Books to Read to Start 2021 Off Right


I have no idea what 2021 will bring. 

Usually I spend a lot of time at the end of a year reflecting, goal setting, and making intentions for what’s next. To be honest, I just can’t do that this year. 2020 smacked me in the face so hard that I am still recovering. There is so much I don’t know that I cannot wrap my mind around how to plan or prepare for 2021. I sure hope my kids will be back to in-person learning. I’d like to hug people. I want to see my friends. I don’t want to freak out every time I am within six feet of a human that doesn’t live with me. But, the truth is, my expectations are low. They have to be. I never in my wildest dreams imagined 2020 would turn out the way it did, so I won’t even pretend like I know what may come in 2021. 

What I can do at the start of this new year is to get myself taken care of. There is so much I cannot control right now. I can control myself: my mind, my attitude, my outlook. I gathered a list of some amazing books that will certainly help you start the new year and prepare you for whatever might come your way. Here is what to read to start 2021 off right:   

To Take Care Your Feelings:

Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN by Dr. Tara Brach

This book came to my life at just the right moment. I was overworked, overtired, overwhelmed, and completely overly critical of myself. I was feeling like I needed to handle everything and I was failing miserably at it. My adult tantrums were epic and frequent. I was impatient and irritable, angry even. Feeling like that is when self-care and self-compassion are so important, but I was giving myself none of it. I was cutting myself no slack.  

Radical Compassion is by Dr. Tara Brach, an internationally known teacher of mindfulness and spiritual healing. She outlines a key tool, RAIN, which is a step-by-step easy meditation. Each part of RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture) is detailed with both practical applications and narrative stories. I am by no means someone who meditates, but this quick check-in to my emotions, sitting with my feelings, examining why they are present, and then helping myself deescalate and feel better has been incredibly helpful for the stressful moments in our current world. This book has seriously helped me; it gave me tools for compassion when I needed it most. Radical Compassion has re-taught me to be kind and give grace to myself. I deserve that. So do you. This is a must read book for the new year!  

To Take Care of Your Priorities:

The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi

There is nothing like starting a new year off with your priorities in order. It sure is difficult, though, when it feels like everything is a priority. When you’re trying to do it all and do it all well, it’s inevitable that something will crumble. It may be a relationship, a project, the upkeep of your house, or your general disposition. None of us can do everything excellently, but so many of us chase after that unattainable goal anyway. Not this year, 2021! Reading The Lazy Genius Way in 2021 is going to help examine what’s most important.  

In her book, Kendra challenges us to “embrace what matters, ditch what doesn’t, and get stuff done.” Reading those words on the cover sold me immediately. She writes about the importance of finding your own way not the way you think you should be. In The Lazy Genius Way, Kendra gives examples of how to be a genius about things you care most about and be lazy about everything else. For example, she suggests you decide things once. If Mondays feel overwhelming because there are always transitions and to-do lists, make a Monday uniform so you don’t have to decide what to wear. It’s one less thing to think about. This is what being lazy means to her—take it away from your thoughts so your brain has more room to create, play, and be present. I will be wearing stripes and denim from now on and I feel free!  

To Take Care of Your Home: 

The Cozy Minimalist by Myquillyn Smith

Throughout this pandemic, we have all likely spent more time in our homes than we ever have. My family of four sons, husband, and I have been at our home all day, every day since March. While this has presented challenges as well as gifts, it has also put a giant microscope on our home and how we use it. With more people and more noise around, my house felt cluttered and parts of it misused. It was driving me crazy! 

Enter The Cozy Minimalist to save the day. Myquillyn gives incredible advice to help you decorate your home. A home should feel welcoming and safe; a place you want to cozy up to and snuggle in. It should also be functional, useful, and showcase your most favorite and meaningful things. She adapts the philosophy of minimalism that it’s not necessarily just about having less, but it’s about letting the items that matter most shine without getting lost in other clutter that isn’t important to you. We have “quieted,” reconfigured, and changed up a couple rooms in our house using her extremely practical advice and I can tell you, it’s made a world of difference. Make your home a place you love to be in! This is a perfect book for the new year!  

To Take Care of Your Children and Relationships:

The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

If you’re like me, the relationships with those in your immediate family may have been challenging during this last year. It has been so hard to balance this pandemic, school for your children, work, and the world that feels as though it’s changing daily. I have been more impatient with my children, and the line between mom and teacher has been so blurry it’s barely noticeable anymore. My kids need a better version of me next year—they deserve it. My husband needs a better version of me—he also deserves it.

One of the books I’m going reread in 2021 is The Whole Brain Child. This book is sensational. It gets into how the brain works and develops and then explains it in terms anyone can understand. In addition, the book gives practical examples of how to help your children through different stages of brain development and how to deescalate tantrums and moments where big feelings are present. You might wonder why I said this book was great at taking care of your children and your relationships. I’ve used some of the strategies and verbiage in conversations with adults many times. Understanding how the brain works doesn’t just help you understand and support your children, but all humans you interact with. The best part of the book? A two-page “refrigerator sheet” that condenses everything down so you can refer to information and strategies often!   

To Take Care of Your Heart:

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate 

All the other books I mentioned in this post are informational, non-fiction reads. They have practical strategies, advice, step-by-step instructions. Incredible amounts of amazing information. Wishtree is different. Wishtree is for your heart, your soul. This life-changing book is a young adult fictional novel written by Katherine Applegate. You may know Ms. Applegate from The One and Only Ivan (which, sidebar, go read that immediately as well). Everything she writes is gold in my book. 

Wishtree is about a very old, wonderfully wise tree. The tree is a part of a special neighborhood with special characters and stories. Every year in May, much of the town comes to this tree to write and hang their deepest wishes. This tree is possibly nearing the end of its life and is reflecting back on everything it has seen and heard from people and animals over the years. Every single chapter is full of universal truths, one-liners, and quotes you will want to steal and write in a notebook or make large to hang in your house. One of my favorite quotes from Wishtree is: “Making others feel safe is a fine way to spend your days.” You will laugh, cry, and deeply think about what matters most in the world. Starting a new year is a great time to begin with an open heart. 

My wish is that these selections bring you pause, joy, healing, and hope going into 2021. Since we do not know what is next, this year deserves us putting forth as much love and kindness in the world as we can. That starts with us taking care of ourselves, our people, our spaces, and our hearts. Enjoy these reads. Here’s to starting 2021 off right!  

Check out some other awesome book lists from Lansing Mom!

Books to Read With Your Kids to Celebrate LGBTQIA 
Ten Books to Talk to Your Kids and Teens About Race
Ten Diverse Picture Books you Need


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