i made this list to ring in 2020. if  i’d seen what was coming, i would have made a completely different list…


Every January, those aggressive “new year, new you” ads are deployed like the wet blanket police into the blurry remains of the previous year’s afterparty; where holiday-stunned masses, made sluggish by overindulgence, are defenseless against the onslaught of messaging that they are flawed and should be better: Lose this! Quit that! Buy these! Join us!—helplessly swept up in the manufactured collective momentum of self-betterment, pledging unrealistic goals that’ll likely be abandoned by March.

Y’all, 2019 was a particularly stressful year, so let’s agree to set the aspirational bar a little lower this time ‘round. Not a whole new you—you’re not so bad—but maybe a small tweak; a personal challenge that will enrich you without consuming you.

The following list is made up of twelve books—one for each month—paired with a popular New Year’s resolution, to help set achievable goals for 2020 so we can all make it to 2021 healthy and happy.


1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List James Mustich

You can either use this book the way Mustich intended—to graze on the summaries and merits of 1,000 books and see why he considers each to be a can’t-miss read, OR you can use this knowledge to hoodwink the literati, beguiling them at their booknerd soirées with “your” opinions on all the books it’ll sure sound like you’ve read. Either way, you will have read more than you had before you read this book, so goal = met!


Tiny But Mighty: Kitten Lady’s Guide to Saving the Most Vulnerable FelinesHanna Shaw

Small changes with small creatures! Shaw is an animal advocate and an authority on fostering, having rescued hundreds of abandoned or feral kittens over the years, giving them a temporary home with all the medical care and affection they need to become strong and healthy adult cats. This book guides you through the fostering process: how to get involved and what to expect, with the added bonus of adorable photos.


Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own PersonShonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes said yes to everything for a year, and look at her now! This experiment contradicts the “moderate change” proposal, but you needn’t go full-Shonda—if I told my friends I was saying “yes” to everything for a year, those monsters would have a field day—but a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, to consider all invitations as exciting opportunities rather than anxiety-inducing obligations, will at least give you something interesting to talk about at all the baby showers you’ll no longer be avoiding.


F*ck No!: How to Stop Saying Yes When You Can’t, You Shouldn’t, or You Just Don’t Want ToSarah Knight

For those of you who already say yes to everything and feel like a pushover because of it, here’s a book giving you the exact opposite advice. If you’re overextended, tired of being taken advantage of by people who are probably going to take credit for your work, here are some pointers to protect yourself from burnout by setting boundaries and learning a variety of ways to say no without ruffling any feathers.


Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change EverythingB.J. Fogg

Small steps towards big changes—that’s what this list is all about! B.J. Fogg is “an expert on habit formation” who has been studying human behavior for twenty years, developing strategies for personal and professional successes as the founder/director of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab and through his Boot Camps in Behavior Design. He’s been successful enough to be named one of Fortune’s “10 New Gurus You Should Know,” so he’s onto something, but if this turns out to be a cult, I apologize in advance.


The Little Book of Big Lies: A Journey into Inner FitnessTina Lifford

If you’re the type of person who scoffs when actors write self-help books, take a moment to consider the realities of the Hollywood hustle: the emphasis on physical appearance, the cycle of assessment and rejection, where successfully landing a role exposes you to further assessment from reviewers and vocal “fans,” and now let’s add on the layers of industry-wide sexism, racism and ageism and—yeah—this is exactly the person I’m going to trust when it comes to tips on building and maintaining emotional strength.


Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right NowJaron Lanier

From Twitter, I have learned that even the most innocuous statements can provoke heated altercations. From Instagram, I have learned that everyone lives prettier than me. From reading the comment threads of any site ever, I have learned…to never read comment threads. Rid yourselves of social media’s baked-in anger, jealousy, and insincerity—but not until you finish reading this list and write the book titles onto a post-it or something.


Cooking with Scraps: Turn Your Peels, Cores, Rinds, and Stems into Delicious MealsLindsay-Jean Hard

If you’re already using your food scraps as compost to grow all-new food, congratulations and move along to the next title! But if you’re throwing your carrot tops and cauliflower cores into the garbage where only the trash pandas will benefit, use this book to whip up something fancy out of those leftover seeds and peels, reducing food waste and your food budget at the same time! And if you feel guilty about depriving those alley bears of their nutrients, invite them in for some soup!


We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at BreakfastJonathan Safran Foer

Even after exposing the horrors of factory farming in his 2009 book Eating Animals, JSF enjoyed an occasional burger. Now, having seen how deforestation in the service of animal agriculture has brought about climate change, he beseeches folks to not omit, but to reduce the amount of animal products they consume by eating vegan for two meals a day, if not for the sweet-eyed cows, than for the whole dingdang planet.


Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive EatingChristy Harrison

Every year, weight loss is the number-one New Year’s resolution in this country, a goal optimistically undertaken by people of all genders and sizes and ages. This book sits you down, looks you in the eye and asks levelly; “If diets actually worked, why do so many people fail to lose weight or gain it back again so quickly?” It’s an examination of diet culture, body dysmorphia, and how ‘intuitive eating’ will allow you to stop spending so much time beating yourself up for failing an impossible task, and more time, you know, being physically and emotionally healthy.


What Color is Your Parachute? 2020: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-ChangersRichard N. Bolles

Classics are classics for a reason. This book has sold millions of copies since it was first published in 1970, and is updated annually with new resources, exercises, and tips. You’ve probably seen it around without ever picking it up or flipping through it, so maybe 2020 is the year you give it a shot. Do the work, get the work, buy yourself a treat.


The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be ComplicatedHelaine Olen, Harold Pollack

If you don’t have the time to become an economist or the funds to enlist a money manager on your behalf, this book may be your way to financial success. Its premise: everything you need to know about managing your money can be summed up in ten rules that fit on one index card. The explanations of how to employ those ten rules fill up the other 255 pages of the book, so it’ll take more than a glance to absorb, but ten rules is still a pretty streamlined financial plan.

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this feels gauche, but when i announced i was starting a blog, everyone assured me this is a thing that is done. i’m not on facebook, i’ve never had a cellphone or listened to a podcast; so many common experiences of modern life are foreign to me, but i’m certainly struggling financially, so if this is how the world works now, i’d be foolish to pass it up. any support will be received with equal parts gratitude and bewilderment.

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