Life-affirming novels: what do you recommend

(93 Posts)
BugBearisBugBear Fri 25-Apr-08 13:56:20

Sometimes, when I'm feeling despondent, it would be nice to have a really life-affirming novel to read.

Hope that doesn't make me sound suicidal - I'm very much NOT - but I'd like ideas of novels that make you feel glad to be alive.

I liked The Alchemist by Paul Cohello (SP?) It is about the treasure you are looking for being right where you are.

barking Fri 25-Apr-08 14:13:28

The Bronze Horseman - Paulina Simmons
The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse
Just novels?

BugBearisBugBear Fri 25-Apr-08 14:24:47

actually, no, not just novels. biographies could be good.

kitkat9 Fri 25-Apr-08 16:01:52

ooh barking - you're the fisrt person Ive ever seen on here recommending Paullina Simons - The Bronze Horseman is AMAZING, isn't it? Everyone I give to to adores it. The 2 sequels she did are fantastic too, have you read them?

Also loved Douglas Kennedy - The Pursuit of Happiness. It's quite sad but totally hooks you, and a wonderful story of the strength of the human spirit. Highly recommend it.

poodlepusher Fri 25-Apr-08 16:03:07

I think its going to depend very much on what you personally find life affirming, but for me I'd say the following:

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Museum Guard by Howard Norman
The Sea, the sea by John Banville
The Dubliners by James Joyce
Anything by Italo Calvino

Marmaduke - I've just read The Alchemist by Paul Coelho & enjoyed it. It's short & easy to read, but makes you think.

Trolleydolly71 Fri 25-Apr-08 16:07:08

Message withdrawn

Cold Comfort Farm, because it's funny and ends with everybody going off and having fun.

suey2 Fri 25-Apr-08 16:09:27

siddharta by hermann hesse. All about the search for enlightenment, but very simply written.

also miss pettigrew lives for a day cant remember the author about a woman down on her luck in the 30s whose luck changes coincidentally changing her life for the better

Sunshinemummy Fri 25-Apr-08 16:10:04

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.

arthursmum Fri 25-Apr-08 16:11:11

To Kill A Mockingbird always inspires me to try walking a mile in another persons shoes.

Celery Fri 25-Apr-08 16:11:14

Somerset Maughan's Of Human Bondage.

artichokes Fri 25-Apr-08 16:13:18

I am not really a fan of Paul Coehlo stuff. Therefore I was quite shocked to find that his book Veronika Decides to Die is not only a good read but is truly life affirming.

It is about a girl who tries to kill herself (not a good start for a life affirming novel). When she regains conciousness her psychiatrist tells her she has done so much damage that she will die in a week. The book is about how she chooses to live that week and how she discovers a life worth living. It is really uplifting and makes you realise how important it is to be who you want to be rather than who society wants you to be.

poodlepusher Fri 25-Apr-08 16:23:14

oh yes, To Kill a Mockingbird - that's a wonderful book.

Trolleydolly71 Fri 25-Apr-08 16:28:49

Message withdrawn

We will have to agree to differ TrolleyDolly! You know you are the first person I have ever heard say they don't like Cold Comfort Farm - I would be interested to know, do you like the novels it's parodying (Precious Bane, Wolf Solent etc) or have you not read them? That would make a difference to how good you think it is.

cyanarasamba Fri 25-Apr-08 19:33:23

A Town Like Alice - Neville Shute

quarkee Fri 25-Apr-08 19:34:01

DH hates the word 'mommet' which is from Cold Comfort Farm - thinks its creepy - imo CCF is GREAT

The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay. Brlliant book which the film did absolutely no justice at all about a young, white bullied boy growing up in South Africa going on to become boxing champion. It's not really about boxing though.

anything by Haruki Murakami, really beautiful writing style around some sometimes very ordinary subjects.

chisigirl Fri 25-Apr-08 19:42:08

An Evil Cradling, Bryan (Brian?!) Keenan.

not a novel per se. non-fiction but beautifully written, poetic.

barking Fri 25-Apr-08 19:48:47

kitkat9 - yes, I dismissed the book at first as the cover was a tad Barbara Cartland - but wow what a story inside! smile

OsmosisBanana - love the name, I know what you mean about the film. That book changed my life. Oh I'm just remembering little Peekay and Granpa Chook smile

Another one I've just remebered is 'I Know this much is True' by Wally Lamb plus his other book 'She's Come Undone' Very Good.

