Books With Happy Endings

I’ve been mulling over this post for a few days now, ever since a regular library patron of our branch asked me a seemingly innocuous question.  “Have you read any good, happy-ending books lately?” I was completely stumped.  So many questions swirled in my brain. Had I read any good happy-ending books lately?  Had I ever?  What was wrong with me that I couldn’t think of a single book to recommend to her?  Why do I only read sad books? Would I be a happier person if I read happier books?

I know that I used to read happy-ending books.  I went through a huge “chick-lit” phase in my 20’s.  (Yes, that term is problematic, but I do find it an apt way to categorize a large chunk of my previous reading habits.)  These were books about young women in their 20’s, mostly looking for love, a good job, and their identities in big cities like New York and London.  I was in a medium-sized Southern city, with a job I wasn’t sure about, but I still felt a kinship with these young women.  Most of them eventually found what they were looking for, or at least got started on a path that they liked, and it was comforting to read.

garden-spellsI’ve read and adored authors like Elinor Lipman and Sarah Addison Allen, who both write smart, charming fiction about love, family, and relationships.  They’re mostly happy in the end, usually.  I read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion last year and thought it was adorable and fun.  (Although I don’t feel compelled to read the sequel, The Rosie Effect.)  Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Attachments were pretty happy and funny.  So I know that every once in a while I do read on the lighter side.

Looking at my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge, out of 62 books read thus far, I’d classify only 7, maybe 8, of them as “happy-ending books.”  That equals about 11%.  No wonder I totally blanked when my library patron asked me to recommend something.  I am often attracted to messy, bittersweet, or downright sad books because I read to experience and learn and feel.  I want my reading to teach me something – an emotional truth, the reality of a person’s life on the other side of the world or someone totally different from me in my home region – I want to experience it all, the good and the bad.  I look for connection, for understanding, for enlightenment.  That said, sometimes I just want a thrilling page-turner!

9780007161195-us-300I don’t mean to say that because I seek emotional realism and complexity in my fiction that I am better than someone who reads mostly for escape.  I have already wrestled with book snobbery years ago and I won.  I thankfully left that crap behind.  I know that people read for many reasons, all valid.  These just happen to be my preferences and habits, most of the time.

I know that there is room in my reading life for both the emotional texture I crave and the restorative practice of escape. I saw that patron a couple of days after she asked me my question, and I told her that she’d really gotten me thinking about my reading habits.  I said that I am going to start mixing in more happy books, taking a chance on authors or books I may have previously not given a fair shake to.   Besides, I want to be able to help the next person who comes in looking for that sweet, feel-good story when they’ve had a rough week.

So this is where you come in, dear readers!  Give me your picks for books with happy endings.  I need some inspiration!  My library patrons and I thank you.

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28 thoughts on “Books With Happy Endings

  1. This is really interesting and has made me wonder how much of my reading ends happily. I try to split my reading between YA and adult books and, as a very broad generalisation, I’d say the YA books tend to end happily (self-acceptance, resolving disputes with parents, romance, going to college, etc) while the grown-up novels are more likely to end in misery or ambiguity. Maybe writers feel a need to show younger people a positive ending while adult writers feel like grown-ups can handle reality/abject misery!

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  2. Now you have me sitting here and trying to think of books I’ve read with happy endings…I think the most recent is Girl Waits with Gun, but it’s not like “BOOM! Fireworks! Wedding! Baby!” happy. So many of the books I love have ambiguous endings, really–good for some characters, not for others, or at the very least a sort of hopeful “we will go on” feel. Hm….I’ll be interested to see what books you find.

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  3. It’s interesting that you’re equating thoughtful, complex books with sadness. This is something that I’ve thought a lot about — there’s this big tendency in literary circles to assume that sad = deep and happy = shallow, and I think that formulation is, to say the least, problematic. I think there’s a lot of books that have that emotional texture you’re looking for while also not being escapist. Maybe it’s just that you like sad endings. :p

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    1. Jenny, perhaps I do. 🙂 I think that people often equate sadness with depth in many art forms, not just books. I agree, I know that I’ve read books before that are both happy and emotionally rich. They’re out there. I just don’t seem to be reading them as often as I’m reading things that are dealing with difficult topics. I’d love to read some of your suggestions that marry the two.

