Well, after I read and reviewed A Little Life – the bleakest book in the history of language – I found myself in need of a few laughs. There are a few books that I keep to hand as my go-to best cheer up reads. Usually, they’re the ones I recommend to friends and loved ones who are going through a hard time, but this week I reached for them for myself. Here are my seven best cheer-up reads…
The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
I’m going to serve you the cream of the crop right up front: The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared is my number-one go-to ultimate cheer up read. I challenge anyone to pick up this story of a centenarian’s Forrest Gump-esque adventures around the world and not crack a smile or two. Something about the combination of curmudgeonly senior citizen with mad hijinks and happenstance just really tickles my funny bone. I regularly give this book to loved ones who are going through a hard time and need an escape, and it hasn’t failed us yet. Read my full review of The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared here.
The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Appelhans
Here’s the perfect cheer up read for bookworms of any age: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project. Lenore Appelhans draws on the tiredest tropes in modern rom-coms (as the title would suggest), and crafts this beautifully light but clever comedy about what happens when they go off script. Even though it’s been marketed to young readers, this slightly-older reader got a real kick out of it, and I’m sure even-older readers would, too. Read my full review of The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project here.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
When Andrew Sean Greer sat down to write a semi-autobiographical novel about the miseries of becoming an old gay writer, he realised the only way to make the story interesting was to make it funny. The result is Less, the remarkably cheerful and uplifting read about a miserable writer who flies around the world to avoid having to attend his ex’s wedding. This is one of the rare cheer up reads that found both popular and critical success: it was a best-seller and a Pulitzer Prize winner! Read my full review of Less here.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
If there’s any writer guaranteed to make me laugh so hard my cheeks hurt, it’s David Sedaris. Me Talk Pretty One Day is his spectacular memoir, about growing up and getting out (of both the closet and the country). He is delightfully wry, cutting and witty, but never cruel or over-the-top. He mocks himself just as much as he does his family, friends, teachers, and strangers. If you don’t need a cheer up read so much as you do a good belly laugh at someone’s searing insight, this is the book for you. Read my full review of Me Talk Pretty One Day here.
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones’s Diary is a cheer up read you can laugh at and laugh with, simultaneously. Who among us hasn’t committed to a year of eating virtuously, only to find themselves face-down in a tub of ice cream days later? Who among us hasn’t sworn off alcohol in the midst of the worst wine hangover of their lives, only to find themselves back down the pub counselling their best friends over a bottle the following night? Who hasn’t sworn off men only to find themselves between the sheets with a loveable rogue? Let them cast the first stone, I say! The rest of us will be enjoying Bridget’s thrills and spills and laughing with recognition.
The Martian by Andy Weir
On the face of it, The Martian probably doesn’t sound like a cheer up read at all: in a Gravity-meets-Robinson Crusoe disaster, a man finds himself trapped alone on Mars, with rapidly dwindling supplies and no real hope for rescue. Weir’s masterstroke is that he made this story hilarious through the narration of the main character, Mark Watney, whose no-bullshit and no-holds-barred logs will have you snickering into the spine. While his colleagues back on Earth are worrying for his safety and his mental health, Watney is naming craters after himself and making the best of his shitty circumstances. Read my full review of The Martian here.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
I can be a cynical snot, I don’t deny it. Usually, hackneyed fake-dating young-adult romance tropes have me rolling my eyes so hard they might just pop out. Every once in a while, though, I encounter a book like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and I’m forced to eat a big ol’ serve of humble pie. This one ticks all the boxes – the nerdy but adorable girl who finds herself in a pickle, agreeing to fake-date the sexy sporty guy from her high-school to make her soulful “soul mate” jealous… but damn, it works. It’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s a cheer up read sure to melt even the stoniest of hearts. Read my full review of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before here.
If all else fails, break glass in case of emergency and pick up any of your childhood favourites that stand the test of time. (Beware of any that were racist or sexist in a way that you didn’t recognise as a child and can’t ignore now: they’ll only make matters worse.) There’s no cheer up read like a book you loved as a kid. It will take you all the way back to a time before any of what’s getting you down even mattered. Need help choosing one? Let me know in the comments below, I’m happy to help!