Full disclosure: I started this post on the best books about hope the day before the U.S. election, so I didn’t entirely know how it would turn out. After the announcement of a clear and indisputable Biden-Harris victory on November 7, I ran out to the streets with my fellow revelers and exhaled with the joy I haven’t felt in a long time. Whatever the future holds, this was one of the most joyous weekends in New York City (and many other cities) recent history.
It is much easier to feel hope in this particular context. As someone worried about climate justice, civil rights, and international cooperation, the future suddenly looks much brighter to me. However, I know that I would have had to find hope even if the American electorate had swung in favor of the minority-vote-loser wannabe-dictator. Things in the U.S. are still very scary—we’re on track for more COVID-related deaths, the police are continuously aggressive, and it’s unlikely we’ll get out of this period without a major homelessness crisis. There’s also a transition of power crisis in the U.S., so I definitely need some hope counterbalancing. I don’t mean to despair but reminding myself of all of these issues is what drives me to the best hope books.
Whether you’re a kid or an adult, a reminder of hope is always welcome. I hope these books about hope give you a warm fuzzy instead of a…cold spikey.
Growing Up With Hope Books
Ambitious Girl by Meena Harris and Marissa Valdez
A young girl decides to throw out the labels of too-this or too-that and pursue her ambitions as she sees fit. Meena Harris takes us on a joyful journey of a girl claiming space in the world. It’s a great read for any kid who feels newly excited by representation in the U.S. government and have hope for their future to knock down the house.
You Matter by Christian Robinson
Across different perspectives, this book shows you what impact you can have in tiny, day-to-day actions. Jumping between characters, award-winning author Christian Robinson shows kids how important it is to see the world from different eyes. You matter and so does your whole community.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade
In this fantastical retelling of true events, a young Indigenous girl works to save her community’s water from an evil threat. This story is a fantastic way to spark thinking and discussions about what it means to be an environmentalist, especially because it is directly based on the fight for water protection from Indigenous groups in the U.S. It will instill hope and support for water protectors.
All Because You Matter by Tami Charles and Bryan Collier
This book reminds me of my favorite nighttime books as a child, lyrical in quality with beautiful illustrations. Charles’s love letter to Black and brown children is perfectly supplemented by Bryan Collier’s colorful artwork. It’s a perfect book for kids who might feel overwhelmed or left behind by the world right now.
Teenage Books About Hope
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb tell her well-known story in this fantastic autobiography. Malala tells her story with the clear-eyed frankness of a girl who knew that her story was so much bigger than her personal experience. Despite the awful attack that almost killed her, she steadfastly argues for the principles of education and liberty that activated her as a child. Now that Malala is approaching adulthood in college, it inspires me with hope to go back and understand why she is such a globally beloved figure.
Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration Edited by Rose Brock
This is a fantastic collection to have sitting on your desk and pick up whenever you need a little boost. Some of the best YA writers today tell their stories of hope in difficult times. Libba Bray, Nic Stone, Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, and so many more come from diverse perspectives that make the read as a whole invigorating and, above all, hopeful.
How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana, with Abigail Pesta
After leaving the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sandra found herself through art and activism. After surviving a terrible war in her home country, Sandra gets to New York with her surviving family through a United Nations refugee program. Through all of the trauma and cultural disconnects, she finds hope through her own creativity and resilience.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Reading this in middle school, I gained hope that I hadn’t had about the kindness of strangers in extraordinarily cruel times. This book follows Annemarie Johansen and her family’s quest to protect her Jewish best friend, Ellen, and get her to Sweden, out of Nazi-occupied Copenhagen. This is a classic for good reason—Annemarie has to fight hard to protect her friend, and keeps hopeful in the face of terrifying circumstances.
Hope Books For Adults Who Need a Reminder
The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear by Paul Rogat Loeb
Paul Rogat Loeb brought together a series of activists, writers, and movement leaders to write about how they kept going through seemingly impossible circumstances. From across the world, they take us through their civil rights battles and personal challenges that forced them to find a way to access hope and keep going.
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends: A Memoir by Amy Silverstein
In a nearly impossible turn of events, Amy Silverstein has had two heart transplants. In a truly beautiful agreement of support, all of her friends chose to join her in California while she waited for another donor heart. This book will make you reach out to your friends from all stages of your life and remember the hard moments you got through together. It’s a completely engrossing and hopeful tale.
Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC Edited by Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod, Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, and Dorothy M. Zellner
This is one of my favorite accounts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee because all of the writers are so realistic and unflinching about the hard work of organizing and the inch-by-inch gains of their civil rights battles. It’s a great read for anyone looking for an overall picture of hope and invested in multigenerational connections.
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
This is the perfect follow-up to Hands on the Freedom Plow. This summer of protest in 2020 is a direct result of the consistent and hard work of BLM organizers, especially their tips about safely protesting because they experienced the brutality first and hardest. This is a rigorous guide to where we were in 2016 and how to fight for Black liberation in the future, giving hope and purpose.
Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
In a poetry book filled with anger and trauma, Danez Smith still breaks through with joy and tenderness. Their poems also track their personal life and identity at the intersection of historically marginalized groups: Black, queer, nonbinary, and HIV-positive. This is a deeply hopeful and engaging poetry book, perfect for anyone who finds poetry a little stuffy sometimes.
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
Set during the pandemic of 1918, this story follows a mother and her daughters in Philadelphia suffering from the unending consequences of a postwar, disease-ravaged moment. The family takes in an orphan who becomes a source for hope, and what follows is a powerful story about making it through the toughest circumstances.
As many of us know, the work is not over with one election. Those of us who care about a better, more equitable future have to keep showing up and harassing our elected officials. However, hope and self-care are important factors in this. If you need a boost, there are also plenty of hope books to make you happy, uplifting books for dark times, and romance novels to make you feel like you’re getting a really good hug.