I have a special affection for the book What Would Google Do?: Reverse-Engineering the Fastest Growing Company in the History of the World by Jeff Jarvis. It not only changed how I thought about business and marketing; it is the book that ignited my passion for nonfiction. Here, you’ll find good business strategies, but you’ll find something else, too: a new way of thinking about economics, creativity and society.
Read this book to get your mind blown in the way that the best nonfiction books are capable of doing.
We are in a new age of marketing and business, the author writes. The new rules of the new age are as follows:
Customers hold the power now–not marketers, managers or CEOs.
With social media, customers have the ability to have a major impact on large organizations in an instant. Be aware of the power of the crowd. People have easy access to information and can either support or harm a company based on their experiences.
The key to success is no longer just marketing, but having meaningful conversations with customers.
Trust and control have an inverse relationship. Trust your customers and let go of control.
Listen to your customers. Be honest, transparent, and collaborative. Encourage, enable, and protect innovation. Allow customers to feel like they are a part of the process and able to provide suggestions.
Life is always in a beta stage! Embrace changes and improvements.
Amazingly, “free” is a now viable business model! Many of the largest online companies (Facebook, Google) started by offering their services for free–and still do. The “tree” business model involves giving away value to expand your market base, then making money through alternative means.
The mass market has been replaced by a multiplicity of niche markets.
Don’t just be a product; be a platform! Help others build value on your site. Examples of platforms: Home Depot (for contractors) and Continental Airlines (for booking tours).
Ownership is no longer the key to success–openness is.
Google commodifies everything, especially knowledge. The economy is no longer based on scarcity, but on abundance. Control over products or distribution does not guarantee premium profits.
Focus on intangible solutions and rethinking physical products for an online presence.
Determine what business you are really in and protect it by offering solutions better than competitors.
Blunt honesty is more effective in marketing materials and blogs. When creating marketing materials, always use a natural and human tone.
Examples of Google-league marketers include: Facebook, Craigslist, Amazon, Flickr, WordPress and PayPal.
Give control to customers and they will use it.
Your worst customer can be your best friend, providing valuable feedback about how to improve.
Your best customer is your partner. Incentivize them to spread the word.
Links are vital. Get linked to and talked about.
Focus on what you do best and link to the rest.
Join a network or, ideally, become a platform for others.
Think in a distributed manner.
Being searchable is essential for visibility.
Life and business are transparent.
Learn to handle mistakes well.
Rethink company structure for an “elegant organization.”
Small is the new big in a post-scarcity economy.
About the Author
Jeff Jarvis is a journalist, author, and professor. He is best known for his work as a media critic and commentator on the intersection of technology, media, and society. He is the author of several books, including “What Would Google Do?” and “Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live”. He is a professor at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, where he teaches courses on technology and entrepreneurship.
Oprah loves Eckhart Tolle, and she’s almost never wrong. In her book of short essays, One Thing I Know for Sure, she says A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose is her favorite book of all time. I prefer The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, but both are pretty great.
Read these books for inspiration to try the evidence-based strategy of mindfulness (present moment awareness) for mental health.
Key Takeaways from The Power of Now
Realize that possessions, social status, relationships, beliefs, and other ego identifications are not truly who you are. The ego’s needs are endless and lead to a constant state of fear and want. Instead of exploring its manifestations, understand that the mind is not dysfunctional but becomes so when mistaken for self.
To end this delusion, focus on the present moment and body awareness to stay rooted in the now.
Experiment with closing your eyes and waiting for your next thought, realizing that intense presence frees you from thought. To deepen your connection with your inner body, focus your attention within and let all negativity flow through without reacting.
Focus your attention on the feeling inside of you, even if it is painful. Don’t judge or analyze the feeling, simply acknowledge its presence.
Be mindful of any defensiveness, as it is likely an attempt to protect an illusory identity or image in your mind.
There are many portals to the source, including the now, dreamless sleep, cessation of thinking, surrender, being in touch with the inner body energy field, disidentifying with the mind, and silence. You only need one portal to reach your inner being.
Love is not a portal, it is an inner feeling.
Space and silence are portals, as you cannot think and be aware of them at the same time.
The body is the way to reach your spirit or inner body.
Adjust your vision and look closely at what you thought was a stone statue. You might find that there was never a stone statue, but instead it was an angel all along.
Illness is not real in the present moment; rather, it is the belief, label, and past/future associations that give it continuity in time and make it seem real. Outside of time, it is nothing.
Key Takeaways from A New Earth
Humanity is ready for a major transformation in consciousness (enlightenment). This book discusses how to accelerate this process.
Get rid of ego. It’s just not helping. All that anger, defensiveness, arguing, making wrong, being right … all of that can safely go away. The death of your ego is not the death of you. Instead, it’s the start of your real life.
When you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as a field of conscious Presence. (I have a couple of friends who consciously follow this advice, and it shows.)
A Few Good Quotes from A New Earth
Shift “your attention from the external form of your body to the feeling of aliveness inside it.”
“Give up defining yourself—to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you.”
“An essential part of the awakening is the recognition of the unawakened you, the ego as it thinks, speaks, and acts as well as the recognition of the collectively conditioned mental processes that perpetrate the unawakened state.
The author tells of how he once saw a crazy woman talking to herself on a bus, then realized he was like her. Her constant angry chatter was the same as his constant anxious mental chatter. “If she was mad, then everyone was mad, including myself. There were differences in degree only.”
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.”
“There are people who have renounced all possessions but have a bigger ego than some millionaires.” Take away one ego identity, and it will find another.
About the Author
Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher, author and speaker. He was born in Germany in 1948 and later moved to England. Tolle’s teachings focus on helping individuals connect with their inner selves and find peace and happiness in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. His books have been translated into over 40 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Tolle continues to offer teachings and workshops on mindfulness and spirituality to this day.
This book sells itself. Who doesn’t want to break a bad habit or learn how to maintain healthier routines? It’s called Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, and it’s written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.
Read this book to map out a plan for change, whether personally or professionally.
Changing a habit or a culture is like forcing an elephant carrying a writer to change direction. One must not only convince the rider (the rational mind) but also the elephant (the emotions). In addition, one must make the path easier to follow. In this book, the writers describe these three main ways to encourage change: direct the rider; motivate the elephant; and shape the path.
To direct the rider: find the bright spots; script the critical moves; and point to the destination.
To motivate the elephant: find the feeling; shrink the change; and grow your people.
To shape the path: tweak the environment; build habits; rally the herd; and keep the switch going.
The Happiness Hypothesis study showed that our emotional side is like an dlephant and our rational side is its rider, with the rider holding the reins and seeming to be in control. However, the rider’s control is precarious as it is small compared to the elephant. When the elephant and the rider disagree, the rider always loses.
On finding the bright spots: The “bright spots” refers to the positive aspects of a situation or a person. To find the bright spots, one must avoid the “fundamental attribution error”, which is the tendency to attribute a person’s behavior to their inherent qualities instead of the circumstances they are in. This is why shows like “The Dog Whisperer” or “Super Nanny”, which depict the transformation of “bad” dogs or kids, captivate our attention. The fact that these dogs or kids can be reformed in a short intervention amazes us–but the truth is that they were never bad. They had bright spots already, but those spots had to be highlighted.
On scripting the critical moves: In Miner County, South Dakota, high school students conducted a survey to revive their dying community. They found that if residents spent just 10% more of their disposable income at home, the local economy would be boosted by $7 million. A year later, the amount of money spent in Miner County had increased by $15.6 million, showing that clarity is important for change to be successful.
Another way to script the critical moves is to preload decisions. Preloading a decision refers to making a decision in advance, such as deciding to go to the gym after dropping off the kids, to increase the likelihood of following through with it. This technique involves action triggers, which make the decision easier by reducing the mental effort required to make it later. By preloading the decision, there is less work involved in making it later on.
