Blue Monday quest for happiest books

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ONE features a miser who learns about the true meaning of Christmas, while the top choice portrays a young girl with a miserable home life who is taken in by her favourite schoolteacher.

The Scottish Book Trust has published its list of the top ten uplifting books, as voted for by Scottish readers, in an attempt to chase away the January blues.

The poll features some much-loved children’s ­favourites including The Railway Children and Roald Dahl’s Matilda, which topped the list, as well as adult reads including two Jane Austen novels, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, the most contemporary of the books included.

The list was chosen by visitors to the Scottish Book Trust’s website and is designed to combat tomorrow’s Blue Monday – named the most depressing day of the year – by allowing readers to pick the books they felt had the most uplifting endings.

One reader, Lydia Syson, who voted for The Railway Children, said: “The great thing about the happy ending of The Railway Children is that it gets better every time you read it. The poignancy of that scream of “Oh! My Daddy, my Daddy!” only intensifies when you’ve been let into the secret and you know what’s coming.

“I’m reading the book to my two youngest children right now, my voice cracking with virtually every chapter. I can’t wait to reach the final scenes with them.”

Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said that curling up with a good book could be an excellent way to chase off the January blues: “A novel is a powerful way to raise your spirits. A good novel is a totally engaging experience which lifts us out of the ­everyday, and there is considerable evidence that enjoying a book is good for our well-being and state of mind.”

The date for “the most depressing day of the year” was identified by Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, using a mathematical formula. The formula calculates that Monday, 21 January, will be the worst day this year: when the Christmas glow has faded away, New Year resolutions have been broken, cold winter weather has set in and credit card bills will be landing on doormats.

Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings said we often turn to books for comfort, particularly ones we have read before, when we’re feeling down and depressed.

“We go to things that we know have given us pleasure in the past and will give us pleasure again. It’s that sense of escapism but also a knowledge that you’ve been there before,” she said.

Michael Merillo, 33, a graphic novels and sci-fi fan, voted for Matilda. He said: “For me it’s the book with the happiest ending because of what happens to Miss Honey. She is a caring, thoughtful, generous, proud and independent teacher.”


1 Matilda, by Roald Dahl

2 The Railway Children, by Edith Nesbit

3 Persuasion, by Jane Austen

4 Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

5 The Shipping News, by E Annie Proulx

6 Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen

7 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

8 The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

9 Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, by Winifred Watson

10 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens