11 Lighthearted Reads with Big-Hearted Moments

December 20 2022
Share 11 Lighthearted Reads with Big-Hearted Moments

End-of-fall blues got you down? Feeling heavy from all the daily pressures and bad global news? Rejuvenate your mood with this list of hilariously charming novels that also carry a surprising amount of emotional weight. Just like the hit TV series Ted Lasso, these books seem all fun and light-heartedness at first, but pack a big punch when it counts. Each is guaranteed to keep you laughing through your tears, and if you are eager for more warm fuzzies when you’re finished, check out The Unofficial Ted Lasso Coloring Book, filled with show-inspired coloring pages where you can express your own joy through colors.

People Person
by Candice Carty-Williams

From the bestselling author of QUEENIE comes PEOPLE PERSON, a powerfully honest story about the importance of family members we often wished we didn’t have. Dimple Pennington is thirty and alone. Her wayward boyfriend is more distant than ever, and her “job” as a lifestyle influencer isn’t working out. But when an unexpected event throws her four half-siblings—whom she hasn’t seen in years and whom she swears she has nothing in common with—back into her life, Dimple finds herself surrounded with perhaps a few too many people, including the father who abandoned them all.

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People Person
Candice Carty-Williams

The author of the “brazenly hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is first novel” (Oprah Daily) Queenie returns with another witty and insightful novel about the power of family—even when they seem like strangers.

If you could choose your family...you wouldn’t choose the Penningtons.

Dimple Pennington knows of her half siblings, but she doesn’t really know them. Five people who don’t have anything in common except for faint memories of being driven through Brixton in their dad’s gold jeep, and some pretty complex abandonment issues. Dimple has bigger things to think about.

She’s thirty, and her life isn’t really going anywhere. An aspiring lifestyle influencer with a terrible and wayward boyfriend, Dimple’s life has shrunk to the size of a phone screen. And despite a small but loyal following, she’s never felt more alone in her life. That is, until a dramatic event brings her half siblings Nikisha, Danny, Lizzie, and Prynce crashing back into her life. And when they’re all forced to reconnect with Cyril Pennington, the absent father they never really knew, things get even more complicated.

From an author with “a flair for storytelling that appears effortlessly authentic” (Time), People Person is a vibrant and charming celebration of discovering family as an adult.

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The Antiques
by Kris D'Agostino

Witty, irreverent, and yet deeply affecting, THE ANTIQUES is an exploration of family in the wake of a patriarch’s death. The three Westfall siblings are struggling. Sex-addict Josef is estranged from his daughters. Sister Charlie has an out-of-hand client and a preschooler who just got expelled. And Armie never even made it out of his parents’ basement. When they all convene for their father’s funeral after a hurricane, the three must confront their father’s dying wish (for them to sell one of his most priceless antiques) as well as their own failures.

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The Antiques
Kris D'Agostino

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The Humans
by Matt Haig

Posing as a mathematician named Professor Andrew Martin, an alien comes to Earth on a very particular mission. While he is at first disgusted by a human’s capacity for cruelty and deceit, he soon develops a fondness for everything from poetry to peanut butter. Maybe, just maybe, there’s something transcendent to the humans’ imperfections after all, something that threatens the very integrity of the quest that brought him there in the first place. Funny, generous, and engaging, THE HUMANS follows one extraterrestrial on his journey to discover what it means to be human.

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The Humans
Matt Haig

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Bear Necessity
by James Gould-Bourn

Life has been hard since the unexpected death of Danny’s wife. Danny is struggling to help his eleven-year-old son, Will, cope with the loss and he’s struggling after losing his construction job. Desperate to pay rent, the father buys a roughed-up panda costume and becomes a street performer in the park, where he begins chasing bullies away from Will. Even though Will hasn’t talked to Danny since his mother’s death, he does start to confide in his new, unlikely panda friend. In this charming and hopeful story of overcoming grief, a father and son learn to reconnect in unexpected ways.

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Bear Necessity
James Gould-Bourn

A “refreshing,” (Kirkus Reviews) unpretentious, and uplifting story about a father and son reconnecting and finding happiness in the most unlikely circumstances—for fans of Nick Hornby and The Rosie Project.

