Every new year arrives with its own set of expectations. This year, for instance, I decided that I would be kinder to my body, shop locally, and improve my French. Then the second week of January rolled around and I ate an entire pound cake for breakfast—oops (or houp-là as they say in France…I think). Yeah, resolutions are easier said than kept. Sometimes having a list of hopes and goals in front of me can feel rather daunting, and when I find myself in need of encouragement, I like to turn to other people for inspiration—namely, people in some of my favorite books who have mastered the art of starting over. Behold, my tried and true (and ever-expanding) list of books to read when you want some inspiration to hit refresh:
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
When I hear “new year,” I can’t help picturing Bridget Jones’s long list of resolutions for becoming a better person. This list consists of things such as “I will not smoke” and “I will not get upset over men” as well as goals to “be more assertive” and “improve career and find new job with potential.” What makes this book so fun is that it’s proof that, sometimes, if you want to begin again, you have to begin again and again and again until you get it right, which is comforting for those of us who are tempted to give up entirely after the first failed resolution (I suspect this is most of us!). In fact, Bridget only manages to keep ONE of her resolutions, but in the process, she changes her whole life for the better. This story is a classic, and there’s two sequels in case you just can’t get enough.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Speaking of classics, all of Jane Austen’s stories deal with shifting perspectives and new ideas, but Sense and Sensibility begins with the mother of all new starts: a death, the loss of money, and the move to a new house. In suddenly strange surroundings, the Dashwood sisters (Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret) must create a whole new life. Elinor is separated from Edward, Marianne gets tangled up with the questionable Willoughby, and their new life has the potential to spiral out of control. But the family comes together to help support each other and grow, and ultimately, in the end, they are wiser and more fulfilled.
Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Now, hopefully, 2015 will be a year of laughter and whimsy as seen through the lens of an awesome Instagram filter. But if the year does get off to a #sour start, Piper Kerman’s memoir is proof that you really can make the best of some not-so-great circumstances.You’re probably familiar with the Netflix hit (and, if not, familiarize yourself, stat!), but Orange originated with Kerman’s real story of her time in prison. It deals with the diversity and community she encounters, and it’s truly inspiring. She writes, “I was learning something every day, resolving some new subtlety or mystery through observation or instruction.” We don’t just get Piper’s experiences, but the experiences of the women around her, and it’s a reminder that no matter who we are or what’s happened to us, we all lead a life that is meaningful.
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
This book just came out, and I’m currently only halfway through—which is good, because the book is actually split into two separate stories. Depending on which edition you buy, you will read them in a different order. In my copy, the first story begins on New Year’s day shortly after George has lost her mother. Similar to Bridget Jones, George writes a list of things to do every day, starting with the first day of the first year without her mother, like doing a daily dance, just like her mother used to. Slowly, George takes small steps to move on from her grief by exploring the life her mom left behind. OK, it sounds pretty grim, I know, but I assure you this book is not depressing in the least. It’s freeing and unique and creates a little world in the confines of George’s mind. By the time you move on to the second half, George has grown, and you’ve grown with her.
Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up by Grace Helbig
If you’re in the market for some genuinely feel-good advice for becoming your new self, look no further than YouTube star Grace Helbig. In October, she released this fun guide for handling the snags and issues of every aspect of your life, from break-ups to hangovers. Of course, she does this with her typical humor and vim. The book dishes on how she went from making daily comedic videos for YouTube to hosting her own show on E! Plus, it’s filled with some hilarious anecdotes and advice (deodorant CAN function as perfume). Pick it up as a reference or read it cover-to-cover curled up in one sitting. Either way, thanks to Grace, you’ll tackle this new year with jokes, laughter, and a small side portion of embarrassment.