Reading is one of the oldest and most beloved pastimes in the world (and for good reason). It’s a great way to learn from others and as studies have shown, reading is actually a great tool for expanding empathy.

We put together our favorite book picks of the year in the hopes that you’ll share some of these with the people you love.

All of our chosen books were picked because we believe they bring a sense of community, goodwill, and hope to our readers.

Each product listed was independently curated by the Good Good Good team. Some of the links we include may be affiliate links, which means that Good Good Good may earn a commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Check out more of our gift guides to find ethical products that give back and make a difference → Good Good Good Gift Guides

P.S. We’ve linked Amazon for convenience, but we’re also linking to 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 in our ultimate guide)

Eight Meaningful Books To Inspire Hope, Action, and Empathy

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

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#1 New York Times Bestseller How the Word is Passed Clint Smith

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America is a deep dive into the intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation's collective history.

It's an honest tour of monuments and landmarks (some obvious and some not) that offer reflection and insight into how memory and history play into our understanding of this country.

Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford 

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Somebody's Daughter A Memoir Ashley C. Ford

Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir is author Ashley C Ford's recollection of childhood. It steps into the world of a Black girl in Indiana whose past is checkered with family incarceration, sexual assault, and the other complexities of childhood.

It's raw, vulnerable, and a real insight into how Ashley C. Ford became one of America's most prominent voices. 

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green 

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John Green - The Anthropocene Reviewed Signed Edition

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet answers some of the most burning questions about how much humans have changed the planet and its biodiversity.

Author and YouTuber John Green's collection of humorous and honest essays review the different facets of the human-centered planet and how it trickles down to the geology of Earth.

If you loved his other work — The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska — check out his non-fiction writing!

You Are Here (For Now): A Guide to Finding Your Way by Adam J. Kurtz 

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You Are Here For Now

You Are Here (for Now): A Guide to Finding Your Way is a must-read for anyone who feels disoriented, lost, and purposeless in today’s climate.

Artist and illustrator Adam J. Kurtz’ fourth book talks about mental health in a humorous, honest way that lets people know that no matter what they’re going through, they’re never doing it alone. 

On Earth We Were Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 

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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous - A Novel - Ocean Vuong

On Earth We Were Briefly Gorgeous is a poetic novelization of a Vietnamese refugee’s upbringing in America through lyrical, narrative writing. Ocean Vuong explores themes of queerness, motherhood, Americana, and duality in his heartbreaking fiction debut.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 

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When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi - #1 New York Times Bestseller - Pulitzer Prize

When Breath Becomes Air is one chief resident’s posthumous memoir — one that chronicles his relationship to science, death, and meaning after he’s diagnosed with cancer.

In his last few years of being alive, Kalanthi explores how much of medicine is rooted in humanity and our connection to each other. 

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

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Detransition Baby - A Novel - Torrey Peters - National Bestseller

Detransition, Baby follows the lives of three women — transgender and cisgender — whose lives collide in a whirlwind commentary around gender, mother, and sex.

It fearlessly navigates some of the most dangerous taboos around gender and womanhood in a deeply moving debut novel.

Family Meal: Recipes from Our Community 

(Amazon)

Family Meal - Recipes From Our Community

Family Meal: Recipes from Our Community isn’t just about food; it’s about all the ways that food connects us as a global community. This collection, which is currently available exclusively as a digital book, features 50 easy recipes from culinary masters.

And the best part? All proceeds from the book will benefit the Restaurant Workers' COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which supports on-the-ground efforts in the restaurant community during this challenging time.

Recommended

Books by Black and BIPOC Authors Across All Genres
Six Book Recommendations About Climate Change From Emma Watson
Good Good Good's 2020 Book Recommendations


More Gifts for Book Lovers

Book of the Month Club Subscription 

Book of the Month Club

Book of the Month makes it easy to read more without going through the hassle of combing through shelves of books to find the right one. Every month, Book of the Month offers you five books in different genres to pick — and they mail it right to you. They have exclusive, early releases from authors and a community review hub so you’ll never regret what you choose.

Goodnewspaper Subscription

The Goodnewspaper - Real Good News - Newspaper

Even though the Goodnewspaper isn’t quite a book, it’s still required reading for anyone looking for good in an increasingly complicated and confusing world. Every month, the team at Good Good Good create a newspaper full of real, good news of people doing incredible, world-changing things around the globe. 

Libro.fm Subscription

Libro.fm Subscription

If you’re a fan of audiobooks, then you definitely don’t want to miss out on a Libro.fm subscription that gives you access to thousands of books. At a monthly rate, you can listen to bestsellers, classics, and new releases in their extensive library.

And unlike their competitors, your audiobook downloads actually support a local small bookstore — instead of a giant corporation. It's an easy way to make a difference each and every month.

Get 2 audiobooks for the price of 1 with the code GOOD.

Check out more of our gift guides to find ethical products that give back and make a difference → Good Good Good Gift Guides