Need a Pick-Me-Up? Try Up-Lit

Need a mental boost? Looking for something to raise your spirits? Try up-lit, a popular novel trend that features:

  • everyday, but quirky and offbeat and sometimes curmudgeonly, characters
  • bittersweet emotions (a little bit of sentimentality tempered with a dose of melancholy for realism)
  • building relationships, either platonic or romantic (or both!)
  • life lessons learned
  • love, platonic or romantic (or both!)
  • uplifting, optimistic vibes

These novels have been around for several years (think the smash bestsellers A Man Called Ove or The Rosie Project), but the trend's rising popularity is due in part to increasing anxiety about the state of the world, from economic uncertainty and COVID-19, to escalating societal inequity and political tensions, and a strong desire to take a break from a stressful world by escaping into a book. Ready to find something upbeat?

The Up-Lit List

Most titles are available in a variety of digital and physical formats. Happy reading!

The Keeper of Lost Things Anthony keeps track of found things after he lost a keepsake from his deceased and beloved fiance decades ago, and as his life nears its end, it's time for the objects to find their original owners.

Death and Other Happy Endings After a terminal illness diagnosis, Jennifer realizes her only regret is the relationships she lost, and learns how to say what she always wanted to say.

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss After an economics professor is passed over for the Nobel Prize (again), all the snubs and disappointments in his life become the ultimate question: what makes us happy?

Dear Mrs. Bird A typist for the "agony aunt" column secretly answers the questions deemed "unpleasant" and unworthy by her employer in 1941 London.

Meet Me at the Museum An unexpected relationship between a widowed museum curator and a farmer's wife blossoms as they discover shared interests, until the letters suddenly stop.

One Day in December A woman experiences love at first sight only to have ten years of missed opportunities, friendship and heartbreak as destiny works its magic.

Hotel Silence A man decides to end his life, but when he arrives at a hotel to do so, he's distracted by the all the things that suddenly need his attention, but is it enough to give himself a second chance at living? 

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill Forced to push herself out of her comfort zone after her father's death, Nina wonders if real life can be as good as the books she loves.

How to Stop Time A high school history teacher falls for the French teacher, but love is complicated—and forbidden—when he's been alive for centuries, and must decide if it's time to give up the past for a future.

Evvie Drake Starts Over Two new friends take vows not to speak of death and baseball, but rules are broken and secrets come out as their relationship develops.

The Flatshare Two roommates with opposite schedules share an unusual arrangement, a flat with one bed, and though they've never met, their notes to each other bring them closer together. 

When You Read This Iris's last wish is to have her blog's musings published as a book, so her friend and her intern tackle the task with humorous and unexpected results.

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep Two awkward but well-meaning ten-year-olds become invested in solving the disappearance of their neighbor in 1970's England.

Less A man decides to face all—and none—of his problems as he accepts every invitation, from a wedding of an ex-boyfriend to a writer's retreat, with disastrously amusing results.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry A bookstore owner's life is not what he expected it to be, until a mysterious package arrives that shakes up his life with positive results.

Mornings With Rosemary A twenty-something newspaper writer and 86-year-old widow meet after the local pool is threatened with closure, and a friendship, with each teaching the other something new about life and relationships, forms between the pair.  

The Helpline Germaine, a math and number whiz who loses her job after an "incident," gets a job answering questions over the phone from older adults, and she discovers a feud between the golf club and the senior citizen center.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James Aging Ella decides to walk 2,000 miles to the sea, leaving her husband at home and the neighbor who loves her still, as flashbacks of her life keep her company as her memory begins to fail.

The Lost for Words Bookshop When a bookstore employee finds a book of poetry outside, she places it in the bookshop window with a note, "Found," not knowing that her small act of goodwill will change her life, a life that she's carefully built a wall around.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine Eleanor's carefully structured and isolated life is upended after she saves an elderly gentleman. 

Whispers Through A Megaphone Two strangers, one who is running toward something, and one who is running away from something, meet by chance, forever changing their perspective on the world. 

The Music Shop Frank connects people to the music he instinctively knows they need to hear, until a woman in a green coat walks in and his life is forever changed.

Which uplifiting novels have you read? Share them with us.

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