If interested in non-fiction, there is the absolutely best life changing book ever 'The Power of Now' by Eckart Tolle - Bloody brilliant- it reprogrammes your brain as you're reading it.

scottishmummy Fri 25-Apr-08 19:49:35

Fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe by Fannie Flagg. beautifully written, makes your heart soar

Bendi Fri 25-Apr-08 19:57:39

'This Book Will Change Your Life', I think it's called. It was a Richard & Judy thing, but don't let that put you off. It's an american author, and the cover has lots of iced donuts on the front. I really enjoyed the novel, one of those I wanted to buy for the people I care about.

Cold Comfort Farm.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (bit teenagerish but I love it still)
Jane Eyre

Flame Fri 25-Apr-08 20:07:52

Danny Wallace!!!! Join Me & Yes Man - they leave me remembering that there are good people (albeit a tad unhinged) in the world, and restore my faith in random acts of kindness

WantThisWantThat Fri 25-Apr-08 20:08:24

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Wonderful story of boy surviving at sea with a bengal tiger. Can and should be read on many levels but you finish it thinking wow!

Fullmoonfiend Fri 25-Apr-08 20:16:18

Precious Bane - by Mary Webb, It's my favourite comfort-book and no-one else seems to have heard of it.
In the early 19th century, a young woman with a harelip falls foul of her family's ambition and the superstitions of the local community, but meets a man who may see her differently.

If you can't cope with dialect, it will grate but Mary Webb was a true lover of nature and writes beautifuly and the heroine's love for mankind, despite the troubles which befall her - shine through and through.

blinkingthreetimes Fri 25-Apr-08 20:17:43

The Book theif -----I loved it really really great book

janeite Fri 25-Apr-08 20:19:56

Oh yes, "Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day" is just gorgeous!

I like (and am not at all religious) "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" and "Tuesdays With Morrie" as well.

But my favourite feel-good book ever has to be "Ballet Shoes" - lovely!

Doobydoo Fri 25-Apr-08 20:23:56

Jane Eyre. Ballet Shoes.White Boots.Cold Comfort Farm,and any Harry PotterblushThese are what I read for what I call my confort
Also Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel
I absolutely love Gone with the wind too and anything by Margaret Forster and a woman called Betty Macdonald[The egg and I and some others]
Some of these fit the OP some don't[got carried away sorry]
Also The Third Eye [that is a fab book]

seeker Fri 25-Apr-08 20:26:10

I re read Antonia Forest's Falconer's Lure to cheer myself up.
Also "I Capture the Castle", "Pride and Prejudice", all the Lord Peter Wimsey stories and "Rivals" by Jilly Cooper.

Doobydoo Fri 25-Apr-08 20:33:06

Love Rivalssmile

ElizabethBeresfordSW19 Fri 25-Apr-08 20:37:19

Trolleydolly71, I agree. I read that and thought, wow. I have made it from the primordial soup to here....

Fannie Flagg is a lovely read. I recently read one about Elner Slinfissle?. "I can't wait 'til I get to heaven". Everybody in the book was lovely. No baddies! But all so real, so quirky and so easy to read about. I don't think it has changed my life though.

I am about to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. My friend SENT it to me months ago. It was out in USA first.

allgonebellyup Fri 25-Apr-08 20:37:25

A Catcher in the Rye

Also the Alchemist

shoshe Fri 25-Apr-08 20:44:33

cyanarasamba I love that book, I grew up in Malaya and Singapore, in the 60/70s and my parents had been there in the early 50's, we knew people who had lived through similar things.

BugBearisBugBear Fri 25-Apr-08 21:43:37

Ooh, am pleased to see so many replies grin.

