Top Ten Tuesday: Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face

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.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics


Why do we read books?

For me, very often it is to be challenged, to be confronted by something, to be made to feel uncomfortable and to question my own assumptions, world view and perhaps even identity. I’m not sure I agree with Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt -the so called alienation effect, distancing the audience from the characters to engage intellectually rather than empathetically – but there is a potency to that idea.

And for a while, I was pretentious enough to think that this is what good literature and writing was. Challenging.

But there is so much power for simple goodness and pleasure in books too. Stories that make us smile, that warm our hearts and which help us manage the tribulations and vicissitudes of this difficult life are so important! Especially in the last two years. So this is a list of those heartwarming, uplifting feel-good novels. Not laugh-out-loud novels – I did a list of those recently too – but which give us the strength to be happy, that remind us that happiness is possible.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Charles Mackesy

Charlie Mackesy offers inspiration and hope in uncertain times in this beautiful book based on his famous quartet of characters. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse explores their unlikely friendship and the poignant, universal lessons they learn together.

I fully anticipate that this will appear in many of our TTT lists this week: it is such an uplifting and wonderful book with gorgeously and deceptively simple illustrations.

“Novel” is not the right word to describe the book, but I couldn’t not include it.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series of interconnected but standalone novels are a delight exploring what it means to be human, to be alive, to belong. I have only read the first two but they are full of warmth and love – and found family vibes.

Red, White and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

This was very much a lockdown discovery of mine, having seen it populating a number of lists and reading blogs… and it is a funny, sweet and warm romance. And for a novel that was tagged as explicit – and there is a lot of sex in there between Alex and Henry – the writing was rather coy!

The House in the Cerulean Sea, T J Klune

Linus Baker leads a quiet life. At forty, he has a tiny house with a devious cat and his beloved records for company. And at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, he’s spent many dull years monitoring their orphanages.

Then one day, Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a highly classified assignment.

Just like Red, White and Royal Blue, this was a lockdown heart warmer. And boy does it warm the heart! From Linus’ entrapment in the labyrinthine paperwork and bureaucracy of the Department for the Care of Magical Youths, to the wonderful and playful and childish children of the orphanage, to his gentle and tender falling for Arthur Parnassus, every moment was a delight!

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Abbi Waxman

Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, an excellent trivia team and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

So when the father she never knew existed dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers.

And if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny and interested in getting to know her…

What’s not to love? You main character works in a book shop – check – and attends regular quiz nights – check – and has a wonderfully supportive groups of friends – check. And a protagonist who suffers from anxiety.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley

In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. When the watch saves Thaniel’s life in a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori – a kind, lonely Japanese immigrant. Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library, desperate to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether before her mother can force her to marry.

Behind the fantasy and the adventure, the tenderness of the relationship between Mori – samurai, clairvoyant, clockwork maker – and Thaniel – civil servant, synaesthete – is so wonderful and heartfelt.

Any in this universe – The Lost Future of Pepperharrow or The Bedlam Stacks – could have been included but this first novel holds a special place.

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

Love isn’t an exact science – but no one told Don Tillman.

A thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don’s never had a second date. So he devises the Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner.

Enter Rosie – ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ – throwing Don’s safe, ordered life into chaos.

But what is this unsettling, alien emotion he’s feeling? . . .

The first and most successful of the Rosie series – I do love Rosie and regret that the other two books sidelined her a little – in which Don Tillman, geneticist and neurologically atypical strives to find love.

The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde

There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s MR Big.

Acheron Hades has been kidnapping certain characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.

It has dodos! And neanderthals!

Less heartwarming than many others on this list, but the sheer joy and exuberance of this novel – and of the series that follows – should put a smile of joy on any book lover’s face. Literally getting lost in a good book where you can slip into the pages of classic literature and meet the characters face to face!

The Jeeves series, P. G. Wodehouse

Bertie is feeling most put out when he finds that his friend Gussie is seeking relationship advice from Jeeves. Meanwhile Aunt Dahlia has asked Bertie to present awards at a school prize-giving ceremony. In a stroke of genius, Bertie realises he can kill two birds with one stone, palming off his prize-giving duties to Gussie by assuring him that the object of his affections will be there.

Several terrible misunderstandings later and facing chaos, Bertie turns, yet again, to Jeeves who swiftly and ingeniously saves the day.

Wodehouse’s Jeeves series is wonderfully silly, preposterous and ridiculous. And it revels in its ridiculousness! Yes, the world of Bertie Wooster is a heightened parody of a lost era and culture (which probably never existed anyway); no I cannot read it without hearing the voices of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. But what sheer fun!

The Discworld series, Sir Terry Pratchett

How could I not include these?

Yes, they are genuinely funny in places, but that humour is matched to a deeply literary understanding – no trope is left safe from a good upturning! – and a thoroughly humane and generous attitude.

The only regret? Sir Terry is no longer in a place to write any more.


Honourable Mentions Go To


So, as we commence the new year for me and my daughter in our various schools, and as we approach too the cold and dark of winter time and the return of 0530 alarms and head torches to facilitate my pre-work running, I hope the above list will bring a warm smile to the faces of some.

As always, comment here with books I have missed and your favourite choices to put a smile on your face! Always looking to boost my TBR!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • September 14: Books With Numbers In the Title
  • September 21: Books on My Fall 2021 To-Be-Read List
  • September 28: Freebie (Come up with your own topic or do a past TTT topic that you missed or would like to do again.)
  • October 5: Bookish Pet Peeves
  • October 12: Favourite Book Settings
  • October 19: Online Resources for Book Lovers (what websites, podcasts, apps, etc. do you use that make your reading life better?)
  • October 26: Halloween Freebie

28 comments

  1. I love your intro and I wholeheartedly agree! I haven’t read The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse yet but I ended up adding it to my TBR after reading this post. I’ve been seeing many others mention Terry Pratchett, The House in the Cerulean Sea and A Man Called Ove in their lists too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeeves, oh Jeeves! Now why didn’t I think of him! Definitely guarantee to make you smile (and laugh). 😀 Charles Mackesy’s book is on my list too, and Eyre Affair is currently on my audiobook bundle. All the others, I’m adding to my feel-good inventory. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, I really need to pick up The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse- it’s been selling like crazy at work (I even had a lady order over 100 copies to give out to friends, family, and acquaintances), so it has to be good, right? Plus the illustrations are just lovely, simple and evocative at the same time.

    I was hard pressed to not put Red, White and Royal Blue on my list this week, but I feel like it’s on every list I make, so I had to give it a rest. Though it is still a comfort read for me, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sadly I didn’t care for ‘Nina Hill’ as much as I wanted to, but I’m glad I read it and the concept 100% makes me smile! Love that she’s bookish and the cover art, too. Thanks so much for visiting Finding Wonderland on this week’s topic. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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