Books that make you feel hopeful

Weekly Filet Book Club 2022 ๐Ÿ“š Curated by the community ๐Ÿ’œ

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Welcome to a special edition of the Weekly Filet, curated by some of the smartest, most interesting people around: you, the readers. A few weeks ago, I asked you to share a book that makes you feel hopeful. I'm happy to report that for the foreseeable future, there will be no shortage of hope-inducing reads to choose from.

Thank you so much to everyone who shared a recommendation. Readers from Costa Rica to Alaska, from Portugal to Austria, from India to Australia have participated. I love the assortment of books you all helped create.

Some quick notes before we get started:

  • This is a very long issue. Your email client might cut it off, so it's probably best to open it in the browser.
  • Iโ€™m not using any affiliate links below. When you buy some of the books, support your local bookstore.
  • Bookmark this: All recommended books, from this year and the years before.

๐Ÿ“š The books that make you feel hopeful

In no particular order, some comments slightly edited for brevity and clarity

A Pocketful of Crows, by Joanne Harris

Recommended by D.Z. from Bulgaria ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ

I loved this book โ€” magical and absolutely beautifully written. I read it on the train, every once in a while putting my head out the window, feeling the wind on my face, feeling like one of the wild animals the girl could transform into (this is not a spoiler), running and basking in the freshness of the world.

Factfulness, by Anna Rosling Rรถnnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling

Recommended by Lee Coursey from California ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ and by Akna Mรกrquez from Venezuela ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ช, now based in Spain ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ

Shows that the human experience is continuously improving, by all the measures that really matter. Hans Rosling uses tons of actual data to show that over the past couple of decades, huge improvements have occurred in the areas of literacy, sanitation, deaths from preventable diseases, deaths due to war, food access, opportunities for women, etc. Along the way, the authors also show how people in developed countries systematically and predictably underestimate how much progress the world is making, and they offer specific mental tools you can use to see the world more accurately and overcome the ยซnegativity biasยป that prevents us from acknowledging real progress. It is the most hopeful book I have read in many years.
It changes the usual negative perspective we perceive from the news by showing the evolution of key ways humanity has progressed to make us all have better lives. It also reframes common concepts and statistics that are fundamental to the way we see the world.


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Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman

Recommended by Jrene from Bern ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ

Reading this book brings humans closer together. Makes me feel like I belong here in this world. At least itโ€™s the feeling I had and still have. Hope it does the same with other readers.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers

Recommended by Ricardo R. from Puerto Rico ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ท and by Katy Manck from East Texas ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Chambers writes what the internet has dubbed ยซhopepunkยป. Speculative fiction about people (not necessarily human) who have, as a whole, overcome great calamity and strife and came out the other side building better worlds and societies. This short novel is essentially one long conversation between a human monk and the robot they stumbled upon in the woods, as both of them work to better understand one another and the bountiful world in which they live. It's a story that made me feel so much hope and light and warmth that I immediately read it again after finishing it, which I never do.
On another planet in another time, a monk changes his calling and travels the countryside to offer tea and a listening ear. Out in the wilderness, he meets one of the legendary robots who separated themselves from humankind when they gained sentience.

Come Matter Here, by Hannah Brencher

Recommended by Alex from Ontario, Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

A lot of really good life lessons in this book, but the one that stuck with me the most was ยซBe where your feet areยป. After years of being obsessed with future planning, it helped me see the beauty and importance of the things right in front of you. There is goodness there and we forget, sometimes.

Fleishman Is In Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Recommended by Spencer E. from Salt Lake City, Utah ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

This book made me feel happy and hopeful during a very stressful, dark period of my life. Like the main character, I was recently going to become divorced and was preparing to move across the country and it felt like my whole life was falling apart around me. Reading about his struggles, and the way he sought to overcome them with strength, grace, and humor really hit home with me. I think it is a book full of laughs, love, and levity โ€” it would be good for anybody needing a bit of respite right now.

Four Thousand Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman

Recommended by Katja E. from Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช

A refreshing look at time management and productivity to focus on what really matters. Spoiler: Itโ€˜s not time management and productivity

How do you live?, by Genzaburo Yoshino

Recommended by Tim from Australia ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ

No matter how old we are, it's sometimes nice to be reminded of how to be a good human.

