7 Books Worth Your Time for a Healthy, Happy, and Productive 2019

piles of books on table over blurred library background.

We’re two weeks into the new year… which means when it comes to resolutions, most people have hit the wall.

And that’s okay.

When we make New Year’s about a “clean slate,” our one chance to get things right, we’re going to lose. Of course we are.

But there’s tremendous opportunity in using this time of year — post-holidays, post-stress, post-busyness — to create new habits that will make this year better than the last.

So the good news is that even if your resolutions are history, the season isn’t. We’re only two weeks in!

In this spirit, I offer you the list of books I’m most excited about for their capacity to help all of us make change for the better.

Several of them I’ve read many times (often at New Year’s, in fact), a few I’ve read just once (that’s all that was needed), and a couple others that I’m reading now or have on my list for early this year.

I hope they help you make the most of this wonderful season.

41m7L8FrIzL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_1. Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

Maybe the best book for reading at the start of a new year, ever. I’ve read it four or five times, and I know NMA Radio co-host Doug is a big fan, too.

Turning Pro is about growing up. Showing up. And forever giving up the excuses and rationalizations that keep you an amateur (both professionally and otherwise).

It’s written for writers and artists, but the advice is applicable to just about everyone, in whatever area of life you’re playing too small.

2. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

A few weeks ago, I listened to David Goggins on the Rich Roll Podcast.

I knew he was a ultrarunner, an ultra-distance cyclist, and a triathlete. And I knew he was an ex-Navy SEAL, one of those military dudes you just don’t want to mess with.

Usually, I don’t really relate to people like this; it’s just too big a leap. Robotic discipline and run-through-walls determination? Cool, but not really me.

But when you learn about where Goggins comes from and how he grew up, you realize he wasn’t born superhuman. He decided to be this way, and he still decides to choose discomfort and growth over what’s easy — every single day, starting at a ridiculously dark and cold hour.

I haven’t read Can’t Hurt Me, his self-published memoir, yet. I’m still riding the motivation-high of the new year and feeling plenty inspired.

But the second that starts to dip — and I know that at some point, it will — this will be my motivation to get back in the game.

41nAX7WbShL._SY346_3. The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle

One of the most inspiring lessons I’ve ever learned is that talent isn’t an accident.

That most people who are truly great in their fields are that way not because they were born with it, but because they worked hard.

The so-called 10,000 Hour Rule was eye-opening for me. Our culture wants to be believe that the outstanding performers we admire were born with the gift — because that lets us off the hook: We weren’t born with anything special, so it’s not our fault.

But when you come to believe that with hard work and lots of it — real, deliberate practice, for thousands of hours — mastery of anything is possible, suddenly you have a lot of choices. (This is especially exciting for kids, who have more time with which to accumulate those thousands of hours.)

Daniel Coyle wrote a long book, called the Talent Code, about this idea, where he shared the best practices he learned by studying talent hotbeds around the world. The Little Book of Talent is a distillation of that advice into 52 short directives — things like “shrink the practice space” and “buy a notebook” — to help you engineer your (or your kids’) practice routines for success.

613D-sCSsoL._SY346_4. The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

I’ve been frustrated with journaling for a long time. I’d love to make it work — to have a record of my successes, failures, and lessons learned, plus whatever benefits come from the journaling process itself — but just haven’t been able to make the habit last.

I go through spurts where I do it every day, and then I stop for months (or years). I’ve tried it in different formats, handwritten and typed, notebook, computer, cloud, with no way to pull it all together. It’s a mess.

Worse, I keep notebooks of to-do lists and day-to-day notes, but I have no process for revisiting them. Sure, I might write down a great insight or quote, but I’ll likely never see it again without any system for making sure I do.

Well, the Bullet Journal promises to be that system, and hundreds of thousands of happy Bullet-journalers give me reason to believe that promise.

Charmingly, it’s all done in a blank, pen-and-paper notebook. You can now buy “official” Bullet Journals, but I find that idea much less appealing than the DIY version.

You actually don’t need to buy The Bullet Journal Method to learn the system; it’s all laid out for free on the author’s website. But the book provides additional context around things like goals and intentionality, and the idea that at its best, Bullet Journaling is an exercise in mindfulness.

5. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Yes, this is kind of old. I read it back in 2015, and I felt like I was late to party then.

So why include it? Because it freaking works.

I read a whole lot of books about how to make things better, and for me, none has ever delivered on its promise the way this one has.

Since my epic tidying marathon this book inspired three years ago, I’ve never gone back to my old ways. It’s life-changing, for real.

Now’s the perfect time. Ditch the clutter and make room for what matters in your life.

51xCkzASckL._SY346_6. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Maybe my mantra should be, “I haven’t read the book, but I have heard the author on the Rich Roll podcast!”

Because that’s the deal with this one, like it was with #2 above.

I talk a lot about the “small steps” approach, and also the opposite (but not entirely incompatible) idea of “massive action.” But there’s so much more to the science of changing habits, a lot of which has to do with engineering your environment for success.

I went into this interview assuming I knew most of what there is to know about practical habit change advice, but as I listened, blogger and author James Clear gave so many “ah-ha” tips that I had to add his book to my list of must-reads this year.

If you think your whole habit-change operating system could use a software upgrade, then this is the book to read.

7. Deep Meditation by Yogani

I’m slightly ashamed to admit that, despite investing quite a bit of money and time in meditation courses and apps, I’ve never made meditation into a lasting habit.

Interestingly, though, none of the fancy courses I’ve bought or attended have provided more insight than Deep Meditation, a short little volume you can buy for $4.61. It shines light on a lot of the dark corners of meditation, and provides a simple, practical prescription for creating a daily practice.

I’m not sure 2019 will be the year I make meditation last — that might never happen. But when I’m ready to try again, this is the approach I’ll go back to.

61-OwbMZwmL._SX404_BO1,204,203,200_8. The No Meat Athlete Cookbook by Matt Frazier and Stepfanie Romine (Just $3.99 today!)

Okay, so I promised you seven books, but snuck in an eighth. And one that I co-authored, no less!

And there’s a good reason for that. The No Meat Athlete Cookbook was selected by Amazon as a Kindle Daily Deal, which means that today (and today, January 13th, only), you can pick up the digital version for just $3.99.

It’s discounted across all platforms today, so you can get it at that price regardless of how you e-read.

This book is our most successful to date, with over 50,000 copies sold and lots of accolades in mainstream press. If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, the start of the new year is as good as time as any.

One final time, happy new year. Remember, it’s not about the day, but about the season, so make something happen while 2019 is still in front of you.




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  1. sally ann bentham says:

    Brill List ! thanks

    I have your book – ordering the cookbook – at 56 and beginning running last year I find it hard ive lost weight and now my muscles and skin actually look older? I realise I need to do some weight training, any other ideas for meat free eating would be great;

  2. All male authors except when it comes to tidying your home. Hmm. This is a sad list and another example of why I stopped listening to your podcast.

  3. Allison Wall says:

    Hi Matt, You are my favorite blogger!! Thanks for the recommendations and providing me with a smile this morning. I too love books, but have the same motto about “i heard it on a podcast”. I am now inspired.

  4. Brant Brunner says:

    Love this list. Habits are my new recurring theme and your recommendation just solidified it.
    Rich Roll podcast seems great. Thanks for the tip!

    Love Complement as well.

    Keep up the good work!

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