10 Inspirational Books that Will Fill You with Hope

Open yourself to hope with these life-affirming reads.

The following inspirational books, from bestselling memoirs to celebrated narrative nonfiction, embrace a hopeful mindset, encouraging readers to give thanks to those around them and to appreciate each moment that life has to offer.

By Kaitlyn Johnson

The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times

By Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams

In this insightful new release, famed naturalist Dr. Jane Goodall joins bestselling author Douglas Abrams to discuss present world challenges and her abiding hope for the future. Drawing on her decades-long career as a conservationist, researcher, and activist, Goodall recounts the moments that transformed her into the messenger of hope she is today, and she shares her perspective on maintaining an optimistic worldview. Throughout, Goodall is upfront about the very real threat of climate change, and yet, she remains positive about the planet’s future, detailing the reasons why there’s still hope if we all act now. A timely work for this difficult time, The Book of Hope will fill you with optimism and motivate you to take action.

Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story — Remaking a Life from Scratch

By Erin French

Erin French, owner and chef of the critically acclaimed restaurant The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine, shares her inspirational journey to success in Finding Freedom. French movingly chronicles her lifelong passion for cooking, from working in her dad’s diner as a teenage line cook to starting her “supper club” and opening her current restaurant in an old mill. Her food memoir is more than a tale of the restaurant world, though. French also candidly discusses her struggles with addiction, a toxic marriage, and single motherhood, and how she overcame a slate of obstacles to build the life she wanted. Finding Freedom offers an intimate look at pursuing dreams against the odds, reminding us that such a feat is possible with passion and persistence.

Never Enough by Mike Hayes

Never Enough: A Navy SEAL Commander on Living a Life of Excellence, Agility, and Meaning

By Mike Hayes

Former SEAL Team 2 commander Mike Hayes looks back on a career of perilous missions and high-stakes experiences in this invaluable book on leadership and excellence. Hayes shares how he learned to improve from within while leading others to greatness, detailing the life lessons that served him on the battlefield and in the boardroom. Though his journey may be extraordinary, Hayes’s commitment to being his best self is eminently relatable. Never Enough delivers tried and tested advice along with a healthy dose of motivation, encouraging you to reach the next level in both your professional and your personal lives.

Love People, Use Things

By Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

From Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists, comes this thoughtful book about minimalism for all of us who want to pare down our possessions and make room for more meaning. Fields Millburn and Nicodemus illustrate how living with intention opens the door to a more fulfilling existence, allowing us to recalibrate our attitude toward stuff and to heal the core relationships in our lives. Rich with personal anecdotes from the authors, Love People, Use Things will inspire you to clear out the clutter and fill your life with lasting value and purpose.

This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism

By Ashton Applewhite

Author and activist Ashton Applewhite denounces ageist attitudes, debunks myth after ageist myth, and celebrates later life in this anti-ageism manifesto. With humor and frankness, Applewhite dissects the many ways our culture monetizes youth and perpetuates the notion that aging is shameful or undesirable. She once held these beliefs herself, so it’s especially powerful when Applewhite shares the research and conclusions that turned her into a pro-aging advocate. She looks at the history of ageism and notes the damage it does to our society, and she calls for a radical shift in how we view getting older. This Chair Rocks will get you raging against age discrimination and have you looking forward to the rest of your life.

Her Honor: My Life on the Bench...What Works, What’s Broken, and How to Change It

By LaDoris Hazzard Cordell

In this eye-opening memoir, LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, the first African American woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Northern California, provides an insider look at the strengths and shortcomings of America’s judicial system. Judge Cordell uses real-life cases to illustrate the detailed legal process and how outside forces add to the pressure of making impartial decisions. Judge Cordell is clear about the prejudices that pervade U.S. law, but she’s also firm in her conviction that change is possible — indeed, she outlines a plan to make it happen. Her Honor is an informed and honest portrayal of a system that still needs work and an important reminder that real progress can be made with tenacity and effort.

Cover of Gratitude by Oliver Sacks

Gratitude

By Oliver Sacks

In Gratitude, famed neurologist and author Oliver Sacks artfully captures the experience of illness and the true meaning of being grateful. In the twilight of his life, Sacks wrote a collection of four essays examining the reality of approaching death, looking back on the life he’d led, and coming to terms with its completion. Gratitude makes it clear that it’s the fate of every person to curate a unique journey through life, and Sacks encourages each individual to appreciate their path.

The Art of Leaving

By Ayelet Tsabari

In her moving new memoir, Ayelet Tsabari describes how fleeing from loss and alienation set her on a path to self-discovery and belonging. After losing her father and feeling disconnected from her home, her family, and her family’s Mizrahi identity, Tsabari left Israel to travel the world in search of herself. After years on the road, never settling in one place for too long, the act of leaving became familiar. When Tsabari finally returns to Israel, however, she does so with a newfound perspective that fosters connection. The Art of Leaving is an uplifting story of family, home, and identity told in a series of essays.

Cover of The Color of Water by James McBride

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

By James McBride

James McBride’s powerful meditation on race and identity is told through the narrative of his mother, Ruth McBride Jordan — a woman who would not admit she was white. McBride shares how learning of his mother’s story and the long-buried pain in her past led to a better understanding of his own childhood and mixed-race identity. The Color of Water is an inspiring account that chronicles the difficulties and joys of discovering who we are and where we come from.

When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi

When he is diagnosed with terminal cancer, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi tackles the question of what makes life worth living. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles his progress from being a medical student wondering what makes a person’s life meaningful to working as a doctor and becoming a new father suddenly facing his own mortality after a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. Though he died in 2015, Kalanithi leaves behind a touching and ultimately uplifting reflection on the value of living, whether it be for decades to come or just a bit longer.

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