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  4. I’m not going to be much help to you, because I also tend to read not-so-happy books, although many of them have happy moments. A couple of funny books popped into my head, but then I realized that funny doesn’t always equal happy, and I can’t really remember if they had happy endings. Then there are the feel-good books, like The Storied Life of AJ Fikry – do they count as happy, even though there are many sad parts as well? The ending was more hopeful than happy, if I remember right.
    Anyway, you’ve given me lots to think about! I’ll try to remember to check back later to see if anyone has suggested some books to you!

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    1. Naomi, Yes, a lot of the books I tend to read are a solid mix of happy and sad, which for me is the most like what resembles real life. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is terrific! I would classify that as a feel-good read, even though I did cry while reading it.

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  5. I can’t say I read many books that are happy all the way through, but I do prefer books that leave me with a bit of hope rather than miserable. I looked through this year’s reading and nope! can’t find any I’d recommend as “happy” books, but there are many that have left me feeling good – Martin Chuzzlewit, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The High Mountains of Portugal, to name three. They’re all pretty bleak in parts, but they all end with a feeling of people triumphing over adversity. I also occasionally read cosy crime, which is probably my equivalent to chick-lit – light entertainment. But again, I’m not sure I’d ever class them as happy, considering someone usually dies! But they’re usually feel-good anyway…

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    1. FictionFan, I don’t especially love being miserable either! I really don’t! I’m afraid that perhaps I came off sounding as if I do. I also enjoy books where people have obstacles and they mostly overcome them. I classify my crime thrillers as “light” reads sometimes too, even though they’re about murder!

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  6. Book bloggers don’t read books with happy endings, it seems! I’m on the same boat. The best I can come up with is bittersweet endings, which sounds pretty happy to me! I thought the ending to Esperanza Rising was so sweet and happy. After all the hardships and loss she went through, the reunion with Abuelita warmed my heart. Another recent happy/bittersweet ending was The Lilies of Dawn by Vanessa Fogg. That novella was gorgeous inside and out.

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  7. What a difficult question and what a thoughtful post! Definitely got me thinking! I know I’m drawn to “issue” books as well as open endings so not the best premise for happy books though I enjoy escapism as much as the next person. My choice has always been mysteries for that.
    So happy ending and escapism are different things for me. But books that left me happy-ish or uplifted this year were the Lumberjane comics, Nimona, Malice, One Crazy Summer. Princeless comics, Sorcerer To the Crown, Juliet Takes A Breath, the Jumbies.

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    1. Bina, I agree that Nimona and Lumberjanes are happy. I didn’t include them in my tally even though I read them this year. I guess I consider comics/graphic novels their own category, kind of like mysteries/thrillers. Escapism and happy are not necessarily the same thing for me either. Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll look them up.

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  8. Woo, what a good question! I took my Goodreads inventory, and it took me a while to find titles where the ending is unmitigatedly happy. The titles I’ve read in 2016 that qualify as such : The finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace, Keep me posted by Lisa Beazley and A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders. Good luck with your happy chase !

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  9. The last time that I read The Color Purple, I remember thinking that I needed to reread it more often, because despite the heaviness of such of the story, it left me with the most amazing feeling in the end!

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  10. Along the lines of what Jenny said, I feel like I read a fair number of books that explore complicated ideas but end happily. Life After Life by Jill McCorkle–one of the main characters dies, but a little girl gets her dog back. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet–a sad thing happens, but at the end, the characters thinks she is where she is “supposed to be.” The Portable Veblen–for goodness sake, that one ends with a wedding and an epilogue to show the happily ever after!

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  11. I just read Elinor Lipman’s On Turpentine Lane and was delighted to find a happy ending. A little spookiness added some spice. I can’t remember the last time I read a book with a happy ending and the feeling it left me with has left me on a “Happy Ending” kick. Thanks for the recs!

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