I think we can all agree 2020 was a hard year. Between the pandemic and politics, I’m sure there were moments that all of us looked at the news and wondered “what is wrong with people?!” Whenever the world feels like that to me, I love to find a good fiction book that focuses on what connects us or a nonfiction book featuring people coming together to take care of each other. These books remind me that people can still be good, kind, and decent. So I am sharing my favorite books that make me feel good about humanity.
A Man Called Ove by Frederick Bachman
Fiction – Forced into retirement early, Ove prowls his neighborhood strictly enforcing the Homeowner Association rules, arguing with salespeople over coupons and computers, and generally loathing everyone he meets. When a young family moves into his neighborhood, his life becomes full of unwanted and hilarious intrusions. Told in alternating timelines between Ove’s past and present, the reader begins to see that behind Ove’s gruffness lies a kind and broken heart. This book explores so many great themes: love, grief, friendship, heartbreak, disappointment, and empathy. I laughed out loud and cried many times throughout this book.
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley.
Fiction – What would happen if you were really, truly honest? Julian Jessop is a retired and lonely artist who decides to do just that. He shares his truth in a plain green journal and leaves it for a stranger to find. His notebook is read, updated, and left again by six strangers who eventually are brought together by the journal. Although everyone’s secrets and lives are different, the journal ends up bringing each person exactly what they need with some surprising twists along the way. This book will remind you that everyone has struggles but everyone also has something to offer.
Humans by Brandon Stanton
Nonfiction – In 2010, Brandon Stanton started a blog photographing people on the streets of New York and recording their anecdotes and stories. His blog became extremely popular, and ten years later, Stanton traveled the world with an interpreter and captured the faces and voices of people all over the world. He put them together in this beautiful coffee table book. The stories and photographs within will move you, make you laugh, and remind you that we may look and speak differently, but our hearts long for the same things.
Fiction – Rosemary Page has lived in Brixton all her life and has watched it change over the years. However, when a new housing developer wants to close her local pool (lido), she cannot let that happen. Kate Matthews is a young reporter for the local paper assigned to cover her fight to stop the pool’s closure. Even though the two women are from two different generations, they have more in common than they expect. They continue spending time together, and through their growing friendship we see the importance of community.
When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning
Nonfiction – During World War II, while Hitler was burning books across Germany, American librarians, authors, and publishers decided to launch a campaign to send free books to American troops stationed all over the world. In this historical account, Manning describes the true story of the effort it took to provide books to serviceman and the impact these books had on the soldiers. Featuring moving letters from the actual soldiers, this book will inspire you with the sacrifice of the American people, the perseverance of the American soldiers, and the power of books.
Here are a few more feel-good books that deserve an honorable mention.
Anxious People by Frederick Backman
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
Have you read any books featuring the best of humanity? Let us know what titles you recommend in the comments.
Kelley Brandeberry is a Public Service Associate at BCPL’s Scheben Branch and leads the Chapter and Verse Book Group. She is an avid reader of all types of books and is always on the lookout for her next favorite.