8 of the Best Feel-Good Books To Escape Into In 2020

Switch off that phone and dive into one of these. You’ll feel better, I promise.

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picture purchased from Elena Skripchenko at Shutterstock

Star-Crossed, by Minnie Darke

This was my favourite book of 2019 — and possibly in years. I kept stopping to say out loud, to no-one in particular: “this is so flipping good”. When Justine’s childhood friend and crush moves to her city, she’s determined to get him to fall in love with her — and she has the perfect plan. She doesn’t believe in astrology, but he does — and so, at work, she sneaks into the office of the journalist who writes the stars section and leaves clues for Nick in the Sagittarius section. A beautifully written, Australia-set novel of intertwined lives and unintended consequences, this has the feel of a fairy tale for grown-ups told by an expert hand.

Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding

This is one of my go-to comfort reads, because Bridget Jones never fails to make me laugh. She makes me nostalgic for the ’90s, and really quite jealous of Helen Fielding’s biting and entertaining social satire. Read the book, then, of course, watch the film, because who doesn’t need a bit of Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in these dark times?

Unscripted, by Claire Handscombe

My own novel, Unscripted, might be just what you’re looking for. It’s the story of a young woman with a crush on an actor and a determined plan. Libby is going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, write to her and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it for a week or so, then say, sure, but can I work on it with you? Their eyes will meet over the script, and fade to black. Except, life is never that simple, is it?

The Roxy Letters, by Mary Pauline Lowry

Set in the simpler time of 2012, it’s the story of Roxy, who’s trying to find her way in life while fighting against the gentrification of her beloved Austin, Texas. I’m kicking past Claire for having read it already, because it’s actually exactly what I want to read right now – it’s fun, touching, and slightly ridiculous in all the best ways.

Mornings With Rosemary, by Libby Page

A customer came into the bookshop where I work asking for “a book where people are lovely to each other”, and I took her straight to this one In The Lido (known in the UK as The Lido), a young lonely journalist and an older bereaved widow team up alongside their entire community to save their local outdoor swimming pool. It’s a truly charming book.

Love, Nina, by Nina Stibbe

This delightful book is a collection of letters that Nina Stibbe wrote home when she nannied for a posh family in 1980s London. It’s a lovely, easy read, full of gentle British humour.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, by Sue Townsend

This one is a modern British classic, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny in places. Adrian is growing up with divorcing parents in the Thatcherite Britain of the 1980s, coming to terms with his newfound hormones and raging crush on his schoolmate Pandora, and permanently devastated over the BBC’s constant rejection of his poetry. It’s endearing, and so much fun to read as an adult.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman

I put this book into as many hands as possible at East City Bookshop. Warm, witty, and delightful, it’s the story of book nerd, introvert, and cat owner Nina Hill, whose delicately balanced and well-planned life gets upended when she discovers she has a whole family she never knew about, and meets a hot boy at her weekly trivia night. Reading this book feels like being hugged.

Editor of WALK WITH US: How the West Wing Changed Our Lives; author of the novel UNSCRIPTED and of CONQUERING BABEL: a Practical Guide to Learning a Language.

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