Seeking heartwarming, non-upsetting books
August 22, 2015 10:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm pregnant, and with the hormones, I am in the mood for warm-and-fuzzy books. I can't handle my normal murder mysteries. I'm especially drawn to books about families, people settling in to new communities and coming to feel at home, people creating a home for others, and that sort of thing. Books and audiobooks would be great.

This is very close to the question seeking Pleasantly Peaceful Books for Pregnant People, and I'd appreciate any ideas you have on that topic. I'd especially like good audiobooks, and books or audiobooks on that family / community theme.

For example, I've been thinking I'd like to re-read The Bean Trees or re-watch The Spitfire Grill. I loved a blog about a home for foster children because it was a mix of the no-nonsense (Joe was sick today) and this loving desire to help the kids feel more secure and at home.

Any ideas of what I should read or listen to? Thanks in advance!
posted by slidell to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
A Year in Provence
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:09 PM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

Sarah Addison Allen's books are just what you want.
posted by entropyiswinning at 11:11 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr is a touch on the melancholy side, but is my go-to reread for this sort of feeling. If a spare, quiet novel about medieval art restoration in an English village sounds like your thing, this is the book for you.
posted by thetortoise at 11:52 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you do decide you want the odd murder mystery, the search term you should use is "cozy" cozies are the mysteries solved by little old tea drinking ladies and tend to focus on home and community.
posted by MsMolly at 11:55 PM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Katie Fforde does light romances about people in specific trades moving to new places and finding love - it's basically a formula, but told with swift happiness, delightfully fluffy English books. Like, a typical book would be "Can Lucy the retired banker turned florist find love in the Cotswald with the local vet who is rebuilding his house from local stones in the traditional trade....."
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:49 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you're okay with books translated from Japanese, may I recommend Banana Yoshimoto? Her books fall into the genre of comfort literature ("iyashi bungaku"), and often have family as a topic. I especially recommend Kitchen, and if you want something longer, Amrita. (Stay away from some of the more mystical ones like N.P. for now.) I'm kind of surprised not more of her works have been translated into English...
posted by LoonyLovegood at 1:12 AM on August 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

For warm & fuzzy community-as-family (albeit with a touch of Christian emphasis), there's Jan Karon's Father Tim series; if I recall correctly, the first book is At Home In Mitford.

If you want a cozy murder mystery without any blood or gore, try just about anything by the late Charlotte MacLeod.
posted by easily confused at 1:16 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Miss Pettiegrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. A charming 1930s* Cinderella-esque story.

*does include the odd 'of their time' side eye moment.
posted by halcyonday at 1:37 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Anne Tyler's books would all qualify, I especially recommend for you Digging To America, Saint Maybe, and Patchwork Planet.
posted by smoke at 1:50 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also Carry Yourself Back To Me, by Deborah Reed.
posted by smoke at 1:51 AM on August 23, 2015

Norah Lofts wrote historical fiction that examined history through the eyes of generations of normal families. I think she's fantastic and she could provide you with a sense of comfort and continuity. I'm on mobile dvice and can't link but the Suffolk Trilogy is what you want (The Town House, The House at Old Vine, and The Hoise at Sunset) & they are available on Audible.
posted by janey47 at 2:01 AM on August 23, 2015

I don't read much that could be described as cozy or heartwarming, but a long time favorite, inherited from my dad, is Cheaper by the Dozen and the sequel, Belles on their Toes. They're also great movies (the 1950 and 1952 originals).
posted by Catenation at 2:20 AM on August 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Rosamunde pilcher books are just what you're looking for!
posted by pairofshades at 2:51 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sounds like a good time for Anne of Green Gables!
posted by jrobin276 at 3:40 AM on August 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

Plainsong by Kent Haruf is a lovely (and if I remember correctly pretty gentle) book about making your own family.
posted by statsgirl at 3:53 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Rainbow Rowell might work for you. Eleanor & Park is most people's favourite (I preferred Attaxchments but there is a subplot you might find upsetting, so save that one to later).

Otherwise, contemporary romance novels might just be up your street. I know many people have knee-jerk reactions to the idea of romance novels, but most of them are exactly about the things you ask about - families, building a life, settling in to a new community etc.
posted by kariebookish at 3:58 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Little House on the Prairie series?
posted by kinetic at 3:59 AM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

A lot of Maeve Binchy's books are available as audiobooks.

You might enjoy Debbie Macomber.

Dorothea Benton Frank and her Lowcountry books are fairly easy reads.

