Do Happy Endings Exist?

Or happy books for that matter? After recommending The Shadow of the Wind to someone, they loved it of course, they asked me for more suggestions.  I immediately had a few book titles ready to shout out until I heard the dreaded words…“I think I want to read a happier book now.”  Woah.

Let’s see what books I’ve enjoyed most recently:
1)  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – a young boy’s grief after his father dies in 9/11
2)  The Book Thief – Germany during WWII, Germans die from bombings and Jews die in concentration camps
3)  The Bridge to Terabithia – contains a main character death (I won’t say the character’s name for the risk of spoiling it for others)

Then a realization hit me.  I can’t think of a single good book I’ve read and really enjoyed recently that could be called a “happy book”.

Are the only books that appeal to me ones filled with tortured, struggling characters and tales of misery?  It’s quite possible.

Since I’ve hit a depressing dead-end of happy book possibilities, I’m appealing to my blogging buddies for advice.  What are some good happy books? Also, do you find you tend to read books of a similar mood or am I alone in loving the depressing ones?


24 comments on “Do Happy Endings Exist?

  1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a great survival story from WWII (in the middle it’s not super happy but stick it out ’till the end!).

  2. mheretowrite says:

    I have read many books with happy endings but I think all of them had grief and tragedy somewhere in the story. You are not alone, I too prefer to read books with depressing stories. I like happy endings but only when they come after tears and misery.

    • Michelle says:

      Phew, glad to hear it isn’t just me. I think it’s a theme for the protagonists to be troubled or just have some major flaw – it makes them more human. Maybe that’s why we like the depressing stories more. They seem more relatable to our everyday struggles. Plus maybe they make our own lives seem a little bit better in comparison. Also, they’re just plain interesting to read about.

      • mheretowrite says:

        I agree. “Rainbows and sunshine” looks good when we are kids. Once we have ‘lived’ a little books with misery( atleast a little bit) starts to look better.

      • Michelle says:

        Very true. Also I think it’s hard for authors to show character growth without despair and difficulty.

      • I’ve got to laugh- I don’t love depressing stories. I seek out stories that have some humor, or whimsy, in the narrative or the characters. Or mysteries that come to nice, tidy ends.
        Especially when I’m feeling burdened by my own everyday struggles and stress. I just want to escape to a book world where the tensions and peril resolves nicely, or where characters handle their stress with a certain amount of upbeat that I might be lacking at that moment.

        My go-to comfort rereads are mostly YA (so I can gloat over having high school well behind me) and funny Regency romance. Lauren Willig is a genius of the funny Regency romance, with plenty of spy action. Always makes me happy.

      • Michelle says:

        I can see where these would be appealing and I definitely like some similar books, but for some reason these just aren’t the books I reach for on the shelf. I wonder if I’d feel less stressed if I did seek happier forms of entertainment in my down-time. Lauren Willig does write in a very different genre than I’m used to I think, but I did a quick search of her books and read a bit about them and I think I might like to give them a try. Thanks for the suggestion and your input =)

  3. Adam says:

    The Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld has a really nice ending to the trilogy. Howl’s Moving Castle is a really fun book that had a nice ending (the movie is also really good). A Spell for Chameleon (Piers Anthony) is a good book that has a happy ending.

    I just went through my Total Score page and really didn’t come up with many books that had a “happy” ending. I’ve never really thought about it before, but most of the books that really stick with me as excellent books don’t always have the happiest of endings. It makes sense if you stop and think about it for a minute, if you look at what the characters in some books go through, there is no way they could really have the “happy” ending where everything ends up ok.

    I think that really happy endings do exist, but ultimately I think endings that don’t have an element of sadness to them don’t appeal to us. Whether it’s a conscious realization or not, they just seem to fall flat. Interesting post.

    • Michelle says:

      I’ve read the books in the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield, but never anything else. I’ll have to look into The Leviathan trilogy and the other books you recommended. Thanks for all the new ideas!

