January is the month of resolutions, though we tend, as a culture, to focus more on the physical than the psychological. In 2018 more than ever, it’s important to remember that mental health, mindfulness, and intention should be tended to just as much as your winter skin, or your beach body. And we’re lucky to have a wealth of new books to help focus the mind and bring some peace, clarity, and wisdom to our daily routines. Some of these works involve improving your material world through organization, or through lessening your dependence on it; some of them are more challenging, offering advice on confronting some of the toughest parts of our lives, like grief and injustice. All are intended to inspire change for the better, which is what a New Year is all about, right?
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson
Magnusson’s book is inspired by the latest Scandinavian lifestyle trend: d?st?dning, which is a decluttering or cleaning process that should be undertaken before others have to do it for us (that’s where the “death” part comes in). Not only does she give advice for what to keep and what to give or throw away, and how, the author also does her own death cleaning, with humor and empathy.
A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto
In this Japanese bestseller, Matsumoto describes everyday cleaning methods used in tidying Buddhist temples, and how these principles connect with Zen Buddhist philosophies of freedom from worldly desires.
Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death, and Surviving by Julia Samuel
Samuel’s book—a runaway bestseller in the U.K.— focuses on case histories from survivors of intense grief, and functions as something of a handbook for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. The author (a friend of Princess Diana and godmother to Prince George) is a grief psychotherapist, bringing 25 years of experience to bear on an honest, practical, as well as emotional guide to working through the processing of mourning.
The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders
Caitlin Flanders spent a year trying to buy only toiletries, groceries, and gas for her car, and ended up discovering how much she had been leaning on things like food, alcohol, and clothes for comfort. The result is a fascinating look into a living experiment that we can all learn from, in which “more stuff” is not the solution.
DIY Rules for a WTF World: How to Speak Up, Get Creative, and Change the World by Krista Suh
From the creator of the Pussyhat Project, tools, tips, and anecdotes (and, of course, knitting patterns) to help inspire creativity and, most importantly, action. Suh describes how she learned to live courageously and spread a message of empowerment leading up to the Women’s March of January 2017.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Oluo’s book is a unique attempt to bridge the gap between Americans who talk and think regularly about race in America, and those who don’t—most typically, white people. While impassioned and unflinching, this writer offers a straightforward treatise on how to dismantle racism in the United States by first understanding how it works.
All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World—Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom edited by Deborah Santana
An anthology of essays by women of color documenting their vast experiences around the world inside different economic, social, and geopolitical systems, including a piece written by the actress America Ferrera. (The book was also produced entirely by women of color, from writing and editing to design and promotion.)