A research study conducted by Peter Golwitzer and Veronica Brandstatter tracked college students who had the opportunity to earn extra credit by writing a paper by December 26th. While most students had the intention of writing the paper, only 33% actually wrote and submitted it. However, for a different group of students in the study, the researchers required them to set action triggers–to note in advance when and where they intended to write the report. The results showed a significant improvement, with a whopping 75% of those students successfully writing the report.
On pointing to the destination: Crystal Jones was a teacher for Teach for America in 2003, teaching first grade in Atlanta, Georgia. The school lacked a kindergarten program, so she had to use language that motivated her students. Jones told her students, “By the end of this school year, you will be third graders,” and held a “graduation” ceremony when they reached second and third grade. She referred to her students as “scholars” and, by the end of the year, more than 90% of the kids were reading at or above a third-grade level.
For change to be effective, it must be clear and specific. A local media campaign was created to encourage people to switch to 1% milk and it was a success, increasing the market share of low-fat milk from 18% to 35%.
On finding the feeling: Robyn Waters, a “Trend Manager” at Target, played a crucial role in transforming the company from being similar to Walmart to the iconic “Tarzhay”. She achieved this by creatively incorporating displays of colorful M&Ms and the latest Apple iMac computers to demonstrate the importance of incorporating color in their offerings.
The rider wants to “analyze-think-change” but in reality we “see-feel-change.”
Change can be facilitated by visual and emotional cues. For example, a presentation on reducing spending on gloves was made more effective by laying out all the gloves with different prices on a table, rather than using spreadsheets.
On shrinking the change: In 2007, Alia Cru and Ellen Langer conducted a study on hotel maids and their exercise habits. The study divided the maids into two groups, with one group being told that they were already meeting the recommended exercise levels, while the other group was informed about the benefits of exercising. After 4 weeks, the results showed that the maids who were told that they were good exercisers lost an average of 1.8 pounds, which is equivalent to almost a half-pound per week, a significant weight loss. However, the other group of maids did not experience any weight loss.
On growing your people: Lovelace Hospital Systems in Albuquerque, NM was facing rapid turnover, a common issue in the healthcare industry. To address this, they hired Susan Wood of Appreciative Inquiry, a method of transforming organizations by focusing on their strengths rather than weaknesses. Wood discovered that the nurses who remained at the hospital longer believed in the noble nature of their profession. In response, the hospital created an orientation program that emphasized the admirable qualities of nursing and established mentorship programs to enhance the nurses’ skills and knowledge. Employee satisfaction surveys indicated that these measures were effective, and as a result, turnover decreased by 30% over the following year.
On tweaking the environment: In 2000, a study was conducted in a Chicago movie theater where free popcorn and soft drinks were offered to movie-goers. The popcorn was intentionally made to be unappetizing, but even so, the results were surprising. People with larger popcorn buckets ended up eating 53% more popcorn than those with smaller buckets, and most of them were not aware of this fact. The results showed that the environment can play a huge role in affecting behavior.
In another study, participants were given chocolates or radishes and then asked to solve puzzles. Those who had only eaten radishes gave up after 8 minutes, while those who had eaten cookies gave up after 19 minutes, showing that self-control is an exhaustible resource.
It was also noted that our mind works differently when we are supervised, such as when learning something new, compared to when we are not, such as when driving a car. This is why shopping can be tiring.
On rallying the herd: We look for environmental cues and examples of others to know how to act. Therefore, make your change feel like a norm that has already been established. For example: “In the 1980s, Jay Winsten, a public health professor at Harvard, got interested in the idea of a ‘designated driver’..” unknown in the US at that time. “Winsten and his team collaborated with producers, writers and actors from more than 160 prime-time TV programs, sprinkling designated-driver moments naturally into the plots.” Requested just “5 seconds” of dialogue featuring the idea. “In 1991, three years after the campaign launched, nine out of ten people were familiar with the term designated driver.”
On keeping the switch going: Punishment rarely works. Instead, change the environment. Take small steps. Praise all steps on right path. You will get there.
About the Author
Chip Heath and Dan Heath are American authors and speakers who specialize in the fields of business and psychology. They are brothers and co-authors of several popular books, including Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. In Switch, the Heath brothers use insights from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to explain why change is difficult and to offer practical advice for making change easier. The book is widely regarded as a practical and accessible guide to overcoming resistance and making real, lasting change in both personal and organizational contexts. Chip Heath is a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, while Dan Heath is a senior fellow at Duke University’s CASE center. Together, they are known for their ability to make complex concepts accessible and actionable for a general audience.
Ghosts! Telepathy! Magic! Is there a reader on Earth who doesn’t love the idea of a scientific inquiry regarding evidence for the paranormal? When it comes to nonfiction, Fringeology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable – And Couldn’t by Steve Volk is in a class of its own. Where do they even put it on the shelf at Barnes and Noble?
Read this book because, firstly, you know you’re curious and secondly, because it might open your mind.
Scientists can be dogmatic and irrational in their beliefs, just like anyone else. This is a natural human tendency. The debate should not be between paranormal believers and skeptics but rather what evidence is sufficient to support the paranormal. This perspective is referred to as “possibilianism.” It is the position that all truly open-minded people take to the paranormal.
Chapter One focuses on near-death experiences and presents evidence to suggest they are real. There are numerous accounts of these experiences with interesting similarities between them, and skeptics have not provided a satisfactory explanation.
Chapter Two focuses on telepathy and presents evidence for this paranormal phenomenon. A small effect has been proven when large enough samples are used; however, the effect is not large enough to serve practical purposes. The author als describes the ongoing debate between skeptics represented by CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) and the Parapsychological Association, whose findings are sometimes dismissed without good reason.
Chapter Three explores the concept of consciousness outside of the brain. It provides an overview of quantum physics, which suggests that the smallest units of matter have mind of their own. The author tells the story of Dr. Stuart Hameroff, who wrote about consciousness.
Chapter Four discusses the possibility of aliens and UFO sightings, including a convincing sighting in Stevensville, Texas. The author points out that UFOs are certainly real, since they are defined simply as “unidentified flying objects,” but that most sightings have Earth-based explanations.
Chapter Five focuses on ghosts and the author’s personal experience living in a haunted house. The reality of ghostly phenomena is debated.
Chapter Six explores the Overview Effect, a feeling of unity or oneness with all that is experienced by many astronauts who view the earth from space. Edgar Mitchell, who had this experience, is on a quest to understand the source of the unity he felt.
Chapter Seven discusses the positive effects of meditation and meditative prayer, as researched by Dr. Andrew Newberg.
Chapter Eight focuses on lucid dreaming and the experience of becoming aware one is dreaming while still dreaming. The findings of notable sleep and dream researcher, Dr. Stephen LaBerge, are explored.
Chapter Nine explores Induced After-Death Communication (IADC), a therapeutic technique for overcoming trauma, which involves recalling painful memories and moving the eyes from side to side. The story of Al Botkin, who discovered this therapy, is told. Although anecdotal evidence is promising, no large-scale studies have been conducted.
Chapters Ten and Eleven present the author’s conclusions. The author discusses the human desire for certainty, though intellectual curiosity is often a wiser perspective to take.
About the Author
Steve Volk is a journalist and author, best known for his book Fringeology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable–And Couldn’t. The book explores the topic of the paranormal and the boundaries of science and skepticism. Volk is a contributing editor at Philadelphia Magazine and has written for a number of other publications.
Sometimes, you need some fatherly advice about money–from someone else’s father, of course. Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! combines good old-fashioned common sense with professional insights on financial success that apply to a wide range of investors (even–especially–the newbies).
Read this book to fill in your knowledge gaps regarding money and to get inspired to start an investment strategy today.
The definition of the word “rich” is “able to live off the interest from one’s investments.” This is your goal.
Look where no one else is looking for business opportunities. Don’t follow the crowd; buy when stocks crash rather than selling, as others do.
Know the difference between an asset and a liability. An asset puts money into your income column and a liability takes it out. Everything else, including personal property that can’t be easily sold, is neutral. Many people see their home as an asset, but it is not an asset if you aren’t gaining income on it.
Pay yourself first, even before paying your bills. Put money into your investments first! You’ll be forced to use your creativity to get the rest taken care of, too.
Don’t fear risk. This is what keeps many people from investing in anything high yield and going with mutual funds and others safe investments instead.
Money is not real. It’s all just a game. Have fun with it!
If you don’t enjoy a certain type of investing, do something else. You’re unlikely to be successful at something you dislike.
Hire people who are smarter than you.
Most rich people lose it all at some point but they usually make it back–and then some–because they know what they’re doing.
Create a corporation and wrap it around your largest assets.
Educate yourself about money. Read advice books and follow it.
About the Author
Robert Kiyosaki is an American author, entrepreneur, and investor. He is best known for his book Rich Dad Poor Dad, which has become a personal finance classic and has been translated into 51 languages. In the book, Kiyosaki shares lessons he learned about money and investing from his “rich dad,” and contrasts them with the financial advice he received from his own father. He has written several other books on personal finance, including Cashflow Quadrant and Retire Young Retire Rich. Kiyosaki is also the founder of the Rich Dad Company, which provides financial education and training.
Meditation isn’t just for the woo-woo crowd. Written by agnostic journalist Dan Harris, Ten Percent Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story is a well-written memoir about an everyday workaholic who takes up meditation.
Read it to convince your skeptical self to try this evidence-based strategy for improving mental health.
Studies have shown the transformative effects of meditation, including evidence for the existence of enlightenment.
The purpose of meditation is not to feel something, but to simply try and build your meditation muscle, similar to practicing a sport or a musical instrument.
Meditation can help you improve your work relationships, as evidenced by the author’s own transformation from being a difficult colleague to being seen as “easy”.
To meditate, first choose a focal point for your breath, such as your mouth, chest, or belly. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. You can silently repeat “in-out” to help you focus.
After grounding yourself in your breath, practice “noting”–noticing and labeling thoughts or dominant feelings without judgment. This is called “choiceless awareness” and can lead to a real breakthrough in meditation.
Don’t worry too much about how you feel while meditating. The goal is to redirect your attention back to your breath whenever it wanders. That’s the whole game.
During a long meditation, it’s normal to experience both bliss and misery within the same hour. As you advance in your practice, the ups and downs will become less pronounced.
If focusing on your breath doesn’t work for you, try a body scan meditation, a compassion meditation, or a choiceless awareness meditation instead.
About the Author
Dan Harris is an American journalist and author, best known for his book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story. The book was published in 2014 and describes Harris’ journey from skepticism towards self-help and spirituality to a more balanced and mindful life. In it, he explains how he found inner peace through meditation, and how this practice helped him to be more productive, less stressed, and happier in his personal and professional life. The book was a New York Times bestseller and has been praised for its accessibility and practical approach to mindfulness and meditation. Harris is also a co-anchor of ABC News’ “Nightline” and the co-founder of the 10% Happier movement and app.
In a word, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness is stunning. In it, author Michelle Alexander carefully walks the reader through the many legal and law enforcement practices that raise the statistical chances of people of color being incarcerated (most often for minor drug offenses), then, once branded felons, denied civil rights and social services.
Read it to gain a basic understanding of multi-systemic racism in America.
African Americans and other people of color are brought into the U.S. criminal justice system at a much higher rate than White people. This mass incarceration can be considered the new Jim Crow–the new system for propagating racism and segregation.
The path to mass incarceration, Alexander writes, includes:
Government programs that (handsomely) incentivise local law enforcement agencies to increase drug-related arrests in any way necessary;
Pinpointing poor neighborhoods for random searches and seizures, which should be illegal but through many legal loopholes, now are effectively entirely legal;
Using very minor driving offenses as an excuse to search and seize;
Inflating penalties for minor drug offenses (such as possession of a small amount of drugs or even being present when drug crimes take place) to frightening (and unconstitutional) levels in order to pressure people to take plea bargains–even people who are entirely innocent of any crime;
Removing civil rights, such as the right to vote, from people branded felons;
Removing social services, such as child care, food benefits and housing from people branded felons;
Allowing places of employment and housing to discriminate based on felon status;
For people of color, the U.S. criminal justice system is a nearly inescapable entrance to a parallel universe in which Constitutional and other rights are systematically removed and thriving is greatly hindered.
About the Author
Michelle Alexander is an American author, lawyer, and legal scholar. She is best known for her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which was published in 2010. The book critiques the U.S. criminal justice system and argues that mass incarceration functions as a system of racial control, similar to the Jim Crow laws of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alexander has also written for several prominent publications, including The New York Times, The Nation, and The Colorlines. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and has taught at a number of universities, including Ohio State University, where she was an associate professor of law.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is one of those nonfiction books I hear quoted most–and the love doesn’t seem to be subsiding. Written by one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, psychologist and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it makes a single point, and makes it well: if you want to enjoy what you do, seek flow.
Read this book because you want to figure out how to hack work in such a way that makes it feel like play.
Flow, says the author, is a state of focus during which a person loses self-consciousness and time-consciousness and is deeply engaged in the process at had.
Flow isn’t a mysterious condition, though; it comes when three specific, identifiable conditions are met. These are: an appropriate level of challenge; clear goals and feedback, and control/autonomy.
Autonomy can be achieved in even small ways, and the difference it makes to work satisfaction can hardly be overstated.
Flow can be achieved even during what some consider routine or menial tasks. The book tells the story of a farmer in the Italian Alps who enjoys all her various tasks, from dawn to dusk. When asked which task she enjoys most, she named them all, one by one. The book also features a self-taught welder who mastered every phase of his plant’s operation and, in his spare time, built a backyard garden (with rainbow features!). “It could be said that they work sixteen hours a day, but it could also be said that they never work,” the author writes of these workers.
About the Author
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian psychologist and researcher. He is known for his work on the concept of “flow,” a state of complete engagement and enjoyment in an activity. He has written several books and articles on the subject, and his work has had a significant impact on the fields of psychology and positive psychology. Csikszentmihalyi has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the field of psychology.
Don’t worry: it’s not another book on spirituality, even though it might sound like it. Instead, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach is a primer on being a human being with feelings.
Read it to find out an exciting (but not new) way of accepting the ups and downs of life.
Radical acceptance is the practice of accepting what is–even the bad stuff. Every aspect of your current experience is healthy, Brach writes. Radical acceptance is also the practice of unconditionally accepting yourself.
Most of us have an internal story about our own acceptability and enoughness. We are not good enough, perfect enough, etc. At heart, we believe that something is fundamentally wrong with us–something that we need to fix.
Only when we first accept ourselves, can we change what we prefer to change.
To combat this, accept every emotional experience that comes. Doing so–saying “yes” to our experiences–doesn’t cause us to become apathetic. Instead, self-acceptance allows us to grow at a relaxed but consistent pace.
Human nature finds apathy and stagnation uncomfortable, disagreeble–almost impossible. We consistently desire to grow and improve, especially when we feel good about ourselves.
One way to learn radical acceptance is to practice pauses. Pause, notice, sit with and accept whatever you are experiencing in the moment. Do this when emotionally flooded, and also make a habit of pausing throughout your day.
Offer unconditional friendliness to your pain, suffering, insecurities and all other feelings. Invite the feelings to tea, so to speak.
Name these insecure and painful thoughts as a way of noticing them.
Instead of resisting everything, agree with everything. Silently whisper, “yes” to it all. It will feel mechanical and insincere at first, but in time, it will feel more natural.
Don’t blame yourself and criticize yourself for your pain, illogic, insecurities and other negativity. Simply notice and accept.
About the Author
Tara Brach is a psychologist, author, and teacher of mindfulness and Buddhist meditation. She is the founder and senior teacher of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C. and a guiding teacher at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California. Tara is known for her work in the field of mindfulness and emotional healing, and has written several books, including the popular Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha.