Danny’s life is falling apart. His eleven-year-old son, Will, hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash a year earlier, and Danny has just been fired from his construction job. He’s behind on the rent and his nasty landlord is threatening to break his legs if he doesn’t pay soon. Danny needs money, and fast.

After observing street performers in a local park, Danny spends his last few dollars on a tattered panda costume, impulsively deciding to become a dancing bear. While performing one day, Danny spots his son being taunted by a group of older boys. Danny chases them off, and Will opens up for the first time since his mom died, unaware that the man in the panda costume is his father. Afraid of disclosing his true identity, Danny comforts his son. But will Danny lose Will’s trust once he reveals who he is? And will he be able to dance his way out of despair?

Filled with a delightful cast of characters, Bear Necessity is “a moving, sensitive story that is also very funny, and a perfect literary antidote to anxious, troubled times” (Shelf Awareness).

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The Helpline
by Katherine Collette

Funny and eccentric, just like its cast of characters, THE HELPLINE follows senior mathematician Germaine, who finds security in her analytical insurance job and Sudoku puzzles. After getting fired, she begins answering phones at City Hall for the Senior Citizens Helpline, where she is pressured by an influential community member (a national Sudoku champion and Germaine’s longtime hero) to squash a group of troublemaking seniors. While at first Germain sees the logic in repressing the coup of seniors, she soon changes her tune when she gets to know the cantankerous but lovable people causing a stir.

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The Helpline
Katherine Collette

An eccentric woman who is great with numbers—but not so great with people—realizes it’s up to her to pull a community together in this charming, big-hearted, “fun read, full of unique characters” (Associated Press)—perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and The Rosie Project.

Germaine Johnson doesn’t need friends. She has her work and her Sudoku puzzles. Until, that is, an incident at her insurance company leaves her jobless—and it turns out that there are very few openings these days for senior mathematicians with zero people skills.

Desperate, Germaine manages to secure a position at City Hall answering calls on the Senior Citizens Helpline. But it turns out that the mayor has something else in mind for Germaine: a secret project involving the troublemakers at the senior citizens center and their feud with the neighboring golf club—which happens to be run by the dashing yet disgraced national Sudoku champion, Don Thomas.

Don and the mayor want the senior center closed down and at first, Germaine is dedicated to helping them out—it makes sense mathematically, after all. But when Germaine actually gets to know the group of elderly rebels at the senior center, they open her eyes to a life outside of boxes and numbers and for the first time ever, Germaine realizes she may have miscalculated.

Filled with a unique and (occasionally) cranky cast of characters you can’t help but love, The Helpline is “delightful feel-good fun” (Toni Jordan, author of Addition) that is bound to capture your heart.

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Keya Das's Second Act
by Sopan Deb

Fifty-something Shantanu is cut off from his Bengali community in New Jersey after his divorce; he’s estranged from his daughter Mitali; and he will never forgive himself for how he reacted when his other daughter, Keya, came out as gay before she died. But when Shantanu finds an unfinished manuscript Keya and her girlfriend Pamela were writing, he, Mitali, and Mitali’s new love interest decide to stage the manuscript as a play. The only thing left to do is get Pamela onboard. Surprising and charming, KEYA DAS’S SECOND ACT is about how to build both family and understanding.

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Keya Das's Second Act
Sopan Deb

A poignant, heartwarming, and charmingly funny debut novel about how a discovered box in the attic leads one Bengali American family down a path toward understanding the importance of family, even when splintered.

Shantanu Das is living in the shadows of his past. In his fifties, he finds himself isolated from his traditional Bengali community after a devastating divorce from his wife, Chaitali; he hasn’t spoken to his eldest daughter Mitali in months; and most painfully, he lives each day with the regret that he didn’t accept his teenaged daughter Keya after she came out as gay. As the anniversary of Keya’s death approaches, Shantanu wakes up one morning utterly alone in his suburban New Jersey home and realizes it’s finally time to move on.

This is when Shantanu discovers a tucked-away box in the attic that could change everything. He calls Mitali and pleads with her to come home. She does so out of pity, not realizing that her life is about to shift.

