Hopepunk book recommendations

The world basically sucks right now, not going to lie. It can be easy to sink into a pessimistic attitude, but now it’s more important than ever to stay hopeful, which is why I’m recommending books with “hopepunk” themes.

What exactly is hopepunk? This term was coined by author Alexandra Rowland in 2017 as the antithesis to gritty, nihilistic “grimdark” that has been popularized through media like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. Instead of looking at a broken world and giving up or deciding to take advantage of it, hopepunk inspires change and resistance and, well, hope. As Rowland says, “It’s about DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.”

It’s Harry realizing that his greatest strength against Voldemort is his ability to love and to be loved. It’s Sam Gamgee telling Frodo that “there’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” It’s Orpheus from Hadestown, who “could make you see how the world could be, in spite of the way that it is.” It’s the entire thesis of the show The Good Place. Hopepunk not childish or naive, because in my mind, fighting for a better future is one of the most radical and hopeful things you can do.

I think we could all use a little more hopepunk in our lives right now, so today I’m recommending six books with hopepunk themes that you might like to pick up.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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Look, maybe reading a book about a pandemic that wipes out 99% of humanity isn’t the best choice of reading material right now, but maybe it would be cathartic? Who knows. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and oddly taking comfort from it.

Station Eleven is all about finding hope in the aftermath of a devastating event. Much of the story follows a traveling Shakespeare troupe that decides “survival is insufficient,” so they try to do more than simply survive. Society might have collapsed and they might be traveling from one starving community to another, but they’re determined to bring art and music and beauty back into the world, and that’s about the most hopepunk thing I can think of.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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One of the most famous quotes from this book is “History, huh? Bet we could make some.” And is here anything more hopepunk than a love story so powerful that it literally changes history for the better?

I’ve recommended this book approximately a million times in the last year, but if you’re still not convinced, I hope I can change your mind. This romance book following the First Son of the US and the Prince of England is just about as feel-good and hilarious as it gets. It’s a bit of wish fulfillment in terms of the current political situation, but it’s close enough to reality to feel like we can get there someday. And best of all, it presents love as a radical, worldchanging act, which feels like exactly what we need in the world right now.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

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You wouldn’t think that a book that’s all about aliens would actually be all about humanity, but here we are. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing follows a young woman who becomes famous after her video of a mysterious statue – thousands of which have suddenly appeared all over the world – goes viral.

Even though this book is largely about a slow alien invasion, its focus is on the ways that humans react to it, both good and bad. It portrays both the worst and the best of humanity at a time of crisis and uncertainty (sound familiar?) and shows the power that each of us has to impact the world around us. In April’s words, “Even on this most terrible days, even when the worst of us are all we can think of, I am proud to be a human.”

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

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Does a book about an incurable illness that the government does little to prevent feel a little close to home right now? Maybe so. But if you need comfort that we’re going to get through this and come out the other side with a better, more loving world, then go read Like a Love Story.

This book is set in 1989 during the AIDs crisis in New York City, following a couple different teenagers all dealing with it in their own way. One of my favorite lines from the books is “love is our legacy,” which automatically makes it hopepunk. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. This book is all about history and hope and people fighting for a better world – a world in which they can love freely – and that sounds pretty great to me.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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Another love story that’s so powerful it changes history? Heck yes. In this sci-fi novella, two agents on the opposite side of a time war start writing letters to each other, and what began as taunts between enemies grows into something much more.

Honestly, every time I think about this book, I have to stop for a few moments to compose myself because it’s Too Much for my heart. Is there anything more beautiful than Red and Blue fighting to be together, showing that love is more powerful than war – more powerful than any other force? This book is proof that caring for others is a strength, rather than a weakness, and that’s hopepunk in a nutshell.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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You’d think that a book narrated by Death and set during one of the darkest periods in history would be as grimdark as it gets, but in fact, it’s the exact opposite. The Book Thief, which follows a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany, is all about the strength that humanity can show in the face of incredible adversity, which sounds pretty hopepunk to me.

This book isn’t the most happy and uplifting, as it doesn’t shy away from the worst that humanity has to offer. But it shows how there’s always good out there, no matter how bad it gets. There’s this quote from Death that I think sums it up pretty well: “I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.” If you haven’t already picked up The Book Thief, it might be the perfect thing right now.

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I hope you’re all keeping safe out there and washing your hands a lot. Stay hopeful! ❤️

What books are you reading right now? What hopepunk books/shows/movies do you recommend?

x Margaret

goodreads | twitter | indiebound

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27 thoughts on “Hopepunk book recommendations

  1. I absolutely love that there is a name for this genre of books! I completely agree with you about Station Eleven – it might not be the best comfort read right now but the way that it deals with the endurance of art and humanity really stuck with me after reading. I’ve just added Like A Love Story to my TBR too!

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing what hopepunk is and all of these recommendations 🥺. I think I tend to prefer hopepunk stories without even knowing the term. There’s enough grimdark…ness(?) in the world, so it’s nice to escape to a more comforting one, even if it’s fictional. Station Eleven was my favorite book last year! I immediately thought of it when WHO declared the pandemic, so it’s even more unnerving to think about its plot nowadays 😕. But, you’re right that it did have uplifting messages! I definitely have to check out all of these books now, especially the sci-fi ones 😮. Hopeful sci-fi stories just hit different 😅.
    Awesome post, Margaret! I hope you’re safe and healthy 🙂.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahhh thank you, I’m so glad you liked it! ☺️ Hopepunk really is so dearly needed in the world right now. Station Eleven is SUCH a good book… and I’ve heard so many people referencing it since this whole thing started. Yes it’s disturbing to think about, but it does have an incredibly hopeful message. I really hope you enjoy these others, especially the sci-fi ones! And the same to you – stay safe 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really appreciate this list, and it’s funny because I’ve just posted my favorite comfort reads today AND saw another blogger do the same, haha. I guess we all want to escape the world right now. 😦 I love The Book Thief so much, and I agree, it has a beautiful message and is full of hope and love despite how heartbreaking it can be.

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  4. Oh, it’s fine, I WANTED TO CRY IN THE INTRODUCTION OF THIS POST! Coming at me with some Sam Gamgee hope and kindness right when we need it most. Also YES, we all definitely need some Alex & Henry love right now. I am here for the wishful political thinking. I am here for the love that changes history. I am here for it all.

    Right now, I could probably go for Emergency Contact by Mary HK Choi as my hopepunk, and just saying that out loud realllllllly makes me want to take it off my shelf and immediately start rereading. I mean, it’s got baking + really good anxiety rep with figuring out self care + friends turned sweethearts, so??? Yeah, bye, totally going to reread it, thanks for the hopeful encouragement! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trust me, I was FULLY crying while watching that Sam Gamgee scene in Two Towers the other day. I’m so glad you agree, though! I’m 100% here for all of that right now as well.

      Ooh I definitely need to check out Emergency Contact now! Loving the sound of ALL of those things 😄 Thanks for the recommendation!

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  5. I hadn’t actually heard of Hopepunk before, I obviously know Grimdark and I do love it but Hopepunk definitely sounds awesome and can be very much needed!!!
    Red, White and Royal Blue is definitely perfect for this as they was a lot hope and love– I loved how you put that it presents love as a worldchanging act and I do love that!
    The Book Thief definitely captures a lot of hope and the strength of humanity really well. Great suggestion!!
    Great list, I’m curious about Station Eleven and An Absolutely Remarkable Thing !! Stay safe!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, definitely!! I want ALL the hopepunk in my life right now. I’m a little obsessed with that idea from RWRB of love as a worldchanging act, ngl. And you should definitely check out both of those books!! Thank you, and I hope you’re staying safe as well ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for sharing these recommendations, Margaret ❤ They're really need with everything that's happening in the world right now.
    Red, White & Royal Blue is the definition of Hopepunk, honestly!! It's pretty unrealistic, but I loved getting to escape in its alternative reality for a while 🥺 I haven't read most of the books on this list yet, but I'm so stoked to read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and Station Eleven!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh thank you! ❤ I think we could all use a little more hope in the world right now.
      And yes, even if RWRB isn't always the most realistic, it feels so optimistic and aspirational! I really hope you read and love An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and Station Eleven 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d never heard of Hopepunk, but it’s exactly what I need right now 🥰 I hope to read Red, White and Royal Blue soon for the OWLs and I’m excited as I’ve heard that it has a lot of fluff and fun 😊 I’ve also always been intrigued about Station Eleven, as it sounds like a different kind of survival story and I appreciate books that have a hopeful message 🌷

    Liked by 1 person

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