Might find something you like in Anne Rivers Siddons.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand was a good book, wish there were more by her (she has one more, but haven't read it).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:11 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

YMMV, but I have found the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett to be funny and heartwarming. I am also shocked that we got this deep into a Mefi thread before he was mentioned.
posted by LegallyBread at 4:36 AM on August 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

I think you may enjoy the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. They're utterly cosy, sunny, heartwarming mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith and set in Botswana. They tick some of your theme boxes too.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:43 AM on August 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

I like Trollope's Barchester stories for this, nothing much happens but the stories are absorbing and the characters are mostly likeable. If you don't mind a lot of silly comedy with your tales of family life, Diary of a Nobody is also fun: the Pooters are ridiculous but their family life is sweet and affectionate.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:58 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, I meant to add: there are some good audiobook versions of Georgette Heyer's cosier and less melodramatic novels that you may enjoy. The lightest ones are The Grand Sophy and Cotillion, both of which also go easy on the Overpowering Alpha Male who is an annoying feature of some of her books. Sylvester is more of a traditional romance novel but with many funny bits and there is a version narrated by Richard Armitage.
posted by Aravis76 at 5:05 AM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Susan Wiggs has written a whole lot of books, they have interesting characters, families, communities. Lightweight but decently-written and entertaining.
posted by mareli at 5:49 AM on August 23, 2015

You need Alexander McCall Smith's books in your life! I read as many of his No. 1 Ladies' Dectective books as I could lay my hands on during my first pregnancy. I also enjoyed his 44 Scotland Street series and some of his other books that are set in Edinburgh, but I lived in Edinburgh for 6 years, so a lot of the places he describes in those books were familiar and comforting to me.
posted by netsirk at 5:56 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin. (And other books by Laurie Colwin.)
posted by Redstart at 6:10 AM on August 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'd especially like good audiobooks, and books or audiobooks on that family / community theme.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. I loved this book. I listened to this book on audio and the narrator was top-notch. I was reluctant to "read" this book for a while because of the premise but so glad I did. Nothing too depressing in this book. There are memories of an orphanage and a story about parents dying but it's not an upsetting book.

The Good House by Ann Leary. Exceptional narrator. So entertaining, good and funny. Story about a local broker, a small New England town and its members. I'm only on chapter 5 but from the tone I don't think anything too terrible is going to happen.

Shotgun Lovesongs: A novel by Nickolas Butler. Listened to this on audio. Another non-upsetting entertaining read about a small Wisconsin town.

Non-fiction, not upsetting: Life Would be Perfect if I lived in that House by Meghan Daum. It's about the author's adventures in moving from place to place throughout her life and the dream of a perfect house.
posted by Fairchild at 6:50 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I love anything that Jeanne Marie Laskas writes .. check out Fifty Acres and a Poodle. Despite the cutesy title, it's a really absorbing book of how she came to find herself in a new community and how she created her family.
posted by Kangaroo at 7:12 AM on August 23, 2015

Swallows and Amazons seems to fit the bill to some extent. It features, as they say, 'mild peril', but it's a very home and family oriented book.

Maybe P.G. Wodehouse's Blandings books too? They're centred on family, even if comedy is the goal. And the clever plotting might give you a bit of the same fun you get from mysteries, without the need to concentrate so hard or worry about the characters, as nothing worse than a strained shoulder from egg-throwing ever really happens to anyone.
posted by howfar at 7:14 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Agreeing with jrobin276 that "Anne of Green Gables" fits the bill - and there are several books in that series (not just the first one that is the best known).

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Anne of the Island
Anne of Windy Poplars
Anne's House of Dreams
Anne of Ingleside
posted by BillMcMurdo at 7:24 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Anne series; from the fourth book on it's really better appreciated by adults, anyway. When I am too depressed (or otherwise emotional) to read anything else, I read LM Montgomery.

... or Meg Cabot -- the Princess Diaries and the Boy series for adults, basically any of her books are good for this purpose. They are all fluffy funny romance, sometimes with a bit of the supernatural thrown in.

... or Sophie Kinsella, but not her books published as Madeleine Wickham, because those are kind of depressing, and not the Shopaholic books, because those are scary. Can You Keep a Secret? and I've Got Your Number are both a lot of fun -- British chick lit that is done fairly well.

