While reading Book Club Favorites August pick, Yours Cheerfully, I was filled with a sense of bliss that only genuine book characters can bring. This novel led me to think about some other sincere stories that have brightened my shelves and left me feeling happy long after I shut their book pages. If you’re looking for joyous literary palate cleansers or uplifting stories to perk up your mood, check out my recommendations for honest and heartfelt book club picks.
This lighthearted historical fiction tale, set in London during WWII, has been the perfect pick-me-up. Emmy Lake is strong, clever, and ready to stand on the front line of women’s issues. Through her journalistic endeavors, she embarks on a courageous campaign for improved working conditions for mothers. Of course, love and friendship blossom along the way. This sequel to the endearing DEAR MRS. BIRD is a celebration of female solidarity and a testament to the strength of women.
From the author of the “jaunty, heartbreaking winner” (People) and international bestseller Dear Mrs. Bird, a new charming and uplifting novel set in London during World War II about a plucky aspiring journalist.
London, November 1941. Following the departure of the formidable Henrietta Bird from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles (now stationed back in the UK) is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, is bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.
When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends.
Every bit as funny, heartwarming, and touching as Dear Mrs. Bird, Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship—a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.
Despite drastically different upbringings and life experiences, an American aid worker in Afghanistan and her local interpreter form an unlikely friendship. Liv and Farida have a mutual love for Afghanistan, bonding them amid wartime in 2002. However, Liv is unaware that Farida is reporting information about the Americans’ activity back to her husband’s family, which has ties to the black market. These two very different but equally resilient woman are caught in the conflict of a war that will test them in ways they could never have imagined.
For fans of A Thousand Splendid Suns, “a rich, haunting, immersive story of cultures at the crossroads” (Jamie Ford, bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) that follows two women in Afghanistan—an American aid worker and her local interpreter—as they form an unexpected friendship despite their utterly different life experiences and the ever-increasing violence in Kabul.
In 2001, Kabul is a place of possibility as people fling off years of repressive Taliban rule. This hopeful chaos brings together American aid worker Liv Stoellner and Farida Basra, an educated Pakistani woman still adjusting to her arranged marriage to Gul, the son of an Afghan strongman whose family spent years of exile in Pakistan before returning to Kabul.
Both Liv and her husband take positions at an NGO that helps Afghan women recover from the Taliban years. They see the move as a reboot—Martin for his moribund academic career, Liv for their marriage. But for Farida and Gul, the move to Kabul is fraught, severing all ties with Farida’s family and her former world, and forcing Gul to confront a chapter in his life he’d desperately tried to erase.
The two women, brought together by Farida’s work as an interpreter, form a nascent friendship based on their growing mutual love for Afghanistan.
As the bond between Farida and Liv deepens, war-scarred Kabul acts in different ways upon them, as well as their husbands. Silent Hearts is “highly recommended, especially for fans of Khaled Hosseini” (Library Journal, starred review).
Britt-Marie is particular, organized, and a bit socially awkward. But beneath her fussy façade, she has a genuine and loving heart. After working up the courage to leave her cheating husband, Britt-Marie finds herself moving to the desolate Swedish town of Borg, where she takes up a job as the caretaker of the town’s recreation center. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the children’s soccer team to victory. Through it all, Britt-Marie finds a place where she can truly break out of her shell. BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE touches on the importance of community and reminds all of us that it’s never too late to make a change.
The New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry “returns with this heartwarming story about a woman rediscovering herself after a personal crisis…fans of Backman will find another winner in these pages” (Publishers Weekly).
Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.
But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes.
When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?
Funny and moving, sweet and inspiring, Britt-Marie Was Here celebrates the importance of community and connection in a world that can feel isolating.
Generations ago, the Owens family was cursed with a heartbreaking legacy: every man they fall in love with will eventually die prematurely. Knowing this, Susanna Owens lays down very strict rules for her children—no traveling alone, no magic, and absolutely no falling in love. But when Franny, Jett, and Vincent Owens visit their magical aunt Isabelle for the summer, in the New York City of the 1960s, they uncover their family’s secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic series—of which this story is a prequel—holds genuinely magical and irresistible stories about fate and the enduring power of love.
An instant New York Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick from beloved author Alice Hoffman—the spellbinding prequel to Practical Magic.
Find your magic.
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Yet, the children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the memorable aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.
Alice Hoffman delivers “fairy-tale promise with real-life struggle” (The New York Times Book Review) in a story how the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is “irresistible…the kind of book you race through, then pause at the last forty pages, savoring your final moments with the characters” (USA TODAY, 4/4 stars).
Paul Yoon has written six beautiful and lyrical short stories, which take place across several continents and time periods. The stories are linked by engrossing characters, connected by traumatic pasts and quests for a brighter future. Spanning the world from the Hudson Valley to Russia to China, every story stands as its own gorgeous piece, but together this compilation is a powerful and enduring expression of lives lived.
In “a spectacular display of intelligence and feeling” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), Paul Yoon’s collection of short stories ranges throughout the world—from the Hudson Valley to the Russian Far East—across periods of time after World War II, hailed as a "genuine work of art...tough and elegant and true" (The Boston Globe).
In The Mountain, award-winning and acclaimed author Paul Yoon reveals his subtle, ethereal, and strikingly observant style with six thematically linked stories, taking place across several continents and time periods and populated with characters who are connected by their traumatic pasts, newly vagrant lives, and quests for solace in their futures. Though they exist in their own distinct worlds (from a sanatorium in the Hudson Valley to an inn in the Russian far east) they are united by the struggle to reconcile their traumatic pasts in the wake of violence, big and small, spiritual and corporeal. A morphine-addicted nurse wanders through the decimated French countryside in search of purpose; a dissatisfied wife sporadically takes a train across Spain with a much younger man in the wake of a building explosion; a lost young woman emigrates from Korea to Shanghai, where she aimlessly works in a camera sweat shop, trying fruitlessly to outrun the ghosts of her past.
In this "fantastic collection" (Los Angeles Times), “Paul Yoon’s dazzling use of wordplay, pacing, and the quiet authenticity of his characters…makes him one of the most evocative writers working today” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review). With The Mountain, “Yoon proves himself a literary alchemist, transforming tragedy into beauty with deft reminders of our universal connections…Joining such luminaries as Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Díaz, and Alice Munro, Yoon has undoubtedly earned membership in the exclusive coterie of today’s finest writers of the short form” (Library Journal, starred review).
After a sincere beginning to an unlikely friendship, Maurice’s and Laura’s lives both change. AN INVISIBLE THREAD is the true story of the bond between a poor and hungry eleven-year-old and a busy sales executive who stops to talk to him. This touching memoir is filled with kindness, hope, and the trust that develops between the two as their friendship progresses. The power of connection is, well, powerful, and this story is living proof.
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