Upbeat Fiction for Your Online Book Club

By Lukie Marriott

Is your book club feeling the need for something uplifting to read? Maybe a book that even makes you laugh out loud but also offers something to sink your teeth into? I've scanned the fiction offerings from the last several years, and here are my suggestions.

  • Miss Benson's Beetle

    2020 by Joyce, Rachel

    Truly comical at times, Miss Benson's Beetle hurtles along with an unpredictable, entertaining plot. Not without some serious elements, the melancholy never overwhelms, and the endearing, oddball characters impart a sweet note. I can really see this one as a movie, and no big surprise there, as the author has done a lot of writing for television.

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  • Rules for Visiting

    2019 by Kane, Jessica Francis

    Forty-year-old reclusive May decides to reconnect with four old friends, not online but in messy face-to-face encounters. Given that this is exactly what we can't do right now, I invite your group to take vicarious pleasure in May's rediscovery of the nobleness and ridiculousness of ordinary people.

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  • Interior Chinatown

    2020 by Yu, Charles

    A humorous, insightful, and creative novel about racial pigeonholing. Protagonist Wu has a bit part in a cop show, playing the role of Generic Asian Man, but hoping to advance to the better role of Kung-Fu Man. Written as a screenplay by another television writer (West World), enjoy this one in visual format.

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  • Nothing to See Here

    2019 by Wilson, Kevin

    Challenge yourselves to read something that sounds totally crazy! You'll be rewarded with a story of family dysfunction and the search for purpose, told with hilarious honesty and irresistible sweetness.

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  • Stray City

    2018 by Johnson, Chelsey

    Andrea leaves her Midwestern Catholic family for the lesbian and art culture of Portland, OR, in this quietly engaging story. Goodreads describes it as an "anti-romantic comedy." Breaking rules and making bad decisions for the right reasons also describes it well. I loved it!

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  • Less

    2017 by Greer, Andrew Sean

    When almost-50-year-old Arthur Less learns that the man he loves is marrying someone else, he decides to avoid all his problems by taking an around-the-world trip in 80 days. What could possibly go wrong? A satire of the American abroad and a lyrically written comedy of the human condition, it won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

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  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

    2017 by Rooney, Kathleen

    Nighttime in New York City doesn't stop 85-year-old Lillian from going out for a walk--because what goes on in the streets interests her. Sure enough, she encounters all kinds of people in moments of grace and generosity. The character of Lillian is based on Margaret Fishback, the highest-paid female advertising copywriter in the world during the 1930s. Lillian lives her life as she likes, with wit and humor, because "humor could lead, perhaps, to happiness."

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  • The Liar's Dictionary

    2021 by Williams, Eley

    An overworked intern is tasked with finding the bogus definitions a disaffected Victorian lexicographer inserted into a dictionary that is now being digitized. Insightful, nuanced, comedic, and whimsical, this is a word-driven story, as opposed to a plot- or character-driven one, one that will delight logophiles.

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  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

    2017 by Jaswal, Balli Kaur

    Full of warmth and wit, this novel is set in London, where a group of mostly illiterate Punjabi widows gather to ostensibly learn English but instead begin to tell their stories in a way that is frowned upon by society. The women find their courage and become able to change the course of their lives.

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  • No One Can Pronounce My Name

    2017 by Satyal, Rakesh

    Two Indian immigrants in their 40s feel they don't fit in with their suburban community or their families. A chance meeting leads to a friendship in which both feel seen and appreciated for the first time. Although it is a funny novel, Satyal's characters are not just played for laughs but are developed, in beautiful prose, with real tenderness and insight.

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  • The Flatshare

    2019 by O'Leary, Beth

    If you're in the market for a heartwarming story that is more on the romantic side, look no further. Staff member Lynnanne says, "Leon and Tiffy are so human and deal with difficult issues. Yet they talk to each other like mature adults and don’t keep secrets. Just so delightful and swoon-worthy, plus funny."

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  • Rodham

    2020 by Sittenfeld, Curtis

    Depending on your group's political sensitivities, this novel may or may not be considered enjoyable. As a reimagining of Hillary's political career, with an inevitable strong focus on feminist issues and sex scandals, and with a truly unexpected twist in the latter part, I found it to be a welcome offering of other possibilities. It would make a good read for Women's History Month.

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  • The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues

    2017 by Moore, Edward Kelsey

    In this sequel to The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, Moore revisits the trio of lifelong friends, now in their 60s, from the close-knit community of Plainview, Indiana. Excellent storytelling and a heartwarming story that brought tears to my eyes at its close. You can enjoy this book on its own, but why not read the prequel anyway. It too combines comedy and pathos in a big and wonderful way.

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