There’s more good news in many of the books I read this year. For example a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge looked at various ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions involved in making and using materials — cement, steel, etc. — and found that we can cut them by 50 percent without asking people to make big sacrifices. And New York Times columnist David Brooks profiled various historical figures who were paragons of character. If you’re feeling down about the state of the world today, these portraits will remind you of the great things people are capable of doing for each other.