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.
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- Bookmark this: All recommended books, from this year and the years before.
📚 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 🇧🇬
I loved this book — 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 Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling
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 «negativity bias» 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.
Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
Recommended by Jrene from Bern 🇨🇭
Reading this book brings humans closer together. Makes me feel like I belong here in this world. At least it’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
Chambers writes what the internet has dubbed «hopepunk». 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 🇨🇦
A lot of really good life lessons in this book, but the one that stuck with me the most was «Be where your feet are». 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 🇺🇸
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 — 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 🇩🇪
A refreshing look at time management and productivity to focus on what really matters. Spoiler: It‘s not time management and productivity
How do you live?, by Genzaburo Yoshino
Recommended by Tim from Australia 🇦🇺
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 🇮🇪 and by Samuel Hauser from Switzerland 🇨🇭
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 🇦🇹
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 🇦🇺
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 🇫🇷 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 🇵🇹
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 🇺🇸
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 🇺🇸
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 🇨🇷
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 🇬🇧
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 🇺🇸
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 🇨🇭
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 🇩🇪
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 «This is how the world should be!»
Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport
Recommended by K. from the USA 🇺🇸
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 🇺🇸
My favorite book, it’s a remarkably amusing alternate theory of Jesus Christ’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 🇺🇸
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 Fröhlich from Zurich 🇨🇭
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 🇨🇭
«Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.» – 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 🇺🇸
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 🇨🇦
One of the recurring statements in the book – used to describe the somewhat magical house within which a lot of the action occurs – is «the further in you go, the bigger it gets.» 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 🇺🇸
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 «worn out» and «busy» are my two default responses to «How are you?». 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 🇺🇸
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 🇬🇧
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 🇬🇧
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 Oliver’s books.
The Other Mother, by Matthew Dicks
Recommended by Curt from the Southwestern U.S. 🇺🇸
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 🇮🇳
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 🇮🇪
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 🇺🇸
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 🇺🇸
The method of storytelling is brilliant, in addition to it being an inspirational story.
Recommended by Alexander Mühlbauer from Germany 🇩🇪
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Work Clean, by Dan Charnas
Recommended by Vidya from Hyderabad, India 🇮🇳
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.