“Up-Lit” – What is it? and why do we like it?

‘Up Lit’ is the new literary buzz word, described as a trend for books with an emphasis on empathy, books that are uplifting and life-affirming, and which explore themes of family bonds and the human spirit. These types of novels focus on kinder, gentler human connections, but have an element that preserves realism. They do not shy away from dark themes or real-life issues, they just preserve an element of hope.

Up Lit has been around forever. My feeling is that it’s nothing new. It’s a reinvention of something that’s always been available in fiction; it is just that people (ie. the publishing industry) like to label things.

If I was still working in my position of fiction cataloger for a public library, I would probably create a genre heading for Up Lit so patrons could search the catalogue for these sort of titles. Readers want to recognize themselves in the fiction they read. They want to be able to empathize and have an understanding and connection with the characters they read about.

Why is Up Lit popular now?

Is it the readers’ need for escapism from current events that has played a big part in the success of up lit?  With all the sadness and turmoil in the world today we want to recall that there IS still kindness in the world.

Definition of ‘Up Lit’:

A newly recognized genre of literature, Up Lit focuses on human connections and life-affirming stories filled with joy, kindness, humor, heroism, hope, empathy, compassion and love. The goal here is not to bury our heads in the sand and write off our turbulent times. Up Lit is simply modern literature with the power to remind ourselves of – and celebrate! – some of the many joys to be found in our human existence.

A few examples of ‘Up Lit’:

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine” by Gail Honeyman

Three things about Elsie“, and “The trouble with goats and sheep” by Joanna Cannon

A man called Ove“, and “Britt-Marie was here”  by Fredrik Backman

The music shop” by Rachel Joyce

How to stop time” by Matt Haig

Do YOU enjoy reading ‘Up Lit’?  Why?

Can you recommend any recent ‘Up Lit’ titles?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. ♥

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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37 Responses to “Up-Lit” – What is it? and why do we like it?

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  7. This comment came via my CONTACT section:

    Hi. I wasn’t aware of the term “up lit,” but for more than two decades I’ve been maintaining a website about novels I categorized as “feel-good fiction with substance.” The homepage at http://www.positivelygoodreads.com explains why I turned a personal reading list into a public service. Thanks for being on the same wavelength with this post.
    Marianne Goss
    Website: http://positivelygoodreads.com/


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  10. carhicks says:

    I had not heard this term before, but I like it. I read a lot of books that would fit this genre and struggle when reviewing them. A lot just end up listed as adult fiction, so this is a nice add for me.


  11. FictionFan says:

    I hate all these marketing terms so seeing something describes as ‘up-lit’ is more likely to put me off than attract me. Looking at the example books, it’s not a sub-sub-sub-genre I enjoy anyway. I do like books to contain some hope, because life does, but I hate books that are deliberately written to give a sweet ending. I know I’m out of step, but I hated Harold Fry… 😉


  12. Oh wow, that’s so interesting! Sometimes I read a book and struggle with the genre to place it in, so it’s interesting to see these given example of Up Lit, most of which are on my radar 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve never heard of the term Up Lit before. Thanks for explaining it! I think a lot of the books I read would fit into this category. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I haven’t heard this term before. Thanks for the Heads-Up on the Up-Lit, Lynne! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Love it, but I read all kinds of things just no sci-fi or Oprah

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Carrie Rubin says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard this term, so thanks for pointing it out. I’m trying to think of books I’ve read that fit it, but my mind isn’t cooperating. Maybe the books by Alexander McCall Smith. I always like his Number 1 Ladies Detective Series, but maybe they’re more mystery than Up-Lit. But they’re always hopeful.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Bree says:

    UpLit is one of those genres that I don’t typically reach for, but when I do, I almost always enjoy the experience.

    I so love hearing your professional take on these things and what you would do as a librarian ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Morning, Lynne.
    I can’t think of any titles to add.
    But I’m glad to have learned a term new to me.

    Last year I read Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler. It’s not Up Lit I suppose, but it’s a good novel.

    Bye —

    Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I hate to be cynical but I do think it’s just a marketing ploy. A lot of this type of book are actually quite dark!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Sandra says:

    I came across this term quite recently and was gratified to know there was such a genre. Personally, it’s one I’ve enjoyed for a long time but being someone who likes context (and lists) it was rather comforting to know I’m being comforted by something with a name! For me it’s about the human spirit and seeing the good in the world. We all need feelgood stuff sometimes 🙂 And it’s much easier to find it if there’s a category name. That said, I note that Amazon isn’t using the term yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’ve read a few of these, and am afraid haven’t liked them much. But you’re right that they are on the rise simply because there’s so much despair swamping the world, and social media.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Annika Perry says:

    I’ve read most of the books pictured and loved them all! I had no idea there was a name for this ‘genre’ and really don’t like the concept of ‘up lit’! Like you say, they’re nothing new! Interesting informative post … A great book I’ve just read and guess would fit is Keith Stuart’s latest book (Of A Boy Made of Blocks fame!) Days of Wonder is out later in June (I read a pre-release for NetGalley) and it is wonderfully uplifting, sad, moving, humourous.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thanks for this post explaining what Up Lit is. If there’s ever a need for literature to counterbalance all the negativity and help us through difficult political times, this is it.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Anjana says:

    Most books by Catherine Ryan Hyde fall under that category. Even the description of the genre has an inspiration factor !☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  25. rashthedoctor says:

    sadly I haven’t read any Up-Lit titles so far but I have purchased a copy of ‘The Man Called – Ove’ . But thanks to this post ,I know now what Up-Lit is . Thank You 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Bella G. Bear says:

    I do like up lit! It makes me strangely emotional in a very comfortable way

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I love Up-Lit – it’s nice to read something heart-warming, especially if you read a lot of rather grim crime and thrillers like I do! And I agree with you that it’s been around for a while but just without a label. Would highly recommend A J Pearce’s Dear Mrs Bird and also Eva Rice’s The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets as really great, feel-good books.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. This is my first time hearing of ‘Up Lit’ haha I didn’t know it was a new thing but I’ll keep my eye out for some ‘Up Lit’ books 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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