1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The subtitle on the book cover reads: “A Fable about Following Your Dreams,” which, having read this book twice in the past 11 years and been emotionally transformed and spiritually revitalized both times, this subtitle does not do Coelho’s book justice. More than an Aesop tale, this fable is not kid’s stuff, it’s grown folk reading that will take you on a journey with Santiago, the shepherd, as he searches for his treasure. We can relate to his journey because, as adults, we are constantly on this journey trying to realize our passions and find success and love. More than a fictional tale about following our dreams though, and without giving anything away, The Alchemist is really about the paths, friends and risks we choose to take to discover our “personal legend.” And when you get to the end of the book and realize that discovering the treasure is not even the dream fulfilled, but it’s about something else so much more profound, you too will be totally transformed.
2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
I love this book because more than anything else it is a guide that reveals all these simple joys that already exists in our lives for the taking. Gretchen makes happiness easily attainable by breaking each chapter down into monthly goals like “Boost Energy” for January, “Make Time For Friends” for June, and “Pursue A Passion” for September. The Happiness Project deals with the things that indirectly or subconsciously drain us of joy like clutter, nagging, forgetfulness and poor eating habits and gives us simples tips to eliminate these things from both our physical and mental lives. The subject matter makes this a great self-help book for any time of the year, but the monthly guide makes this joint ideal for reading at the top of the year.
3. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
I think I read bits and pieces of this book all through the year every year. Introduced to me by my life counselor eight years ago, it’s become my bible for living right and thinking positively. The four agreements are: 1.) Be Impeccable With Your Word, 2.) Don’t Take Anything Personally (my favorite!), 3.) Don’t Make Assumptions, and 4.) Always Do Your Best. Even if you have read this book before I suggest jump-starting your new year with a re-read cuz you know how we do… we forget and start taking every little criticism personally and assuming that he should’ve known this and she should’ve done that. Not even two weeks into 2013 and I’ve already had a debate with a friend that ended in an angry blaze of regret because we both took everything personally. If only I had read, “What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering,” I would’ve saved myself from a whole hour that I’ll never get back of needless bickering, shouting and frustration. It’s definitely high time that I re-read the book known as the “Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.”
4. Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd
More than a simple autobiography, Wrapped In Rainbows is an intimate look at the adventure that was Zora Neale Hurston’s life. Valerie’s skill is making you feel like you know Zora—we are inspired by her travels, impressed by her ambition and wit, and delighted by her humor. Zora refused to accept “no” for an answer. In starting a new year, the time I feel we want and believe in the power of YES more than ever, Wrapped In Rainbows is essential reading. Before Nina and long before Oprah and Toni, Zora was out there inspiring, styling and communing with the folk through the written word. She loved hard, took her craft seriously and was genuinely concerned with the exquisite possession of beauty rooted in individuality and Black culture. Django is fictional, so if you want a story about a real hero, then read this book about someone who’s thirst for life unchained so many more Black folk than Jamie Foxx could ever do in 165 minutes.
5. It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig
Like pretty much everyone else, I am probably more concerned in January than ever about getting in shape, diet and exercise. Not really one for dieting at all, I’m the kind of person who needs to develop and maintain simple, yet really good habits. I’m only about a quarter through “It Starts With Food” and it’s by far one of the best books I’ve ever read about food, nutrition and creating healthier, smarter eating habits. Dallas and Melissa, fantastic bloggers, get beyond my molten chocolate cake-loving sensibilities because they understand how unnecessary, frightening and even alienating terms like veganism and Paleo can be. They understand how people can get more into fads than they do about understanding the science of food. Check it, their chapter on dairy is a frigging Ivy League education in the consumption of calcium. Did you know that, “kale is a more bio-available source of calcium than milk.” Yeah I love kale, but I didn’t know that either, which serves me well since I drink almond milk and have been crazy pondering a senior life of brittle bones. This book is an easy read, but the information, especially about how food can heal and improve one’s psychology, is dynamic. If you are going to resolve to be more adventurous, more patient, and more punctual that’s great, but if you are eating things that are toxic, fattening and hold no nutritional value, really all of those goals mean nothing. Because when it comes to life and living anew, it starts with food and what we choose to put inside our bodies.