The Best Self-Help Books to Take Into 2014
Whether your plan for new year is to be happier, sharper or more empathetic, these top inspiration and personal development books from 2013 will help you succeed.
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Will help you: Use hurdles to your advantage
The latest from the author of “Blink” and “The Tipping Point” examines the ways disadvantage can fuel success. The story is an old one--the title comes from the famous Bible parable--but Gladwell connects his argument with more contemporary examples, such as studies of classroom performance and the political distress in Northern Ireland.
Will help you: Concentrate
In his new book, the author of “Emotional Intelligence” addresses that great Internet-age malady, distraction. Positing focus to be the “hidden driver of excellence,” Goleman lays out a detailed game-plan for improving mental clarity and attention span while offering tips on how to deal with those “distant threats” that tend to pull our attention away from the task at hand.
Will help you: See the value in your struggles
Norman Rosenthal, who’s written previously on meditation and Seasonal Affective Disorder, believes that big life challenges--such as financial problems or grief--offer important advantages. Arguing that personal growth can’t happen without setbacks, he challenges readers to re-interpret adversity as a key element of empathy, maturity and success.
Will help you: Make better decisions
Most of our decisions are based on intuition, and most of our intuition, argues Matthew Hertenstein, is based on small details. In “The Tell,” Hertenstein, a professor of psychology, shows how learning to hone in on the right details can lead to better decision-making, and describes how we can use surprisingly scant evidence to gain spot-on insights into ourselves and those around us.
Will help you: Stop and appreciate
E.M. Forster once wrote that leisure is “unknown to the West, which either works or idles.” In “On Looking,” psychologist Alexandra Horowitz take readers through 11 walks, drawing upon cognitive science, history and urban studies to showcase the surprising richness of everyday life and the pleasure to be had in simply walking and observing. The discourse may be brainy, but the message is simple: Be here now.
Will help you: Be more observant
Wouldn’t we all like to have the mind of Sherlock Holmes--his astute insights, his limitless memory, his capacity for stunning breakthroughs? We might be able to, says psychologist Maria Konnikova. In “Mastermind,” she draws upon cutting-edge neuroscience and the practice of mindfulness to show readers how to improve their thinking and bring a Sherlock-Homles-worthy focus to work, friendships and everyday life.
Will help you: Not be a mess
Whether you’re a recent grad or someone further along in life who doesn’t quite all have their ducks in a row, “Adulting” is here to help. Kelly Williams Brown lays out more than 400 tips for everything from keeping up a home, succeeding at work, making friendships last and dating. The tone is inviting and empathetic, as Brown has been there. We’ve all been there. We’ll all get through this “real-life” thing together.
Will help you: Carpe the diem
Candy Chang’s public art project--walls on which anyone can write what they hope to do in their lifetime--have become an international phenomenon. In “Before I Die,” Chang discusses the inspiration for the project and diverse responses it’s gotten. Read it to get thinking about how you’ll make the most of your life.
Will help you: Endure hardship with grace
Inspired by her experience with breast cancer, novelist Alice Hoffman’s tiny, lovely book of wisdom is a new bedside table classic. Chapters on everything from friendships to time management offer consoling words for readers going through every kind of struggle. Bonus: It includes a recipe for brownies and knitting instructions.
Will help you: Live with purpose
It’s hard to find a shelf, real or proverbial, for Anne Lamott’s books, especially her two most recent, “Stitches” and “Help, Thanks, Wow.” If they weren’t so inviting and accessible you might call them works of philosophy; if not so broadly appealing, you might call them tracts on faith. What they are are guideposts to living a meaningful life in an age characterized by discontinuity and frazzle, written a voice that’s uniquely intimate, smart and funny.