Make no mistake: Self-help reading isn’t just self-help books. Nonfiction of all kinds contributes to a person’s physical, intellectual, emotional, financial, spiritual, and relational well-being. For this reason, I’ve made use of my obsession with all kinds of nonfiction (and love of note-taking) to compile a comprehensive-as-possible recommended reading list for people looking to achieve their own feats of great strength. This list includes books on business, finance, psychology, sociology, history, spirituality and more. For each book listed, I provide a brief content summary, then offer practical takeaways from a self-help lens.
Does your next feat of great strength require research–more than you have time to do? Subscribe to the right for a comprehensive self-improvement self-education, featuring summaries and tips from over 400 works of psychology, sociology, biography, history, anthropology, spirituality, science, memoir, economics, self-help and more.
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Martin Seligman Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Martin Seligman Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Martin Seligman Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcom Gladwell Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power, Brene Brown Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Chip Heath and Dan Heath Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, Dan Ariely Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution., Brene Brown Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson This is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, Augusten Burroughs When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life, David Burns The Feeling Good Handbook: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence, Gavin de Becker The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression, Andrew Solomon Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Laurence Gonzales The Hilarious World of Depression, John Moe Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression–And the Unexpected Solutions, Hari Johann Blissology: The Art and Science of Happiness, Andy Baggott Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Joe Dispenza Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems, Daniel Amen Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free from Imagined Limitations, Robert Firestone Depression: How It Happens and How It’s Healed, John Medina Depression Is Contagious: How the Most Common Mood Disorder Is Spreading Around the World and How to Stop It, Michael Yapko Dibs: In Search of Self: Personality Development in Play Therapy, Virginia Axline Don’t Shoot the Dog: The Art of Teaching and Training, Karen Pryor Dressing Your Truth: Discover your Personal Beauty Profile, Carol Tuttle Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life, Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin Exploring Happiness, Sissela Bok Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty, Jonathan Grayson Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, Richard Layard Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile, Daniel Nettle Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace and Presence, Patt Lind-Kyle How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles, Dan Ariely Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resistence and Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant Positivity, Barbara Fredrickson Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, Kristin Neff Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good, David Linden The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature, Gad Saad The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love or Sex, David Buss The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now, Meg Jay The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self, Alice Miller The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Shawn Achor The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything, Neil Pasricha The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives, Shankar Vedantarn The How of the Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility in the Workplace, W. Timothy Gallway The Magic of Thinking Big, David Joseph Schwartz The Mindful Brain: The Neurobiology of Well-Being, Daniel Siegel The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to Performance and Personal Renewal, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change, Charles Duhigg The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results, Bob Knight and Bob Hammel The Power of Positive Thinking: A Practical Guide to Mastering the Problems of Everyday Living, Norman Vincent Peale The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, Gregg Easterbrook The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier, Stefan Klein and Stephen Lehmann The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (Even When You Have Every Reason to Be Miserable), Scott Hamilton The Smart But Scattered Guide to Success: How to Use Your Brain’s Executive Skills to Keep Up, Stay Calm, and Get Organized at Work and at Home, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great, Ray Bennett Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill Tinker Dabble Doodle Try Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind, Srinivasan S. Pillay Unchain Your Brain: 10 Steps to Breaking the Addictions That Steal Your Life, Daniel Amen and David Smith What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, David DiSalvo Why We Feel: The Science of Human Emotion, Victor Johnston You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself, David McRaney You Need Help!: A Step-by-Step Plan to Convince a Loved One to Get Counseling, Mark Komrad and Rosalynn Carter Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, Lori Gottlieb Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life, Christie Tate
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcom Gladwell What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, Malcom Gladwell Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, Andrew Solomon A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire, Sai Goddam and Ogi Ogas Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Lives of Adolescent Girls, Mary Pipher The Disappearance of Childhood, Neil Postman The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation, Matt Ridley The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Barry Schwartz The Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers and Family Life, Marie Winn The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry, Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men, Christina Hoff Summers White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, Tim Wise Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race In America, Shelby Steele Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, Robert Lanza and Bob Berman Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Mary Roach Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Mary Roach Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly Genome: The Autobiography of A Species in 23 Chapters, Matt Ridley Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe, Mike Massimino The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think, Jennifer Ackerman The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, Sam Kean The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, Brian Greene The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of A Citizen Scientist, Richard Feynman The Particle at the Edge of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World, Sean Carroll The Rise of the Robots The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, Tor Norretranders Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life, Stephen LaBerge A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Mastering the Art of Oneironautics, Dylan Tuccillo, Jared Zeizel and Thomas Peisel
1776, David McCullough Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography, Peter Green An American Childhood, Annie Dillard A Short History of Financial Euphoria, John Kenneth Galbraith Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steve Sheinkin Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, Stephen E. Ambrose Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier, Katie Hafner Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, Bryan Burrough Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned, Kenneth Davis Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansong How the Web Was Won: How Bill Gates and His Internet Idealists Transformed the Microsoft Empire, Paul Andrews In Cold Blood, Truman Capote Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs, Albert Speer Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James W. Loewen Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787, Catherine Drinker Bower Mythology, Edith Hamilton The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery, Michelle Stacy The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight, Susan Yager The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 1: Ancient Times, Susan Wise Bauer The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 2: The Middle Ages, Susan Wise Bauer The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 3: Early Modern Times, Susan Wise Bauer The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age, Susan Wise Bauer
Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn–And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner Free-Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything, Laura Grace Weldon How Children Fail, John Holt Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, John Holt In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences, Thomas Armstrong Learning All the Time: How Small Children Begin to Read, Write, Count, and Investigate the World, Without Being Taught, John Holt No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Alfie Kohn Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes, Alfie Kohn Seven Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences, Thomas Armstrong Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-class Performers From Everybody Else, Geoffrey Colvin The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence, Josh Waitzkin The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing, Alfie Kohn The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, Susan Wise Bauer The Well-trained Mind: A Guide to a Classical Education at Home, Susan Wise Bauer What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Kindergarten Education, E.D. Hirsch What Your First Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good First-Grade Education, E.D. Hirsch What Your Second Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Second-Grade Education, E.D. Hirsch What Your Third Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Third-Grade Education, E.D. Hirsch What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Fourth-Grade Education, E.D. Hirsch What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Fifth-Grade Education, E.D. Hirsch What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Sixth-Grade Education, E.D. Hirsch
Economics and Business
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Tony Hsieh Discover Your Inner Economist, Tyler Cowen Life After the 30-Second Spot: Energize Your Brand with a Bold Mix of Alternatives to Traditional Advertising, Joseph Jaffe Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination, Hugh MacLeod Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists, Joel Best More Damned Lies and Statistics: How Numbers Confuse Public Issues, Joel Best Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers, Seth Godin The Big Red Fez: How to Make Any Website Better, Seth Godin The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), Seth Godin The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, Chris Anderson What Would Google Do?: Reverse-Engineering the Fastest Growing Company in the History of the World, Jeff Jarvis Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort, Steven Van Yoder Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, Jim Collins Grapevine: The New Art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Dave Balter and John Butman Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results, Jack Mitchell Management of the Absurd: Paradoxes in Leadership, Richard Evans Farson Mindsharing: The Art of Crowdsourcing Everything, Lior Zore Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, Keith Ferrazzi Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job, Jon Acuff The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business Is a Stage, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore The Four-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, Timothy Ferriss The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary, Mark Sanborn The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success, Carmine Gallo The One-Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential–in Business and in Life, Leo Babauta The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Stephen R. Covey The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business, Tara Hunt Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves, Adam Penenberg What Color Is your Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-hunters and Career-changers, Richard Nelson Bolles The Freedom Formula: How to Put Soul in Your Business and Money in Your Bank, Christine Kloser
