It’s always a good time to escape into a wholesome book and remind yourself of the best parts of life. But it can be easy to forget about all the heartwarming, comforting, and uplifting books in libraries and on bookshop shelves.
To offer a nudge in the right direction, I’ve been thinking of some of the most heartwarming books to help you step away from the anxieties of the world and enjoy some time for self-care, lighthearted writing, and uplifting stories.
Which of these wholesome books have you already read, and which ones can you add to your reading list?
Wholesome books to warm your heart and soothe your soul
1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Pick up this classic and remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation that’s written with warmth and humour as a series of letters. It’s such a wholesome and uplifting celebration of the written word and human connection.
2. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the mole. “Kind,” said the boy. In this beautifully illustrated and comforting story, Charlie Mackesy weaves the tale of a curious boy, a greedy mole, a wary fox, and a wise horse. These characters find themselves together traversing uncertain ground while sharing their greatest fears and biggest discoveries about vulnerability, kindness, hope, friendship, and love.
I loved listening to the audiobook adaptation that’s read by the author and accompanied by music from Max Richter and Isobel Waller-Bridge as well as soothing wildlife sounds from rural England.
3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another – whether that’s putting on a play, forming a secret society, or accepting and forgiving each other exactly as they are.
Retreat into Louisa May Alcott’s classic wholesome story of four sisters: grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. For more like this, you might like my list of the best feel-good classics.
4. How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery
I adore this book, and it’s one of my top recommendations here on Tolstoy Therapy. How to Be a Good Creature is author Sy Montgomery’s memoir of her life with animals, complete with stunning illustrations and life lessons.
In this welcome reminder of the beauty of life, Montgomery beautifully shares the bond she has grown with pigs, dogs, and even an octopus during her life so far – as well as the plethora of ways they have helped her to be a good creature, too.
5. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
Seventeen-year-old Lenni Pettersson lives on the Terminal Ward at the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital, which at first seems like an unlikely setting for a heartwarming book. But although Lenni has been told she’s dying, she still has plenty of living to do.
At the hospital’s arts and crafts class, she meets the magnificent Margot, an 83-year-old, purple-pajama-wearing, fruitcake-eating rebel, who transforms Lenni in ways she never imagined. This book is a wholesome, brave testament to the power of living each day to the fullest and letting others into our heart.
6. Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder & Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark by Julia Baird
How do we move forward with life when everything has changed? As Julia Baird explores, when we appreciate just how fragile and fleeting our most treasured feelings can be, it’s possible to access a hidden strength, resilience, and light – or our own source of phosphorescence – that can sustain us in this unpredictable world.
Julia Baird’s intimate study of the phenomenon of phosphorescence is full of wisdom and joy, offering an uplifting and heartwarming roadmap for rediscovering our inner light after the darkest of times.
7. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
“It’ll leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy” says Reddit user cargogal20 about The House in the Cerulean Sea. There’s no drama in this uplifting feel-good book (or modern fairytale) about forty-year-old Linus Baker and the orphanage of six dangerous children he’s put in charge of under a highly classified assignment.
8. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
In The Travelling Cat Chronicles, author Hiro Arikawa gives voice to Nana the cat and his owner, Satoru, as they take to the road to visit three of Satoru’s longtime friends. However, the plan turns out to be different than Nana was led to expect. Along the way – and as the seasons and scenery change as they make their way across Japan – they will learn the true meaning of love, courage, and gratitude.
This gem of a book with Studio Ghibli vibes works its way into your heart as a heartwarming and life-affirming celebration of how the smallest things can provide the greatest joy.
9. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
“Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of the Kgale Hill. These were its assets: a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone, and an old typewriter. There was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe – the only lady private detective in Botswana – brewed redbush tea. And three mugs – one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need?”
Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is one of the best comfort reads to enjoy again and again. If you’ve got a problem that no one else can help you with, then pay a visit to Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s only – and finest – female private detective…
10. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
This is one of the best “hug in a book” choices for when the world is unpredictable and anxiety-inducing. Dandelion Wine is Ray Bradbury’s fictionalized memoir that harks back to an idyllic small-town summer of 1928, told through the eyes of the colourful characters who inhabit it.
Other wholesome books you might like:
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
- The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
For more wholesome books, also retreat into these cottagecore books to imagine a simple, cozy life in nature, the most uplifting feel-good books to brighten your day, and the most beautifully written books of all time.
Enjoy more from me
- Retreat into my new book, Your Life in Bloom: Finding Your Path and Your Courage, Grounded in the Wisdom of Nature.
- I'm also the author of Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, a book about my time living alone by the mountains.
- If you love books, are feeling a little lost right now, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, join The Sanctuary, my seven-day course to rebalance your life.