauled off to the thrift-store and the TV and radio turned off. I need to choose carefully.

I need books that reminds me of the beauty of the world, the strength of the human spirit. They can break my heart, they can force me to think of things in a new way, but they can’t invade my mind with terror or darkness.  There has to be hope. There has to be beauty.

And so this is the list I’ve compiled to read this year. Obviously I can’t confirm that they meet all my criteria until I actually dive into them (it’s a leap of faith I tell you!) but I have high hopes for these books and I thought I would share them in case there are other soft-hearted lovers of fiction who need some ideas of what to read this year.

The Storied Life of AJ Filry by Gabrielle Zevin. Booklist had me at “sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores.” But then there is a baby too, so clearly I have to read it.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson   A YA book in verse about growing up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s. I’ve heard such good things about this one plus I am a closet YA addict.

The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart   Everything I read says this book is charming and funny and whimsical and I’ve seen it compared to The The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I loved.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman I like adult books with kid narrators, and this one sounds quirky and insightful. I also like fairy tales and crazy grandmothers.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman  The reviews of this book about a grumpy old man learning to leave his solitary world by a boisterous young family are pretty glowing and I think it sounds just like my kind of book.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson  I started listening to this as an audiobook and I really want to love it, but it does make me rather drowsy in the evenings after the kids are in bed (though that is a rather drowsy time of day regardless- so it isn’t necessarily reflective of the quality of the book!) I found a copy at my library sale and I’m going to try again that way.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons I had this book recommended a long time ago as a funny portrayal of rural life in Britain in the 1930’s.

The House at the End of Hope Street by Meena Van Praag  Some quirkiness and enchantment and a bunch of feminists in a magical house. Okay, I’m in.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okaparanta  I know this one is going to hurt to read, so maybe it doesn’t belong on this list, but I want very much to read it. When I know that the book will break my heart as I get glimpses into the real, true sadness and beauty of the world, I am willing to carry it with me.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell  This sounds like a good light read that I might read to the boys before we go on our trip this summer.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce  I started this book list with my New Years list in hand, and then forgot about it for awhile, and now I am starting to finish up some of the books on it. I read this book and I loved it. It was slow, and sweet and heartwarming. I’m looking forward to picking up the next one too.

I am loving reading fiction again, and I guess I’ll need to keep adding to this list as I go, as I’m finally in a life place where I am whipping through books again. In the meantime I hope this list can help out some other soft hearted lovers of fiction who are looking for something good to read this year.




books image by wackystuff

6 responses to “Reading List of Life-Affirming books for the Sensitive and Soft-Hearted”

  1. heather says:

    Hi Taisa: Good list! I will keep it…have read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry…an excellent read. Introspective and thought-provoking. Also have read all of Gerald Durrell’s books including My Family and Other Animals. He had a wonderful childhood on one of Greece’s larger islands. Gerald shows great humour in his books while his brother Lawrence is too too deep for me. You and your family will love Gerald Durrell’s writings—and laugh a lot. From, a crazy grandmother!

    • Taisa says:

      Yes, looking forward to reading that one with the boys- though we have quite the pile we are hoping to get through! Maybe we’ll bring it with us.

  2. Lacy says:

    thanks for the list … only know a couple of these, but haven’t read any.

  3. Marlene says:

    I always love a book list! I am similar in book-temperament to you, but not as wise. I read the dark books, and then feel caught in an undertow of darkness for weeks. I keep a copy of The Blue Castle by my bedside as an antidote, and re-read it at least once every couple of years from cover to cover. (also a closet YA addict, I admit).

    • Taisa says:

      Ah yes, I am not always good at taking my own advice- I read a disturbing one not too long ago- and I think the “undertow of darkness” is the perfect description. Oh- the Blue Castle! I haven’t read that since I was about 12- I’m going to need to track that down again. Thanks Marlene!

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