      Yeah, I think the books that appeal to us most are more complex and thus have more complex characters who lead difficult lives. This isn’t a theme strictly of books though. Movies show similar themes – they’re not interesting without some drama and emotion! Even songs show this trend I think. Most of the popular songs deal with some sort of conflict. Very rarely are there happily-ever-after songs without hinting at any sort of struggle. No one wants to hear about the things that come easy! It’s just not interesting I guess.

  4. What an interesting question! The happiest book I can think of is Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. It’s a quick read and every page is sheer joy. No grief or tragedy anywhere, but somehow it totally works.

    • Michelle says:

      Hmm, that is interesting. Sounds like it’s very different from what I usually read but worth looking into. I’m so grateful for all these awesome suggestions from everyone. I love hearing what everyone else is reading.

  5. rumpydog says:

    Maybe that’s why I don’t read much anymore. There’s too much sorrow in the real world for me to experience it in my downtime also.

    • Michelle says:

      Fair enough. Maybe you’ll be interested in some of the happier books other commenters suggested to get you back into reading 🙂 Sorry I didn’t have any suggestions myself…but if you find yourself in need of a sad book you know where to go 😉

  6. rhymeswithchair says:

    Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? It takes place just after WWII. It’s a fun read and is fairly happy in tone. There are some melancholy moments (that’s almost mandatory since it’s post WWII), but it does have a happy ending. I like it so much that I’ve read it twice this year.

    • Michelle says:

      I haven’t read it or heard about it until now actually. You had my attention at WWII..definitely putting it on the list to look into. Thanks for the suggestion and for stopping by 🙂

  7. Bookish Hobbit says:

    Most of the books I like to recommend are not classified as “happy books” either so you’re not alone.

  8. You know my happy books are P.G. Wodehouse and Harry Potter series… they are fun and light and just what’s needed to lift you up. Though harry potter too begins in tragedy.

    Hmmm.. truly happy books would be a difficult find.

    And as for truly depressing books try ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry. I am not really overtly sensitive but for almost 2 weeks after reading it I was under such a pall of gloom.

    • Michelle says:

      I’m not sure I’d call the Harry Potter series happy. I love it and it’s my favorite series, but it’s made me come close to crying in multiple books! The 5th, 6th, and 7th all deal with major character deaths – so sad.

      I haven’t heard of the other books you mentioned. I’ll have to look up a summary. Was A Fine Balance at least worth the read? 2 weeks of sadness due to a book is pretty severe, yikes! It really stayed with you, huh?

      • everyone says they cried so many times in Harry potter, the only time I cried was when Dobby died. I mean Dumbeldore had lived a long fruitful life and He did choose this battle as did Sirius, but Dobby just got into it for the love he had for Harry. I remember I was reading this book in the bus, while travelling to work and I burst out crying right there. The boy sitting next to me shot out of his seat so fast he was just a blur…lol!

        A Fine Balance is definitely worth a read, it will tell you something about India at a particular time in history and the struggles of the less fortunate. Most ‘serious’ Indian lit either deals with the partition of India or the poverty except ‘the Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth which is simply a great great book. Yes, definitely try ‘the suitable boy’.

      • Michelle says:

        Dumbledore didn’t really cause any tears for me. Sirius was sad, but not the worst. I agree that Dobby was extremely sad…Hedwig actually made me upset too. I think the one that gets me the most though, surprisingly, is Snape. After learning all about his complex character I really got to like him and I found the whole thing with Lily just so sad. Idk his death depressed me a bit.

        Thanks for all the suggestions 🙂

  9. Also, P.G.Wodehouse was a British author and his books have that very typical British humour that keeps you giggling all the time. You know his books are collectors items coz finding a second hand copy is almost least in all the book shops and stalls I have visited. 🙂

  10. […] seen a couple of blogs ask this question recently.  Michelle over at Books and Boston in this post said that when a friend asked her for a book recommendation and said they wanted something happy, […]

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