15 books for new routines and fresh starts.

15 books for new routines and fresh starts.

Whether or not you’re a student, or the parent of one, September is a time for new routines and fresh starts. (I love that some people even call it “the new January.”

These books are fun, (mostly) short, and packed with the practical tips and motivation you need to get your life in order for fall.

What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Author:
In this short, practical guide, Vanderkam examines how and why successful individuals depend on their morning routine, and how you can do the same. She profiles a wide variety of individuals, who do all kinds of things with their early hours: exercise, spiritual practices, family time, creative work. The common thread: they’re all intentional about using their mornings well, which is crucial to success. Download the $3 book, read it in an hour, and don't skip the time diary exercise. It will change your mornings—and your life. More info →
Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Author:
A favorite that I wrote about here. Twenty-plus luminaries from a host of people who work in creative professions—Gretchen Rubin, Steven Pressfield, Teresa Amabile, Seth Godin—weigh in on the importance of their personal habits for email, solitude, social media, multitasking, and more. More info →
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

Author:
The concept couldn't be simpler: Currey lays out the daily routines of 237 writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, poets, philosophers, sculptors, filmmakers, and scientists.Read it straight through, or pursue each artist's daily rhythms at leisure. Take inspiration where you find it, and return to its pages again and again when you're feeling stalled or stymied in your work.I found this book depressing (so much drunkenness and drug addiction) and enormously reassuring, because for every artist who works in bitter isolation, there's an one who does his best work after he drops the kids off for school in the family minivan. (I'm looking at you, Charles Schultz.) More info →
Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized

Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized

Author:
Pinsky, a professional organizer by trade, was accustomed to storing her clients' things out of sight in handsome cabinets and pretty baskets. Then she had a child with ADHD, and her typical approach just didn't work. After years of trial and error, she discovered what did work for her highly distractable and easily overwhelmed child. In Pinsky's world, simple is more important than pretty, practical is more important than aspirational, and clutter is the devil.I don't have ADHD, but I'm helpless if I can't see the things I'm working on and using, which makes me a perfect candidate for Pinsky's no-nonsense, streamlined approach. This book is a lifesaver for the organizationally-impaired, regardless of whatever label may or may not apply. More info →
That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life

That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life

Author:
Ignore the misleading subtitle: this book isn't just for boys (or kids, for that matter). The author is an educational consultant who works with bright, talented kids who bomb in school because they just can't get it together: her lightbulb moment came when she realized "chronic disorganization" was the biggest culprit in her students' underperformance. Homayaoun outlines the common sources of struggle, her plan for building incremental habits, and a quick guide to troubleshooting, so her students can devote less time to keeping their stuff together and more time to the things they really love. More info →
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Author:
Tharp's life revolves around an arsenal of routines because, as she says, "a dancer's life is all about repetition." This conversational book is all about setting the bones—the day-to-day structure—of a creative life. (I only just found out she wrote a follow-up: The Collaborative Habit is on my to-read stack right now.) More info →
The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

Author:
A decorating book that's much more than a decorating book. Myquillyn Smith walks the reader through all fourteen (!!!) homes she's lived in as an adult, explaining how she learned to create a beautiful home despite the many limitations. Her mantra is "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful," and she'll fill you with confidence that you, too can create a beautiful, welcoming home that also feels lived-in and loved-on, despite your own lovely limitations. Practical and inspiring. More info →
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Author:
Kondo is a Japanese personal tidying expert (she doesn’t like to call herself an “organizer”). She originally wrote her decluttering manifesto to help the Japanese clients languishing on her waiting list. The publishers weren't sure if the book would translate across cultures, but it's become a global publishing phenomenon. Not all translations are good translations, but this one has been praised for preserving the quirkiness of her voice. I love this book (more thoughts on that here) More info →
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Author:
Rubin’s much anticipated follow-up to her happiness books is all about habits: how we make them, why we break them, and how we can improve them. Rubin writes as a friendly expert: the chatty writing, illuminating insights, and story-driven narrative make this guidebook anything but dry and boring. Packed with relatable tales from Rubin’s life, which are easy to apply to your own. I find myself thinking about this book—and the insights I gained from it—on a regular basis. More info →
Reclaiming Conversation

