January is the best time to get serious about self improvement, get excited about a new year set goals, focus our creative efforts, and so on and so forth. Here are five books that I personally are perfect for this mindset. (Also, are you tired of me talking about The Creative Act yet? Sorry but I just love this book.)
PS – for more “fun reading,” check out these A+ Fiction book recommendations!
5 Great Books to Read in January
Atomic Habits, by James Clear
I am probably going to re-read this one as it is an absolute FAVORITE. This is probably my number one book for in terms of self improvement… it’s just too good! I think I’ve read it twice now (this really is the perfect time of year to read it), and I take new things away from it every time. I loved this book. It is a book that I think literally everyone could benefit from. I have been a big fan of James Clear for a long time. His 3-2-1 Newsletter is one of my favorites. I really love the idea of striving to be 1% better every day, and that the tiny changes made over time will add up to yield big results. I also love the mentality of focusing on systems rather than goals. Goals are great of course, but how does one set up systems to help them attain those goals? His systems will help. Some of the things he shares will probably be a reinforcement of things you already are doing (I think of myself setting out my skincare and lash serum next to my tooth brush so that I am reminded at night to do those things) but there are so many great tips and tricks in this book. My personal favorite is to layer in the habit you want to start between things you already do or really enjoy doing. I can’t recommend it enough! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
The Creative Act, by Rick Rubin
If you loved Big Magic, you will absolutely love this. The books are very similar but different enough for both to be worth reading! The author, Rick Rubin, is a record producer (co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, founder of American Recordings, and former co-president of Columbia Records). So his life experiences are incredibly different from Elizabeth Gilbert’s (but they have a lot of similar takeaways). The book is broken down into very digestible little chapters. Most chapters are very short and it is the sort of book you can read in full once and then go back to later. In fairness I have not fully finished it (I read a little bit every morning) but I love what I have read. So much that I gifted it to nearly everyone on my list for Christmas. It’s the sort of book you read, underline, re-read, and keep coming back to. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Everyone should read this book, even if you don’t necessarily identify as a “creative person.” The content is so valuable (for literally everyone!), it’s a fairly quick read, and every time I read it I have a totally different takeaway. The things for me that really resonated were the parts about fear, and letting fear hold you back. And approaching your creativity (or your whole life for that matter) from a perspective of curiosity as opposed to fear, or even passion. This may sound dramatic but I really think this book is life changing. I love that my friend Becca re-reads it every January; I have noticed that a lot of people on social media are doing it. If you are feeling in a rut, uninspired, a little bit stuck, not sure what you want to do next, OR you’re about to start a new project, read this book!!!! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat
This may seem like a more random addition in the midst of all of these self-improvement/creative books but! I always resolve to cook more (and I do, I’ve really improved! This book is so good as it really teaches you the fundamentals of cooking (and how salt, fat, acid, and heat) play together as you cook. Nosrat breaks it down so simply: master those four fundamentals and everything you cook will be delicious! Truly just such a helpful book. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
The Third Door, by Alex Banayan
I was so taken with this one that I couldn’t put it down and wound up reading it in just a few days. It’s so many things. First, it’s a coming of age story, and an interesting one at that. The author was 19 when he started writing the book: the night before finals, he hacked The Price is Right, won, and used the money to fund his dream! So that in itself was pretty fascinating. He made it his mission to interview the world’s most successful people and learn from them. In doing this, he noticed a theme that he referred to as “The Third Door.”
The idea is that life and business are like a nightclub. Some people wait in line all night and will never get in. Others (billionaires, mostly) walk right in, no questions asked. But what about the rest of us? For those who aren’t patient enough to wait all night but don’t come from a privileged background there is a third door. To enter via the third door you must be scrappy and creative and figure out your own way in! Throughout the book he talks to some of the most inspiring people – truly! He talks to everyone from Bill Gates to Lady Gaga. It’s equal parts great storytelling and inspirational business book. I loved the plot (his friendship with Elliott Bisnow, founder of Summit, was wonderful). And I found myself laughing, crying, and also taking notes. I cannot recommend it enough! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.