The best books on empathy 📚

Browse the best books on empathy as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

By Po Bronson

Why this book?

I love it when authors want to tackle an enormous question that we have all asked at some point. Po Bronson traveled to meet people who are both unique and common, impressive and ordinary, and ultimately just like everyone else. They share how they’ve tackled the question for themselves. There is no formula, no one way, and that comes with a certain sense of freedom. 

My favorite story features a man who is working to revolutionize the income model of America’s Native Peoples to elevate both their stature and power (literally). He is working on a 50-year plan, which impressed…

From the list:

The best books of incredible real life stories

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Book cover of Jacob's New Dress

Jacob's New Dress

By Sarah Hoffman, Ian Hoffman, Chris Case

Why this book?

This gentle picture book introduces us to Jacob who wants to dress up like his friend, Emily, and not in the costumes the other boys prefer. Despite being teased when he arrives at school wearing a dress fashioned from a towel, Jacob decides he wants a “real” dress. With support from his parents, he makes one of his own. Further teasing is met by Jacob’s expression of pride in his creation and refusal to compromise who he is. This colorful book promotes acceptance of gender nonconformance and can serve as an opener to discussions of the topic with young children.

From the list:

The best books on acceptance and empathy

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Book cover of Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story about Racial Injustice

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story about Racial Injustice

By Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard, Jennifer Zivoin

Why this book?

When tragic events happen our first impulse may be to gloss over it when talking to young children. Sometimes, however, what they really need is straight talk. When a police shooting of a Black man occurs in the community, two children (one Black and one White) struggle to understand what happened. This beautifully crafted picture book explores questions children might have in the aftermath of such an event and how the adults around them address questions of racial injustice.

From the list:

The best books on acceptance and empathy

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Book cover of The Rabbit Listened

The Rabbit Listened

By Cori Doerrfeld

Why this book?

When someone you love is going through a hard time, it can be hard to know how to support them. It’s uncomfortable and heartbreaking. We can’t make their pain go away, but this book is a powerful reminder that just being there, listening, and acknowledging their rollercoaster of valid emotion can go a long way toward helping a person heal in their own time and at their own pace. With a gender-neutral child protagonist, this deceptively simple book is inspired in its pacing, spare text, use of white space, and sprinkling of humor. All in the space of 32 pages,…

From the list:

The best picture books for ages 6 to 106

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Book cover of I Like You

I Like You

By Sandol Stoddard Warburg, Jacqueline Chwast

Why this book?

I love this charming book about the kindness that comes with friendship. Pen drawings accompany the text, which is at certain times silly, other times fun, and at the best of times poignant. Point in case:

“And I like you because

When I am feeling sad you don’t always cheer me up right away

Sometimes it is better to be sad."

I’m not sure every child would understand the significance of that sentence. But the words at some point in their lives will come back around. The book lists reasons why we like our friends, namely because they offer us…

From the list:

The best books about teaching kids kindness

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Book cover of Nope. Never. Not for Me!

Nope. Never. Not for Me!

By Samantha Cotterill

Why this book?

If you happen to know a child on the autism spectrum then I’m sure the word ‘empathy’ will have taken on a whole new dimension. This series of picture books has been written specifically for sensitive children, and I can’t recommend them more highly. As well as being extremely funny, they’ve really helped myself and my son talk about parts of the day we both find challenging. And to see things from the other’s point of view.

From the list:

The best children’s books exploring empathy

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