Books for a Better Year

"But Ashley," you might say, "we're a month into 2020 already!" Well, sure, but let's be honest... January is cold/flu season, everyone has a holiday hangover (emotionally, financially, etc.), and the weather is generally gross. It's basically a bonus month and I think we can all agree that surviving this month (which has been seemingly 27 weeks long) means that we get a do-over for all things "new year" related. Hence, I'm bringing you these recommendations on the *last* day of the month. We have 11 more whole months to make 2020 awesome! (Personally, my "new year" is gonna start around April due to the fact that I'll be giving birth here shortly. =) Also, I've read about a gazillion books in the last 5 years and I feel like I need to start putting all that to some sort of use and sharing them more regularly here!

So, here we go. Some of these are newer releases and some have been out for a while, but all of them have been read and loved by yours truly. Some are habit-related, others lend themselves to more a mindset shift/way of thinking, and others just have some good information that will benefit you and/or your family. All of them will help you see the world in a better way!

Anyway. My plan to blog more has gotten away from me (shocker) and this is a bit of a cop-out post since it doesn't require as much from me, but rest assured that a) I have several blog post ideas that I am truly excited about that I am going to try to get written soon and b) I do love these books and think they're worth your time!

"Having fun isn't hard with a library card!" Why yes, I was super popular as a kid. Can't you tell?

Atomic Habits by James Clear. I just finished this last night and I loved it. I've seen this book all over the place since it came out (with rave reviews from people I trust) and I totally get it. It's SO good, so practical, so easy to read and simple but not dumbed down... just a great book on habits that gives great ways of thinking about how and why we do the things we do. I'll be recommending this to anyone and everyone for the foreseeable future.

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I love this book so much, and it may seem excessive to have two books about habits on the same list, but it is the beginning of the year (bonus month notwithstanding) and this is a great one. Gretchen Rubin is one of my all-time favorite authors and this book has SO much good and practical information in it. I love how she can make even something as seemingly dull as habits warm and personal and strangely appealing. She takes all kinds of personalities into account and gives ideas that can work for literally anyone. (Honestly, any of Gretchen's books would help start your year off right!)

Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke. I was actually on the launch team for this book and got an advance copy but I don't even know that I posted about it anywhere except Instagram (oops!). However, I'll make up for it now! This is such a great book. The subtitle is "Treasuring Christ in the Media Age" and I think we can all stand to be reminded just how important it is to have the right perspective on the endless stream of information (and misinformation), entertainment, and distraction at our fingertips. Reading this is a great way to help you reset yourself if one of your goals for the year is to limit/restructure your media consumption (just in time for the election, right?).

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Okay, let me get on my enneagram soapbox for just a second. I know that it's been talked about to death and you're probably sick of hearing about it (especially if you have no idea what it's all about- I was the same way!) but this book is an excellent starting point if you're interested in learning more. I truly believe that the enneagram is an extremely valuable and useful tool to help us understand ourselves and those around us, be more compassionate and empathetic, and grow into the people God created us to be. Like anything, it can be abused or distorted, but this book provides a faith-based understanding of how it all works and is worth your time. (Steps off soapbox, shaking and red-faced.)

168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. I love a good book on time management, and most of Laura Vanderkam's are along those lines, but this one is probably the most widely applicable (in my opinion). We all have 168 hours in our week, and what we do with those hours largely depends on identifying what we truly value and where we want our time, energy, money, etc. to go. There are some great strategies for reevaluating your schedule and making changes based on what's actually important to you as well as questioning/challenging the "way it's always been" with a fresh perspective.

Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney. I had to read this for a class last summer and it was a huge game-changer for me. I'm not proud of this, but prayer has always been my biggest struggle. It can feel awkward, forced, obligatory, empty... I'm just being honest here, guys. Prayer is hard, and I know I'm not alone in that. This book gives such amazing insights into using God's own words to talk to Him and I am continually grateful to have come across such a wonderful technique/process. If you're interested in strengthening this particular discipline in your life (and aren't we all?) I'd start here.

The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. I just can't recommend this highly enough. I think I've raved about it to anyone who would listen since it came out last spring. Emily P. Freeman is so wise and wonderful. Her writing is beautiful and calming and yet cuts straight to the heart of so many struggles we face regarding decisions, our souls, and life in general. I truly believe anyone in any life stage can benefit from the principles in this book, which is a tall order considering that so many books focus only on moms, or couples, or twenty-somethings, or whatever. It's just great, period. Please do your soul a favor and get this as soon as possible (and if you do audiobooks, Emily's voice is incredibly soothing). Also, the topics in this book are often covered in her excellent podcast of the same name, so definitely check that out.

There you go! Happy reading and happy New Year! Thanks for the practice run, January. We can take it from here.

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