5th March 2020 saw the annual World Book Day coincide with University Mental Health Day. To celebrate both themes we asked our users to suggest their favourite ‘feel good’ books. We hoped the concept of ‘feel good’ would be broad enough to encourage a range of titles to be suggested and we weren’t disappointed.
‘Feel good’ was quite rightly interpreted in different ways by different people. The comfort of a children’s books came across strongly with lots of suggestions of titles enjoyed whilst young, many of them featuring animals. In fact children’s stories were the largest category suggested, although even within this genre they were varied. Classics such as Little Women and I Capture the Castle were submitted alongside The Beano and The Wombles and the marvellous sounding Waiting for Doggo (blurb on the cover One man. One dog. One big love…).
Equally noteworthy were suggestions that incorporated fantasy worlds or aspects of the supernatural or fantastic, for example BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley, or Jones’ The Dark Lord of Derkholm and Sanderson’s Skyward. Neil Gaiman had a couple of nominations with Neverwhere and (with Terry Pratchett) Good Omens. Not sure how the dystopian fantasy of Lord of the Flies can make one ‘feel good’ but it was suggested. Perhaps after reading the ‘post-apocalyptic, dystopian survivor-fantasy about a bunch of pre-teen and teenage boys on a remote tropical island’ the world feels a safer and more welcoming place?
Poetry was present on the list including Eliot’s Four Quartets, Neil Astley’s inspiring collection Staying alive: real poems for unreal time and the more fun sounding Dad you’re not funny and other poems by Steve Turner.
Fiction beyond fantasy / children’s titles wasn’t that common but Coelho’s The Alchemist and Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees were recommended, as was the lesser well-known Zora Neale’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. For a book to make you forget the real world, I loved the suggestion of Sidney Sheldon’s Master of the Game described as the ultimate blockbuster. Equally P.G. Wodehouse works will transport you to a different, kinder world.
Non-fiction material included inspiring books by authors who overcame issues or obstacles or bravely faced immensely challenging situations. Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive is full of wisdom lightly worn (e.g. “There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.” ). The heartbreaking When Breath Becomes Air written by Paul Kalanithi was published posthumously and covers his terminal cancer diagnosis and his thoughts on what makes life worth living. Also non-fiction covered books that help us face the modern world included Hari’s Lost Connections: Uncovering the real causes of depression and Rosling’s Factfulness: ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think. A couple of titles about architecture (Baudrillard for Architects by Proto for example) completed our non-fiction selection.
But to top our polls, the feel good title most suggested (3 times) was the Bible.
A full list of titles is available here. Many thanks to all who suggested a book – there are certainly lots of options to get us thinking or feeling better.