Douglas Abrams teams up with Jane Goodall to co-create The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times. It’s a record of their conversations about hope, and focuses primarily on Goodall’s four reasons to be hopeful. Abrams is a skilled interviewer and captures the flavor of their time together. And Goodall answers his questions with a wide variety of intriguing stories and thoughtful discourse.

First Abrams and Goodall discuss what it means to have hope and be hopeful. They especially address whether hope is a passive or active verb. And based on their own lives and historical events, as well as the study of hope overall, they determine it is an active verb. When you hope, its implied correlation is also doing something about the situation.

As for the four reasons Goodall remains hopeful about the world, they are:

  • the amazing human intellect
  • the resilience of nature
  • the power of young people
  • the indomitable human spirit

As Abrams and Goodall discuss and defend these reasons, she tells many stories drawn from her life experiences and research.

As the book wraps up, the authors discuss Goodall’s work, including the various organizations she founded or supported. All of them bolster those four reasons for hope. They also discuss some aspects of how spiritual beliefs connect to the feeling of hopefulness.

Early in the book, Abrams traveled to where Goodall was in the world. But before they finished, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. So, they address that in some later conversations, including in a wrap-up letter written by Goodall.

My conclusions

Reading this book is like walking around a pit of quicksand. You talk with your companion about it, discussing how to solve it and pass by. But you aren’t about to jump in and get mired in the muck. Many of the world’s muckiest issues are discussed by Abrams and Goodall. But rather than discuss solutions, the focus is on how and why to be hopeful about people finding the right solutions.

I think Abrams and Goodall feel that by focusing on hope, we can all more effectively face those often overwhelming issues. I respect that, and found the book did help me feel less despair about the future.

The interview format and Abrams’ writing style help create momentum in the book. It’s an inspiring read, even when life makes me pessimistic. The stories Goodall tells are meaningful on many levels. What an amazing life she leads, even now in her eighties.

I recommend this book as an antidote to whatever news channel you watch. Step away from social media, the Internet, and let yourself find a reason or four to hope.

Pair with Goodall’s earlier book, Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey, which I also read this year. Or try The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where We Go from Here by Hope Jahren for a more singular but related topic. And if you prefer practical steps, try Rethink the Bins: Your Guide to Smart Recycling and Less Household Waste by Julia L.F. Goldstein.


Many thanks to Celadon Books and the authors for an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. Expected publication date is October 19, 2021.