Seven Books to Help You Grow in 2022



The celebration of a new year is often fraught with strong opinions on making resolutions, not making resolutions but instead making goals, or not making goals or resolutions but instead just mocking others who have taken this long to resolve to be better, or not resolving or planning or mocking anything but rather just being appreciative of where you are in life right now. I fall more into the goal-making camp, and I think having a yearly ritual of examining your life is a good thing. The most helpful tools for me in effecting real change in my life have been a) relationships and b) knowledge about how we change and grow.


Here are seven books that have shaped my approach to my goals. There are so many things to say about each of these books, but I've just summarized a few of my biggest applications.


1. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

This book fundamentally changed my approach to achieving my goals. If you can only read one book on this list, I would choose this one. Duhigg talks about how habits are formed and maintained in a different part of your brain than your conscious decision making; they are unconscious, automatic responses we form to stimuli. When you receive a stimulus, you have a response, and you cannot just choose not to have a response in order to get rid of a bad habit. You have to identify what the stimulus is and change the response. One of the most fascinating parts of this book is when he talks about keystone habits--habits that precipitate other habits. For instance, the habit of exercising is considered a keystone habit that often causes many other habits. Duhigg writes "Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change."


You can buy this book here.


2. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

James Clear's book is the logical progression in many ways from The Power of Habit. He builds off of Duhigg's ideas and provides much more practical application. He looks at how to form sustainable habits and what sorts of habits are good to create. His primary argument is that small changes formed into a habit are incredibly potent, much more so than a one time event. The smallest habit, whether it be exercising for fifteen minutes a day, practicing your art for ten minutes, or even just flossing for just thirty seconds, have a compound interest for effecting dramatic change. Clear writes that, "All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time." I enjoyed this book so much a signed up for Clear's weekly newsletter, which is a close tie with Alison Roman's newsletter for the best weekly email I get.


You can buy this book here.


3. How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem by Rod Dreher

In this memoir, Rod Dreher writes about how reading The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri provided him a way out of great emotional pain and depression. This book showed how much impact reading literature can have on a person, and how deeply studying the classics can provide not just entertainment but paradigm shifts and wisdom. I was especially moved by how the rejection and exile Dreher received from his family was healed through reading Dante. Dreher writes that "'Bibliotherapy'—using books to treat psychological disorders—may be a new trend, but for me, it came naturally." In this memoir Dreher demonstrates how bibliotherapy worked in his own life, providing a model for his readers to apply it in their own.


You can buy this book here.


4. The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp

This book was the book worked through in season two of our Coffee & Creatives podcast, so if you want to hear hours and hours of my detailed thoughts of this book, you can check the season out here. However, my main take away from this book was that a scaffolding is needed for your goals--you need habits, rhythms, and structure to achieve your goals--but once you start to build your goal you don't hold to this scaffolding rigidly, but instead let it evolve with the project. I think this book still might be my favorite book that we've done on the podcast, and if you haven't read it yet, it's well worth the time.


You can buy it here.


5. The Artist Way by Julia Cameron

This is another podcast book! The one the started it all in season one. There are some parts of this book I really found useful and some that didn't quite ring true. However, overall I found this book really helpful and I can see its thesis threading decisions to leave, grow, and finally act on impulses over the past two years since reading it. As simple as it is, her emphasis on treating the parts of yourself you want to change kindly to nurture them into change was pretty revolutionary in my approach, and I really appreciated all the practical exercises to help her read not just think this but actually do this. Also, her passages on jealousy were really insightful--she writes "My jealousy had actually been a mask for my fear of doing something I really wanted to do but was not yet brave enough to take action forward." This revelation helped me to not just dismiss jealousy when it popped up but rather see it as a sign that there was something deeper going on, and that action rather than disregard was needed.


You can buy this book here.


6. Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography

This may seem like a rather odd and antiquated choice to include in this list, but I think there's a strong case for Franklin's autobiography being the first true American self-help book, and I personally have found it inspirational. Franklin recounts his life and traces the habits and education that propelled him to being one of the most successful and important historical figures in our history. It's an interesting mix of his personal story, history of the revolutionary period, instruction on how to succeed, and witty quips.


You can buy this book here.


7. The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

The podcast book from season four! I really enjoyed reading this book, both in its content and poignant, concise style. This book is perfect for once you have embarked on a journey to change for how to endure, overcome, and win. One of the main parts of the book addresses resistance to change and progress. Pressfield writes how resistance is real and comes from all over (identifying various sources of resistance). Pressfield instructs his readers not just on how to be aware of resistance's plan of attack, but how to fight back and win.


You can buy this book here.

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