Let’s Get Reading: Book Recommendations for the New Year!


bookWith winter upon us, the holidays behind us, and that long stretch of cold before Spring arrives, we may find we have more time for some cozy moments at home. That “New Year, New You” catchphrase does not only apply to physical changes but also mental growth and recharging. Perhaps part of our goals for the new year may be to spend more time reading. Suppose you’re in that category like me. In that case, I have some suggestions for some impactful, interesting reads that can lend to reflection, positive changes, and little (but significant) knowledge nuggets that can help boost your joy, happiness, productivity, relationships, and much more. Picture the snow outside, candles lit inside, a warm blanket, and a book you don’t want to put down…so smile, take a deep breath and delve into these book recommendations with me!

The Gap and The Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy

All I can say about this book is wow, wow, WOW! Ok, so that’s not all I can say, so I will elaborate. To say that this book can be life-changing is an understatement.

I one million percent recommend The Gap and the Gain because it offers insightful introspection into whether you spend more time in the “Gap” – the area where nothing is ever enough, where you devalue yourself, where others always seem to let you down, where you compare yourself to others (which is the thief of joy), where you’re constantly feeling like happiness is somewhere else, where you’re also measuring your progress on a moving target instead of looking at your previous selves — or in the “Gain,” which connects you to focus on your actual progress, allows you to reframe your thinking and enables you to revel in being happy now (instead of always chasing it or thinking it is something that needs to always be pursued). The authors do a fantastic job of illuminating how predominantly living in the “Gain” gives you the power to transform yourself and be HAPPY and grateful consistently.

Dan Sullivan said, “The only way to measure the distance you’ve traveled is by measuring from where you are back to the point you started.” This book can motivate you to be liberated from the “Gap.” You will learn to develop a new lens when unfortunate events happen or when things do not quite go your way. You will also learn to embrace your personal progress and victories truly, no matter how small, which can inspire you to be the best version of yourself. The quotes dispersed throughout this book prove very powerful, as do the actual lists and reflection prompts the author provides to further explain their ideas and to allow readers to make direct correlations to their lives.

Your only regret about reading this book will be that you didn’t read it sooner. Go grab this book, bust out your journal and pen and truly delve into the realm of living consistently in the “Gain!”

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

I have always been a huge fan of authors and coaches promoting the idea of individuals getting 1% better daily. With that ideal, readers will find themselves empowered instead of overwhelmed, and they can indeed consider enacting daily habits that can be routine and automatic but also life-enhancing and sometimes life-changing. The author writes in a way that is logical, easy to follow, inspiring, and manageable; complex topics are broken down into baby steps. But as Clear outlines, it is the tiny behaviors that end up proving to be big; little by little, a little becomes a lot! The concepts outlined are for individuals looking to change or improve in various ways, such as perhaps losing weight, improving overall health, stopping their smoking or drinking, becoming more organized, developing better relationships, and more. “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be?” and “Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity?” are just two examples of very impactful questions the author genuinely challenges you to consider.

What I also loved about this book are Clear’s own personal anecdotes as well as true stories from an array of business leaders, doctors, comedians, athletes, and more. All of these stories not only make the book very interesting but also provide additional credence to the principles being proposed. “If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again, not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change,” Clear said.

This is another great read that includes many examples, reflection pieces, and checklists that can provide the reader the chance to find the direct correlation between their life and the ideas outlined in the book. Clear crafts the framework for what success and progress can truly look like and how it is attainable for everyone. “Tiny changes. Remarkable results.”

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythocott-Haims

This book spoke to me because it reminds parents to be mindful of the impact of their potential overparenting on children and how, down the road, it might prove detrimental in the college setting, workplace, relationships, and more. The author, who spent a decade at Stanford University as the dean of freshmen, noticed that “Every year, more parents were exerting control over students’ academic work, extracurriculars, and career choices, taking matters into their own hands rather than risk their child’s failure or disappointment.” There were more and more parents calling college professors asking why their student received a particular grade (instead of allowing the student to inquire, as it should be), and even parents contacting professional employers asking questions on behalf of their ADULT child. Crazy, right?

The author purports that such enabling puts these kids/young adults at a disadvantage because they cannot take responsibility for their own actions and lives; Mommy and Daddy are always advocating and taking over control of matters instead. Overall, the author reports that due to “hyperattentive parenting,” vast numbers of students were lacking self-worth as well as the capability to handle the daily demands of adult life. The parents might mean well, of course, but are they ultimately helping or hindering their children?

As a former teacher, I felt this book to my core. I can’t tell you how much I loved teaching, but how much I really did not enjoy some of the encounters with the parents of my students. I called them “helicopter” parents, as they were always hovering and perhaps inserting themselves way too much into matters that their child should have handled. I am not saying the parents were “bad” people or “bad” parents, but I can absolutely say I could not believe the amount of enabling that occurred, the lack of accountability for what the kids were (or were not) doing, and the general influx of parents backing their children automatically instead of looking at actual events and situations in which their children were involved.

I worried about what impact such enabling would have on these students down the road. I could write an entire book about various situations where I was berated or questioned vehemently or put down by parents because I marked their child tardy or sent a referral to the Dean’s Office for cheating/plagiarism or GASP, issued a student an “F” on a quiz because they did not read the book and could not answer the most basic of questions, such as who are George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

As a parent, I was reminded by this gem of a book there is a fine line between being there for my son and helping to guide him, as opposed to smothering him or always fighting his battles, or always trying to protect him from the world. I was reminded of the power of letting my child learn from his mistakes and realize the importance of communication and being accountable for his actions, behavior, and success down the road. It will all matter.

Life is Messy by Matthew Kelly

This book offers such a great reminder to us that “life is messy, but it isn’t just a mess.” We can sometimes lose sight of all the good that happens in life amidst the tough times or the messy times. Ultimately, we need to keep going, keep moving forward, trust in our faith or our points of strength and clarity, and live life with intentionality. This book also contains many prompts, questions, and opportunities for reflection and growth. One of my favorite quotes from this book is, “Give people the benefit of the doubt. Life is difficult and messy, and everyone is carrying a heavy burden.”

Happy New Year, and happy reading!