Inside the box is an unfinished manuscript that Keya and her girlfriend were writing. It’s a surprising discovery that brings Keya to life briefly. But Neesh Desai, a new love interest for Mitali with regrets of his own, comes up with a wild idea, one that would give Keya more permanence: what if they are to stage the play? It could be an homage to Keya’s memory, and a way to make amends. But first, the Dases need to convince Pamela Moore, Keya’s girlfriend, to give her blessing. And they have to overcome ghosts from the past they haven’t met yet.

A story of redemption and righting the wrongs of the past, Keya Das’s Second Act is a warmly drawn homage to family, creativity, and second chances. Set in the vibrant world of Bengalis in the New Jersey suburbs, this debut novel is both poignant and, at times, a surprising hilarious testament to the unexpected ways we build family and find love, old and new.

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The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream
by Jeannie Zusy

Raising two boys alone after her separation and trying to keep her freelancing career afloat, Maggie has her hands full. But when she finds out that her intellectually disabled and diabetic older sister Ginny is in the ER after overdosing on Jell-O, Maggie knows she will have to bring Ginny—and her cantankerous dog—home to live with her. As Maggie embarks on life as a caretaker for her adult sister and dodges texts from her husband who won’t leave her alone, she learns that she might just need to be taken care of, too.

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The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream
Jeannie Zusy

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine meets Early Morning Riser with a dash of Where’d You Go, Bernadette in this very funny, occasionally romantic, and surprisingly moving novel about how one woman’s life is turned upside down when she becomes caregiver to her sister with special needs.

Every family has its fault lines, and when Maggie gets a call from the ER in Maryland where her older sister lives, the cracks start to appear. Ginny, her sugar-loving and diabetic older sister with intellectual disabilities, has overdosed on strawberry Jell-O.

Maggie knows Ginny really can’t live on her own, so she brings her sister and her occasionally vicious dog to live near her in upstate New York. Their other sister, Betsy, is against the idea but as a professional surfer, she is conveniently thousands of miles away.

Thus, Maggie’s life as a caretaker begins. It will take all of her dark humor and patience, already spread thin after a separation, raising two boys, freelancing, and starting a dating life, to deal with Ginny’s diapers, sugar addiction, porn habit, and refusal to cooperate. Add two devoted but feuding immigrant aides and a soon-to-be ex-husband who just won’t go away, and you’ve got a story that will leave you laughing through your tears as you wonder who is actually taking care of whom.

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Musical Chairs
by Amy Poeppel

In this wise and delightful novel, Bridget and Will have the perfect relationship—too bad they’re just friends. An integral part of their relationship is co-running a modestly successful chamber music group called the Forsyth Trio, which they founded with fellow student Gavin while at Julliard. When Bridget devises a plan to host her elderly father’s wedding at her ramshackle house as an opportunity to increase the Trio’s exposure, Will and Bridget decide to face the challenges of their past to convince Gavin, now a classical music star, to rejoin the group.

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Musical Chairs
Amy Poeppel

“Poeppel has created a story that is well thought out, well plotted, well written, and fully developed. A delightful novel that celebrates the messiness and joy to be found in real life.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“100% page-turning delight…Pull out a lawn chair and prepare to read this gleefully entertaining novel.” —Stephen McCauley, author of My Ex-Life

The “quick-witted and razor-sharp” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six) author of Limelight and Small Admissions returns with a hilarious and heartfelt new novel about a perfectly imperfect summer of love, secrets, and second chances.

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.

Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling breaks up with her over email, her twin twenty-somethings arrive unexpectedly, and her elderly father announces he’s getting married. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

“In this funny, profound, and brilliantly alive novel about all the messy, wise, and wonderful chords that love can strike in our lives, Poeppel gathers together fathers and daughters, old flames and new sparks, music, writing and gardening, to explore what it really means to feel at home, and how life can open you up in ways you never saw coming” (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author).

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Getting Clean With Stevie Green
by Swan Huntley

After successfully helping her mother relocate, thirty-seven-year-old Stevie Green decides to ditch her days of drinking and sleeping around to move back home and start a decluttering business. At first, it seems perfect: she reconnects with her sister who becomes her business partner, she starts a new relationship with her old high school sweetheart, and she cleans up her act. But soon questions begin to surface about Stevie’s past that she can’t avoid, questions that will dig up old high school scandals, her father’s death, and her complicated relationship with her ex-friend Chris.

