Image: Aashfaria A. Anwar T/A Studio Aash
It is an understatement to say that 2021 has been difficult. The coronavirus pandemic has continued on, restricting the ways in which we can relax. The climate crisis has regularly topped the news agenda, as scientists and activists around the world seek to persuade governments to take urgent action. And on an individual level, many people are dealing with upheaval and loss.
But there is hope to be found, in stories about the world and people around us. From life-affirming and inspiring memoirs to explorations of the power of nature, these books are perfect gifts to remind a loved one (or yourself) that there are better days around the corner.
by Lady Hale (2021) Spider Woman
Lady Hale served as president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 until 2020, and came to most people's attention when the court found the 2019 prorogation of Parliament to be unlawful. But that moment was just the latest notable one in an extraordinary life. Lady Hale grew up in a village in North Yorkshire and went into law because her headteacher said she wasn't clever enough to study history.
Spider Woman is the warm, hopeful and inspiring tale of a woman who smashed glass ceilings and got ahead in a profession dominated by men.
by Ai Weiwei (2021) 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows
A book with the word sorrow in its title might not seem like it's full of hope, but Ai Weiwei's exploration of his creativity and political beliefs show that beauty can come out of even the most stifling of situations. In
1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, the artist and activist looks at his own life and that of his father, who was branded a rightist during the Cultural Revolution, banished with his family to a desolate place known as 'Little Siberia ', and sentenced to hard labour cleaning public toilets. Ai Weiwei recounts his childhood in exile, his choice to study in America and his decision to return to China, where his work as an artist and international human rights activist under a totalitarian regime has given hope to people around the world.
by Merlin Sheldrake (2021) Entangled Life
Like Dave Goulson's
Silent Earth, Entangled Life is a book that will transform your understanding of the planet through looking at something unassuming and seemingly small: fungi. Merlin Sheldrake's book, which won the Wainwright Prize for Conservation Writing 2021, takes readers on a journey into the world of fungi, and explores how these organisms can change our understanding of life itself. Urgent and necessary, this book will also fill you with hope and awe at the power of nature.
by Kerry Hudson (2019) Lowborn
Dubbed ‘totally engrossing and deliciously feisty’ by none other than Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, Kerry Hudson’s deeply personal exploration of poverty will forever change your perspective on what it means to be ‘poor’ in modern Britain.
by Caroline Criado Perez (2019) Invisible Women
Caroline Criado Perez's
Invisible Women exposes the gender bias that women live with every day, from the small things – phones too big for the hand – to the big – a doctor prescribing a drug that is wrong for your body. Using case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten and the impact this has on us, Invisible Women is a shocking read. But it is also a hopeful one, arming us with the knowledge and tools needed to demand change.
by Paolo Cognetti (2020) Without Ever Reaching the Summit
Part travel journal, part love letter to one of the most spectacular places on earth, this is the story of author Paolo Cognetti’s awe-inspiring 40
th birthday trip, travelling with two friends – plus a couple of mules and guides – to a remote Himalayan region where Nepal meets Tibet.
by Ibram X. Kendi (2020) Be Antiracist
In the struggle for equal rights, recent years have brought both hope and despair, and also some much-needed time for self-reflection. This workbook from the globally bestselling author of
provides a series of activities and exercises to help us all do the vital work of becoming part of the solution, not the problem. How To Be An Antiracist,
by Mark Hamer (2020) A Life in Nature
At the age of 16, Marc Hamer left home with only a rucksack on his back, and started walking. By day, he observed the animals and birds. By night, he slept under hedges, in woodlands and on riverbanks. This beautiful, meditative book feels essential right now, as a celebration of living peacefully and finding joy in the natural world around us.
by Danez Smith (2020) Homie
A mighty anthem about the saving grace of friendship,
Homie will knock your socks off. Danez Smith’s startlingly original collection of poetry meditates on identity and intimacy, in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness and diagnosis..
by Paul Kalanithi (2017) When Breath Becomes Air
What makes life worth living in the face of death? At the age of 36, on the verge of completing a decade's training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. This vital, heartbreaking memoir is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality.