The best upbeat books for tough times

Tim Slee Author Of Taking Tom Murray Home
By Tim Slee

Who am I?

At a time when our news feeds are dominated by war and disease and brain-dead politicians I find my escape in the genre known as ‘uplit’ or ‘uplifing literature.’ These are feel-good stories that have a simple goal, to introduce us to characters like ourselves – human, fallible, unreasonable, and flawed – and take us on a journey with them through thick and thin. Not every story ends in the happiest of endings but the reader is always left with a sigh of satisfaction and a feeling of hope. And couldn’t we all do with a bit more of that?

I wrote...

Taking Tom Murray Home

By Tim Slee,

Book cover of Taking Tom Murray Home

What is my book about?

Bankrupt dairy farmer Tom Murray dies in a house fire. His wife, Dawn, doesn't want him to have died for nothing and decides to hold a horse and cart funeral procession for Tom as a protest, driving 350 kilometres from Yardley in country Victoria to bury him in Melbourne where he was born. But as the motley funeral procession starts to roll, mysterious arson attacks follow in its wake. The police give Dawn five days to get to Melbourne. Five days, five more towns, and a state ready to explode in flames...

Told with a laconic, deadpan wit, Taking Tom Murray Home is about hope – and how community, friends, and love trump pain and anger, every time.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

A Man Called Ove

By Fredrik Backman,

Book cover of A Man Called Ove

Why did I love this book?

A fantastic example of the genre called ‘uplit’ (uplifting literature). This book has all the ingredients needed to warm your heart: a grumpy old man dealing with rambunctious neighbors, onion skin style character development as the layers of protagonist, Ove, are gradually peeled away, and an intricate plot with a poignant ending. I doubly enjoyed the Scandinavian setting because I live there, but it has universal appeal.

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 Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Why did I love this book?

Eleanor Oliphant is one of my favorite characters in literature, full stop. A misanthrope with multiple ‘issues’, we join Eleanor on a journey from deliberate solitude to reluctant companionship as life forces itself through the tiny cracks in her heart and we learn that the first and maybe the hardest secret to happiness is being open to it.

By Gail Honeyman,

Why should I read it?

22 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…

Book cover of Lights Out in Wonderland

Why did I love this book?

Before ‘uplit’ was even invented, there was DBC Pierre. His fiction has been described as a ‘joyful celebration of the human spirit’ and that is none more evident than in his protagonist in Lights Out, Gabriele Brockwell, a twenty-something narcissistic pleasure seeker optimistically stumbling through life before ultimately finding his place in it. A book that leaves you with the thought that optimism is the key to turning bad luck into good.

By DBC Pierre,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lights Out in Wonderland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gabriel Brockwell, aesthete, poet, philosopher, disaffected twenty-something decadent, is thinking terminal. His philosophical enquiries, the abstractions he indulges, and how these relate to a life lived, all point in the same direction. His destination is Wonderland. The nature and style of the journey is all that's to be decided. Taking in London, Tokyo, Berlin and the Galapagos Islands, "Lights Out In Wonderland" documents Gabriel Brockwell's remarkable global odyssey. Committed to the pursuit of pleasure and in search of the Bacchanal to obliterate all previous parties, Gabriel's adventure takes in a spell in rehab, a near-death experience with fugu ovaries, a…

Book cover of The Barrytown Trilogy: The Commitments; The Snapper; The Van

Why did I love this book?

Here I am recommending three books in one, because I think they should be read one after the other in a single holiday week where the rain is pouring down outside and you can lock yourself away and completely disappear into Doyle’s working-class Dublin universe. If you do not fall in love with the Rabbite family in all their imperfections, then uplit is not for you. I guarantee that no bad vibes will penetrate your mind while you are reading the Barrytown trilogy.

By Roddy Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Barrytown Trilogy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A one-volume edition of the celebrated trio of novels about the Rabbitte family, from the Booker Prize-winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

Look for Roddy Doyle’s new novel, Smile, coming in October of 2017

The Barrytown Trilogy gathers Roddy’s Doyle’s first three novels into one volume: The Commitments, one of the funniest rock’n’roll novels ever written, about a group of aspiring musicians on a mission to bring soul to Dublin; The Snapper, about the progression of twenty-year-old Sharon Rabbitte’s pregnancy on her family; and The Van, a finalist for the Booker Prize, a tender and hilarious tale of…

The Rosie Project

By Graeme Simsion,

Book cover of The Rosie Project

Why did I love this book?

Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, always charming, this tale of a woman looking for her biological father is told through the eyes of serial dater with commitment issues, Professor Tillmann, who decides he is looking for a wife and discovers Rosie. And Rosie is simply one of the most engaging anti-heroines you will find in feel-good literature. This one made me smile so often I got face ache.

By Graeme Simsion,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Rosie Project as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The international bestselling romantic comedy “bursting with warmth, emotional depth, and…humor,” (Entertainment Weekly) featuring the oddly charming, socially challenged genetics professor, Don, as he seeks true love.

The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Don easily disqualifies her…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in neighbourhoods, Dublin, and isolation?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about neighbourhoods, Dublin, and isolation.

Neighbourhoods Explore 25 books about neighbourhoods
Dublin Explore 68 books about Dublin
Isolation Explore 19 books about isolation