Reclaiming Conversation

Author:
This is Turkle's wake-up call to our modern era where we're over-connected to each other when apart but under-connected—thanks to our devices—when together. As a professor at MIT, Turkle collected reams of research on how our devices are serving us well, and how they're not. (The latter column is the fuller one.) Turkle is persistently optimistic about how we can control our technology, instead of the other way around. Resistance is not futile, but highly effective, and once we understand how our devices are really affecting us, we'll be empowered to change. More info →
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Author:
McKeown's point is that instead of trying to get more done, we need to focus on getting only the right things done. My favorite takeaway was the "monk mode" strategy McKeown relied on to write this book: he shut out the world from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every day to focus on his "essential" project for that season. More info →
Home Comforts

Home Comforts

Our culture values domesticity more today than it did when Home Comforts was first released twelve years ago, but Ms. Mendelson’s passion for housekeeping continues to inspire me, and I still regularly pull the book off the shelf when I’m not sure how best to tackle a household task. More info →
Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: a Room by Room Guide

Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: a Room by Room Guide

Author:
I’m not a home design junkie by any means, but I do love a good interior design book, especially the coffee-table sized ones packed with glossy pictures. Blair believes good design is about finding solutions for your home and your life—about making day-to-day duties more intentional, more stylish, and way easier. Her optimistic tone makes you really believe whatever your situation is, you can make it work.I know I’ve found a good design book when it inspires me to actually change things in my home—I don’t mean just that it inspires me to buy stuff, but that it empowers me to make positive changes, immediately, with what I already have. That was absolutely true with this book. I couldn’t wait to put it down and hang some pictures, move a bit of furniture, print some artwork, and go buy new dishtowels. More info →
Simplify

Simplify

Author:
I enjoyed this intro to the how and why of minimalism from the blogger behind Becoming Minimalist. Becker shows his reader how (and why) to get more out of life by focusing less on your stuff. This practical and easy-to-read guide inspires you to put the book down so you can take action immediately! More info →
The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time

If you change your sleeping habits—namely, by getting more of it—you can change your life. Inspired by her own fatigue crisis, Huffington aims to convince you why—and how—to revolutionize the way you view sleep. More info →

What books and resources do you rely on for fall and fresh starts? 

Books for New Beginnings

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15 comments

  1. Jill K says:

    This is a great list! I’ve had so many requests for volunteering, forms, and other to-dos come in over the past week. I feel like I should just lock myself in a room and read all of these.

  2. Thanks so much for recommending my before breakfast book! I really appreciate it. I’ll have to check out some of the others on this list that I haven’t read yet.
    I kind of enjoy thinking about the new routines that fall brings!

  3. Janis says:

    Great list!!! I already have two of these and have ordered another. With so many changes to my life in the past year it is hard to feel as though I have any control over anything in my life. I’m looking forward to reading the Greg McKeown book.

  4. Lauren says:

    I needed this right now so much!!!! Thank you for a great list, I’ve added a bunch to my goodreads, and I’ll be seeing what my library has, and maybe picking up a few on Amazon! I have ADD, and I’ve been getting really frustrated and out of my routines lately. Thanks!

  5. Lisa says:

    I just went back to work a few weeks ago after 5+ years at home, and I have way less time for blog reading than I used to, but I still read every MMD post. The book reviews and book lists are my favorite. Thanks!

  6. Jennifer Haddow says:

    Have you ever read any of the books by Elaine St James about simplifying your life? I discovered her several years ago and every time I read it I find a few suggestions that I end of implementing (at least for a while until my life gets complicated again LOL).

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t, but her name is really familiar. I think my mom might be a fan (unless you’ve told me about her before?) I think coming away from that kind of book with a few suggestions you actually implement is a great sign!

  7. Jordan says:

    I know I’m a little late to this conversation, but this is a great list! I read ‘Better Than Before’ about a year ago and it changed the way I think about habits and how valuable they can be if developed intentionally. ‘Essentialism’ was already on my to read list and now, thanks to this list, I have several more to add.

  8. Suze says:

    Just found this post, one I must have missed with my busy September! I really advocate having an organized space yet struggle with it in my office. I’ve read and implemented some of Kondo’s recommendations in other areas but somehow the office just doesn’t get done or gets partly done and then ends up in the same old cluttered state of disorder. I actually see three books here that got me excited to head off to the library: Simply, Essentialism and Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD. I don’t really think I’m ADHD anywhere but my office (I wonder if that is a thing). Thanks for all the suggestions Anne!

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