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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. …

A mental framework for making it through a difficult time

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I like “shopping” for books in my own home by walking over to my bookshelf and pretending I’m in a used bookstore where every book costs zero dollars. It helps that I have terrible book memory, which means that every book feels new to me. (“Which one was Moby Dick again? The whale or the guy?”)

The other night, I went shopping with a purpose: I was looking specifically for books about writing. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of “writing through” the time we’re in, and I’ve been writing a lot more. I grabbed Bird by…

A helpful way to cut down on the noise

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When President Biden took office earlier this year, many of us relished the end of four years… of compulsively refreshing our news apps. The headlines lost their lure, cable news saw a post-Trump ratings slump, and, even though Covid times continue, it felt like we got part of our brains back. But, in the past few weeks, that feeling has faded away for me.

I’ve begun stuffing my favorite reading app with long-form articles, yet I can’t get past the first paragraph of any of them. My inbox is drowning in newsletters that I usually rely on to streamline my…

📚 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

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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

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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…

✅ Today’s tip: Divide your reading into three categories: current events, historical context, and fun.

If the past year has sapped your ability to focus on more than a few sentences at a time — and no, doomscrolling doesn’t count — here’s a plan to be a better reader in 2021: Be more intentional about the purpose of each thing you read. We suggest sorting your reading material into things that help you stay informed, things that use the past to help you understand our current moment, and things that you simply enjoy spending time with.

📚 More from Forge…

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Let’s get this out of the way up top: When we say “reading,” we’re not talking about doomscrolling.

Yes, technically, your brain turns letters into meaning as you move your bleary-eyed way down your Twitter timeline. But there’s a difference between the act of reading and the activity of reading. For these purposes, we’re talking about reading as activity — that is, intentionally taking in information that enriches you in some way, that helps you learn or understand or add some joy to your life.

That might sound quaint. Totally fair. It’s something a lot of us have struggled with…

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…


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