It’s almost 2019, and you know what that means: time to make a bunch of aspirational New Year’s resolutions that you may or may not stick to for more than a week. But let’s not give up before we’ve even started — if you’d like to use 2019’s arrival to make changes that stick, you’re going to need to arm yourself with some support. Yes, a gym membership and some self-care tools are definitely a good idea, but one of the most powerful self-betterment weapons in your arsenal you can have are books to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions.
Here, split up by type of resolution you’re looking to reinforce, are the top reads that have helped me stay on track.
Eating healthier is one of the top New Year’s resolutions, and as someone who’s been eating whole-foods and plant-based for past three years, I can tell you the results in health and energy are real. If you’re not sure where to start, Simple Happy Kitchen is a fun, illustrated nutrition guide to all-things plant-based that has an infographic for everything from baking substitutes to calcium sources, all cute enough to cut out and frame as kitchen art.
Rawsome Superfoods: 100+ Nutrient-Packed Recipes Using Nature’s Hidden Power to Help You Feel Your Best is also a beautiful and accessible cookbook with clear instructions and easy recipes that taste amazing and leave you glowing, while The Vegan 8: 100 Simple, Delicious Recipes Made with 8 Ingredients or Less is as straightforward and tasty an approach as the title suggests.
Questioning Your Dependance
Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You're Taking, The Sleep You're Missing, The Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy is a must-read for cis women, non-binary people, and trans men who have been on (or off) of the Pill and anti-depressants and would like to read a doctor’s take on how these legal drugs may be impacting their mood, sex life, and more.
If you’d like to work on reducing or eliminating your intake of a substance, Pema Chodron's Taking The Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears is a mindfulness-based approach to looking at addiction, habits, and the emotions that underly them.
Or, perhaps you’d like to consider using drugs more strategically in your life and learning about how psychedelics are being used to treat depression and other human conditions? If so, check out Michael Pollan’s new book, How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.
Examining Your Patterns In Relationships
Whether you’re in a relationship, would like to understand why one fell apart, or are looking to act more intentionally in the future, The Four Nobel Truths of Love: Buddhist Wisdom For Modern Relationships is an excellent guide to reexamining what love and partnership are actually all about, from a Buddhist perspective.
If you’re considering an open relationship or struggle with jealousy in general, Love in Abundance is a must-read to understanding the root of negative emotions in relationships and is neither preachy nor agenda-driven — just fascinating and helpful.
Communion: The Female Search For Love by bell hooks is also a must-read for examining the underlying beliefs about love and “happily ever after” you (or your partners) might carry, and how they may not serve actual happiness.
A Better, More Thoughtful Sex Life
Though at first blush Girl Sex 101 looks like it would only be for lesbians, look closer and you find a truly superb sex guide that works to exclude no one. If you interact with vaginas in any way — your own, or a partner’s — this is the best guide (with components of light erotica!) I’ve found when it comes to manual, oral, penetrative, and even emotional technique. (It’s so spot-on I even just bought a copy for the guy I started dating, mostly as a gift for myself.)
Prostitute Laundry is a compilation of e-letters about sex work and so much more, written by Charlotte Shane, one of the most thoughtful contemporary writers on sex. The book might turn you on in moments, but more importantly, it will help you think critically about sexual dynamics, which is key to ultimately having more liberated sex.
Vagina: a New Biography has got to be Naomi Wolf’s most underrated book. It’s a fascinating and personal look at the science of the vagina, its impact on sexuality, and the many ways in which it is connected to creativity — a fascinating read for those with vaginas and those who are just fans.
Getting Over (And Staying Away From) Your Ex
Of all the books that helped me through a recent breakup, none was more useful than Susan Piver’s The Wisdom of a Broken Heart: An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love. Her book takes a mindfulness-based approach that isn’t hokey, and even includes a 1-week program to help you confront and embrace the power of a broken heart, rather than avoid it.
If you just need a good novel to distract you but also want to be proactive, The Idiot: A Novel, will remind you of your first semi-requited crush and affirm your resolve not to be played with, while Her Body and Other Parties is one feminist collection of short stories that will leave you feeling very intolerant of being manipulated, no matter your gender.
Inspire Your Creativity
While Big Magic may especially speak to writers, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is applicable to any kind of artist, will inspire you to create from a place of whimsy and spirituality, and is packed with plenty of practical tips, without the pressure of having to do any exercises.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing The Writer Within is also a must for any writer or person who’s resolved to journal more — it introduces the concept of meditative or freewriting, which is an extremely therapeutic and low-pressure way to improve your mental health.
If you’d love to draw more but find coloring books too restrictive, The Drawing Mind: Silence Your Inner Critic and Release Your Inner Creative Spirit, is an excellent workbook filled with prompts for drawing without judgment and is fun for even the least skilled of artists.
Drawn Together: Uplifting Comics on the Curious Journey Through Life and Love is a truly sweet book I found on a shelf during a meditation retreat. Each page is its own thoughtful comic on different aspects of mindfulness, and though it might seem sacrilegious, if you buy the book, you can cut out different images and messages that especially speak to you and put them up as reminders around your home that double as pieces of art.
We also spend much of our time at work — which means having tools to be more present and mindful at the office are key. Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life's Demands is an excellent guide that will help you both examine whether your job is conducive to your mental health and give you strategies for being less segmented between your work-self and “normal” self.
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of our most accessible contemporary Buddhist writers, and his Mindfulness Essentials Series is a great place to start for any of your New Year’s resolution needs. You can leave these compact guides (each of which has just one quick teaching per page) around the house as reminders — but specifically, the guides on “How To Love,” “How To Relax” and “How To Eat” are excellent reminders to keep around the house.
Quitting Your Job (and/or Facebook)
Maybe you’d like to cut down on your Facebook time, or read less clickbait? Startup: A Novel is a cutting page-turner about a “news” site, while The Circle is a similarly entertaining nerd-thriller about a Facebook/Google-like corporation — both should make you think twice before you click.
If you’d like to be more practical, How To Not Be Afraid of Your Own Life is an excellent guide to taking the leap away (or towards) that job, habit, or project, using — you guessed it — a mindfulness-based approach.
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