Heartwarmers

For Small Business Saturday, our local bookstore was giving away advanced review copies when you made a purchase of $10 or more.  The books were wrapped up in brown paper with brief, vague descriptions on the front. We had a baby who was ready to go at that point, so I was quickly scanning the black print and ‘heartwarming” caught my eye.

Later, as I was reading the book, which is Amy Rebecca Tan’s A Kind of Paradise, I realized that heartwarming books tend to, well, have a special place in my heart…a warm place in my heart?  They’re the book equivalent to a good, solid hug or an afternoon spent in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate. They might be my favorite.

To be clear, there’s a fine line between heartwarming and saccharine. I have been known to roll my eyes while reading, but I’ve also been known to happily sigh. I also don’t think heartwarming books need to necessarily have some specific kind of message or moral, but rather that they just leave you feeling good.  So what are the heartwarming books that elicit those good feels?

  • Amy Rebecca Tan’s A Kind of Paradise
    • Middle grade fans, library lovers…this is such a feel good read. A fortuitous find for sure!
  • Anne Youngson’s Meet Me at the Museum
    • Have I talked enough about this one yet? Letters between two strangers that talk about life beautifully. If I may be an Anne girl, this one speaks to my soul.
  • Maria Parr’s Astrid the Unstoppable
    • A grumpy old man, a spunky girl, and Alpine setting…need I say more?
  • Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden
    • My favorite of the wonderful Vanderbeekers series, although they’re all so charming. Big family, close-knit neighborhood, and lots of sweet adventures.
  •  Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
    • Oh, I’m sorry, do I talk about this one too much, too? These characters are beloved to me and this book, with the new library in town, Betsy’s writing dreams, and their theater adventures, feels extra close to my heart.
  • Ruby Ferguson’s Lady Rose and Mrs. Memmary
    • Almost a love letter to Scotland and a sweet fairytale feel that will leave you feeling cozy and content.
  • Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford
    • Like Stars Hallow, but with Father Tim. I put off reading this one for a while because I wasn’t sure I wanted to read about a priest, but don’t let that scare you off!
  •  Julia Stuart’s The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise
    • The way the lives of the people who live at the Tower of London (did you know that was a thing?) intertwine is magically accomplished.
  • Naomi Shihab Nye’s Habibi
    • A favorite of mine that I never hear about. This story follows a Palestinian-American teenager when her family moves to Israel.
  • Mary Ann Shaffer’s and Annie Barrow’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    • If you haven’t read this one…WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Oh, that’s not going to work? Please? It’s so good.
  •  Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, And a Very Interesting Boy
    • A lovely series for all of those who love the feel of a childrens’ classic.
  • L.M. Montgomery’s  Anne of Avonlea
    • I think this is my favorite Montgomery, but she’s got heartwarming in spades. Also, have you seen these covers? I could definitely collect different Anne copies. So pretty.
  • Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road
    • Another book lover’s delight, plus this is real!
  • James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small
    • I wasn’t sure I wanted to read about a veterinarian, but the Yorkshire setting got me and then I ended up loving every bit of it.
  •  R.J. Palacio’s Wonder
    • So moving.
  •  Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
    • I love a wholesome family, which made this book, one I’d usually never read because I tend to cringe over YA romance, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Anne Bogel’s I’d Rather Be Reading
    • Bogel’s essays about the reading life will have you nodding your head and smiling.
  • Jean Webster’s Daddy Long-Legs
    • Our orphan protagnist, but of course, is such a charmer. I don’t know how I only just read this one this year, but if you’re making the mistake of not having read this one yet, fix that!
I also want to highlight a series that fits this category, the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith.  I recently received a review copy of the latest in the series, The Peppermint Tea Chronicles, thanks to Anchor Books.  There was lots of dancing around the house.  When I posted about it, I was thrilled that several of you decided to start the series, but I’ll talk about it a little more here, so that you, too, can jump on the train. (Side note: Can we all jump on a train for a book nerd Edinburgh field trip?)
Alexander McCall Smith is probably most well-known for his The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective series, which is also a wonderful HBO series.  Those are very good, and will make you want a cup of rooibos tea, but his 44 Scotland Street series is the one that has my heart.  The Edinburgh setting seeps with his love for his city and his quirky and loveable characters are a delight to follow. There are lots of little philosophical asides and plenty of poking fun and it’s such a pleasure to dip in and out of this world.
My personal favorite character, Bertie, has a great storyline in the latest, which is book 13, but I think I most liked wandering along Stuart’s path in this one.  He had some beautiful, thought-provoking musings on life, as does Angus, but of course.  The publisher describes the book as a “warm, wise, and witty chronicle of the affairs in this corner of the world” and that certainly feels spot on.
This was my husband’s favorite series when I met him, so we have a special connection with it.  When we went to Edinburgh, we went to as many places in the books as we could, from getting coffee at “Big Lou’s” to wandering the aisles of Valvona and Crolla. I’ll have to dig up pictures to share at some point, but it was so fun.  We’ve also gotten to see Alexander McCall Smith speak and he’s exactly how you hope he is.  Basically, we’re superfans and I’m hoping this evangelism is going to convert you.
Okay, now that I’ve written all this, I kind of just want to pile up all these books, grab a blanket and some hot chocolate, and read and read and read and warm my heart right up :D.  Please let me know others that fit into this category! Clearly, it’s a favorite.

If you would like to join in on the fun, please go to the submissions page!

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