10 of the most hopeful books that feel like a balm for the soul
There’s a time and a place for books that rip your heart out and tear you apart. But lately, this is the polar opposite of what I’ve felt like reading. I’ve wanted to read books that ooze warmth, comfort, coziness, and hope.
Perhaps, like me, you just want to be gentle with yourself and fall back in love with the beauty of the world. You might be worried about the future. Or maybe you’re going through tough times and need an antidote to feeling hopeless or lost.
Fear not, here are some of the most hopeful books to read when you want optimism, a happy ending, and no drama. Some of these are optimistic non-fiction books, others are cozy and heartwarming fiction. Brew a cup of tea, find a comfy place to settle down, and unwind. Enjoy.
The best hopeful books to read when you want a happy ending and no drama
1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, Gilead is one of the most comforting and quietly moving novels of this century so far.
In this beautifully-written book with gorgeous calming prose, Marilynne Robinson illuminates life and spirituality through the point of view of an elderly priest reflecting on his life.
This is Reverend John Ame’s hymn of praise and lamentation to the God-haunted existence that he loves passionately and from which he will soon part. It’s not without its bittersweet elements, but overall it’s a hopeful and life-affirming book.
2. For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World by Sasha Sagan
For Small Creatures Such As We is a beautifully hopeful non-fiction book by Sasha Sagan, daughter of Carl Sagan. I also think it’s one of the best books to read when you’re worried about the world.
Described by Richard Dawkins as “a charming book, ringing with the joy of existence,” it’s a lyrical exploration of how we can find beauty and hope in the natural world.
Part memoir, part guidebook, and part social history, it also offers a gentle look at how we might re-introduce rituals to our lives as a way to find our own sense of meaning – and deepen our relationships and experience in the world.
3. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
The Shell Seekers is one of the most cozy and wholesome books ever written, and it will always make me think of summer on the beach in Cornwall and quaint English villages just like the one I grew up in.
I also found it to be exactly the kind of hopeful book I needed lately. The Shell Seekers is one of those books that – although there’s some loss and hardship – is ultimately an uplifting and optimistic book about life.
In the wonderfully warm, rich, and immersive world of Rosamunde Pilcher, everything works out for the best, people grow and connect, and there’s always an unexpectedly lovely plot twist in darker moments.
4. Things to Look Forward To: 52 Large and Small Joys for Today and Every Day by Sophie Blackall
Big things, small things… one of the secrets of happiness is having things to look forward to. In the pages of this life-affirming book, beloved author and Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Sophie Blackall has gathered a collection of joyful everyday magic to reignite our hope and love for the world.
With wisdom and whimsy, the 52 illustrated ideas in this book (which makes for a perfect gift) offer moments of hope, joy, and solace, whether you’re going through hard times or in excited anticipation of new beginnings.
5. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
There’s no drama in this uplifting feel-good book (which is essentially a modern fairytale) about forty-year-old Linus Baker and the orphanage of six dangerous children he’s put in charge of under a highly classified assignment.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is one of the most wholesome comfort reads you can find, as well as a hopeful story of accepting our uniqueness – and that of others – and seeing the best in the world. If you can, listen to the heartwarming audiobook.
6. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
Becoming Wise is full of the same elegant intelligence about what makes us human as Krista Tippett’s radio show and podcast, On Being.
Read this wonderfully hopeful and life-affirming book to remind yourself of the goodness of our world, the kindness of humans, and how our wounds actually bring us meaning, beauty, and wisdom.
7. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
On Reddit, mom2elal shared: “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove gave me a sort of refreshed hope in humanity when I read them, because they were both about the power of simply being kind to people, no matter how strange or different they seem.”
Like Eleanor Oliphant, A Man Called Ove starts with its protagonist in a less-than-ideal state of mind, but over time we experience the joy of them regaining their hope and rebuilding their connection with the world.
8. What We Owe The Future: A Million-Year View by William MacAskill
How can we be hopeful about the future in an age of climate change? That’s one of the questions asked by philosopher William MacAskill in What We Owe The Future, an elegant argument for longtermism – the idea that positively influencing the distant future is a key moral priority of our time.
If we make wise choices today, shares MacAskill, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thrive, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world full of justice, hope and beauty. I think it’s one of the most hopeful books to read if you’re worried about the future or the climate.
I love Ezra Klein’s review: “This book will change your sense of how grand the sweep of human history could be, where you fit into it, and how much you could do to change it for the better. It’s as simple, and as ambitious, as that.”
9. A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers
This wonderfully hopeful sci-fi book (also classed as hopepunk) is about friendship, hope, and acceptance of our differences. If you love Studio Ghibli-inspired books, you should absolutely grab a copy of A Psalm for the Wild-Built.
In this utopian world, it’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness, laid down their tools, wandered together into the wilderness, and faded into myth and urban legend. But one day, the life of a tea monk is turned upside down by a robot at their door asking this impossible question: “what do people need?”
10. A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith has written some of the most lovely and heartwarming books for difficult times. I’ve recommended the heartwarming No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series before, but the 44 Scotland Street books are just as lighthearted and easygoing.
All of his books – which don’t need to be read in order and can be enjoyed as standalones – feel like hanging out with an old friend.
Here in A Time of Love and Tartan, McCall Smith continues his delightfully witty, wise, and sometimes surreal comedy in the centre of everyday life in Edinburgh’s New Town.
For more hopeful books, complement these recommendations with some lighthearted books with a Studio Ghibli vibe, these wholesome comfort reads, or my pick of the coziest books to enjoy during a quiet evening at home.
Enjoy more from me
- Retreat into my new book, Your Life in Bloom: Finding Your Path and Your Courage, Grounded in the Wisdom of Nature.
- I'm also the author of Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, a book about my time living alone by the mountains.
- If you love books, are feeling a little lost right now, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, join The Sanctuary, my seven-day course to rebalance your life.