Some say the printed book is making a comeback. Whether or not that’s true, it’s certain that the act of reading hasn’t gone the way of the typewriter. It’s been documented that reading fiction can make you a better person, and the readers among us know that all genres can leave a lasting imprint.
These days, there’s always more reading material than time, even as we have new ways to consume our content. Here our staff recommends a few good reads and best books, (some recent, some rediscovered) that resonate with us. Happy reading!
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
For years, readers wrote into the “Dear Sugar” advice column on TheRumpus.net without knowing that Cheryl Strayed was writing them back from the other side. But it didn’t really matter. Though the byline was anonymous, the advice was anything but. With each letter, Strayed dug deep into her own tumultuous experiences, and ‘Sugar’ became renowned for staking out a corner of radical empathy on the Internet.
Outside of “Dear Sugar,” Strayed’s most well-known work is Wild, a memoir about trekking solo up the Pacific Crest Trail. Though Wild saw success when it was adapted for film, I think Tiny Beautiful Things, a compilation of the best “Dear Sugar” columns, highlights Strayed’s most powerful work. Her raw empathy and relentlessly surprising honesty will make you look at your own life—and relationships—with a full-heartedness you may not have known you had. (@oliviakingsley)
My Beloved World by Sonya Sotomayor
Sonya Sotomayor's accomplishments and candor make this work more than a personal memoir. For me, My Beloved World was an inspirational business book because Sotomayor is so honest about her professional journey. I responded to her stoicism: “The challenges I have faced—among them material poverty, chronic illness, and being raised by a single mother—are not uncommon, but neither have they kept me from uncommon achievements.” I admired her self-knowledge: “I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with." I respected her for showing that many of her steps to success were supported by her friends and mentors. It was Sonya's high school classmate, who'd graduated a year earlier, who urged her to apply to Princeton. (He had to explain to her what Ivy League meant.)
My Beloved World reads like it was written by a friend, the kind who’s always telling you that you’re strong, you're capable, and you should go for it.
Sonya Sotomayor has accomplished more than I ever will. She’s overcome obstacles I never faced. But My Beloved World reads like it was written by a friend, the kind who’s always telling you that you’re strong, you're capable, and you should go for it. (@LeslieO)
Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave by Adam Alter
Drunk Tank Pink is an informative and entertaining read that will make you rethink your assumptions about how we form and make decisions, how we feel and behave, and how we treat and are treated by other people.
Adam Alter, NYU professor and social psychologist, reveals how we are unconsciously influenced by factors such as weather, colors, cultural biases, and even our own names. For example, you’re more likely to feel moved to empathy by the devastation caused by a hurricane—and act on that feeling by donating money to the relief effort—if the name of the hurricane begins with the letter of your own first name. Or, if one of your employees has a long, difficult-to-pronounce name, your challenge pronouncing it (and your cultural biases) may have a negative effect on their career.
You’ll also discover how environment affects how we feel. The color pink diffuses aggression, and blue-green light helps you recover from jet lag. The book is a compendium of insights, both thought-provoking and useful. Reading it has helped me become more mindful of what I'm thinking and feeling and how I act. (@antondeyoung)
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
From the author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More of Technology and Less of Each Other, comes a heady, well-researched exploration into how technology affects our interpersonal relationships. Turkle states up front that she’s not anti-technology. Instead, she brings to light the value of conversation, a dying art. While much may come across as common sense, we easily take for granted the omnipresence of our devices and the level of interruption—and disconnectedness, ironically—that we allow ourselves. The first fifty pages of Reclaiming Conversation alone are packed with stunning stats and revelations.
Not knowing what I’m going to say, or what my companion might say next, is less an awkward situation to avoid and more an invitation to spontaneity and magic.
Turkle goes on to delve deeper into the role of solitude in our lives, and explains why it’s important to have certain types of conversations face-to-face—in the workplace, with our friends and families, and most especially with our children. The book has reminded me that great ideas arise through conversation, even as we verbally muddle our way through them. And it turns out that not knowing what I’m going to say, or what my companion might say next, is less an awkward situation to avoid and more an invitation to spontaneity and magic. (@elisesuz)
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Have you ever wanted to spring clean your entire life? Marie Kondo can make it happen. Tokyo-based tidying consultant, Marie Kondo is in high demand around the world. Her simple two-step tidying process has helped thousands of clients clear out the muck in their lives. She’s become a cult figure, a “tidying guru”, and game changer to those who have the money and access to hire her.
Thankfully for us, Kondo recently put her wisdom into a delightfully short book. Even if you consider yourself to be a tidy person, Kondo’s book is a rejuvenating read. Her premise is that all the things we surround ourselves with—especially in our homes—should “spark joy” in our souls. If it doesn’t, it’s weighing you down. It’s a simple approach and it works—even beyond material possessions. Kondo’s approach can help readers identify baggage in their personal and professional lives too. Whether someone is holding on to a gnarly old t-shirt or a negative relationship, Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up helps her readers ditch material and personal anchors to live a more joyful life. I hope it works for you in 2016. (@chelsealarsson)
Suzanne Barnecut is a content marketer for Zendesk and a frequent contributor to Relate. Fascinated by technology, but a diehard reader of paper-made books and sender of snail mail. Find her on Twitter: @elisesuz.