It's been a long year full of divisive politics, weird weather, and disturbing news. As 2018 draws to a close and the festive season grows near, wouldn't it be nice to recharge your optimism batteries a little to close the year on an up note and get in a positive frame of mind for 2019?

Books can help.

Despite all the glum headlines, 2018 actually produced a bumper crop of inspirational books, aiming to help readers dream big, see the good in the world, and bring more joy into their lives. So pick up a selection of them and get reading and restock yourself with hope, ambition, and kindness.  

1. The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky ​

Anyone who has ever tried to accomplish any big project -- from founding a business to writing a book -- is familiar with the dreaded middle part of the journey, where everything suddenly looks complicated, exhausting, and hopeless.  This book is entrepreneur Scott Belsky's guide to traversing that "messy middle" so you can come out the other side with a project you can be proud of.  

2. Big Potential by Shawn Achor

Wharton professor Adam Grant called this volume by the popular Harvard happiness researcher "a vibrant book on how to bring out the best in others--and how they can bring out the best in us."

3. The Myth of the Nice Girl by Fran Hauser

Women often face a nasty double bind at work -- if you're nice, you're not strong enough to lead, but if you're assertive enough to lead, you're not nice enough to work with. Escaping this trap would sure be inspirational for a lot of ambitious women and in this book investor Fran Hauser promises to show you the way, explaining how to stay nice while achieving incredible things.

4. It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

You don't need to be miserable, stressed, and overworked to achieve great things, the bestselling authors of Rework argue in this follow-up. If you want to get more done, you don't need to work more. You need to work smarter, by cutting waste, eliminating distractions, and staying calm. This title promises to teach you how.

5. Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

"Designer and TED star Ingrid Fetell Lee presents groundbreaking research to explain how making small changes to your surroundings can create extraordinary happiness in your life," explains Amazon. Give yourself the gift of a little more happiness to close out 2018 just by making some small tweaks to your surroundings.

6. Rebel Talent by Francesca Gino

You know what's not inspiring? Rules. No one gets fired up about plodding along life's well beaten paths, but how can you break out of stodgy limitations without also breaking stuff or flaming out? Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino has the answer in this book, which offers a how-to guide for constructive rebels. It aims to show you how to break rules and still attain your personal definition of success.

7. The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Few things in life are more inspiring than a great gathering, be it a life-affirming wedding, a soul-nourishing dinner party with friends of a meeting that actually accomplished something great. This book from a conflict resolution specialist and veteran of the Mideast peace talks is a how-to guide to create truly meaningful gatherings that bridge the gaps between people.

When this book came out in January of this year, Bill Gates quickly declared it his new favorite book of all time. The latest from renowned Harvard linguist Steven Pinker makes the case that the world is actually getting better, using science and statistics to back up his counterintuitive optimism. Call it the antidote to the despair of the nightly news.

9. Factfulness by Hans Rosling

If you're still feeling glum about the state of the world after finishing Pinker's book, then move on to this one, another favorite of Gates. In it, the late Swedish professor of international health uses a boatload of data and entertaining anecdotes in his quest to convince readers the world is way better off than they think it is.

10. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

The researcher and viral TED speaker explained how to dare to be your own true self in previous books. Now she's explaining how to leverage your authenticity and vulnerability to lead others. "This book is a road map for anyone who wants to lead mindfully, live bravely, and dare to lead," according to Sheryl Sandberg.