Literature has a way of mirroring our agonies and angst. But what about those silly, mundane moments that can be so easy to take for granted?

Here are 10 books that remind us to appreciate the simple things in life – whether that’s a dog-eared book or a newfound friend. Buoyed by hope, these works reach for joy even in times of turmoil.

1. “Amazing Grace Adams,” by Fran Littlewood

Grace Adams was once an award-winning polyglot who spoke five languages and had a future brimming with possibility. Now she’s jobless in her 40s, facing a divorce and failing miserably to deliver a birthday cake to her estranged teenage daughter. Using three timelines, the novel uncovers the choices that led to the dissolution of her marriage and the downfall of her career. While she’s certainly not perfect, Grace is determined to show everyone – especially her daughter – that she is still amazing.

2. “Better Living Through Birding: Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World,” by Christian Cooper

Avid birdwatcher Christian Cooper, a Black man, went viral after a White dog walker called the police on him in Central Park. More than three years later, the host of National Geographic’s “Extraordinary Birder” wrote a touching memoir that reflects on that incident, as well as his lifelong adoration for birds and superheroes. That latter interest led the self-proclaimed “queer nerd” to do pioneering work creating gay superheroes at Marvel. Cooper also narrates the audiobook, each chapter of which delightfully starts with a different bird call.


3. “Birdie & Harlow: Life, Loss, and Loving My Dog So Much I Didn’t Want Kids (. . .Until I Did),” by Taylor Wolfe

A 20-year-old blogger goes to a Kansas farm and adopts a puppy, what she would later call “the best impromptu decision of my life.” In this hilarious, uplifting memoir, Wolfe, known on social media as @thedailytay, describes her intense bond with Harlow and her journey as a dog mom. Harlow remains an unshakable presence as Wolfe grapples with the chaos of her 20s, marriage and eventually new motherhood.

4. “The Book of Charlie: Wisdom From the Remarkable American Life of a 109-Year-Old Man,” by David Von Drehle

When a journalist moves to Kansas, he discovers that his neighbor has lived for more than a century – and decides to tell the man’s story. Charlie White would live to be 109, watching the world change over and over through the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, the era of radios and then smartphones (he practiced medicine while open-heart surgery was still developing). Von Drehle, who’s now a Washington Post editor and columnist, paints a tender portrait of the optimistic centenarian who never relented in his pursuit of happiness.

5. “The Book of (More) Delights,” by Ross Gay

In a follow-up to “The Book of Delights,” Gay once again rejoices in the fleeting pleasures of everyday life. This essay collection unearths those moments that are often overlooked in all of the bustle – putting on socks before a walk, meeting a puppy, making a cup of coffee just the way you like. There are also reflections on grief and racism in America that are sometimes angry yet always heartfelt in their own ways. Even when it’s tough, Gay calls on us to marvel at nature’s small wonders and remember that we’re all connected.


6. ‘The Chinese Groove,’ by Kathryn Ma

Eighteen-year-old Shelley arrives in San Francisco with big dreams, leaving behind the grief of his family in China’s Yunnan province. But the luxurious guest room he imagines turns out to be a couch with a two-week limit, and he struggles to find his footing in a new country that consistently falls short of expectations. Still, Shelley refuses to let go of his naiveté and positive attitude. Instead, he continues to have faith in what he calls the “Chinese groove” – the connection between fellow countrymen – in this poignant tale of the immigrant experience. (The audiobook is also “stunningly good.”)

7. “Happy Place,” by Emily Henry

Harriet and her fiancé, Wyn, broke up six months ago. But their friends from college don’t know, even as they all embark on their annual getaway to a cottage in Maine. Now Harriet and Wyn must pretend to be a couple while secretly pining for each other in a classic will-they-or-won’t-they. The story is interspersed with flashbacks that chronicle the pair’s romance (and eventual breakup) as Harriet’s wholesome friendship with Sabrina and Cleo shimmers in the distance. “Happy Place,” perhaps Henry’s most heart-wrenching love story to date, is an ode to second chances and how we find comfort in one another.

8. “Romantic Comedy,” by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sally Milz has given up on love. After a failed marriage in her 20s, the Emmy-winning writer is content to focus all her energy on a late-night comedy show not unlike “Saturday Night Live.” That is, until the handsome rock star Noah Brewster is the week’s host and they immediately hit it off. Yet Sally can’t fathom why he would be interested in her, “an ordinary, dorky, unkempt woman,” and repeatedly sabotages their relationship. As their romance intensifies and they become pandemic pen pals, she realizes that the greatest obstacle to her happy ending might be herself.


9. “What You Are Looking for Is in the Library,” by Michiko Aoyama, translated by Alison Watts

Tokyo’s most enigmatic librarian, Sayuri Komachi, has a gift: She can sense what someone is missing and the book they need to find it. The novel follows five people at various stages of life who are each dealing with an existential crisis. A simple conversation with Komachi, paired with a timely book recommendation, is nothing short of transformative. Translated from the Japanese, “What You Are Looking for Is in the Library” is a charming novel about the magic of reading.

10. “The Wishing Game,” by Meg Shaffer

Kindergarten teacher’s aide Lucy Hart longs to adopt her orphaned student, Christopher. She just doesn’t have the resources. Then her favorite children’s author announces a new book after a six-year hiatus, and Lucy is chosen to compete on the mysterious Clock Island to win the only copy. In a whimsical nod to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” she must outwit the other three contestants to secure the manuscript for her and Christopher. Between the author’s riddles, his handsome assistant, Hugo, and a shady cast of publishers and lawyers, victory will be far from easy.

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