When we’re faced with intimidating challenges, reasons to give up, or exhaustion, it’s extremely tempting to lose sight of what fueled our initial convictions.
Hope has fueled movements, allowed us to seek solutions to problems we (or others) have faced, and has remained a comforting and steady practice to keep moving us forward — despite mounting obstacles.
Hope isn’t just a buzzy word in cheesy quotes (hello, toxic positivity) or self-help books, though.
According to social science researchers in Arizona State University’s Center for the Advanced Study and Practice of Hope, being hopeful doesn’t just feel good, but it can actually improve your health and relationships.
“Hopeful people are able to set goals, identify ways to reach their goals, and feel as though they can do the work to achieve those goals,” says Crystal Bryce, associate director of research in the Hope Center and clinical assistant professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.
John Parsi, executive director of the Hope Center, says that while optimistic people see the glass as half full, hopeful people ask how they can fill the glass full.
“Hope requires a person to take responsibility for their wants and desires and take action in working towards them,” Parsi says.
So whether you’re looking to start, sustain, or complete something, we hope the books included in this list inspire you to take action and work towards whatever goals you have in front of you.
P.S. We’ve linked Amazon for convenience and accessibility, but we’re also linking to our favorite Amazon alternatives: Bookshop and Libro.fm, which are both great ways to support small, independent bookstores when you buy physical books and audiobooks. (Learn more about Amazon alternatives for books and audiobooks)
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The Best Books About Hope
“The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times” by Douglas Abrams and Jane Goodall
Globally celebrated primatologist and conservationist, Jane Goodall, teamed up with Douglas Abrams, bestselling co-author of “The Book of Joy,” to explore the most sought-after and least understood aspects of human nature: hope.
“The Book of Hope” is an intimate look at hope and the heart and mind of a woman who has dedicated a lifetime to fighting for our future.
“Call Us What We Carry: Poems” by Amanda Gorman
Formerly titled “The Hill We Climb and Other Poems,” bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures hope and healing through her collection of poems on history, language, identity, and erasure.
“You Are Here (For Now): A Guide to Finding Your Way” by Adam J. Kurtz
Adam J. Kurtz (aka @adamjk) is an artist and author whose illustrative work is rooted in hope, humor, and a touch of darkness. “You Are Here (For Now)” is a candid collection of essays and illustrations that explore mental health, identity, setbacks, and finding humor in the unknown — this is a great read for the wanderer, recent grad, creative, or human figuring out what’s next.
We’ve previously published an excerpt from the book on our site.
“Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation” by John Lewis
“Carry On” is a powerful collection of reflections from the late Congressman and Civil Rights activist John Lewis. Sharing his thoughts and wisdom on activism, spirituality, politics, hope, and more, his unrelenting fight for equality and call for “good trouble” was his final message of hope to future generations.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl
In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” author and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl shares his moving account of life in Nazi concentration camps and his exploration to find meaning and survival amid insurmountable adversity. Based on his own experience — and the experiences of others he treated later in his psychiatric practice — Frankl argues that suffering is unavoidable, however, we can choose to find ways to cope, find meaning, and move forward with newfound purpose.
“His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope” by Jon Meacham
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Soul of America,” Jon Meacham explores the life of John Lewis — the late, great civil rights leader and U.S. congressman. A believer in caring for one’s neighbor, Lewis spent a lifetime fighting for the systemically powerless. His work, activism, and story offer inspiration to current and future generations working toward social and political change.
“Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities” by Rebecca Solnit
Historian, activist, and author of “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit offers an alternative, counter piece of work to combat the despair many feel fighting for progress.
Drawing on her decades of environmental, cultural, and political activism, Solnit makes a radical case for hope in the midst of widespread uncertainty.
“The Humans: A Novel” by Matt Haig
For those who love a good novel to get lost in, may we introduce you to “The Humans,” a story about an extraterrestrial visitor that arrives on Earth, whose first impressions of the human species are less than positive. Taking the form of a prominent mathematician at Cambridge University, the visitor slowly realizes there may be more to this strange species than he initially thought.
As the visitor begins forging bonds, he begins to see hope and beauty in the imperfect species he finds himself surrounded by — and begins to question the very mission that brought him there.
“Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope” by Mark Manson
For those who feel like everything’s f*cked, bestselling author Mark Manson (you might know him from his popular book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck”) offers a blunt dissection of the very human desire to hope. This counterintuitive guide draws from research and wisdom of philosophers such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits, as well as analyzes our relationships with money, entertainment, and the internet.
“Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm” by Isabella Tree
While climate anxiety can get the best of us, “Wilding” is a book that provides tangible hope. When Isabella Tree and her husband were forced to accept that their land in West Sussex — farmed for centuries — was economically unsustainable, they decided to step back and let nature take over. Despite Tree and her husband facing considerable opposition, their journey to bring nature back to the depleted 3,500 acres of land soon brought extraordinary change.
“How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child” by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
Sandra Uwiringiyimana was just ten years old when she survived a massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After fleeing to the U.S. with her surviving family members, she soon found a way to cope, adjust, and move forward through art and activism — finding hope through creativity and resilience.
“A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster” by Rebecca Solnit
Award-winning author Rebecca Solnit — who famously coined the term “mansplaining” — is known for her work in revealing human nature. In “A Paradise Built in Hell,” Solnit seeks to understand why communities band together in crises and catastrophes. Whether manmade or natural, this book explores the reasons why people become altruistic, resourceful, and brave in the midst of disaster.
“Becoming” by Michelle Obama
While Michelle Obama needs no introduction, the former First Lady of the U.S. — and the first Black American to serve in that role — gives us a peek into the experiences that helped shape her.
From her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time in the White House, Obama explains how she found her voice and established herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world.
“The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear” edited by Paul Rogat Loeb
Fighting for political, environmental, or social change takes a toll on the best of us. This anthology brings together fifty stories and essays across nations, eras, wars, and political movements to show the value (and hope) of seemingly doomed situations. Together, these writers and activists explore a path of meaningful community involvement and healing — offering people motivation to continue fighting for a better world.
“Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage” by Steven Charleston
Choctaw elder and Episcopal priest Steven Charleston offers words of courage and hope rooted in spirituality and Indigenous wisdom. This meditative book is centered on cultivating resilience and resisting darkness.
“Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover
Tara Westover was 17 years old when she first entered a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Westover was raised preparing for the end of the world. Eventually, she left her home for the outside world — ultimately receiving a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University. “Educated” is Westover’s deeply personal story of the struggle for self-invention and healing.
“Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality” by Sarah McBride, Foreword by Joe Biden
A profoundly empowering memoir about gender identity by activist and the first openly transgender state senator in U.S. history, Sarah McBride. “Tomorrow Will Be Different” is McBride’s story of love, loss, and a message of hope for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.
“Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World” by Cleo Wade
Cleo Wade’s “Where to Begin” is your official permission slip to start small, start local, and start now. Building on the wisdom of Wade’s national bestseller “Heart Talk,” this book will help you stay connected to hope during difficult moments and remind you of the power that showing up can have in effecting positive change. This book is about where to begin.
“Hope Is a Verb: Six Steps to Radical Optimism When the World Seems Broken” by Emily Ehlers
Using her experience as an environmental activist, author Emily Ehlers offers her perspective and solution on how to effectively create change — while staying sane in the process. Offering humor, hope, and meaningful action, “Hope Is a Verb” points readers toward attainable, simple steps to a world of opportunity and stability.
“We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir” by Samra Habib
Samra Habib spent most of their life seeking a safe way to be themself — a young, queer Muslim. Growing up in Pakistan, they faced regular threats from Islamic extremists before emigrating to Canada as refugees and finding freedom away from their past religious obligations. A beautiful memoir of forgiveness and family (both chosen and not), “We Have Always Been Here” is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly liberating their true selves.
“Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig
“Reasons to Stay Alive” is Matt Haig’s (author of “The Midnight Library” and “How to Stop Time”) raw account of his struggle with depression and journey to finding and creating hope for himself. A funny, moving, and joy-filled exploration of how to live, love, and feel better, Haig uses his experiences to help pave a pathway for others to find their own form of healing and encouragement.
“My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist’s Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole” by Will Jawando
Drawing from his personal experiences and involvement in My Brother’s Keeper Alliance — President Obama’s national initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color — author Will Jawando writes a story that beautifully displays a transformative way for Black men and young boys to shape the next generation.
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