The best life-affirming novels

Why am I passionate about this?

I like books driven by characters who ride the same emotional rollercoaster as we all do in real life. Characters who love the wrong people or who lose the people they were right to love or who fail to match the norms expected by society. Characters I can empathise with, root for, and learn from. A fairytale happy ending is not necessary and can detract from the magic of a book. But I do like to be left with a feeling of hope. If a fictional character can learn to approach life more positively, then maybe I can too! This is what I try to achieve in my own books.

I wrote...

Little Museum of Hope

By Sally Jenkins,

Book cover of Little Museum of Hope

What is my book about?

Newly divorced, Vanessa is starting again at fifty-five. She must find a new challenge or grow old and bitter alone. She follows her dream of opening a teashop. But with customers hard to come by, the café is on the verge of failure.

Then Vanessa reads about the real-life Museum of Broken Relationships, where the broken-hearted can donate symbols of their shattered dreams. Inspired, Vanessa creates the Little Museum of Hope alongside her café. She welcomes those who have suffered emotional trauma, allowing them to discard the physical reminders of that trauma and move forward positively with their lives. She offers tea, cake, and a listening ear. But can the museum help Vanessa to heal her own heart?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Man Called Ove

Sally Jenkins Why did I love this book?

A Man Called Ove was recommended to me by my husband. He is a voracious reader who has no qualms in casting a book to one side if it doesn’t immediately grab him – so I take his recommendations seriously. 

Ove is a grumpy old man who doesn’t want to continue living after the death of his wife. It sounds depressing and I nearly didn’t bother. But Backman’s skill as an author turns Ove’s story into an absolute delight. Ove may be grumpy, intolerant, and set in his ways but he is unable to turn his back on anyone in need – including an unattractive, large cat.

The book is a testament to everyone’s need for community.

By Fredrik Backman,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked A Man Called Ove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



There is something about Ove.

At first sight, he is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.

But isn't it rare, these days, to find…

Book cover of Lost Property

Sally Jenkins Why did I love this book?

I have a very large ‘To Be Read’ pile and occasionally I discover a book has stagnated there for far longer than it deserves. Lost Property is one of those – I wish I’d read it and discovered the language of Helen Paris much sooner.

It’s the story of Dot Watson whose life veered off course when she lost her father and, instead of an exciting career, she makes do with working in the London Transport Lost Property Office. When a lost purse turns up, she finds her purpose and sets off on a mission.

Dot, like most of us, just needs a little help finding out who she really is.

By Helen Paris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lost Property as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An enthralling read, full of rich descriptions and characters you can't help but love.' Hazel Prior

'A wonderfully rich, funny and brimming with heart book.' Beth Morrey

Dot Watson has lost her way.

Twelve years ago her life veered off course, and the guilt over what happened still haunts her. Before then she was living in Paris, forging an exciting career; now her time is spent visiting her mother's care home, fielding interfering calls from her sister and working at the London Transport Lost Property office, diligently cataloguing items as misplaced as herself.

But when elderly Mr Appleby arrives…

Book cover of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

Sally Jenkins Why did I love this book?

We read The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper in the book group I attend and I’m so glad we did.

Like A Man Called Ove, Arthur Pepper has recently been widowed and is struggling to cope but Arthur’s story is completely different to Ove’s. And, again, this book is uplifting rather than depressing. After finding a charm bracelet amongst his wife’s possessions, Arthur sets out on a colourful quest to discover his wife’s past.

Arthur’s story made me realise that it’s the here and now that’s important, not what’s gone before or might be to come. We have to make the most of what we have at any given moment.

By Phaedra Patrick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A charming, unforgettable story.' Harper's Bazaar

40 years of marriage.
8 golden charms.
One man's journey of discovery.

Having been married for over 40 years, 69-year-old Arthur Pepper is mourning the loss of his wife. On the anniversary of her death, he finally musters the courage to go through her possessions, and happens upon a charm bracelet that he has never seen before.

What follows is a surprising adventure that takes Arthur from London to Paris and India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife's secret life before they met, a journey that leads him…

Book cover of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

Sally Jenkins Why did I love this book?

It takes courage to carry on living after an emotional catastrophe. Some of us never quite make it and others, like Masha in The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, get there with a little help from unexpected places.

This book made me both laugh and cry. It is poignant and emotional but also parades crazy, colourful characters such as eccentric Elvis and Sally Red Shoes herself. This character of the book’s title has a relatively small but important part in the book, bursting into Masha’s life during her regular meanders in a Victorian graveyard. 

Have the tissues ready!

By Ruth Hogan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ruth Hogan, the international bestselling author behind the The Keeper of Lost Things returns with an irresistible novel of unexpected friendships, second chances—and dark secrets...

They say friends make life worth living...

Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, Masha's life was forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds comfort in her faithful canine companion Haizum, and peace in the quiet lanes of her town's swimming pool. Almost without her realizing it, her life has shuddered to a halt.

It’s only when Masha begins an unlikely friendship…

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Sally Jenkins Why did I love this book?

I put off reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine for a long time because of all the hype surrounding it. Books that are hyped often disappoint. But not this one!

Eleanor lives to a careful routine within the walls she’s built around herself – and she buys two bottles of vodka every weekend. She thinks that she’s happy until someone shows her what she’s missing. Like all the best life-affirming novels, this book will show you the murky depths of human experience and also the exquisite joyful, funny moments that we all deserve.

Prepare to examine your own life with fresh eyes! 

By Gail Honeyman,

Why should I read it?

25 authors picked Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

"Beautifully written and incredibly funny, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about the importance of friendship and human connection. I fell in love with Eleanor, an eccentric and regimented loner whose life beautifully unfolds after a chance encounter with a stranger; I think you will fall in love, too!" -Reese Witherspoon

No one's ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of…

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Book cover of Saving Raine

Marian L Thomas

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What is my book about?

Saving Raine is a captivating tale of resilience, redemption, and the enduring power of love, penned by the acclaimed author Marian L. Thomas.

This contemporary fiction novel chronicles the compelling journey of Raine Reynolds as she confronts heartache, betrayal, and loss. Against the vibrant backdrops of Atlanta and Paris, Raine's story unfolds as she grapples with the aftermath of her husband's infidelity and tragic passing.

Through poignant prose and compelling characters, "Saving Raine" delves into themes of forgiveness, healing, and the strength discovered in confronting life's greatest challenges. Readers will be captivated by Raine's emotional odyssey as she unearths hope, redemption, and the courage to embrace a brighter future.

Saving Raine

By Marian L Thomas,

What is this book about?

Raine Reynolds stands at the crossroads of despair and opportunity.
When the life you've built crumbles and the past refuses to release its grip, sometimes you need a fresh start-a new beginning that promises hope and redemption.
Once a celebrated author, Raine's life unraveled, sending her fleeing to the picturesque streets of Paris to escape the tormenting heartache that threatened to consume her. Yet, no matter how far she traveled, the pain remained her unwelcome companion.
Returning to bustling Atlanta as a senior VP for an ad agency, Raine is forced to confront a city steeped in…

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