I grew up watching my mom read every spare moment. She walks and reads, she waits and reads, she reads to my dad in the passenger seat on road trips, and she talks to me about reading quite a bit.

As a quite direct result of her love of literature, I am a BYU English major. Here are 10 uplifting books that have profoundly impacted me.

‘The Great Divorce’

Author: C.S. Lewis.

Publication date: 1945.

I took a class solely dedicated to the works of C.S. Lewis my freshman year, and we read a majority of his published works.

This book is a reaction to William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” which argues for the necessity of both good and evil in the world. “The Great Divorce” is a mix of parable and allegory and explores what the afterlife will be like for people who lived good lives, and for people who didn’t.

Notable quotation: “Hell is a state of mind — ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind — is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”

‘The Hiding Place’

Author: Corrie ten Boom.

Publication date: 1971.

This is an autobiography of a Christian, WWII concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom. Some may remember that a story from this book was included in an area leadership message for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Torben Engbjerg, an Area Authority Seventy, titled “Living With Gratitude” in 2020. He explained, in the concentration camp, ten Boom’s sister Betsie prayed, thanking God for the fleas that were making their lives absolutely miserable.

Later they realized that the only reason their Bibles didn’t get confiscated was because the guards refused to enter their flea-infested area of the room.

The story of the fleas is just one of many on how to find joy even in the hardest of times.

Notable quotation: “Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.”

‘Memory Wall’

Author: Anthony Doerr.

Publication date: 2010.

“Memory Wall” is a compilation of short stories exploring what really gives meaning in people’s lives. The longest story in the compilation describes a woman in South Africa under-going a sci-fi treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Her memories are extracted and put on thumb drives, and it draws the big questions in life into the front’s of the reader’s mind.

Doerr is also the author of “All the Light We Cannot See,” which will be made into series which will air on Netflix this November.

Notable quotation: “I used to think ... that I had to be careful with how much I lived. As if life was a pocketful of coins. You only got so much and you didn’t want to spend it all in one place. ... But now I know that life is the one thing in the world that never runs out. I might run out of mine, and you might run out of yours, but the world will never run out of life. And we’re all very lucky to be part of something like that.”


Author: Jane Austen.

Publication date: 1817.

Everyone should read at least one Jane Austen novel in their life at the bare minimum. “Persuasion” is about Anne Elliot, who has a generally embarrassing family. She falls in love at a young age, but since he is beneath her in social class, she is persuaded to not accept his marriage proposal. She refuses his offer but continues to love him in secret for many years until he suddenly comes back into her life.

This book really is a lot more interesting than the description above, but I don’t want to spoil it. Since it’s so old and so popular, it’s released to the public domain, and you can read the entire thing on your laptop on Project Gutenberg for free.

Notable quotation: “... when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure.”

‘The Two-Part Prelude’

Author: William Wordsworth.

Publication: 1799.

Don’t just scroll past this one. Romantic era poetry is some of the most exciting, moving, terrifying and brilliant poetry that has ever been written.

“The Two-Part Prelude” was revolutionary from its epic-style form to its accessibility to lower-class readers. In the poem, Wordsworth describes his childhood to until he begins to write the poem at the age of 30. He includes encounters with “the sublime” and can also be accessed for free online.

Notable quotation: “In November days, / When vapours, rolling down the valleys, made / A lonely scene more lonesome, among woods / At noon, and ‘mid the calm of summer nights / When by the margin of the trembling lake / Beneath the gloomy hills I homeward went / In solitude, such intercourse was mine.”

‘Far From the Madding Crowd’

Author: Thomas Hardy.

Publication: 1874.

This book’s strongest messages are to beware of pride and that relationships will never function properly until the power balance is equal. Bathsheba Everdeen is the vain heroine, and Gabriel Oak is the humble hero who loses his livelihood after his sheep dog chases his flock off a cliff.

It’s a pastoral book with beautiful descriptions of the English countryside and has strong late Victorian themes. An under-rated aspect of this book is the strong English humor. Hardy’s novel is both moving and absolutely hilarious.

Notable quotation: “She was of the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, feared at tea-parties, hated in shops, and loved at crises.”

‘The Great Gatsby’

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Publication: 1925.

Many readers will relate to this: “The Great Gatsby” is the book that catapulted me into my love of literature. I read it when I was 16, and to this day I believe that it is one of the most intricately symbolic books that has ever been written.

It describes New York City in the roaring ’20s, and James Gatz’s (Gatsby) unrequited love of Daisy Buchanan.

Notable quotations: “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Author: William Shakespeare.

Publication: ~1598.

This play is a comedy set in Italy about misunderstandings between two couples. Like many other Shakespeare plays, there’s a mischievous man who causes mayhem through a series of misunderstandings. Ultimately, love conquers all, and the play ends in multiple weddings and good feelings all around.

If you’re not much of a Shakespeare reader, there are several good film adaptations of this play, notably the 1993 version.

Notable quotation: “‘I can see he’s not in your good books,’ said the messenger. ‘No, and if he were I would burn my library.’”

‘Animal Farm’

Author: George Orwell.

Publication: 1945.

I know many wouldn’t necessarily describe “Animal Farm” as uplifting, but I would argue that its argument against communism and Stalin make it uplifting in its own dark historical era.

This novella is an allegorical take on real life occurrences of totalitarianism. It explores how propaganda functions, and demonstrates the dangers of revolutions gone awry. It’s a pretty short read and gives you a lot to think about.

Notable quotation: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

Author: Oscar Wilde.

Publication: 1890.

This book provides a different view on outward beauty. It tells the story of a handsome young many named Dorian Gray who gets his soul preserved in a portrait he has done of himself. While he stays young and handsome his whole life, the portrait becomes evil-looking and decrepit.

Notable quotation: “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”