... speaking of British chick lit, my absolute favorite "you are too emotional to read anything else" books are by Hester Browne, though she is not as prolific as Meg is. Again, British chick lit that is exceptionally well done. I would recommend The Little Lady Agency and The Finishing Touches for starters.
posted by brina at 7:27 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Seconding: Meg Cabot's adult books, Anne of Green Gables, Jan Karon's Mitford, the Cheaper by the Dozen books, Sophie Kinsella's stand-alone (I can't read Shopaholic either!), Georgette Heyer, and Laurie Colwin.

Additional suggestions:

Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, which is Victorian and hilarious.

Shannon Hale's Austenland books. Her other books are either MG/YA (but still good) or The Actor and the Housewife, which is terrific but shattering and don't read that one now.

Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books, starting with the re-issued double-volume ones, which are Betsy's high school years and up. Betsy is a member of a loving family and then goes on to start her own household.
posted by pie ninja at 7:35 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've just been comfort-reading the Betsy-Tacy series!

If you read the Anne of Green Gables series, stop at Windy Poplars. You don't want to read House of Dreams while you're pregnant.
posted by Kriesa at 7:51 AM on August 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Earlier Anne of Green Gables books might be good for your mindset, but I'd suggest you avoid Anne's House of Dreams until you've given birth.

Under the Tuscan Sun is my personal go-to comfort read. Restoring an abandoned Italian villa, making a home in Tuscany, food
posted by belladonna at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Everlasting Story of Nory by Nicholson Baker
posted by Redstart at 8:06 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sisters of Heart and Snow - this has two storylines, one in contemporary California, one in twelfth-century Japan. Both feature family dysfunction, but nothing too upsetting.
posted by lyssabee at 8:32 AM on August 23, 2015

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It has an upsetting bit but ends well and is heartwarming for sure. I read it while I was pregnant.
posted by Cygnet at 8:36 AM on August 23, 2015

Oh, The What Katie Did books might also be a good thing, I'm thinking more of the final two Clover and In the High Valley as both those focus a lot on settling into a new community and/or families. They're both on Project Gutenberg. Probably best to avoid What Katie Did Next though as does have children illness.

L.M Montgomery also has The Story Girl and the sequel The Golden Road, which might also fit your needs. Very family focused and comforting.
posted by halcyonday at 8:47 AM on August 23, 2015

I'm sorting out my bookshelves as we speak. I wonder if Rumer Godden would suit you. And have you read "I Capture the Castle"?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

More L.M. Montgomery - The Blue Castle. Also the three Emily books. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Palladian Days: Finding a New Life in a Venetian Country House by Sally Gable would be a nice pairing to Under the Tuscan Sun. Tim Parks' book on raising his children in Italy and how that differs from his English childhood - An Italian Education.
posted by PussKillian at 8:57 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I heartily recommend the naturalist Gerald Durrell's autobiographical trilogy, My Family and Other Animals; Birds, Beasts, and Relatives; and The Garden of the Gods.

It is about the author's life growing up on the island of Corfu with his wonderfully eccentric family (including his brother, the author Lawrence Durrell). Also: the author, as the founder of zoos (e.g., the Durrell Wildlife Park) did, in a very real sense, create homes for others, if "others" includes animals!
posted by merejane at 9:50 AM on August 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is a book I have read recently that is BOTH a murder mystery and also somehow happy and heartwarming. (Warning: don't read The Husband's Secret though; it's also great, but decidedly not heartwarming.)

I will also second Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Robyn Carr! I have a toddler, and since she was born I haven't been able to abide negative books. Carr's a blend of women's lit/romance, and they are very community and family focused, always a happy ending. Grace Valley, Virgin River, and thunder Point are her series, they are interlocked but can be started in any order. Virgin River is 20 books long so it can keep you in books for awhile. If you like romance, regency romances might be good, Sarah MacLane would be my gateway suggestion!
posted by john_snow at 10:39 AM on August 23, 2015

To Say Nothing of the Dog

The Moosepath League books; Cordelia Underwood is the first.