Hadassah Fri 25-Apr-08 21:52:31

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland and, although they are not books as such, Calvin and Hobbes comic strip collections.

pofaced Fri 25-Apr-08 21:53:46

Emma- Jane Austen... bitchy bullies can change
Middlemarch - George Eliot... virtue can be rewarded
Letters to Constance - Mary Hocking... Mumsnet in the 50s/ 60s (out of print but available in libraries)
Behind the Scenes at the Museum - Kate Atkinson... makes you laugh
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka... how family matters, despite everything (aka The Importance of Actually Caring)
Paul Scott: A Life - Hilary Spurling: just fantastically life affirming for the empathy and intelligence author displayed towrads not always likeable subject
Letters to Olga - Vaclav Havel: Love Story for East Europeans...

Join your local library and take out ten books each time and don't feel guilty about returning most of them unread!

Trolleydolly71 Fri 25-Apr-08 22:11:42

Message withdrawn

chefswife Fri 25-Apr-08 23:00:09

Life of Pi definitely. Read it 4 times. Fab.

Life affirming… The Secret by Ronda Byrne. This book has completely changed my life.

J-Pod by Douglas Coupland. Very funny… in that Canadian way… which translates well for British readers.

janeite Sat 26-Apr-08 14:48:05

Also "Life After God" by Douglas Coupland, although my favourite of his is "Miss Wyoming" for its sheer daftness.

UnquietDad Sat 26-Apr-08 14:50:32

Funnily enough, "Miss Wyoming" is the only Coupland I've just not got on with.

Try "A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters" by Julian Barnes. Not a conventional novel at all and it has some dark bits, but it makes you feel sort of intellectually refreshed.

ElizabethBeresfordSW19 Sat 26-Apr-08 16:10:45

Douglas Copeland. I had forgotten about him. He was really good. I think he was (and presumably still IS) my age so he wrote about people in their early 20s when I was that age and so on. That's why I liked him so much I think.

William Sutcliffe has another book out. Anybody like him? Not life-affirming, mind you. Are you experienced was so cynical, but so, so funny.

UnquietDad Sat 26-Apr-08 16:13:28

Sutcliffe: I liked "are you experienced" but "The love hexagon" was annoying - read as if it had been dashed-off in a few weeks and as if it was an adapted screenplay. Full of facelessly interchangeable London 20somethings all angsting about nothing in particular.

littlerach Sat 26-Apr-08 16:19:56

ElizaboethBeresford, eat, Pray Love is a really good book.

It really stayed with me for agesa fter I'd read it.

ElizabethBeresfordSW19 Sat 26-Apr-08 16:21:23

Love Hexagon wasn't his true style I thought. He was trying to do chiclit to make tons of money I suppose. Who can blame him for trying. But there is good shite and there is bad shite. I will happily admit to reading good shite....

I read the review of this new book and it sounds much better. THe three protags are women in their 60s who all have difficult relationships with their sons, or are slightly disappointed by them. Sounds interesting.

Actually, a man writing as a woman...hmmmm I said before I'm not keen on that. We'll see. I will buy the book though.

ElizabethBeresfordSW19 Sat 26-Apr-08 16:23:10

ps, just thought of another book by a geezer that I read recently and REALLY enjoyed "how to talk to a widower". Very good. Bit life-affirming I thinkl.

ElizabethBeresfordSW19 Sat 26-Apr-08 16:25:05

Littlerach, I must get on with reading that book! My friend will have expected me to have read it by the time I see her next. My life is apparently all up in the air with nowhere to land, just like the character from that book.

kitkat9 Sat 26-Apr-08 17:11:15

barking, we have the same taste in books, I think. Have also just read both those Wally Lamb ones too - especially loved She's Come Undone. Quite life-affirming!

Also adore Fannie Flagg for a pick-me-up. All her books are wonderful.

Bill Bryson for laugh-out-loud fun to cheer you up.

barking Sat 26-Apr-08 18:59:34

Hi Kitkat9 smile - shall have to swap other titles as I'm always on the lookout. Loved Fannie Flagg too. I have tried Bill Bryson but just didn't get on with him, maybe I have to be in the right mood? I'm always too tired these days!
Have you read David Sedaris 'Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim'? I kept seeing it recommended here and its laugh out loud funny.
Other life changing books are Kahil Gibran 'The Prophet' and any Richard Bach books.
I've recently discovered Sally Beauman and all her books are a joy - not life affirming, just a bloomin good read - awful titles and covers but hey who's judging!

barking Sat 26-Apr-08 19:11:20

Oh crikey, have forgotton to write down the very bestest most life affirming novel ever, I don't think I went out for a week while I was reading it.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas

GrinningSoul Sat 26-Apr-08 19:16:28

84 Charing cross road, helene hanff anyone? John Irving owen meany and others.

GrinningSoul Sat 26-Apr-08 19:20:10

also just read a really pick-me-up book called a redbird christmas. i googled to see who it was by and guess what, fannie flagg. must read more by her....