Humankind, by Rutger Bregman

Recommended by Vincent Ryan from Kilkenny ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช and by Samuel Hauser from Switzerland ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ

It is about how humans are better people than we give ourselves credit for, debunking the bad science behind the Stanford prison experiment and the Lord of the Flies.
Refreshing look on famous studies and events. While reading humanity does not feel bleak at all.

Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

Recommended by Florian from Vienna ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น

This book is about the absolute, unwavering belief in human ingenuity both on the individual level as well as us as a species. Against all odds, facing uncertainty and the unknown an astronaut needs to science the shit out of a never ending streak of adversity while back on Earth humanity needs to come together to avert catastrophe.

The Misremembered Man, by Christine McKenna

Recommended by Ellane from Australia ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ

The gleaming of human goodness shines through the darkest of days. This book highlights that a being subjected to brutality doesn't have to become brutal themselves. It shows me the importance a simple word of kindness can have in the life of those who suffer silently.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

Recommended by Anna from France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท and by Hamed

Because it doesn't shy away from the truth, and yet, by interconnecting brave and kind characters, it shows us ways to live in harmony with nature and each other.
Stories of trees, delicately intertwined with the humans associated with them. The language of the book is "soft", emotive and has genuinely raised me to moments of awe.

Then The Trees Said Hello, by HJ Corning

Recommended by Holly Jaleski

It's an inspiring, coming of age book that shows us there is power in things we may not notice. You never know when things are going shift, where a whole new way of thinking about things may be hidden, and an adventure is right around the bend. If we keep following out intuitive knowing we'll get there.

How I Learned to Understand the World, by Hans Rosling

Recommended by Sol from Portugal ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น

You can feel that although the world is f***ed up, some people devote their time and life to making it better. Also, it made me come to terms that maybe I don't need to see the full picture of my path right away. It takes a lifetime of pushing yourself to improve the world.

The Beginning of Infinity, by David Deutsch

Recommended by Ed Lundeen from Allentown, PA ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Wonderfully forward-thinking while tying together a wide range of topics around a core idea. It has changed my philosophy of the world and the future and provides perpetual optimism. Not a promise of a great future, but an offer of a roadmap for how to pursue one at all times.

Something Like Happy, by Eva Woods

Recommended by Mary from Washington ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

A fictional story of how one woman's outlook on life changes after she meets someone new. At first, I wasn't sure I liked it, but by the third page or so, I was completely intrigued by the weirdness of this new friend. It's subtle. Each chapter's title is an activity you can do to improve your mood/become happy. It made me see colorful socks in a new way. It's an excellent reminder of things you can do to get yourself unstuck.

Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Recommended by Maikol from Costa Rica ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ท

Is a helpful way to build and maintain habits in your life.

Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Recommended by A.C. from the UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

A great book exploring faith and science. A look at what the future may hold, both the good, the bad and the indifferent. All told so exquisitely as only Ishiguro can.

Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Recommended by Steve W. from the US ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

For a short book full of pithy observations from two millennia ago it is remarkably timely and educational. Marcus Aurelius saw through the veil and sums up what is important and what isn't with remarkable clarity.

The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley, L. J. Ganser, et al.

Recommended by Michael Jarcho from the thawing North

Despite the fact that no one can predict the future, many of us live under the assumption that things are bad and getting worse. This is factually untrue by every metric we have. Given an objective look at historical facts, a thinking person has to (at very least) allow for the possibility that things are going to turn out better.

The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker

Recommended by Thomas from Switzerland ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ

A guide on how to prepare and carry out a gathering of all sorts. It gave me insight in why some gatherings are no joy and how I can make sure to not waste the time of my guests.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

Recommended by Lydia Pintscher from Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช

It's part of the hopepunk genre. It is a story full of hope that gives you fuzzy feelings and makes you want to scream ยซThis is how the world should be!ยป

Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport

Recommended by K. from the USA ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

The digital world, especially social media, is very important to our lives. On every level, social media and corresponding technology have taken over, often replacing human interaction and critical thought. Tackling the addiction at the core of our relationship with the digital world, Newport offers real-life examples and gentle guidances on how to detach from the slot machine and renegotiate our boundaries.

Lamb, by Christopher Moore

Recommended by Marc Haughaboo from Anchorage, Alaska ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

My favorite book, itโ€™s a remarkably amusing alternate theory of Jesus Christโ€™s life from where the Bible leaves off shortly after birth until age thirty when the Bible once again picks up. THIS IS NOT A RELIGIOUS BOOK, AT ALL. The first night that I started reading this, I giggled and laughed so much that my wife kicked me out of the bedroom. I ended up finishing it by early next morning.