We Took to the Woods
posted by gudrun at 11:21 AM on August 23, 2015

Oh wow I totally forgot about the reason you should wait to read House of Dreams until after your pregnancy. Definitely skip that one for now. The novels that follow in the series are fine to read, though, so if you don't mind missing the context you can safely skip it and move on to Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside.
posted by brina at 12:03 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe some of Ivan Doig's books. They are generally set in Montana of the past and are from a male-ish perspective, but they feel very homey and kind of domestic, in a frontierish sort of way, to me. I read some of them years ago and don't remember if they may have less appealing elements but I read Work Song recently and I think it is "safe."
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think The Whistling Season is a fine book. It certainly spoke to me, and I tend to read for relaxation at night. I would highly recommend Ivan Doig. I am not sure if some of his others would be in this genre of relaxing, but as always, YMMV. He is a great author, and I would recommend him to anyone.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:45 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Rilla of Ingleside is a sad book, though, don't you think? Has a lot of sad wartime goings on.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 4:12 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Rilla of Ingleside was written to show the author's support for Canada being in WW1. A lot of the book is directly taken from the short stories she sold to magazines at the start of her career. Between the choppy cob job feel of stringing a bunch of short stories together and the war propaganda it is my least favorite L.M. Montgomery novel.

Skip that one and read her Emily series, starting with Emily of New Moon. It's just a little darker than her other work but to me much more realistic and enjoyable. Has a happy ending.
posted by Melsky at 6:38 PM on August 23, 2015

On the non-fiction side, I really enjoyed "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. It's the story of her family trying to eat local food for a year, and it's definitely about settling into a new community and making a home.
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:19 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could also try searching under the "fluff" tag for any fandoms you're in on AO3.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:34 PM on August 23, 2015

Wildcard suggestion: Trustee from the Toolroom, by Nevil Shute's 1960 novel. (If you recognize the name, don't let the fact that he also wrote On The Beach put you off; everything works out okay in Trustee.)
posted by Sokka shot first at 4:10 AM on August 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

i seem on a continuous quest for decently-written books that make me smile, so i have some suggestions:

Kristan Higgins is my goto author lately for comfort reading--charming contemp romance without the sex scenes, often about settling into a small town/community, good writing.

2nd sarah addison allen. magical realism, engaging feelgood books.

if you like sexy scenes in your romance, robyn carr, susan mallory, victoria dahl are all great for small-town, enjoyable light comtemps. julia quinn is wonderful for regency-type stuff, as is eloisa james. they're both fun/witty with dialogue too (as is victoria dahl).

more comtemp: jennifer cruisie is funny and entertaining, and her sex scenes are a bit more intense, iirc. love her.

eloisa james' memoir paris in love is what got me into romance in the first place--i'd never read the genre (and was kind of snobby about it!)...but i loved her writing voice and thought i'd give it a try! (paris in love is a strong rec for a feelgood read too! a memoir about a year abroad, settling in with her family)

all of these are really about finding a place, settling in and finding a sense of belonging. v warm and fuzzy.

this thread is reminding me to reread some barbara kingsolver. thanks, thread!
posted by JBD at 5:19 AM on August 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's short but beautiful - The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell, with glorious Maurice Sendak illustrations ('decorations', it says on the cover).

Understood Betsy, which is available from Gutenberg.
posted by you must supply a verb at 5:26 AM on August 24, 2015

Miss Buncle's Book by DL Stevenson is a ridiculous, fluffy delight. I read it shortly after giving birth, when I did not want to read anything remotely upsetting or draining. This one has a very nice community feel to it.

If you like silly, adorable YA, Ursula Vernon's Castle Hangnail is wonderful. It is certainly about setting up a home and coming to find a place in a new community, but that community does include a lot of supernatural creatures.

Outside of that, my go-to reading when I want it to be easy and not upsetting is a regency romance. Julia Quinn. Mary Balogh. Courtney Milan. Eloisa James. Though, oddly, I could not read any of that while pregnant or during the 9 months after giving birth. Weirdest hormonal reaction ever.
posted by hought20 at 6:51 AM on August 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Everything by Katie Fforde. Light romance featuring women in the UK while starting a new business or somesuch: antique store, old house renovation, catering, etc. Her books are always fun and satisfying. Definitely warn and fuzzy, not saccharine.
posted by mirabelle at 7:22 AM on August 24, 2015

Response by poster: Wow, thank you all so much for this amazing outpouring of suggestions! This is amazing. I am really looking forward to diving into this list. Thanks again!
posted by slidell at 9:17 PM on August 24, 2015

The Enchanted April is a beautiful and gentle book about some British ladies who rent a castle in Italy in springtime (and there's a lovely movie adaptation, too).

Cold Comfort Farm is hilarious, charming, and a guaranteed satisfying comfort read.

Seconding the recommendation of Georgette Heyer and Under the Tuscan Sun. Adding that during a very trying moment in my life, I really appreciated the extremely civilized food writing of M. F. K. Fisher. There are some very nice compilations of her essays available.
posted by merriment at 12:14 AM on August 26, 2015

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