Mr Maybe


both by
Jane Young

littlerach Sat 26-Apr-08 19:27:14

Ooh, redbird Christmas is brilliant.
Makes you feell all warm insdie.

eekamoose Sat 26-Apr-08 19:41:50

THE VAN by Roddy Doyle. Tis so funny. Also THE SNAPPER. And THE COMMITMENTS, too. The Barrytown (Barrowtown?) Trilogy.

I read THE VAN just before going on honeymoon to Dublin. One of my all time fave books ever.

I don't know about life affirming as such but I could re-read Memoirs of a Geisha every year and still enjoy it.

ElizabethBeresfordSW19 Sat 26-Apr-08 21:09:43

jAYSUZZ, you didn't go to 'Barrytown' for your honeymoon didya?

eekamoose Sat 26-Apr-08 22:05:02

Dublin. Stayed in a B&B in Clontarf owned by a lady named Carmel Drain.

cyteen Sun 27-Apr-08 18:02:05

Jean-Dominique Bauby - The Diving Bell & The Butterfly. Extraordinary writing, all the more so when you remind yourself how he wrote it.

Alice In Bed, by Cathleen Schine, made me realise that you can face serious, painful situations and still be a smart-mouthed, sarcastic woman with a thriving sex life grin Alice is a brilliant heroine, and the book is very moving without being in the slightest bit sentimental.

FlossieTCake Tue 29-Apr-08 21:38:35

+1 vote for This Book Will Save Your Life - AM Homes. Brilliant, and really uplifting.

smartiejake Tue 29-Apr-08 22:24:44

The Grapes of Wrath- John Steinbeck

Greedygirl Sun 11-May-08 19:32:22

I second Danny Wallace - The Yes Man
Ron McLarty - The Memory of Running here
Might have helped that I read these both on holiday in Sorrento where we celebrated our first wedding anniversary <sighs and wishes she were there again>.

Flame Sun 11-May-08 19:38:16

I went to Sorrento when I was 14 - have always wanted to go back, it was beautiful

Quattrocento Sun 11-May-08 19:46:45

There are so many aren't there? The most lifeaffirming novel I've read this year is Random Acts of Heroic Love - worth a try - see what you think 3?ie=UTF8&s=books

<How do people make links shorter btw>

Also Empire of the Sun I think is life-affirming, though not in the traditional sense

Greedygirl Sun 11-May-08 20:02:10

We loved it Flame although I have heard some people say it is too touristy?

I picked that book up the other day Quattro but couldn't make up my mind, I'll look out for it at the library. It explains how to make links shorter next to the "add your message here box" (I tried to explain it but gave up - I was making it more complicated than it needed to be!).

Quattrocento Sun 11-May-08 20:03:51

Thanks GG

Flame Sun 11-May-08 20:04:17

Just put a space and what word you want to call the link before you do the closing ]]

Greedygirl Sun 11-May-08 20:08:53

Couldn't have put it better myself Flame!

charliegal Sun 11-May-08 20:12:12

'the accidental tourist' anne tyler. Also 'back when we were grown ups', same author.

CocodeBear Tue 13-May-08 17:19:42

Ah yes, I love Anne Tyler.