Unscripted, by Ernie Johson

Recommended by M.W. from Los Angeles ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Beautiful story of one of the most genuine and humble people in ESPN. His life journey, faith and look on life is deeply inspiring.

Regenerative Leadership, by Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm

Recommended by Caspar Frรถhlich from Zurich ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ

Connects sustainability with leadership (and personal) development. And in doing so, provides a framework for building regenerative, life-affirming organisations.

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

Recommended by Jordi from Basel ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ

ยซHope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.ยป โ€“ Desmond Tutu

A Course In Miracles, by Helen Schucman

Recommended by Susie H.

It offers a way to think outside the box and experience reality through love and forgiveness, to ourselves and each other.

Manifesto for a Moral Revolution, by Jacqueline Novogratz

Recommended by Bryson M from New Orleans ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Jacqueline is a master at distilling the problems we face as a capitalistic society into actionable principles for approaching the future of capitalism. This book changed how I viewed capitalism and the role it can play as a force of good.

Little, Big, by John Crowley

Recommended by Donna Lowe from Canada ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

One of the recurring statements in the book โ€“ used to describe the somewhat magical house within which a lot of the action occurs โ€“ is ยซthe further in you go, the bigger it gets.ยป I think this phrase not only describes the hopefulness of the book, but also of life, if we can look at it that way.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, by John Mark Comer

Recommended by Ryan from Atlanta, GA ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Unapologetically from a (Christian) faith orientation, the content is approachable and relatable to anyone. I found myself becoming so bogged down by constant activity that ยซworn outยป and ยซbusyยป are my two default responses to ยซHow are you?ยป. The book does more than provide a helpful list of to-do's to declutter your schedule and increase productivity, it emphasizes well-being and wholeness of the mind, body, and soul.

The Longevity Economy, by Joseph Coughlin

Recommended by Tim Durkin from Texas ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Shows the near complete abdication by companies and industries of the most misunderstood and valuable maker segment: seniors! Only Pharma and financial services pay any attention to this flush group, while aiming the products and marketing at generations drowning in debt.

The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Recommended by A.W. from London ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

Without giving too much away: It offers hope that despite all odds, humanity can pull together and face the biggest challenge in its existence. All this, under the leadership of an inconspicuous middle-aged woman.

Managing the Moment, by Lisa Parker

Recommended by Leonid Baiakhchev from London ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

This book is the best non-fiction book about career development in a corporate environment that I ever read. By far.

Dog Songs, by Mary Oliver

Recommended by Alli P

A book about dogs! What could be more uplifting? Dog is god spelled backwards. I love all of Mary Oliverโ€™s books.

The Other Mother, by Matthew Dicks

Recommended by Curt from the Southwestern U.S. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Devastating life circumstances, bearing the burden of a heavy secret, experiencing a terrifying bout of mental illness, and taking on the responsibility of caring for younger siblings do not crush the 13-year-old protagonist. He finds his own strength and support in unexpected places.

The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins

Recommended by Meet from Gujarat, India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ

It explains the evolution process extremely well and gives us hope that humans have so many things which make us fittest.

The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker

Recommended by Matt from Dublin ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช

Zooming out from the endless cycle of day to day doom, Pinker postulates that overall the plight of human beings is arguably improving over time. This gives me hope for the long term prospects of my son, and hopefully his children.

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

Recommended by S.B. from Ohio ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

This is one of those books that makes you want to cheer. The resiliency of the human spirit and the power of love are cliched phrases, but they apply perfectly to Trevor Noah and his mother.

The Life of Pi, by Yann Martell

Recommended by L.B. from the Golden State ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

The method of storytelling is brilliant, in addition to it being an inspirational story.

The Bible

Recommended by Alexander Mรผhlbauer from Germany ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Work Clean, by Dan Charnas

Recommended by Vidya from Hyderabad, India ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ

I always try to find self-help books where you can immediately put the suggestions into practice. Work Clean is a wonderful book where the author introduces you to a chef's world and shows us how you can also apply culinary discipline into your life. I love how this book combines 2 of my favourite things: cooking and productivity.

You've made it to the end! ๐Ÿ™‚ Before you go: Please share the list with some friends. I'll be back in your inbox next Friday, with a regular issue of the Weekly Filet. Take care, see you then!

โ€” David