January 2020

Eight books to bring out your best self

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January 2020

Eight books to bring out your best self

Feature by
January 2020

Eight books to bring out your best self

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Are you pondering personal goals for 2020? Then you’ve come to the right place. 

We’ve gathered a stellar collection of books targeting a wide range of New Year’s resolutions. From fitness and finance to political activism, the volumes featured here are loaded with inspiring ideas for improving your life and the lives of those around you.

Remember: Progress is a process. Any step you take toward achieving your objectives—no matter how small—deserves to be celebrated.

If your resolution is to take better care of yourself

The new year is a time to take stock of both body and mind. If you have visions of getting in shape, spending fewer hours online or simply developing a more upbeat attitude, Dr. Jennifer Ashton’s The Self-Care Solution: A Year of Becoming Happier, Healthier, and Fitter—One Month at a Time can help you move from dreaming to doing. 

In this warm, welcoming book, Ashton—a nutritionist who is the chief medical correspondent for ABC News—suggests self-care strategies for every month of the year, with recommendations for firing up your cardio routine (April), eating more veggies (May), cutting out sugar (September) and sleeping better (November). Ashton herself completed this yearlong plan, and she breaks down each month into weekly chunks with directives that will guide you toward your goals. Trying out a new technique each month, Ashton says, can bring about permanent, positive change. So get out your calendar and get cracking. The Self-Care Solution will support you every step of the way.

If your resolution is to speak your truth

In an era when “fake news” is all too real, and shiny social-media facades conceal less-than-perfect lives, honesty—once a bedrock value—seems to have lost its gravitas. How did this happen, and how can we be more forthright and fearless in our daily lives? Award-winning journalist Judi Ketteler explores these questions in Would I Lie to You? The Amazing Power of Being Honest in a World That Lies.

Throughout the book, Ketteler probes the meaning of honesty in contemporary culture and assesses the ways in which the concept shapes our morals and beliefs, our in-person and virtual relationships, and our experiences at home and on the job. Along the way, she weaves in intriguing behavioral science data. She also provides guidance through 11 “honesty principles” that address social and family interactions. If confidence issues or personal disappointments are keeping you from living an authentic life, pick up Ketteler’s book for wise counsel on managing those obstacles, and move into 2020 with a bold new attitude.

If your resolution is to cultivate more justice

Readers looking to combat inequality in our society will connect with Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist. In this thought-provoking volume, Kendi, a National Book Award-winning author and scholar, explores antiracism, a concept that runs counter to the attitudes that have caused America’s social fabric to fray. “An antiracist idea,” he writes, “is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences—that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group.”

Blending history, sociology and autobiography, Kendi investigates the ways in which discriminatory perspectives both subtle and overt influence how we experience other genders and races and shape our notions of physical beauty. He also opens up about the evolution of his own prejudiced perceptions. Recognizing racist prompts and shifting our mindset, Kendi says, can lead to progress. His powerful narrative proves that, for those willing to put in the work, bridging differences in today’s world can be done. Here’s to a hope-filled 2020.

If your resolution is to become more financially literate

If you want to get savvy about savings but don’t know the difference between a 401(k) and an IRA, you should check out Tina Hay’s Napkin Finance: Build Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Less. After graduating from Harvard Business School, Hay formed Napkin Finance, a multimedia company that arms consumers with financial information via easy-to-understand diagrams and terminology.

The company’s accessible approach is reflected in this entertaining book. In short chapters filled with nifty infographics, Hay demystifies subjects like investing, budgeting, building credit and preparing for retirement. Writing in a frank, friendly style, she presents practical advice about money matters, and she makes sure her audience gets the gist through quizzes and key takeaway sections. Hay also clarifies head-scratching topics like cryptocurrency and blockchain. Her appealing M.O. makes financial planning seem feasible and (dare I say it?) fun. Now’s the time to get smart and start saving, and this book will put you on the right track.

Remember: Progress is a process. Any step you take toward achieving your objectives—no matter how small—deserves to be celebrated.

If your resolution is to participate more in our democracy

2020 promises to be a watershed year on the American political front. Reform-minded readers who want to do more than cast a vote will find essential information in Eitan Hersh’s Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change. Hersh, a political science scholar specializing in voting rights and the electoral process, brings unique expertise to this important book.

Most of us engage in what Hersh calls “political hobbyism” by checking the news online, listening to podcasts and perhaps expressing our opinions via social media. Through galvanizing stories of everyday folks whose participation in civic matters have had a marked impact, Hersh urges readers to put an end to the political dabbling, step up and get involved—by establishing local political groups, bonding with neighbors and building solidarity at the community level. His book is a fascinating mix of history, statistics, social science, storytelling and personal insight. Making the shift from political bystander to change-maker is easier than you think, and Hersh’s book can help you do it.

If your resolution is to be a better listener and to exercise more empathy

Given the disparate distractions of modern life—career demands, family matters and social media all desperately vying for our attention—focusing on what’s right in front of us can be tough. Journalist Kate Murphy delivers tips on how to stop getting sidetracked and start being present in You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters. While researching the book, Murphy interviewed people around the world about the topic of listening; it proved to be a sensitive subject. Many interviewees admitted that they felt no one in their lives really—really—heard what they had to say and confessed to being inadequate listeners themselves.

In a narrative that’s lively and fact-packed, Murphy recounts personal anecdotes (as a journalist, she earns a living by listening), talks with other professional listeners (including a CIA agent and the production team behind NPR’s “Fresh Air”) and shares input from psychologists and sociologists. “Done well and with deliberation, listening can transform your understanding of the people and the world around you,” Murphy writes. She gives sound advice in this timely book. So listen up!

If your resolution is to spend less time worrying and more time living

Taking action to combat anxiety requires a special kind of resolve. Dr. Kathleen Smith offers hope for coping in Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down. A licensed therapist, Smith encourages readers to focus on their inner selves and cultivate awareness. Learning to identify and defuse anxiety-induced reactions, she says, can result in an improved outlook and a more grounded day-to-day experience.

“We all want to live a life guided by principle rather than fear or worry,” Smith writes. “And by choosing how we handle our anxiety, we choose our fate.” In the book, she considers life categories that can be impaired by anxiety, from friendships and family to career and religion, and proposes healthy methods for navigating those areas. She also includes exercises for doing the important work of teasing apart thoughts and emotions. Through the inspiring stories of clients, she gives readers motivation to follow through on their goals. 

Banishing the haze of doubt is perfectly possible, Smith says, and she supplies the tools for doing it in this empowering book.

If your resolution is to get in shape as a family

Is your household in need of a lifestyle overhaul? Introducing healthy habits into your family’s daily routine is definitely doable—and more easily achieved when the entire clan is on board. Family Fit Plan: A 30-Day Wellness Transformation is chock-full of tactics for implementing new wellness practices that everyone under your roof will embrace. This program—created by Dr. Natalie Digate Muth, a pediatrician, dietitian and mother of two—is well rounded and designed to energize. It features delicious recipes, easy exercises, ideas for reducing device usage and pointers for staying focused. 

As Muth demonstrates in this holistic guide, getting in shape as a domestic unit can actually be a blast. Consistent family check-ins are central to her vision for better health. She simplifies the lifestyle adjustments by including sample menus, activity logs and fitness assessments. By making incremental changes over the book’s prescribed 30-day period, you can set an example the kiddos will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Grab Muth’s book, gather your group, and start planning.

Everything Isn’t Terrible
By Kathleen Smith

ISBN 9780316492539

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