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Start Something New: 12 Books to Inspire You This Year

Out with the old, in with the new.

New Year rings in new possibilities. Even though it looks like nothing has changed other than the date on the calendar (especially with the pandemic), every year we make resolutions, promising to be better versions of ourselves. We want to hope for a better tomorrow because we have such little control over it. Whether you’re saying good riddance to 2021 or counting your blessings as you reflect on what has been, there are ways to find motivation and inspiration for 2022: my weapon of choice is books. 

In this list, you’ll find powerful stories, useful ideas, and habit-changing tools. Bookmark this and come back to it any day, week, or month and these books will feel just as inspiring. There’s no set time for a fresh start, after all.

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'Chameleon Aura'

Zimbabwean poet Billy Chapata focuses on growth, healing, self-love, and resilience in his collection of poems and prose. A prime example of modern poetry, Chameleon Aura is written simply with clear messages—human emotions and shared experiences form the backbone of the work. Treat this as your handbook for affirmations, self-reflection, and acceptance, and draw energy from this book to start the new year with optimism and hope. 

“there are older versions of you that only exist because other
people give them oxygen, and you are not obligated to keep
those versions alive to make other people happy.”

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'Know Thyself'

Dr. Na’im Akbar is a revered clinical psychologist with an African-centered approach to psychology. An activist and scholar, his book Know Thyself is concise but filled with powerful ideas on what self means, especially for African-Americans. It’s a spiritual and psychological guide with insights on how readers can educate themselves and gain a sense of self. 

Dr. Akbar is a distinguished leader with a stellar body of work to recommend him. You can also look at his other books for your personal growth, including The Community of Self and Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery. Start with this interview, where he explains how Black Americans still carry the scars of years of slavery and oppression, and how that affects them.

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'The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity'

This self-help book by Julia Cameron was written in 1992 and it’s still a phenomenon. The Artist’s Way may sound too spiritual to some, but it has a very noble purpose: help blocked artists find their confidence again. The author takes you through a 12-week period, where you do exercises as she suggests, and little by little, your creativity unfurls. The most helpful exercise is the morning pages, ask anyone who has done it. But you are also asked about your favorite hobbies as a child, encouraged to go on an artist’s date with yourself, prompted to read and write positive affirmations, and reminded to take time out for yourself and your interests. 

Currently, I’m on Week 4, which (*SPOILER ALERT*) introduces reading deprivation. For one week, I’m not allowed to read anything (including news, social media posts, and blogs—I checked). It’s a vow I can’t possibly keep, but she also teaches you to be kind to yourself, and slips and misses are expected.

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'The Art of Making Memories'

Danish author Meik Wiking is a happiness researcher and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute. Chances are that you’ve seen his popular books, The Little Book of Hygge and The Little Book of Lykke, in bookstores. 

In his third book, The Art of Making Memories, he explores how memories are made and how we can hold onto the happy ones. It begins with 2018 research conducted by the institute in which they asked people around the world to share their happy memories. The patterns of big days, experiences, sense of smell and taste, victories emerged from it and this beautiful, illustrated book tells us how we can create these memorable moments, too.

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'Year of Yes'

It’s hard not to be impressed by the top TV producer in America. Shonda Rhimes has created Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Private Practice, and How to Get Away With Murder, and more recently produced Netflix’s blockbuster Bridgerton. She may be just as popular as the stars who are in front of the camera and amazingly successful—love that she got herself a lucrative Netflix deal after an ABC executive disrespected her over Disneyland tickets.

But the highest-paid showrunner in television is also an introvert who fears public speaking and media interactions. So in 2014 when her sister muttered that she never says yes, Rhimes began making a series of decisions that changed her life. Yes to speaking at Dartmouth, yes to going on Jimmy Kemmel, yes to taking care of herself, yes to playtime with her kids. She said yes to everything that scared her and this challenge undid her fears.  In this deeply personal and honest memoir, the writer and producer reveals intimate details of her life, and even talks about losing weight and calling off her wedding. 

Are you ready to say yes to yourself in 2022?

