The best uplifting novels that mix humor with poignancy

Who am I?

I like to read and write novels that are uplifting and life-affirming where the main character, who's often quirky and upbeat, must find their way out of the drama and chaos life has dealt them. Growing up in a family where humor – often black – reigned supreme, with a father who penned silly limericks, I’m drawn to seeing the funny side of things. Showing the light and dark of life in a comedic yet poignant way not only makes for entertaining reading but is enlightening and inspiring. I believe novels should reflect us and our failings while offering hope that it’ll all be alright in the end. 


I wrote...

The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock

By Jane Riley,

Book cover of The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock

What is my book about?

Oliver Clock has everything arranged just so. A steady job running the family funeral home. A fridge stocked with ready meals. A drawer full of colour-coded socks. A plan (of sorts) to stay trim enough for a standard-sized coffin. And in florist Marie, he’s found the love of his life – not that she’s aware of it.

When a tragedy takes Marie out of his life, he discovers too late that she secretly loved him. Now faced with an empty love life, a family funeral business in trouble, a fast-approaching fortieth birthday, and a notebook of resolutions he’s never achieved, Oliver resolves to open himself up to life and love—and all the mess that comes with it.

The books I picked & why

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The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

By Julietta Henderson,

Book cover of The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

Why this book?

What a joyous read! Which may seem like a funny thing to say when the story revolves around twelve-year-old Norman, mourning the loss of his best friend, and his single mother Sadie, who has past issues to resolve. But trust me, it’s so funny and cute and is a rollicking good read. They go on an adventure, with their elderly friend Leonard, to realise Norman’s (and his late friend’s) dreams of performing at the Edinburgh comedy festival, and to discover who Norman’s father is. Written from both characters’ points of view, you get to see different perspectives on their situation, which makes the story even more nuanced. I especially love Norman’s voice and how he’s so full of life and excitement for what the future may hold.  


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman,

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Why this book?

You can’t get more quirky than Eleanor Oliphant with her unique take on life and the people around her. She’s hilarious in her observations and her goal to meet – and date – a musician drives the narrative forward in an, often, comic way. But her idiosyncrasies hide a darker truth and as the novel progresses, the reality of what she’s dealing with is revealed. I loved this book for being able to combine the light and dark of life in a compelling way, as well as for the writing style and the original voice of Eleanor. We see her world as she sees it and are drawn immediately into her story. I didn’t want it to end but its ending is so satisfactory that I’m glad it did. 


The Rosie Project

By Graeme Simsion,

Book cover of The Rosie Project

Why this book?

Like my character, Oliver, the main protagonist in this novel, Don Tillman is searching for love – or more specifically, a wife. But he goes about it in an entirely different way. Whereas Oliver doesn’t know where to start, Don’s approach is methodical and scientific – appropriate given he’s a socially inept scientist. He creates The Wife Project as if he’s setting out to hire an employee or devising a financial plan, which makes for very funny reading. From the get-go, the character of Don with all his eccentricities and fastidiousness is nothing but charming. I love the originality of the premise and the character of Don.


Dinner with the Schnabels

By Toni Jordan,

Book cover of Dinner with the Schnabels

Why this book?

The main protagonist Simon Larsen reminds me a little of my character, Oliver Clock, where for a while things had been going pretty well for him, until they very definitely don’t. When Simon’s world collapses around him – his business fails and he loses the family home he can’t seem to find the best way out, let alone get off the couch. This is a funny, warm, and brilliantly observed novel about the chaos of marriage and families – especially those whom you’ve married into. As a writer, I admire the author’s clever way with words and as a reader, I laughed out loud in parts. 


The Full Ridiculous

By Mark Lamprell,

Book cover of The Full Ridiculous

Why this book?

In a similar vein to the previous book, this novel focuses on a man whose life is spiralling out of control. His professional life begins to crumble, he nearly gets run over by a car and his two teenage children get themselves into angst-causing strife. What I love the most about this book is that it’s narrated in the second person by the main character Michael who’s essentially having a mid-life crisis breakdown. This can be hard to pull off, but it works here as it’s like Michael’s providing commentary on himself and his life as if observing someone else. It makes for some hilarious writing, despite the serious theme. The author shows that sometimes to really appreciate the highs of life, you need to hit rock bottom first. 


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