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.

The books I picked & why

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A Man Called Ove

By Fredrik Backman,

Book cover of A Man Called Ove

Why 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.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman,

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Why 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.

Lights Out in Wonderland

By DBC Pierre,

Book cover of Lights Out in Wonderland

Why 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.

The Barrytown Trilogy: The Commitments; The Snapper; The Van

By Roddy Doyle,

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

Why 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.

The Rosie Project

By Graeme Simsion,

Book cover of The Rosie Project

Why 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.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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