Books to inspire hope

If you’re in need a bookish pick-me-up, we’ve put together some of some recent reads that have lifted our spirits and made us feel a little more hopeful.

Our suggested boosters include the very best of art and culture, public policy, activism, Indigenous poetry, self-reflection, philosophy and radical visions for the future – in short, every kind of inspiration we can find!


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Phosphorescence by Julia Baird

Over the last decade, we have become better at knowing what brings us contentment, well-being and joy. But when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? Julia Baird has written exactly the book we need for these times: a beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness.


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Funny Weather by Olivia Laing

This collection brings together a career’s worth of Laing’s writing about art and culture, examining its role in our political and emotional lives. She profiles Jean-Michel Basquiat and Georgia O'Keefe, interviews Hilary Mantel and Ali Smith, writes love letters to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, and explores loneliness and technology, women and alcohol, sex and the body. With characteristic originality and compassion, she celebrates art as a force of resistance and repair, an antidote to a frightening political time.


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Solved! by Andrew Wear

Denmark is set to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Iceland has topped the gender equality rankings for a decade and counting. South Korea’s average life expectancy will reach ninety due to diet and world-class healthcare. How have these places and more achieved such remarkable outcomes? Public policy adviser Andrew Wear examines what has proven successful around the world, and how we can apply the lessons from these innovative case studies in our own country. Through his research, we meet inspiring community leaders, world-renowned authorities and government policy-makers leading the globe in change. This book is a much-needed dose of optimism in an atmosphere of doom and gloom, a toolkit for those looking for social change.


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Fire Front edited by Alison Whittaker

This important anthology, curated by Gomeroi poet and academic Alison Whittaker, showcases Australia’s most-respected First Nations poets alongside some of the rising stars. Divided into five thematic sections, each one is introduced by an essay from a leading Aboriginal writer and thinker who reflects on the power of First Nations poetry with their own original contribution. This incredible book is a testament to the renaissance of First Nations poetry happening in Australia right now.


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Spring by Ali Smith

What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times? Spring. The great connective. With an eye to the migrancy of story over time, and riffing on Pericles, one of Shakespeare’s most resistant and rollicking works, Ali Smith tells the impossible tale of an impossible time. In a time of walls and lockdown, Smith opens the door. The time we’re living in is changing nature. Will it change the nature of story? Hope springs eternal.


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Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

At a time when political, environmental and social gloom can seem overpowering, this remarkable work offers a lucid, affirmative and well-argued case for hope. This exquisite work traces a history of activism and social change over the past five decades – from the fall of the Berlin Wall, to the worldwide marches against the war in Iraq. Tracing the footsteps of the last century’s thinkers – including Woolf, Gandhi, Borges, Benjamin and Havel – Solnit conjures a timeless vision of cause and effect that will light our way through the dark, and lead us to profound and effective political engagement. Solnit has also just released her memoir, Recollections of My Non-Existence, which make for inspiring reading.


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Fighting For Our Lives by Nick Cook

During the darkest years of the AIDS crisis, marginalised communities – mostly gay men, sex workers and people who inject drugs – came together to form organisations that gave them a voice in the corridors of power. They built an unprecedented alliance with politicians and medical experts, a three-way partnership that made Australia’s response to AIDS one of the most successful in the world. This book captures the high-stakes drama of this extraordinary period and the stories of the people at the very centre of a life-or-death struggle. It is a gripping read, an important story, and one that must never be forgotten.


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Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

Economics is broken, and the planet is paying the price. Here, Oxford academic Kate Raworth lays out the seven deadly mistakes of economics and offers a radical re-envisioning of the system that has brought us to the point of ruin. Moving beyond the myths of ‘rational economic man’ and unlimited growth, Doughnut Economics zeroes in on the sweet spot: a system that meets all our needs without exhausting the planet. The demands of the twenty-first century require a new shape of economics. This might just be it.


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2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration by Damon Gameau

Like most of us, Damon Gameau has spent most of his adult years overwhelmed into inaction by the problem of climate change and its devastating effects on the planet. But when Damon became a father, he knew he couldn’t continue to look away. So he decided to do what he does best, and tell a story. The result is the era-defining documentary 2040 – a meticulously researched plea for the adoption of community-building, energy-generating, connection-forging, forest-renewing, ocean-replenishing measures that science tells us will reset our planet’s health, drive our economies and improve lives across the globe. With 2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration, Gameau demonstrates how climate change is a practical problem that can be tackled by each of us, one small step at a time.


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Modern Mending by Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald

In Australia, we send millions of tonnes of clothing to landfill each year. But the good news is that mending is trending and it’s never been easier to repair and reinvent your favourite clothes. Inspired by the slow fashion movement taking over the world, Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald has created a comprehensive guide to mending your own clothes that combines creativity and sustainability. So next time you tear your favourite jeans or find a hole in your jumper think twice before throwing them away. With this book, you’ll gain the skills and confidence needed to rebel against fast fashion.


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Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (available 19 May)

Human beings, we’re taught, are selfish and governed primarily by self-interest. This is a belief that unites the left and right, psychologists and philosophers, writers and historians. It drives the headlines that surround us and the laws that touch our lives. Here, Rutger Bregman looks back over the last 200,000 years of human history to reveal a counter-argument – one that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary. Humankind: A Hopeful History is a radical history of our innate capacity for kindness.

Humankind: A Hopeful History

Humankind: A Hopeful History

Rutger Bregman

$32.99Buy now

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