9 Hopeful Books to Read in These Trying Times

Inspiring narratives that lead the way to a brighter tomorrow.

We’re living at a critical moment for our planet. Climate change is accelerating, and in the face of this existential threat, it’s tempting to feel like nothing we do matters. Instead, let’s find the inspiration to act with these hopeful books. Each author approaches the crisis from a different angle, but they all offer tangible solutions to ensure a better, more sustainable future.

By Joanne Camas

The Book of Hope

By Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall has dedicated her life to protecting nature, and when she talks, people listen. In The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, the world-renowned naturalist outlines the urgent need for global action on the climate crisis based on decades of research and what she’s witnessed in the field. But it’s not all gloom – indeed, Goodall offers hope. Throughout, Goodall shares the moments from her life that transformed her into the messenger of hope and inspiration that she is today. She also lays out the reasons why she remains positive about the future, from the indomitable human spirit to the resiliency of nature. Goodall doesn’t shy from reality, but she also stresses that there is indeed hope if we take action now.

Cover of Climate Justice

Climate Justice

By Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson has had plenty of experience traveling the world and learning about global issues. She was the president of Ireland in the ’90s, and she also served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. But when she held her first grandchild in 2003, she was overwhelmed with concern for his future in a world facing a slew of global crises, from overpopulation and rising temperatures to water shortages and famine. Her response? Collect and share the personal stories of environmentalists and climate activists from all corners of the world, hoping that these grassroot tales of ingenuity and strength would spark action in us all. Climate Justice emphasizes the power we have to take local action and produce extraordinary change.

Cover of Story of More with green tree umbrella

The Story of More

By Hope Jahren

Award-winning scientist Hope Jahren tracks the story of human resilience in the face of the climate crisis in The Story of More, a slim but informative volume. After explaining exactly how we caused our current climate emergency, she outlines practical ways each of us can address it. This is no dry expert treatise: Jahren’s prose is eminently readable — factual and scientific, but also filled with personal anecdotes. Think of it as a rousing and welcoming call to action.

Cover of Under a White Sky

Under a White Sky

By Elizabeth Kolbert

In this national bestseller, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Elizabeth Kolbert (The Sixth Extinction) chronicles the quest to combat climate change, spotlighting the science and technology that once defied nature but now aims to pull us back from the brink. Kolbert outlines the myriad ways in which humans have damaged the planet, then looks at contentious technologies like geoengineering and gene editing that might be our best option for survival. Both disquieting and inspiring, Under a White Sky takes a fascinating look at cutting-edge solutions to the man-made global problems we now face.

Cover of A Paradise Built in Hell

A Paradise Built in Hell

By Rebecca Solnit

An individual’s response to a disaster — both ecological and man-made — can be powerful. That’s the main takeaway from Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell, which traces the street-level response to major crises throughout history, from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the Mexico City earthquake of 1985 to Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks. Solnit shares evidence of people coming together in the face of catastrophe rather than descending into chaos and selfishness, giving us hope that as the world destabilizes and disasters become more prevalent, altruism will prevail.

Cover of How To Be a Good Creature

How to Be a Good Creature

By Sy Montgomery

Animals are a cherished part of Sy Montgomery’s life, and in her bestselling memoir, she focuses on 13 creatures that taught her how to be a better inhabitant of the planet. We meet exotic animals like tigers, tarantulas, and a giant Pacific octopus, and everyday creatures like dogs and pigs. Each friendship is described with love and features beautiful illustrations by Rebecca Green. Of course, death is a part of any story about life, and Montgomery tells of her heartbreak from the losses she faced. But after grieving, she looks forward, offering thanks to each animal companion for the valuable life lessons they taught her. How to Be a Good Creature reminds us that humanity does not exist in a bubble. We are one of many creatures who call this planet home – and we have a responsibility to be the best neighbors we can be.

Cover of The Future Earth

The Future Earth: A Radical Vision for What’s Possible in the Age of Warming

By Eric Holthaus

Climate journalist Eric Holthaus draws on his background as a meteorologist to analyze where we’re headed and how different choices, from cutting carbon emissions to rejigging our concept of city life, could positively impact the planet. Right now, the future looks bleak. Yet Holthaus trumpets hope and calls for radical action, believing that “when we realize that rich people have stolen our planet’s habitability for themselves, we will demand revolutionary change.” His 30-year plan for reversing the effects of climate change involves a mindset flip, requiring us to commit to being conscientious stewards of the world and working together towards a common goal of a more sustainable way of life.

Cover of All We Can Save

All We Can Save

By edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Keeble Wilkinson

This bestselling essay collection amplifies the voices of the many women who stand at the forefront of the climate movement. Contributors represent a diverse mix of backgrounds and geographic locations, and that’s what makes the volume so interesting. Farmers, lawyers, teachers, and scientists all share their stories, offering their take on the climate crisis through essays, poetry, and art. We then hear from environmental activists, who are leading the way to practical ecological solutions we can all embrace. All We Can Save is a refreshing, all-encompassing look at where we are and where we must go together to ensure a brighter future.

Cover of How To Avoid Climate Disaster

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

By Bill Gates

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is known for his work fighting poverty and disease. But those problems don’t exist in a vacuum: Climate change plays a crucial part, inflicting suffering on the people least equipped to deal with it. In How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Gates outlines a wide-ranging action plan aimed at avoiding a global climate catastrophe. Gates believes that achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions is vital in the quest to help both people and the planet. He’s invested millions in research, investigating new technologies that he hopes can be scaled up widely and quickly. He doesn’t gloss over the magnitude of the problems we face, but his optimism and enthusiasm help us see a light on the horizon.

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