Stories To Make You Smile
To help spread the joy of reading and to encourage people to feel connected to a reading community, we’ve partnered with The Reading Agency to produce a free book to bring a smile to people’s faces after such a tough year.
Stories To Make You Smile is an anthology of short stories from 10 best-selling authors, including Jenny Éclair, Richard Madeley, Helen Lederer, Dorothy Koomson, Mark Watson and Eva Verde, edited by Fanny Blake. Itʼs also available as an audiobook, narrated by Eastenders actor Madhav Sharma, Downton Abbey stars Hugh Bonneville and Samantha Bond, as well as Bridgerton’s Adjoa Andoh.
Whether you’re new to reading for pleasure, or you’re already an avid bookworm, we know that you’ll love this feel-good collection of stories. You can download your free copy of the eBook or audiobook here.
‘The Reading Agency always does a wonderful job of bringing people together through the love of reading, which continues to be one of our most popular past-times, increasingly so since we have had to spend more time at home. We are delighted to be working with them to support and encourage literacy and good vision so that people can continue to enjoy reading, and hope that this exciting new collection of stories will bring smiles to the faces of people across the UK.’
Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers
The Reading Agency
The Reading Agency is a national charity that tackles life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. They work closely with partners to develop and deliver programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds; their vision is for a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life. They help 1.8 million people benefit from reading every year, through programmes, tireless campaigning, excellent networks and their power to influence, challenge and make change happen.
Reading facts and stats
A study found that blood pressure and stress levels drop after just half an hour of reading.1
Reading for pleasure is associated with better sleeping patterns.2
Reading can create connection even in isolation. Adults who read regularly report feeling closer to those around them, including friends, their community and even strangers, than lapsed and non-readers do.3
Regular readers for pleasure report fewer feelings of stress and depression than nonreaders.4
Some researchers have suggested that reading can produce a state of ‘flow’, in which the reader becomes so engrossed in the activity that everything else slips away – helping keep loneliness at bay.5
Our authors’ favourite
‘I don’t have a favourite book. I think it’s important to state that. There are far too many books in the world for me to narrow it down to just one. The one book that comes to mind when I’m asked this question is The Garden Gang series by Jayne Fisher. This is a series of books about a group of talking vegetables. Jayne Fisher began writing and illustrating her stories when she was nine. I remember thinking that if someone my age could write books, then so could I. I’ve always been a big reader and this series of books helped make me a writer, too.’
‘My favourite novel is The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. It’s a family story at the heart of which lies a secret from wartime Cornwall and it simply sweeps you up into the lives of its characters. Rosamunde Pilcher was a fabulous storyteller (she died in 2019) and this novel has everything a great novel should: war, love, family conflict over an inheritance, betrayal and a wild romantic setting – everything. It’s an absolute page-turner that will make you laugh and cry.’
‘I still remember the first time I read Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, the feeling of discovering something magical. The book tells the story of modern India, using magical realism, through the eyes of Saleem Sinai who was born “at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence.” It showed me that through words you could make readers nostalgic for a time and place they had never seen. I still use it as a writing talisman today.’
‘Milkman by Anna Burns is my idea of book perfection. I’m a sucker for a first-person protagonist and love everything about Middle Sister, around who the book revolves. It’s set during The Troubles, with Middle Sister avoiding community politics by hiding in books and keeping an intensely private personal life… until things start to fray. She uses genius character nicknames; the hilarious, mega-intelligent Little Sisters, her Maybe Boyfriend, and of course, the ominous, stalking, overfamiliar Milkman himself. It’s a gift of a story; menacing and claustrophobic, it cleverly explores the fear of unwanted male attention, yet the language and often dark imagery is always beautiful. And it’s funny! I read the paperback alongside the audiobook and found it such an immersive way to enjoy the book, that I cried buckets when it was over. Anna Burns is a spectacular writer and Milkman is truly unforgettable, making it my firm new favourite read.’
‘My favourite book, if I have to pick one out of a lifetime of reading, is The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer. It’s exciting, romantic, and at times, laugh out loud funny.’
How’s your vision?
If you find reading a struggle because of blurred vision or you’re straining your eyes to read or have to hold things further away to focus, we’re here to help. Make an appointment to see one of our experts to make sure your eyes are in tip-top condition and that your vision is comfortable and clear when you’re engrossed in your new book.
1. C. Hammond (2019), The Art of Rest: How to Find Respite in the Modern Age (Edinburgh: Canongate)
2. J. Billington (2015), Reading Between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure, Quick Reads, University of Liverpool
3. J. Billington (2015), Reading between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure, Quick Reads, University of Liverpool, p. 8
4. J. Billington (2015), Reading Between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure, Quick Reads, University of Liverpool
5. Hilhorst, et al. (2018), A Society of Readers, Demos