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Better Living Through Books

Don’t Give Up!

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Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

Don’t look now, but we’re almost finished with the first month of 2024. If it feels like time is already getting away from you, here’s a reframe: you still have more than 90% of this year left to work toward your goals. Today, we’re looking at books that will help you build your personal finances, have better relationships, and level up at work.

Welcome to all of the new readers joining us for the first time this week. Catch up with the first installment of this series, which covered other common resolutions, and see my recent piece for

The Deep Dive about self-help books that actually helped me.

Money, Money, Money

Let’s start with a little philosophy. In Your Money or Your Life, Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez offer a nine-step program to help you change how you think about money and what you do with it. They recognize that finances are a loaded topic for many of us, so their framing presents money as just one of the tools we can use to align our habits with our personal values and long-term goals. If your relationship to money feels squicky, avoidant, or in conflict with the way you really want to live, this is an excellent starting point.

From there, go to Die With Zero by Bill Perkins.

You can spend decades ticking boxes and shoveling money away for someday-in-the-future, or you can, you know, enjoy your life right now with the resources you have. A helpful corrective to the tendency Perkins calls “over-saving and under-living,” this book provides tips for investing responsibly in experiences and personal interests at every stage of life. Essential reading for financially anxious millennials who graduated into a recession and anyone who feels like spending money on ~fun~ today means sacrificing financial security tomorrow.

For a nitty-gritty how-to, look no further than The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Van Hage, who founded a popular website with the same title. Go deeper with Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Richdon’t let the title turn you off, his advice on managing debt and savings is solid—and Burton G. Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street for an intro to investing.


Being a person is hard, and navigating relationships with other people is hard. Put down that copy of The 5 Love Languages and pick up data-backed advice. Doctors John and Julie Gottman are psychologists who have spent their careers researching the factors that make and break relationships.

The Relationship Cure is the book that introduced the now-well-known concept of “bids for connection,” and it applies to just about every kind of relationship—marriage, family, friendships, etc. Much of the Gottmans’ work since then has focused specifically on marriage but can be adapted for general use in romantic relationships whether you’ve put a ring on it or not, and some, like Fight Right, about how to have more effective disagreements, is useful in a multitude of contexts.

If friendships are a focus for you this year, I’m sorry to say there aren’t nearly enough great books about this incredibly important type of relationship. But there are a few! In Big Friendship, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (hosts of the once-beloved podcast Call Your Girlfriend) share the story of how they became and stayed besties through years of major life changes, working as business partners, and yes, even going to therapy together. This is less a how-to than a “here’s how we did it,” but you’ll find plenty to be inspired by.

I’d be remiss not to mention You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy since never a week goes by that I don’t think about techniques I picked up for asking better questions and listening more effectively. Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering is a must for anyone who plans get-togethers, from the most casual hangout to the fanciest gala and everything in between. You and everyone you invite will walk away feeling more deeply connected thanks to her intentional, insightful tips.

Level Up at Work

This can mean so many things!

Looking to change careers or find something that makes you happier? For my money, Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You is pure gold. Newport exposes “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” for the lie that it is and encourages readers instead to focus on developing meaningful skills. He draws on evidence that getting really good at something—it matters less what that particular thing is than you’d think—leads to enjoying it more, which leads to greater job satisfaction and passion for your work.

Folks starting new jobs would be wise to consult Michael D. Watkins’s The First 90 Days, which is exactly what it says on the tin: advice about how to get up to speed at a new gig faster. If you like a self-help text with workbook elements built in, this one’s for you. I borrowed several of Watkins’s tips to improve our onboarding processes here at Book Riot.

Are you becoming a boss for the first time? Pick up The Leader You Want to Be by Amy Jen Su. Su illustrates her five principles of leadership with case studies from her own clients and blends elements of philosophy, traditional management theory, art, sports, and more to arrive at a holistic approach to managing yourself in order to manage others. If you’re just getting your head around the idea that you’re responsible for not just your own deliverables but the goals, logistics, and feelings (!) of a whole team, this will help you feel more equipped.

And if you’re a woman who just can’t seem to crack the next level? Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith are here for you with How Women Rise, which both acknowledges the systems of structural sexism that hold women back and also provides actionable tips for how to get ahead while these are the systems we have to deal with. They argue that the behaviors women are socialized to exhibit and are rewarded for in the earlier parts of our careers are often the very things that prevent us from being seen as capable of leveling up (what a neat trick!), and we shouldn’t have to wait until we’ve toppled the patriarchy to get our next promotion. This one is helpful in all the ways Lean In wanted to be.

Your turn! Help build the Better Living Through Books community by sharing your own relevant recommendations in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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