Ten of the best light hearted novels

Whether you’re snuggled by a fireside in Europe, or fanning yourself by the pool in South America, there’s nothing like a good book. More often than not I’m too tired for complex, lengthy tomes and need something easy to read, but not trash. These are some of the most heart warming, gripping, inspirational and easy to read page turners on my bookshelf right now…

woman reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

One of my favourite books of all times, Americanah is light hearted but rich, thought provoking but easy to read. Americanah tells the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who moves to the US to study. It’s a dazzling portrayal of an international woman hovering between cultures. Don’t be fooled that this is ‘just’ a book about racism. It’s endearing, inspirational and relatable on so many levels.

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

First published in 1938, this gothic suspense novel has been voted the UK’s favourite novel of all time. The famous opening line, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,’ sets the scene for a nail biting thriller about obsession, love and hate. Muted violence and suppressed sexuality take centre stage in this theatrical masterpiece. I rarely like film adaptations, but Alfred Hitchcock’s version is worth a watch, too.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kid

Escaping an abusive father, 14-year-old Lily Owens runs away with the family maid, Rosaleen, to the South Carolina town that holds the key to her late mother’s past. There, Lily meets a tribe of women who take her in, teaching her about beekeeping, her past and her future. This is an endearing story of women helping women across social and racial divides. 

light book to read

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

Eccentric, witty and downright silly, this read-it-in-a-couple-of-days novel is a delight. Allan Karlsson is due to celebrate his hundredth birthday at his retirement home in Sweden, but is having none of it. Escaping on the bus for some adventure, a comedy of circumstance takes him across continents, into drug dealer dens and political catastrophes. This light hearted novel is a hilarious ode to living life for the present.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman

29-year-old Eleanor Oliphant is a social misfit who becomes obsessed with a singer. Her hilarious attempts to woo him land her in another relationship. There are deeply emotional, distressing elements in the book, but above all, it’s an uplifting cry to follow your own path in life. It’s a rebel yell for celebrating your own destiny and can easily be read in a few days.

A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is a member of the Russian aristocracy who finds himself at the heart of social change in the 20th century. When evicted from his luxury suite at the Hotel Metropol in Moscow, the charismatic gentleman of purpose doesn’t complain and soon attracts a circle of fascinating characters. These include a one-eyed cat, a former circus juggler, a poet, an actress, an orchestra conductor, a Prince and a young girl whom he ends up taking into his own care. Veering from Wildean comedy to heart wrenching tragedy, it’s witty, fun and a great light hearted novel.

summer book read

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka

Nadezhda, a sociology university lecturer despairs when her widowed father, Nikolai, marries a gold digging younger Ukrainian immigrant, Valentina. Nadezhda reunites with her estranged sister, Vera, to fight for her father’s divorce. In doing so, she uncovers secrets from her family’s past, including their experiences during the Ukrainian famine and Stalin’s purges. This is not a book about tractors, or indeed Ukrainian history. It is, however, a wonderfully absurd farce and a fun, light hearted novel.

The Guernsey literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

It’s 1946 and 32-year-old writer Juliet Ashton pens a comedic newspaper column. After receiving a fan letter from a stranger from Guernsey she eventually becomes aware of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Curious about the group’s name, she decides to make it the subject of a new novel and becomes intricately tied to the local community. Focused on wartime experiences, inevitably the novel can get rather tearful, but on the whole it’s a pull-your-socks-up rally to live your life, follow your heart and be compassionate to others.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone is a 15-year-old “mathematician with some behavioural difficulties”. After discovering the dead body of the neighbour’s dog, Christopher is wrongly arrested. Deciding to investigate the death for himself, he records his experiences in a book, which he calls a “murder mystery novel”. Although Christopher’s condition isn’t made explicit, most readers understand it to be Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism. The novel was published simultaneously in adults and children’s versions. A fun, easy read, it’s a great choice for non native speakers of English in particular. (If you’re a non native speaker, you can find more book inspiration here too).

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones

Roy and Celestial are young newly weds living in Atlanta, US. Wrongly accused for rape, Roy is jailed for 12 years and much of the novel is made up of letters between the couple while Roy is incarcerated. Celestial finds herself drawn to another path and the marriage struggles. OK, this book is not light hearted per se, but it’s impossible not to be drawn in by the different characters in this wise, compassionate and incredibly honest novel.

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