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'Rafa'

In his memoir, the King of Clay Rafael Nadal and journalist John Carlin help us unravel the man underneath the bull logo tees and the person off the court. It documents his first Wimbledon win against legend Roger Federer in 2008, takes us to his hometown Mallorca, gives an insight into his family that shaped his being, including his uncle and coach Toni, and the battles he fought and pain he endured to be World Number 1.

You can’t win every point in the game. You can’t win every match. You can’t win every championship. It’s a valuable lesson that you have to keep your eyes on what’s ahead and forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made—learn from them, but don’t dwell on them. 

The no-nonsense pillar of strength on the court is a vulnerable, emotional man who comes from a close-knit family. The behind-the-scenes to his journey are inspirational because it has been more than a decade since this book was published and he still isn’t done breaking records.

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'What Am I Doing With My Life?'

It’s funny to imagine that we expect Google to know all answers. Author and philosopher Stephen Law has picked up late-night Google queries and answered them with the help of philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Kierkegaard. What is the meaning of life? What if I fail? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Am I racist? Am I normal? Existential crises, philosophical meanderings, self-actualization, and emotional intelligence will all find their space in this book, and answers—though not specific enough to solve your particular problem—offer science and philosophy lessons.

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'Becoming'

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has made an indelible mark on the world. A part of her legacy is chronicled in her memoir, Becoming. Her humble childhood in Chicago, her career as a young lawyer, her marriage to Barack Obama, her life in the limelight in the White House—all in her words.

Readers may have forgotten some of the things that she recounts in the book—the media criticism she received for her appearance, controversies over a date with then-President Barack Obama that inconvenienced the city, and the awkward gift exchange with Melania Trump at the inauguration. Then there were those inside stories, like the Obamas getting marriage counseling and enduring tough times as a couple.

An advocate for children and women, she is a spirited, passionate icon and her writing is real, relatable, and inspirational. And she is her own person, not in the shadow of her husband, and you see what that means in her book. (Whenever I think of her now, I remember the music from her Netflix special and Alicia Keys’ words: “She’s just a girl, and she’s on fire.”)

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'Hello, Habits'

Japanese author Fumio Sasaki is known for his minimalistic life. In his book Goodbye, Things, he made the argument that a clutter-free life was the key to happiness. In this new book, Hello, Habits, he discusses how to get rid of bad habits and make good ones. A fitting pick for the new year, right? 

He has used psychology, scientific explanation, and his own life experiences to help readers understand habit-forming and make the process easier. It can be done—going to the gym, waking up early, refusing sugar—and his step-by-step guide may bring you closer to the goal.

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'The Dalai Lama’s Cat'

A sweet, sensitive, spiritual, and perceptive book by David Michie, The Dalai Lama’s Cat is narrated from the point of view of a His Holiness’ purry friend. She is rescued from the streets of Delhi and given a front-row seat into the world of the Dalai Lama, so she has pages and pages of wisdom to share. 

This is a joyful read. It’s irreverent and funny, but you’ll find many gems about life, happiness, kindness, and karma as His Holiness’ Cat listens in on conversations of the Dalai Lama with celebrities, world leaders, and his followers. There will be many reasons to smile as you read, and more reasons to sit back and think about the writings.

“Most people think that their only option is to change their circumstances. But these are not the true causes of their unhappiness. It has more to do with the way they think about their circumstances.”

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'I’ve Never Been (Un)Happier'

Author Shaheen Bhatt is an Indian screenwriter, but she is known in the country as Bollywood star Alia Bhatt’s sister. She has lived with depression since she was a teenager—diagnosed at 18—and in her book, she talks about her experiences with mental health disorders. She has lived a privileged life and she acknowledges it, but she also describes what depression does to people on a visceral level and how to ask for help. In India, where mental health is still taboo and misunderstood, she’s bravely honest about her health, therapy, and recovery.

“I remind myself if happiness is fleeting, then so is sadness.
I remind myself depression is the weather, and I’m a weather-worn tree.
I remind myself even the worst storms pass.
I remind myself I’ve survived them all.”

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'The Essential Rumi'

Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet, scholar, and Sufi mystic, is one of the most-read authors in the world. His lyrical poetry and artistic expression is dipped in love and leaves a mark on the soul. Keep this book near you and savor it sip by sip; it’s a literary treat to enjoy whenever you need a whiff of romance, spirituality, or inspiration.

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