New habits are tough to start and tougher to maintain. Life gets in the way of that ambitious gym routine or overzealous diet plan. Soon enough, it’s mid-January—the beginning of the end of our well-intentioned New Year’s resolution.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes we just need a little extra motivation. Fortunately, inspiration abounds in books. Did you resolve to get in shape? Read more? Reduce stress? Learn from the experts, find your muse, and see your resolution through.
1. Be happier
The Happiness Project
In a sentence: Going through what she calls, “middle-aged malaise,” Rubin undertakes a year-long project to be happier.
Why you should read it: It’s relatable, funny, and actionable. Rubin digs into the art and science of happiness and puts it to the test. But beware: After reading it, it’s a near certainty that you’ll clean every drawer in your home.
Favorite quote: “All these thoughts flooded through my mind, and as I sat on that crowded bus, I grasped two things: I wasn’t as happy as I could be, and my life wasn’t going to change unless I made it change.”
2. Get in shape
The 4-Hour Body
In a sentence: Get leaner and meaner with 10 times the efficiency.
Why you should listen to it: If Tim Ferriss were a superhero (and let’s not rule out the possibility), he’d be a cross between Superman and Inspector Gadget. Willing to experiment on every cell in his being, Ferriss wrote the manual for how to get the most out of your body.
Favorite quote: “The major fears of modern man could be boiled down to two things: too much e-mail and getting fat.”
3. Eat right
The Omnivore’s Dilemma
In a sentence: From hunting wild boars to foraging for chanterelles, Pollan goes to the source to discover what we eat (hint: it’s corn).
Why you should listen to it: Pollan dives into the underbelly of the food world head first. His climactic meal, foraged, hunted, and gathered entirely from the wild, is an adventure in itself.
Favorite quote: “There is every reason to believe that corn has succeeded in domesticating us.”
4. Spend more time outdoors
A Walk in the Woods
In a sentence: Bill Bryson hikes the Appalachian Trail with his boorish buddy.
Why you should listen to it: Bryson is not only one of the greatest living nonfiction writers—just look at his unbelievable body of work—but a true nature nut. Setting out to hike all 2,226 miles of the Appalachian trail as an out-of-shape middle-aged man is one thing; doing it with his irascible travel partner Katz is quite another.
Favorite quote: “Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.”
5. Fall in love
The Rosie Project
In a sentence: A genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome constructs a 20-page questionnaire to find a suitable mate, and then he meets someone who fails every question.
Why you should read it: Don Tillman’s hyperlogical approach to love is hilarious. It’s hard not to root for a guy who learns to waltz with a skeleton dummy as his dance partner. And the spunky, stubborn Rosie—to be played by Jennifer Lawrence in the upcoming film adaptation—serves as a wonderful foil.
Favorite quote: “‘What would you like?’
‘A skinny decaf latte.’
This is a ridiculous form of coffee, but I did not point it out.”
6. Travel the world
Eat Pray Love
In a sentence: You must have heard of this one, right?
Why you should listen to it: It was a massive pop culture phenomenon for a reason: because this story of a woman who travels the world to find herself is relatable whether you’re fifteen or fifty.
Favorite quote: “People universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.”
7. Improve your mind
Moonwalking with Einstein
In a sentence: A journalist covers the world memory championships; one year later, he’s a participant in the finals.
Why you should listen to it: It’s a blueprint for the machinery in your mind. Foer uncovers an ancient technique popularized by modern weirdos with enormous earmuffs and Inuit goggles. His journey from observer to participant is literally unforgettable.
Favorite quote: “It was easy enough to explain to people that I was living with my parents to save a few bucks while I cut my teeth as a writer. But what I was doing in their basement, with pages of random numbers taped to the walls and old high school yearbooks (purchased at flea markets) cracked open on the floor, was, if not downright shameful, at least something to lie about.”
8. Save money
I Will Teach You to Be Rich
In a sentence: Sethi shows you how to save with self-perpetuating systems.
Why you should read it: Sethi would be the first to state it: Saving money is not hard. In fact, it’s surprisingly simple. Sethi’s no-nonsense system for acquiring wealth should be required reading for anyone looking to build their own nest egg.
Favorite quote: “The 85 Percent Solution: Getting started is more important than becoming an expert.”
9. Read more
The Know-It All
In a sentence: Jacobs embarks on an insane quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, from a-ak to zywiec.
Why you should read it: Jacobs’s memoir is quirky, hilarious, and bursting with obscure minutia (how much do you know about 18th Century Portuguese literature?).
Favorite quote: “I hate Flaubert, that superior bastard. Why should the pursuit of knowledge be the monopoly of so-called experts? Hooray for dilettantes. And anyway, earlier in the F section I learned that Flaubert fell in love with a woman but didn’t tell her about it till thirty-five years later. Which leads me to the conclusion: what the fuck does he know?”
10. Write more
In a sentence: A mega-bestselling writer peels back the curtain on writing—both the life and the craft.
Why you should read it: It’s a classic; a master class in how to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and write. King’s stories—from his wife rescuing crumpled pages of Carrie from a trashcan to the car accident that nearly killed him—endear him even if you haven’t read a word from his macabre novels.
Favorite quote: “Someone out there is accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.”
11. Reduce stress
In a sentence: A high-powered Dateline anchor has a panic attack on air, and turns to Zen Buddhism to keep his cool.
Why you should read it: It’s a rare breed—a self-help book with some teeth. Harris, a skeptical, Type-A New Yorker, falls down the rabbit hole of the mindfulness movement. His journey—from his ugly past to his perpetual present—is relatable and fascinating.
Favorite quote: “‘How can you advise us to not worry about the things we have to do when we reenter the world? If I miss my plane, that’s a genuine problem. These are not just irrelevant thoughts.’ Fair enough, he concedes. ‘But when you find yourself running through your trip to the airport for the seventeenth time, perhaps ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this useful?’’”
12. Learn an instrument
Up: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
In a sentence: Play the Oscar-winning musical score (or choose from any other of Scribd’s 2,600 songbooks).
Why you should play it: Because you’ll make your mom cry while playing “Married Life.” I should know—I started learning piano out of this songbook in February. Ten months later, I fulfilled my 2015 New Year’s resolution of giving a piano recital.