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love, Amir Levine and Rachel Heller Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, Melody Beattie Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, Emily Nagoski Couples, Gender, and Power: Creating Change in Intimate Relationships, Carmen Knudson-Martin and Anne Rankin Mahoney His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Willard F. Harley, Jr. How to Break Your Addiction to a Person: When–and Why–Love Doesn’t Work, Howard Halpern Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding, Aaron Beck Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Sue Johnson Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships, Sue Johnson Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, Lori Gottlieb Mating in Captivity: Sex, Lies and Domestic Bliss, Esther Perell Neale Donald Walsch on Relationships, Neale Donald Walsch Nonviolent Communication: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values, Marshall Rosenberg Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, Sheila Glass The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, & Other Adventures, Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton The Impossibility of Sex: Stories of the Intimate Relationship between Therapist and Client, Susie Orbach The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships, John Gottman and Joan DeClaire The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples, John Gottman Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America’s Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship, John Gottman The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, John Gottman and Nan Silver Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and How You Can Make Yours Last, John Gottman Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Rethinking Sex Addiciton, Douglas Braun-Harvey Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: The Definitive Guide to Relationships, John Gray Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice: Hormonal Balance, the Key to Life, Love and Energy, John Gray
Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child, Katie Allison Granju and Betsy Kennedy Between Parents and Child, Haim G. Ginott Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five, John Medina How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen: From Toddlers to Teenagers; Connecting with Your Children at Every Age, H. Norman Wright If I Have to Tell You One More Time …: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling, Amy McCready Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, Adele Faber andd Elaine Mazlish Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right, Jamie Glowacki Parenting with Dignity: Getting Beyond Crisis Management–A Five-Point Plan for Raising Responsible, Independent Kids, Mac Bledsoe Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, Foster Cline and Jim Fay Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting, John Gottman and Joan DeClaire The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two, Barry Sears The Case for Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, Susan Linn The Trouble with Perfect: How Parents Can Avoid the Overachievement Trap and Still Raise Successful Children, Elisabeth Guthrie and Kathy Matthews The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, Alfie Kohn Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being A Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, Bryan Douglas Caplan The Child Whisperer: The Ultimate Handbook for Raising Happy, Successful and Cooperative Children, Carol Tuttle
Loving What Is: How Four Questions Can Change Your Life, Byron Katie A Mind at Home with Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart, and Turn Your World Around, Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book One, Neale Donald Walsch Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book Two, Neale Donald Walsch Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book Three, Neale Donald Walsch Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, Anita Moorjani Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, Jon Kabat-Zinn I Need Your Love–Is That True?: How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead, Byron Katie Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Sharon Salzberg Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives, Brian Weiss Meditation Without Gurus: A Guide to the Heart of Practice, Clark Strand Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity, Bruce Bawer The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery, Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz The Quantum Doctor: A Quantum Physicist Explains the Healing Power of Integrative Medicine, Amit Goswami The Search For Grace: A Documented Case of Murder and Reincarnation, Bruce Goldberg The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity, William Young Whatever Arises, Love That: A Love Revolution That Begins with You, Matt Kahn Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life, Jon Kabat-Zinn You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, Joe Dispenza How God Changes your Brain: Breakthrough Findings From A Leading Neuroscientist, Andrew Newberg Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon–Survival of Bodily Death, Raymond A. Moody, Jr. Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d, Candace Pert Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel, Candace Pert Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death, Chris Carter Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms, David Kessler The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness, Pema Chodron When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chodron
Food & Nutrition
The Food Therapist: Break Bad Habits, Eat with Intention, and Indulge Without Worry, Shira Lenhewski Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, Jan Chozen Bays Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Brian Wansink Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop, Cynthia Bulik Eat Fat Get Thin: Why the Fat We Eat Is the Key to Sustained Weight Loss and Vibrant Health, Mark Hyman Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Proram for Conquering Disease, Joel Fuhrman How to Make Almost Any Diet Work, Anne Katherine Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch Neanderthin: A Cave Man’s Guide to Nutrition, Ray Audette and Tony Gilchrist Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss–and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, Gina Kolata The Diet Cure: The 8-Step Program to Rebalance Your Body and End Food Cravings, Weight Gain and Mood Swings-Naturally, Julia Ross Love Hunger: Breaking Free from Food Addiction, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Robert Hemfelt and Sharon Sweed and Don Hawkins The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet, Robb Wolf The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, Liere Keith Trick and Treat: How “Healthy Eating” Is Making Us Ill, Barry Groves Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, Geneen Roth When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair: 50 Ways to Feel Thin, Gorgeous, and Happy (When You Feel Anything But), Geneen Roth Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, Geneen Roth Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, Michael Pollan In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It, Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease, Gary Taubes
Writing and Creativity
Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Hugh MacLeod Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster A Whack On the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, Roger von Oech Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads, Luke Sullivan Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go, Leslie Edgerton How Fiction Works, James Wood How to Be Funny: The One and Only Practical Guide for Every Occasion, Situation, and Disaster (No Kidding), Jon Macks Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, Elizabeth Lyon On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Steven King Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish, James Scott Bell Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, Blake Snyder Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told, Blake Snyder Sick in the Head: Conversations about Life and Comedy, Judd Apatow Spunk and Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language and Style, Arthur Plotnik The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Lester Kaufman and Jane Straus The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great, Donald Maass The Non-Designer’s Design Book, Robin Williams The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, Martha Alderson The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battle, Steven Pressfield The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less, Peter Bowerman The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Christopher Vogler Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers, Mary Cole Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level, Donald Maas Your Life Is A Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir, Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover Go Ask Alice, Anonymous A Stolen Life: A Memoir, Jaycee Dugard A House in the Sky, Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett Into the Wild, John Krakauer Untamed, Glennon Doyle Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis The Cross and the Switchblade, David Wilkerson A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis
The Holy Bible The writings of Buddha (500s–300s BCE) The Analects, Confucius (500s BCE) Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze (500s BCE) The Art of War, Sun Tzu (500s BCE) The Magna Carta (1200s) The Declaration of Independence (1700s) The Constitution of the United States (1700s) The Bill of Rights (1700s) The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Olaudah Equiano (1700s) Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas de Quincey (1800s) The Gettysburg Address (1800s) Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth (1800s) Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1800s) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs (1800s) Walden, Henry David Thoreau (1800s) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass (1800s) The Souls of Black Folks, W. E. B. DuBois (1900s) Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon Johnson (1900s) I Have a Dream, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1900s) The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank (1900s) The Story of My Life, Helen Keller (1900s) Roots, Alex Haley (1900s) Autobiography of Malcom X, Malcom X (1900s) The Jungle, Upton Sinclair (1900s) Black Boy, Richard Wright (1900s) Native Son, Richard Wright (1900s) Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin (1900s) The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom (1900s) A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking (1900s) The Meaning of It All, Richard Feynman (1900s)
Advanced Classic Nonfiction
The Histories, Herodotus (400s BCE) The Republic, Plato (400s BCE) History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides (400s BCE) Rhetoric, Aristotle (300s BCE) Apology, Plato (300s BCE) Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle (300s BCE) On the Nature of Things, Lucretius (60s BCE) De Republica, Cicero (50s BCE) The Early History of Rome, Livy (20s BCE) Wars of the Jews, Josephus (70s CE) Annals, Tacitus (100s CE) The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius (100s CE) Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian (100s CE) Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (100s CE) Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans, Plutarch (100s CE) Enchiridion, Epictetus (100s CE) The Confessions, Saint Augustine (300s) The City of God, St. Augustine (400s) The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius (500s) The Quran (600s) The Ecclesiastical History, Adam Bede (700s) The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Peter and Heolise Abelard (1100s) Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas (1200s) The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis (1400s) In Praise of Folly, Erasmus (1500s) The Education of a Christian Prince, Erasmus (1500s) The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther (1500s) Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (1500s) History of the Reformation, John Knox (1500s) The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Avila (1500s) The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila (1500s) Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross (1500s) The Defense of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney (1500s) Novum Organum, Frances Bacon (1600s) The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (1600s) Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes (1600s) Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes (1600s) Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (1600s) The Second Treatise of Government, John Locke (1600s) The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys (1600s) Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather (1600s) An Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope (1700s) An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope (1700s) The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin (1700s) The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine (1700s) Common Sense, Thomas Paine (1700s) On Liberty, John Stuart Mill (1800s) The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1700s) The Journal of John Woolman, John Woolman (1700s) The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (1700s) A Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant (1700s) On American Taxation, Edmund Burke (1700s) Life of Johnson, James Boswell (1700s) The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton (1700s) Memoir, Correspondence and Misc., Thomas Jefferson (1800s) The Memoirs of Victor Hugo, Victor Hugo (1800s) Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (1800s) A Child’s History of England, Charles Dickens (1800s) For Self-Examination, Soren Kierkegaard (1800s) On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin (1800s) The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams (1800s) Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Frederich Nietzsche (1800s) Beyond Good and Evil, Frederich Nietzsche (1800s) An Autobiography, Annie Besant (1800s) Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale (1800s) Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler (1900s) Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud (1900s) The Ego and the Id, Sigmund Freud (1900s) The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud (1900s)
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Kandra Hughes has been a professional housesitter since 2016. She is
also a minimalism coach. Visit
Have you ever significantly changed your life to become more
minimalist? What led to the decision and what did you change?
