Seven Life Affirming Books

Friday, 21 May 2021

If someone asks me what my favourite types of books are, I will 100% always say it's the books that make me feel something. I love a good character driven story and my favourite books are life affirming stories about people and life and relationships. I love books that make me think about life and how beautiful and ugly it can be and how there are many flaws and imperfections, yet life is unimaginably precious and that we must live life, rather than just exist in it.

I've put together a list of seven books that I think fit this scenario perfectly. I got something from each of these books when reading them, some are funnier than others and some will break your heart - but that's just life, isn't it?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This is a book I read well over a year ago now but it's a book that I still think about often. We follow Ove, who is a cranky old man who likes to point fingers at people he doesn't like and is a bit of an all-round miserable grump. After his newly-moved-in neighbours hits his mailbox with their car, an unlikely friendship starts to form and we see the many, many layers of Ove and how he became the grumpy and bitter old man we are first introduced to.

I feel like everyone knows an Ove. A grumpy, witty, to-the-point person who comes across a bit blunt and a bit rude. But you might not really know them, and that's what this book explores, but it does so in such a beautiful and entertaining way that you never get bored of reading about the grumpy old man. I found that after I had finished a chapter I needed to read another one straight away because I couldn't get enough of Ove's story and everything that led him to where he is and how he is today. This is truely a story of friendship, love, loss, grief and the hardships of life. Ove and his story is one that will stay with me for a very long time and it's a story I recommend to everyone.

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
This is one my most recent reads but one that fits into this list of life-affirming list of books perfectly. In this story, we follow three people; Betty, her son Solo, and Betty's colleague and friend, Chetan. After Betty's husband dies, she invites Chetan to move in with her and Solo and the three form a tight knit friendship, with Solo and Chetan becoming more like father and son, but after one drunken night, Solo overhears a conversion between Betty and Chetan that will change their lives forever and which results in Solo fleeing Trinidad for New York and the close family unit that they all came to rely upon, is suddenly shattered and broken.

It's a bold and vivid story about acceptance and family and friendships and it's a story so elegantly told with such power and such anguish that it's a story you feel rather than read. Persaud did an incredible job at bringing each character to life and I loved reading about the Trinidad culture. 

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
This is an oldie but a goodie and one that I feel like is a true OG in the world of books about life. We follow Mitch, who reconnects with his old college professor, Morrie, after over 20 years of no contact. But Morrie is now dying of motor neurone disease and Mitch decides to visit Morrie every Tuesday and their rekindled relationship turns into one final 'class': lessons in how to live. 

This is a work of non-fiction and so I find the message hits home harder than any work of fiction as it actually happened. Yes, it a bit cliche in places, but if you want a story that will pull on your heartstrings, then this is definitely the one to turn to. 

Half A World Away by Mike Gayle
Again, this is a book I read over a year ago but it's one that immediately came to mind when compiling this list. We follow Kerry, who is single mum living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot forget her past. Noah is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. He was adopted as a child and Noah always looks forward, never back. When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both. 

This story deals with so many important topics; family, friendships, race, terminal illnesses, social class differences & childcare system pitfalls. But it handles them all in such a sensitive manner despite being tough subjects to cover and it does so without putting the reader on a downer, which is incredibly hard to do, but Gayle manages to pull it off perfectly.

Away With The Penguins by Hazel Prior
Don't be fooled by the Christmassy looking cover and title of this one, as I personally feel like it's a book that can be read at any time of year. We follow eighty-five-year-old Veronica, who is estranged from her family and wants to find a worthwhile cause to leave her fortune to. When she sees a documentary about penguins being studied in Antarctica, she tells the scientists she’s coming to visit—and won’t take no for an answer. Shortly after arriving, she convinces the reluctant team to rescue an orphaned baby penguin. He becomes part of life at the base, and Veronica's closed heart starts to open. Her grandson, Patrick, comes to Antarctica to make one last attempt to get to know his grandmother. Together, Veronica, Patrick, and even the scientists learn what family, love, and connection are all about. 

I loved this one; it was funny in parts and the whole old-grumpy-person that Veronica is portrayed as reminds me of Ove in many ways.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
I don't think I could write a post about life-affirming books and NOT mention this one. Take note though, this is one that comes with a LOT of trigger warnings and it's a very heavy book that deals with a lot of traumatic events. We follow four classmate who move to New York to make their way in life; there's JB, Malcolm, Willem & finally Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, who by midlife, is a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever. 

It's a story that shows you that no matter what life throws your way and no matter how damaged you become, there will always be people who will try to lift you up, who give you their all and no matter how beaten down you are, there are people that will always try to be a flicker of light in a dark world. It was more beautiful and heartbreaking than I could have ever imagined and these characters will stay with me for a very, very, very long time.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I read this book almost 2 years ago but it's one that I think fits perfectly into this category.  Lou is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life - steady boyfriend, close family, and has barely been farther afield than her tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life - big deals, extreme sports and worldwide travel, but now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody and bossy - but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. 

I absolutely loved this book and it's filled with so many emotions; it's funny, it's sad and it's about trying to prove that life is worth living even in the most desperate times.

Those are my top picks for books that give you all the feels. I love books that are about life and the rollercoaster that comes with simply being alive.

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