Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make Me Smile

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.


Many thanks to Julia @ pagesforthoughts for this topic and it is interestingly worded: we are not looking necessarily for funny books but “books that make me smile” – so funny books, but also books with those warm cuddly vibes and feel good books, books that remind you of a warm experience and connect you to positive memories. And as we all start the slow process of coming out of lock down, that is a lovely thing to have in mind.

Mind you, a number of these may well be echoes of last week’s topic: the books and writers and series that make me smile are often the ones that I have read a number of books! I shall try to limit duplicates too much, but I will start with

Hogfather, Terry Pratchett

Pratchett will always make me smile, but Hogfather is a real delight from beginning to end.

Death takes on Santa’s – ahem! I mean The Hogfather’s – role droping down chimneys chortling HO! HO! HO! And Susan – Death’s grand-daughter (sort of) as a governess who would beat Mary Poppins any day of the week.

Beyond the comedy and anarchy and joyful silliness of it all comes real humanity and love:

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”


Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell

Death and grief lie at the heart of this novel, so do not venture into it thinking it is comic, but there are some wonderful, tender and warm moments.

In particular, there is a beautifully tender – and very erotic – moment between Agnes and the unnamed William Shakespeare in the apple store of Agnes’ family farm, including a rather odd description of her breasts

It was his hands that undid the bows at her neckline, that pulled down her shift, that brought out her breasts into the light – and how startled and how white they had looked, in the air like that, in daytime, in front of another; their pink-brown eyes stared back in shock.

And Agnes herself is a wild, wonderful, fey creation!

Like much of Shakespeare, the book generates as many smiles as tears.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

This science fiction novel was lovely!

No space battles here – well, there are a few – and no intergalactic invasions or mega weapons that you might expect from a space opera.

The novel charts a long journey on board The Wayfarer and the crew get to know each other, bond with each other, learn to love each other, look out for each other and become a disparate, functioning family.

It is lovely.

One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson

Crime novels do not often contain many smiles, but Kate Atkinson’s do – in a way which complements and heightens the drama. She is the queen of the coincidence and irony!

If we look at just one moment: Gloria’s confrontation with the dominatrix call girl with whom her husband had been having a liaison when he suffered the heart attack that put him into a coma in hospital.

“So, what do they pay you for…exactly?”

“Slapped around. Tied up. Beaten. Given orders, made to do things.”

“What kind of things?”

“You know.”

“No, I can’t even begin to imagine.”

“Lick my boots, crawl on floor, eat like dog.”

“Nothing useful, then, like hoovering?”

Dead Beat, Jim Butcher

I remain a little reticent about the Dresden Files in general, but Dead Beat introduces us to one character who is so exuberantly over-the-top extraordinary that you cannot help but smile.

Sue, the zombie tyrannosaurus rex:

Sue, despite her weight, moved with power and grace. As I’d called forth energy- charged ectoplasm to clothe the ancient bones, they had become covered in sheets of muscle and a hide of heavy, surprisingly supple quasi-flesh. She was dark grey, and there was a ripple pattern of black along her head, back, and flanks, almost like that of a jaguar.

Red, White and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston

This was totally outside my usual reading style, but it was such a heart warming and sweet tale, I found myself rooting hugely for our two protagonists and smiling at their emails to each other.

“Should I tell you that when we’re apart, your body comes back to me in dreams? That when I sleep, I see you, the dip of your waist, the freckle above your hip, and when I wake up in the morning, it feels like I’ve just been with you, the phantom touch of your hand on the back of my neck fresh and not imagined? That I can feel your skin against mine, and it makes every bone in my body ache? That, for a few moments, I can hold my breath and be back there with you, in a dream, in a thousand rooms, nowhere at all?”

And the moment when the feared public backlash is revealed to be a public wave of unconditional support is so sweet.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, Natasha Pulley

I love Natasha Pulley – and she has a great Twitter presence too – and her novels, especially The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.

The reason I chose this novel, the sequel to The Watchmaker, is that Pulley pulls in references to the glowing pollen from Peru of her other novel The Bedlam Stacks – creating the tantalising possibility of her two fictional worlds coming together.