Yes. I got rid of approximately 95 percent of my belongings by
donating, giving away, selling, recycling, or trashing them.
Essentially, I wasn’t happy in my current life and I wanted to make
radical changes. I followed a career trajectory of which some people
only dream: college, a PhD program (for which I had a full-ride
scholarship), tenure track position, and tenure. Yet it wasn’t the
life I really wanted to live. I had all sorts of health issues
related to stress and sleep. My weight dropped to 97 pounds. I
developed severe adult acne. I used
that I would get in a nonfatal car crash, just so I could take a
break from my life for a while.
wasn’t until I was granted a paid sabbatical for the 2014-2015
academic year that I finally got time to myself. I didn’t miss my
job for one second of one minute of one day. That was a wake-up call
to me that I needed to make some changes.
on sabbatical, and after I realized I needed to quit my job, I woke
up in the middle of the night and thought, housesitting.
I had already been pet-sitting and housesitting for friends while I
was on a sabbatical. I wrote down my idea and went back to bed.
next morning a Google search informed me that, yes, pet-sitting and
housesitting is a viable way to live these days. That became my plan:
to no longer have a place of my own, but to live in other people’s
houses. I didn’t want the burden of storing of my belongings, so I
made the choice to get rid of them. My husband and I have been on a
long-term housesit in the northwest
corner of Connecticut
since September 2016. At the time we began, everything we owned fit
into our car.
What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle—the
ideas you want most to spread?
The idea I most want to spread is that minimalism is not just about
tidying up and reducing clutter. It’s
about personal growth, and
most importantly, the understanding that there is no one way to best
accomplish this growth. Being a minimalist means you have a good
understanding of who you
are and how you want to live your
best life … and then acting
accordingly. This understanding can be accomplished through
self-reflection (e.g., journaling, creating vision boards, praying,
meditating, etc.) or with the help of professionals (e.g.,
therapists, life coaches, pastors, career counselors, etc.).
also want people to know that the
first thing I recommend people get rid of is mental clutter.
By knowing who you are and how you want to live your best life, you
can say no to things that don’t serve you. Of course, it’s not easy
and it takes a certain amount of courage to start saying no. But this
freedom then brings benefits in other areas of your life, including
increased time, energy, and financial resources to pursue the things
that are most important to you.
by identifying your core life values. These are the five
values that are fundamental to who you are as person. Ask yourself
questions such as, “When have I experienced the most joy in my
life? When did I experience my lowest points? What happens on the
days when I can’t wait to get out of bed? What happens on the days
where I dread getting out of bed? Who inspires me? If I could have
any job in the world, what would it be and why? What did I dream of
a child? If I could live a perfect day every day, what would that day
look like? What are some times in my life I thought I was doing the
right thing, but it turned out to be wrong for me?” Look for common
themes and patterns, then name those ideas using a single word, such
service, fairness, creativity,
second thing I recommend is to identify specific interests in your
life related to those values. Values and interests go hand-in-hand.
For example, you may value creativity, but you may have no interest
in Renaissance art.
If that’s the case, next time you visit an art museum, give yourself
the freedom to skip over entire floors and head to the impressionists
who you find whimsical and inspiring. The good news is, you’ve
probably already uncovered most of your interests if you’ve spent
time reflecting on your core life values. Review your answers to the
above questions and notice what specific activities and events are
associated with your more joyful times. Keep those in mind for making
your day-to-day and long-term decisions on how you’re going to spend
your time, effort, and money.
I love everything you said so much. Any
final thoughts, Kelly?
that I don’t think gets mentioned too often: it’s
important to stay open-minded and empathetic to others while living a
minimalist life. I’ve found that people who experience the kind of
personal growth that comes with minimalism are so excited about their
journeys, they think their way is not only the best way, but the only
way. We may end up self-righteous and judgmental of others who are
still struggling on their own paths. I know I certainly did!
We need to remember where we started from and extend empathy to others who may not be there yet. When you live a life of joy and one that lines up with your core life values and interests, people become interested in what you’re doing. When they ask, be happy to give advice on what worked best for you. Otherwise, it’s not our place to judge. Stay focused on your own life and lead by example. I know it’s cliché, but Gandhi was on to something when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Niziak is a software trainer and data analyst from Massachusetts.
Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home?
What led to the decision and what did you change?
Kurt: Yes, but not consciously. Instead, it
somehow chose me!
Over a decade ago, my career and financial
situation was vastly different. In fact, my own “personal paper
route” (as I call it) was surprisingly easy. Financially, I was
preparing myself for a life of moderate wealth. The bottom fell out,
however, and I was forced to abide by a lifestyle which would be the
antitheses of what I once thought I had.
In July of 2018, I had a major fire in my once
well-furnished condo. I had stepped out of my home for a mere
thirty-five minutes only to return and witness that almost
all of what I had acquired over the years had vanished. I say the
word almost because, my most important possession (my dog) was
miraculously spared. (Thank God).
After the complete shock of losing almost
everything had slowly worn off, I was surprised to feel an incredible
sense of gratitude. I realized that as terrible as things were, at
least my dog was okay. This horrific event proved to be the genesis
of a priceless awakening. I began to understand that I really didn’t
need many possessions in order to keep on living on a day-to-day
basis. Material things somehow revealed themselves in their most
generic form, serving as nothing more than distractions.
Mollie: What is your lifestyle like now?
Kurt: I suppose that I am a bit more grounded. I
am cognizant about how we are all such insatiable consumers. I try
instead to take better care of the things that I do have, rather than
fantasizing about what I don’t have. Furthermore, before purchasing
or storing anything, I think about whether I really need it.
We all are conditioned to believe that our lives
can only improve via addition—as if we were painting a picture,
adding more and more layers. Unfortunately, this approach seldom gets
us the results we are looking for. Perhaps it’s a sculpture that we
should be creating instead, our goal only arrived at via subtraction.
We discard the pieces that are not necessary.
Mollie: Can you share a few specific tips for
cleaning, organizing and simplifying a home?
Kurt: In his wonderful book 12
Rules of Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson is
quick to point out an approach towards minimalism which (at first
look) appears rather benign. However, this simple concept has saved
me, time and time again, from the shackles of a personal two- or
three-day funk. Peterson states that one risks feeling depressed,
anxious and powerless should they fail to keep their bedroom clean,
or surroundings in order. Whenever I motivate myself to use this
simple tactic, it has never failed to
make me feel more balanced—more in control.
Cleaning, organizing, etc. are extremely powerful
minimalist tools. They help combat feelings of chaos. If things are
clean and in order, I have a better chance at having a more positive
experience in the outside world. Physical clutter seems to muddle my
brain and often prevents me from having any semblance of harmony. It
is so simple, yet it seems to always have positive results.
Minimalism (to me) is not merely the act of owning
less. It also leads to appreciating things more. It proves itself,
time and time again, as a
powerful life approach. All I know is that when I fail to encompass
minimalism, I am at risk of feeling like nothing more than the
proverbial hole of a doughnut.
I will say however, that my own personal happiness
has neither significantly decreased nor increased over the years. It
is just less complicated. One doesn’t end up wasting time fooling
themselves into thinking that acquiring more will improve one’s
I do what I need to do in order to survive. I often (jokingly) say that I am just as miserable now, as I’ve always been. A bigger house, better car or more stuff will not enhance my life very much. These things might be nice to have but it becomes a fool’s errand to obsessively pursue. It’s just an example of victory through surrender.
