With stories of homecoming, small-town life, tests of faith, and flawed, loveable characters, gentle reads are anything that takes readers away from the stress of life with books about happy and simple times. In the latest Crash Course webinar, Kaite Stover from LibraryReads and I took a deep dive into the genre, from the history, why readers like it, sure-to-please titles and authors, and how to help readers find the right book for their taste. Below, find our gentle reads starter pack – five titles that have wide appeal to recommend to all kinds of readers.  

The Seaside Café by Rochelle Alers 

In this charming book set in small-town, coastal North Carolina, three women get together to discuss books and their personal troubles on the patio of The Seaside Café each week. Although the women argue like sisters, they also help each other weather their romantic and familial storms. Expect a little more relationship drama, but the life and friendship-affirming themes are potent. Delicious mouthwatering recipes add to the package. Give to readers who like Kimberla Lawson Roby but need a hair less drama. 

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manasala 

After breaking up with her boyfriend, Lisa Macapagal moves to Illinois to help her aunt run the family's Filipino restaurant. But when a local food blogger, Derek, keels over dead face-first into his ube crinkles, Lisa becomes the primary suspect. The colorful close-knit community and addition of Tagalog language, food, and culture make this a cozy mystery worth checking out. This title doesn't shy away from the realities of living in a minority community and dealing with local law enforcement, but it still has the charm of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels. Give to the readers who are all caught up with Joanna Fluke and Diane Mott Davidson. 

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig 

In this amusing and nostalgic road trip novel, Donal Cameron, a young boy of 11, experiences a summer like no other. Donal has been sent off to live with his Aunt Kate while Gram is undergoing surgery. Donald finds a kindred spirit and hero in his Uncle Herman the German, who stokes Donal's interest in cowboy culture. When Aunt Kate decides to send Donal back, Uncle Herman accompanies him, and the two experience the heartland of America by Greyhound, having madcap adventures along the way. This book is full of quiet charm, warmth, and quirky characters dispensing life truths in funny dialogue. Suggest to readers who enjoy mid-century American historical fiction who don't mind a leisurely pace.  

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin 

Long Way Gone allows the reader to experience the beauty of the prodigal son parable in a contemporary way. Cooper O' Connor, a gifted musician, grew up the son of a tent revival preacher and often performed at the altar calls. Believing his father is in the way of his fame, he runs away to Nashville, where a series of unfortunate events strips away everything he holds dear. Beaten down and broken, Cooper wonders if there's any redemption for a soul that's taken so many wrong turns. Told in a nonlinear fashion, this leisurely-paced novel with a strong sense of place takes readers on an emotional journey from Nashville to Colorado and from hopelessness to redemption.  

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune 

Linus Baker believes he is making the world a better place by helping find homes for magical children who are orphans. He must question everything he believes though when he is assigned to evaluate the Marsyas Island Orphanage, under the care of Arthur Parnassus. As he gets to know the children and Arthur, he sees the world with new eyes. This light fantasy features offbeat diverse characters, a warm supportive tone, and themes of finding a chosen family while celebrating the qualities that make each person unique and important. This Uplit title would appeal to teens, too; suggest to fans of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series.

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Lindsey Dunn is a Readers' Advisory Librarian at NoveList. She is currently reading The Stand by Stephen King.