Also, Mori – our clairvoyant samurai – sacrifices so much for his love for Thaniel, so selflessly, so generously… it is a delight.

Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

Reading a number of Booker Prize winners and longlisted novels over the years, you start to wonder where the novels are that let good things happen to nice people.

This is one that does that.

And all the numerous characters that Evaristo creates, for all their flaws and weaknesses, are rich and human and deep… and whilst awful things happen, they are survive and thrive.

And these wonderful characters are wrapped up in playful lyrical prose from the opening dedication:

For the sisters & the sistas & the sistahs & the sistren & the women & the womxn & the wimmin & the womyn & our brethren & our bredrin & our brothers & our bruvs & our men & our mandem & the LGBTQI+ members of the human family

Skyward and Starsight, Brandon Sanderson

One word: M-Bot

The snarky philosophising, mushroom-loving AI embedded in the mysterious ship that Spensa discovers, and her relationship with it, are just so much fun to read!

“You have large twin destructor emitters on each wing, along with a light-lance turret underneath. That’s as much firepower as our larger ships. You’re a warship.”
“Clearly not,” M-Bot said. “I’m here to categorize fungi. Didn’t you listen to my last orders? I am not supposed to get into fights.”
“Then why do you have guns?”
“For shooting large and dangerous beasts who might be threatening my fungus specimens,” M-Bot said. “Obviously.”

Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams

Whilst Queenie contains its fair share of pathos and tears, it also abounds in humour from its opening image – that being of Queenie texting her ex-boyfriend whilst in the middle of a gynaecological exam.

Queenie In the stirrups now.

Queenie Wish you were here . . .

I LOCKED MY phone and carried on looking at the ceiling before unlocking it and sending a follow-up “xx.” That would prove to Tom that I wasn’t as emotionally detached as he accuses me of being.

The book throws Queenie down a terrible self-destructive path and its intimate details alternate between the funny and the deeply worrying – but it is also beautifully heart warming as she survives and lives and regains herself.

So, to be fair, not a huge amount of comedy in the above list! Heart warming and tender moments rather than laughs, but smiles nevertheless.

I do want to mention one more honourable mention who was on the list but whom I removed because I wanted to focus on fiction: anything by Bill Bryson will generate a smile on almost every page!

I cannot wait to see your books that make you smile this week, too.

Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.

Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!

So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!

Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!

Forthcoming Top Ten Tuesday Topics

  • July 21: Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday (Real or Fictional. Submitted by Nandini @ Unputdownable Books)
  • July 28: Freebie (This week you get to come up with your own TTT topic!)
  • August 4: Books with Colours In the Titles
  • August 11: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed
  • August 18: Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies (submitted by Nushu @ Not A Prima Donna Girl)
  • August 25: Questions I Would Ask My Favorite Authors (Living or dead. You can post 10 questions for one author, one question each for 10 different authors, or anything else!)

46 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make Me Smile”

  1. So many great and different books! 😀

    Obviously I am firmly in the science fiction and fantasy camp but I love seeing books I have never even heard of before. I actually think I have The Watchmaker of Filigree Street somewhere so will have to check Natasha Pulley out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for visiting me – There are definitely some new ones to me on your list and I feel like it’s a wide range of genres! I’ve read one Jim Butcher & it was delightful – this reminds me to look for more!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim Butcher’s books do have some wonderful comedy in them. Great list! Thanks for stopping by my TTT! 🙂


  4. Another reminder of Terry Pratchett books! Now I think about it, I think I have seen a couple of adaptations of his novels, and both have made me laugh out loud, so I’d bet the books would also be good reads for when we want to laugh. 🙂 Thanks so much for visiting Finding Wonderland.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I love The Hogfather – I need to read more Terry Pratchett. I also really need to read some of Brandon Sanderson’s work.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Watchmaker of Filligree Street was kind of bumped back to the end of my tbr now but you make me want to pick it up a bit sooner now! I also really need to read Red White and Royal Blue. Waiting on the Dutch translation 🙂

    AND of course how could I forget Becky Chambers!

    Liked by 1 person

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