Have you ever significantly minimized your possessions and simplified
your life? Tell me the story.
Nick: In July 2019 I left my corporate job back home in Brooklyn, New York. I bought a car in Phoenix, Arizona to drive to Argentina. I pretty much left everything I owned except a few clothes, my laptop, a camera, and a drone. I built a bed in the back of the car and I have been living on the road ever since, camping at some of the most beautiful places in Mexico. I’m about to enter Belize.
car is my
home and the world is my
What did you buy along the way? Do you have good camping equipment?
I haven’t bought much. I bought a new suspension for the car and two
lower control arms. The car is old
was worried about the rust and being stuck in a country with no parts
if something happened. Other than that, I bought a cooler, folding
chairs, and a BBQ. At some point I’ll have to buy winter clothes when
I reach Argentina but I’ll tackle that when I get there. I also
bought a new phone using Google Fi because it works in over 200
countries on their unlimited plan.
How long do you plan to travel and what will you do after that?
asks me this question. Truthfully I’m planning this trip to find a
place where I can build another AirBNB
property close to the water so I can run scuba diving excursions. I
don’t have a time limit. My goal is to travel around the entire world
and it’s taken me 6 months to do all of Mexico. I promised my mom and
dad I would spend Christmas with them in 2020. But other than that I
don’t have a time limit.
What led to this drastic change?
The thing that led me to this decision was being caught up in the
humdrum of everyday corporate life living in New York City. I
personally couldn’t take going to work every day to make money to
spend at a bar on the weekends with friends, over and over again. I
wanted to get more out of life.
What do you want to get out of life?
I would like to teach people that money isn’t everything. It’s a
vehicle to get you to where you want to be. We’re all taught that we
need to go to school and get a job that pays well. Everyone wants a
raise and to earn more money. But the truth is that you most likely
make enough money and that money can actually make you more money but
your habits prevent that. People
look at my Instagram and ask me how I do this. I tell them I drive a
‘98 Chevy Blazer with a bed in it. You don’t need a lot of money to
do what I’m doing; you just need to change your habits. And that’s
the mark I want to leave. Money is great, but you don’t need to
exchange time to earn more. Other
I would say I just want to be happy and meet amazing people all
around the world.
Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs
regarding minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you most want to spread?
My most prized beliefs behind my minimalist lifestyle change is that
it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about you. I want to spread that
to everyone around. With social media nowadays, most people seem to
be in competition with people they don’t even know.
Mary Potter Kenyon is a grief counselor and the author of seven books, including Called to Be Creative and Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief. She lives in Dubuque, Iowa. For more information, see MaryPotterKenyon.com.
Mollie:Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?
Mary: In April 2018, I was
offered my dream job an hour from where I lived. I made the decision
to sell the four-bedroom, two-story house where my husband David and
I had raised the last four of our eight children. David had died in
2012 and my seventh child was poised to leave the nest, leaving me
with one daughter and a huge house. Not
only did I need to declutter in order to sell my house, the house I
purchased in my new town was 760 square feet. I had to do some
serious purging, with less than two months to do it.
I began by deciding which
furniture could come with me, and my heart sank when I realized my
four bookshelves, my huge solid oak desk and my
mother’s kitchen table would not fit. The owner of the house I was
buying agreed to leave a folding IKEA table in the kitchen, the only
kind of table that worked. Two living room chairs would need to be
sold. A beautiful closed cabinet that was filled with office supplies
and photo albums. A kitchen shelf. The one thing I knew had to come
with me was a shaker-style cabinet I’d inherited from my mother, but
it would need to be emptied of some of her things to make room for
the single shelf of books I would keep.
I went through closets of
clothing. As I pulled things off hangers, I priced those I thought
would sell. I even had a box of my husband’s shirts stashed away,
which my sister Joan agreed to take off my hands and make into
Christmas stockings for my children. I wasn’t just dealing with
stuff, I was dealing with memories, and I
shed tears through the process. I went
through thousands of books. The first two boxes sold for $150 at a
bookstore, alleviating the distress a little. By the time I held my
first garage sale, I’d whittled down my possessions drastically. The
most daunting task, though, was the paper:
a file cabinet and a trunk filled with letters, college papers,
photos, and even scrapbooks from high school. I handed my son a bag
filled with twenty daybooks (daily diaries)
to burn because I couldn’t bear to dispose of them myself.
After two garage sales, several trips to a thrift
store, and even filling my front lawn with items I advertised for
free on a local online giveaway board, I ended up with less than half
my original possessions. By then, it felt freeing to have dealt with
years of accumulated clutter—to have made decisions about which
things meant the most and gave me pleasure and joy when I looked at
them. I would come to regret only the loss of the desk and the
While I no longer have a
separate office, I do have my own space, a back room that spans the
entire width of the house and serves as both bedroom and office.
Everything in it was consciously chosen to survive the Great Purge of
2018. The bedroom portion is sparse: an end table and a twin
bed topped with a mockingbird quilt that matches the curtains.
Outside of a washer and dryer in the opposite far corner, the rest of
the large room is designed around the comfy brown recliner my
children gave me for Christmas. When I sit in it to write or read,
I’m surrounded by things that bring a smile to my face.
There is the Shaker-style cabinet I inherited from
my mother, filled with things I treasure: my collection of
autographed books, a hand-blown glass turtle my son Michael made, a
toy sheep from my childhood, and bricks my daughter Rachel painted to
look like the covers of my books. My grandmother’s trunk is topped
by one of Mom’s quilts and her hand-carved Saint Michael statue,
his sword upraised in regal glory.
Walls are adorned with paintings by my mother and daughter Emily, along with photographs taken by my son Dan, one framed and another on canvas. A rustic wooden rack is attached to one wall, the wire baskets holding stationery and greeting cards. Wooden letters with the cover designs of my six books on another wall spell the word “writer,” handmade by my daughter Elizabeth. Finally, there’s a book-themed lamp atop an end table Katie painted to look like book spines. I love my smaller space.
Here, an excerpt from the interviews section of the book.
“We Have Two Big Rules in Our House”
is 40 years old and has been with her partner for eight years.
What have some of your biggest disagreements as couple been about?
We don’t have children, just cats, which might be why our biggest
fight so far was about cats (except not really). Before that, our
biggest struggle was learning to grocery shop together without
Tell me more about that.
It was a thing when we first moved in together. He works from home
and I was working in an office. We both dislike the task, so we do it
together (unless circumstances prevent it.)
made a comment a while back about two types of people (on a
spectrum): basically, planners and non-planners. My husband is
squarely a planner. Lists, schedules, plan of attack. I can (and do)
plan, but can also can make a quick decision just to get something
basically, we had several things going wrong.
an introvert and being at the office all day exhausts me. He works
from home, so he’s excited to go out.
weren’t functioning off a list, so we were buying random things that
we did/didn’t need and still having to figure out dinners after.
both wanted to shop how we were used to shopping.
got mad at him for staring at stacks of American cheese for entirely
too long trying to determine the best price on something that I felt
didn’t matter. He challenged me when I just grabbed a gallon of milk.
milk? Do you like it better? This one’s cheaper.”
several months and lots of sit-downs and me being mad, then him being
frustrated (not huge fights but intense talks), we’ve figured out and
refined our system:
frequently save recipes that I think we’ll enjoy that are healthy
enough for me and easy enough for him. We pick two for the week and
build a list off of that.
grocery shop on Sundays so I’m not tired and we have a date night
once a weekish so he gets out of the house. He has also finally,
just this summer, gotten a laptop to give himself the ability to
leave the house once in a while.
are brands I’m loyal to. When it’s time to pick up those, I tell
him to kick rocks off to the toilet paper aisle to find us the best
deal. I give in to him on the generic canned beans because I don’t
care and he lets me buy the expensive canned tomatoes without
works so much better now. We usually have as good a time as you can
at the grocery store. And I even stay quiet when he asks the clerk to
put the milk in bags (which is silly because the gallons have
You seem like a pretty good problem solver. Do
you use these same negotiating skills in other areas of your
don’t have to formally negotiate too often. We try and function as a
team so if one person is doing something, the other dives in to help.