We had our honeymoon on the Amalfi coast [sigh]

Thanks for the latest recommendations. It's me, btw, the OPer, I mean smile

LadyG Tue 13-May-08 21:44:33

Anne Tyler fab. Also PG Wodehouse and your fave childhood books always good. Have recently reread Diana Wynne Jones Joan Aiken and Madeline L'Engle and really enjoyed them

Eeek Tue 13-May-08 21:54:21

any of the romantic novels of Georgette Heyer. So fluffy and silly they cheer me up every time.

dreamymum Tue 13-May-08 22:00:35

oregonian 'a tree grows in brooklyn' was the first novel i ever read and i think it has a huge influence on my entire life, it is one of my favourite books for that reason

Elasticwoman Tue 13-May-08 22:00:58

Quite enjoying something by Sandi Toksvig, can't remember what it's called. How's that for damning with faint praise?

eddiejo Tue 13-May-08 22:01:26

'How to be a slummy mummy' made me laugh out loud! Bit close to the mark for me.

harpomarx Tue 13-May-08 22:28:45

'I know why the caged bird sings' by Maya Angelou.

brilliant writing, full of strong characters.

wurlywoo Fri 16-May-08 22:09:48

I dont know whether this would be your thing but the Celestine Prophecy is definately life affirming if it isnt a bit too far fetched for you.

I have a sixth sense so appreciated it no end, if you want to know more let me know, it's very good.

expatinscotland Fri 16-May-08 22:11:26

My Dream of You, by Nuala O'Faolain (1940-2008, RIP)

frauster Fri 16-May-08 22:18:15

Agree with Jean-Dominique Bauby - The Diving Bell & The Butterfly. Amazing and definitely non-gooey

I also loved Haruki Murakami's "Underground" - a very sensitive documentary novel about the Tokyo sarin gas attacks. Some real fortitude there.

NumptyMum Fri 16-May-08 22:22:26

"Enchanted April" by Elizabeth von Arnim (the BBC had a drama based on it a few years back starring Josie Lawrence). Written in the 1920s it is about the lives of 4 women who end up on holiday in Italy and how that holiday and their interactions gently encourage them all to open up to new possibilities.

Evenstar Sat 14-Jun-08 23:19:15

I have just finished East of the Mountains by David Guterson can't really say much about the plot without spoiling it but life affirming in many ways. Miss Garnet's Angel by Sally Vickers showing that even an old person can rediscover their pleasure in life. Biography I would recommend I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

Kitsilano Sat 14-Jun-08 23:26:22

Great thread! I love Any Human Heart by William Boyd

ScottishMummy Sat 14-Jun-08 23:44:54

The_Grass_is_Singing the grass is singing poignant beautifully written

ScottishMummy Sat 14-Jun-08 23:47:49

the grass is singing poignant beautifully written

BBBee Sat 14-Jun-08 23:49:26

metamorphosis - really short book - you can read it on a train journey. WOnderful way of making you look at the ordinary everyday from the totally bizarre.

but it very much a taste thing - my friend hated it.

wondering1 Tue 15-Jan-13 10:02:54


DuchessofMalfi Tue 15-Jan-13 10:31:35

It's a children's book, but I think it's so positive and uplifting, life-affirming - The Railway Children by E Nesbit. Good things can come out of disaster, and never give up hope that it will get better one day. I think I need to read it again soon smile

CreamolaFoamFan Tue 15-Jan-13 10:38:56

Lots of my favourites on here - I tend towards the slightly gloomy, so like to counteract it with something a bit more cheerful: PG Wodehouse, Austen, Heyer, Joan Aiken, another Cold Comfort Farm fan as well. Oh, and the Railway Children - just thinking about the very end of that book makes me well up a tiny bit.

I've read a couple of Barbara Kingsolver books and enjoyed those very much - The Bean Trees is very sad in bits, but life-affirming and funny on the whole.
I also like The Shipping News - also quite darkly funny, but I like the overall story of someone who just doesn't fit their life, and finding a new one.

harrietspy Tue 15-Jan-13 10:41:02

My list is mainly children's books that I've encountered as an adult:

Holes, by Louis Sachar. A beautifully constructed story almost like a fairy tale.
The Tillerman Saga, by Cynthia Voigt. (I think Homecoming is the first).
The Changeover, by Margaret Mahy.

caffinequeen Tue 15-Jan-13 20:04:24

The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch someone?) is a good life affirming read.

Join Me (Danny Wallace) to remind you of the good people out there (extra feel good points for any random acts of kindness you carry out).

And The To Do List (Mike Gayle) which is a funny read but quite motivating at the same time (in a practical rather than a spiritual way).

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