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Getting Clean With Stevie Green
Swan Huntley

The author of the “sparkling dark romance” (Redbook) We Could Be Beautiful brings her “wit and verve” (The New York Times Book Review) to this quirky, feel-good novel about one woman’s messy journey from self-delusion to self-acceptance.

At thirty-seven, Stevie Green has had it with binge drinking and sleeping with strange men. She’s confused about her sexuality and her purpose in life. When her mother asks her to return to her hometown of La Jolla to help her move into a new house, she’s desperate enough to say yes. The move goes so well that Stevie decides to start her own decluttering business. She stops drinking. She hires her formerly estranged sister, Bonnie, to be her business partner. She rekindles a romance with her high school sweetheart, Brad. Things are better than ever—except for the complicated past that Stevie can’t seem to outrun.

Who was responsible for the high school scandal that caused her life to take a nosedive twenty years earlier? Why is she so secretive about the circumstances of her father’s death? Why are her feelings for her ex-friend, Chris, so mystifying? If she’s done drinking, then why can’t she seem to declutter the mini wine bottles from her car?

A winsome, fast-paced read, Getting Clean With Stevie Green is about coming to terms with who you are, resolving the pain of your past, and accepting the truth of your life in all its messy glory.

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None of This Would Have Happened If Prince Were Alive
by Carolyn Prusa

The Category Four hurricane hurtling right toward Ramona is the least of her worries. With an impossible boss, a toddler struggling to embrace toilet training, an overly critical mom, and a cheating husband, Ramona already has enough on her plate, before she is forced to evacuate her home in her minivan with a neighborhood kid and a classroom guinea pig in tow. As Ramona dodges obstacles, ignores warning lights, and navigates her messy relationships, she longs for the days when her life felt easy, passionate, and joyful in this novel perfect for fans of Maria Semple.

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None of This Would Have Happened If Prince Were Alive
Carolyn Prusa

Perfect for fans of Maria Semple and Jennifer Weiner, this smart and witty debut novel follows Ramona through the forty-eight hours after her life has been upended by the discovery of her husband’s affair and an approaching Category Four hurricane.

Ramona’s got a bratty boss, a toddler teetering through toilet training, a critical mom who doesn’t mind sharing, and oops—a cheating husband. That’s how a Category Four hurricane bearing down on her life in Savannah becomes just another item on her to-do list. In the next forty-eight hours she’ll add a neighborhood child and the class guinea pig named Clarence Thomas to her entourage as she struggles to evacuate town.

Ignoring the persistent glow of her minivan’s check engine light, Ramona navigates police check points, bathroom emergencies, demands from her boss, and torrential downpours while fielding calls and apology texts from her cheating husband and longing for the days when her life was like a Prince song, full of sexy creativity and joy.

Thoroughly entertaining and completely relatable, None of This Would Have Happened if Prince Were Alive is the hilarious, heartwarming story of a woman up to her elbows in calamities and about to drive off the brink of the rest of her life.

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Anxious People
by Fredrik Backman

It’s just a normal apartment open house . . . that is, until a desperate man rushes in to take everyone hostage. Unfortunately, this particular group of homeowning hopefuls aren’t ideal hostages: from an expecting couple who can’t agree on anything and a retired couple whose marriage is on the fritz to the old lady who won’t be intimidated (even by a gun) and a wealthy bank director estranged from all that truly matters, the intruder has no ordinary hostage situation on his hands. But together, everyone stuck inside this home-to-be may find themselves changed.

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Anxious People
Fredrik Backman

An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, the new novel from the author of A Man Called Ove is a “quirky, big-hearted novel….Wry, wise and often laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a wholly original story that delivers pure pleasure” (People).

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Proving once again that Backman is “a master of writing delightful, insightful, soulful, character-driven narratives” (USA TODAY), Anxious People “captures the messy essence of being human….It’s clever and affecting, as likely to make you laugh out loud as it is to make you cry” (The Washington Post). This “endlessly entertaining mood-booster” (Real Simple) is proof that the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope can save us—even in the most anxious of times.

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