We’ve got two big rules in our house:
gets what they need.
have to ask for what you need.
Spats are usually due to me not being able to sort out what I’m feeling before I get crabby.
Mollie: I love those rules! The needs of one person can be dramatically different from the needs of another. Beautiful way to phrase this concept.
So what was the cat thing about?
Zurie: We fought about when to get a new cat after our last two girls died in the spring. I wanted to get a new one and he wasn’t ready.
Honestly, it was 100 percent me not slowing down to figure out what I was feeling so I could verbalize it. Eventually I just realized that I was in an enormous amount of pain and just wanted something to help. I was deeply disappointed that he wasn’t ready even though it was valid.
Once I worked through all that emotion, I was able to explain what was going on. I apologized and he listened and we compromised. We got new kitties sooner than he was ready for and later than I wanted, but they’re perfect.
Mollie: Is there something about your partner you have tried to change? What was your strategy? How well did it work?
Zurie: Sure, there are things we’ve tried to change about each other. He’s organized, but holy cow was his apartment filthy when he moved out. I’m clean, but completely disorganized. Before we moved in together, we talked a lot about chores and values. He sees the value in having things clean, though he just doesn’t notice it. I see the value in having things organized (being able to find my keys is amazing) but I’m not always as good about it as him.
I think we’ve both really tried to be patient with each other. There are times when I have to remind him that it’s okay if I haven’t put something back where it belongs because there’s a reason I didn’t or whatever. And I have 100 percent complained to myself after he does the dishes that he didn’t scrub down the stove. But I also know that criticizing will just make a person shut down, so I think a lot about “how much does this matter?” I’ve had to teach him how to clean the bathroom and the floors and the kitchen and the reasons behind it. He really gives it a good-faith effort, so I let go of the fact that he doesn’t see the dirt and is always surprised that it’s time to clean. It just doesn’t matter.
Mollie: Can you think of a time you became overly defensive in an argument? Tell me the story.
Zurie: When we first met, he used to tell a joke, then say, “Get it? It’s funny because …” and I used to feel like he thought I was so stupid or not funny if he felt he had to explain every joke to me. My dad was really hard on my brother and me and would ask us if we were stupid whenever we did something wrong, so he was really stepping on a land mine he didn’t know was there. I finally told him one night how much it hurt my feelings. I was angry and asked flat-out if he thought I was an idiot. He was horrified. Apparently, this was just something he had always said as part of a joke. He thought it was funny and had no idea that I took it personally.
While I was relieved that I was misinterpreting, I also made it clear that I was never going to be okay with it. He’d done it for so long that he wasn’t sure he could just stop. So we decided that he would make an honest attempt to say it less and I would make an honest attempt to let it roll off my back if he did say it. And honestly, I haven’t heard it in years.
Mollie: Do you think it’s important to apologize even when you weren’t exactly in the wrong, or do you save your apologies for the important stuff?
Zurie: We tend to apologize to each other when we feel it’s warranted. Honestly, we don’t fight dirty or often so I don’t feel that I’ve had to apologize when I wasn’t exactly wrong.
Mollie: Generally speaking, how much do you enjoy partnership? What do you like about it?
Zurie: I love being married. We haven’t reached a point yet where I’ve considered it difficult or a hardship. I really enjoy being on a team with him. I can be exactly who I am at any given moment with him. I can be ridiculous and silly or sad or a big baby and he understands and loves it. I love doing the same for him. I love hearing him sing songs to the cats or laugh at his podcasts while he works. I am so delighted and thankful to be with him and he seems to feel the same way. We married late-ish—I was thirty-seven and he was forty—so we’d gone through those mid-twenties struggles already and had started establishing our own values when we met. Maybe that has something to do with it.
Mollie: Do you have any ongoing arguments that can’t seem to be resolved, even with your great communication skills?
Zurie: Not that I can think of, so definitely nothing major. Things are tough right now for us, but not between us. I’m lucky: he’s funny, responsible, hard working, compassionate and loyal. We make a good team.
Here, an excerpt from the interviews section of the book.
CAL: “Finally, Our House Feels Like a Home”
age forty-four, has four children with his wife of twenty years.
Is there an argument that just keeps coming up between you and your
Many of the long-running arguments that we have seen to be centered
around the lack of defined roles in our relationship. We are both
products of the feminist movement—women aren’t going to be forced
to be at home taking care of children and cooking dinner! So the
systems of our household are perpetually left leaderless as both
adults strive for success and validation outside our home.
lack of definition has plagued us since the days we just started
living together and couldn’t agree on who did what chores and who was
responsible for what. It’s rather embarrassing to say that we still
run across these problems twenty years later. At least a few
generations ago they had one person who gathered resources and one
person who saw that those resources were well managed in producing a
family. Now we are both responsible for everything, and that leads to
chaos and frustration for us.
you give me more specifics? Which chores are still up for grabs?
Which chores have you come to an agreement on?
Cal: We have written out three
sheets of information for the family. One sheet gives our vision,
values, expectations and measures of success. It’s funny that after
being married over twenty years we are still working out what our
vision for our home is. We’ve had other vision statements in the
past, but they seem to have a finite life span. The vision needs to
be renewed and revived periodically; for us, it seems like we can
agree on one for about two years.
The next sheet shows the
systems we are working on to make the household run more smoothly. We
started with agreeing on twenty minutes of cleaning and that’s going
really well thus far (maybe for the past two months). We’re still
working on figuring out the rest.
Finally, we have a chores
sheet. This is laminated (yes, we have a laminator and every family
needs one!). We assign and check off the chores using a dry erase
marker. There are six of us, and six people cleaning a single area
isn’t going to work, so we have two or three areas separated out into
five days (our goal is to clean five days per week). We schedule the
cleaning via group text message at least two hours ahead of time.
Then we assemble at the table, pick a day, assign the jobs, start the
timer, start some music, and clean for twenty minutes. If someone
finishes early, they get re-assigned to another job until we have all
worked for twenty minutes. We clean with whoever is home at the time,
even if it’s only a couple of us.
This cleaning system has
finally gotten our house to feel like a home. We all now have clean,
paired socks and vacuumed hallways.
Bedroom cleaning is handled by
a different system of weekly room inspections.
Mollie: Any other ongoing
Cal: Nothing is jumping to mind. My wife and I are pretty low-key
people, but we have still managed to have some pretty turbulent times
in our marriage. This point isn’t one of them. Our kids are now 18,
16, 14 and 11. They are old enough that they are becoming
self-sufficient, but young enough not to realize how clueless they
are in the real world. It’s a frustrating time. I think we’ve been
handling it well, overall, but have been far from perfect.
Mollie: Finally, how much do you enjoy your marriage? Is it worth
Cal: I do enjoy my marriage. The sex is amazing, and that’s a large
part of male happiness. Consistent access to a female is success in
an evolutionary sense. Beyond just meeting physical needs, my wife is
a wonderful friend who I still enjoy having dinner with or
accompanying to one of our children’s events. I made a really good
decision before we started dating: I had just had a mediocre dating
experience with a pretty red-haired girl, who treated me like a
distraction. Based on that experience, I decided that the next person
I was going to spend my time with would be one who I enjoyed being
wife is remarkable in that I was always sorry
when the evening came to an end; there never seemed to be enough
Twenty-three years later, I still think that was a
wise decision. I haven’t had the most exciting life from the outside,
but I’ve enjoyed most minutes because I made a really good choice. I
married an honest friend who I really enjoyed being around. Fights
come and go, but we still like having dinner, watching a movie or
doing a project together. Even when we are at our worst, there has
always been that underlying layer of friendship and enjoyment that we
fell back on. It’s a pretty amazing connection.