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A publication from Medium on personal development.


In Forge. More on Medium.

📖 Today’s tip: Curl up with a good novel.

Good things happen in your brain when you read. “Many of us turn to self-help books for personal development and for good reason,” Ashley Abramson writes on Forge, “but if you want to actually practice becoming a better human, the immersive emotional roller coaster of a novel can be just as effective.” Reading fiction gives your brain the kind of workout it needs to stay healthy: Research has shown reading can make you more emotionally intelligent and empathetic, and can shape the way you perceive and engage with reality. …

Fiction can pick up where self-help books fall short

Photo: cottonbro/Pexels

The summer of 2016, my husband recommended I read a novel called The Brothers K. I’m no stranger to getting lost in a good story — as a kid, I spent long summer days reading Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, and a decade later, I graduated with a degree in English. But in that season of my life, pregnant with my second son and wrestling with anxiety, I wasn’t particularly interested in fiction. Growing felt a lot more important than escaping.

Still, thanks to my husband’s persistent encouragement, I picked up the tattered novel. And, to my surprise, I didn’t…

📚 Today’s tip: A history book can help you see things a little differently.

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to become an informed citizen isn’t to watch the news or constantly check Twitter. Instead, as Ryan Holiday writes, you can gain an incredible amount of perspective by reading history books. In his annual list of recommendations, Holiday praises titles such as How to Be a Leader by Plutarch, A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy, and Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Reading is the way to gain easily what others have gained by difficult experience,”…

📚 Today’s tip: Share reading recommendations with a friend.

A good book can be the greatest comfort, as Saul Austerlitz writes on Medium. Throughout the pandemic, Austerlitz found that he wanted “stories to take me away, to transport me somewhere else.” When he found himself hitting yet another pandemic wall recently, he decided send some of his most beloved books to friends: “Books had saved my life more times than I could count, and I hoped some of their power might rub off on those I loved.”

Recommend — or go ahead and send — some of your favorite books…

A list for anyone struggling to see beyond this pandemic moment

Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

Over the past year, we’ve all been tested. Many of us have failed.

The pandemic made some of us callous. It infected others with conspiracy theories. Too many of us gave into apathy and chaos, losing all sense of structure (and spending who knows how many hours watching Netflix). Now, with the pandemic in the home stretch, but still with us, we have to get serious. We have to get serious about the tried and tested way to wisdom: reading.

Books are an investment in yourself — one that can come in many forms: novels, nonfiction, how-to, poetry, classics, biographies…

📚 Today’s tip: Start a themed communal reading list.

Black History Month is a great time to celebrate Black writers. (Of course, every month is actually a great time to celebrate Black writers.) And as Alexandra Samuel noted in her sprawling guide to Google Drive, a Google doc is a handy place to crowdsource and compile resources, including reading recommendations. Create your own doc and send it around to your network, inviting people to share their favorite books and articles by Black authors. You can even start a mini book club in the comments.

🔊 More from Forge on lifting…

Ryan Holiday’s recommendations for a better understanding of the year ahead

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

I will say this about 2020: It provided plenty of inspiration to read more. Every month, it seemed, there was a new or deepening crisis in a subject that became vital to learn more about: leadership, pandemics, civil rights, elections. It was one of those years that sent you to, well, I would say “the bookstore,” but you know.

Actually doing the reading, of course, was a different story. I read a lot in 2020. But I know a lot of people who couldn’t, who found their focus too shot and their mental energy too drained to actually make it…

A man camping and reading.
A man camping and reading.
Photo: Patiwat Sariya/EyeEm/Getty Images

If sobriety is something you’re interested in exploring as you head into the new year (and, maybe more importantly, out of the old one), Nina Renata Aron’s list of books, podcasts, TV episodes, and more will equip you with a lot of motivation. Not motivation to quit, necessarily, but motivation to stay interested in quitting.

Because this collection is shame-free.

As Aron writes: “Decoupling the concept of sobriety from the still-stigmatized disease of alcoholism has granted people greater freedom to experiment with self-restraint without feeling a sense of shame or failure if they do decide to do that tequila shot…

What to read when you can’t seem to quiet your mind

A woman curled up on a blue sofa in her creative home reading a book with her small dog in her lap.
A woman curled up on a blue sofa in her creative home reading a book with her small dog in her lap.
Photo: Stephen Zeigler/Getty Images

It was only recently that I realized overthinking might be holding me back. For most of my life, I believed it was okay to be consumed by indecision and worry. Scientific research hasn’t shed light on where exactly that maniacal inner voice comes from, but philosophers and thinkers have been writing about it for centuries. And they’re very helpful—after reading a lot about the subject, I’m more in control of my thoughts than ever.

The following three books are my all-time favorites.

‘A Manual for Living’ by Epictetus

I often write about how Stoicism has helped me find tranquility in life. This classic text by Epictetus…

A conversation with bestselling author Seth Godin on his new book ‘The Practice: Shipping Creative Work’

Seth Godin. Photo: Darius Bashar and Archangel

Seth Godin’s new book, The Practice, is all about the creative alchemy that translates an idea into work that matters. First and foremost in that process, Godin argues, is making an assertion. Forge spoke with the bestselling author and Medium blogger about how to make your assertions count.

Forge: You write that “assertions are the foundation of the design and creation process.” Can you start by explaining how you define assertions?

Seth Godin: An assertion is a test. It’s not a hustle. The internet has unleashed this era of hustle. I don’t approve of hustle. I think it’s a trap…


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