7 books to start the new year

7 books to start the new year

By Ideas Editor

Opening the page to another year can be a time for reflection, resolve, anticipation, and contemplation. For many of us, it’s a time for setting goals and committing to change. But in our increasingly hurried lives, it’s equally a time to consider undertaking the challenge of doing less and being present more. Whether you’re setting your sights on a new achievement or if your goal is to question the pursuits you currently chase, whether you hope to change your thinking or affect change around you, whether you want to connect more deeply with friends or find more time for yourself, there’s a book for you on our new year’s reading list. In fact, even if you’re the sort to find new year’s resolutions too daunting (or arbitrary) to make at all, there’s a book here for you too.

Michelangelo, God's Architect

Michelangelo, God’s Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece

If you’ve ever thought that your best years are behind you, think again. Michelangelo didn’t even begin his work on St. Peter’s Basilica until he was in his seventies. He completed his most celebrated achievements during the last two decades of his life. While you likely won’t take on a basilica this year, start the year knowing that you’re never too old to create your own masterpiece.


Perfect Me

Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal

The demand to be beautiful is more powerful than ever in today’s visual and virtual culture. Make this year the one that you resist the diet culture, love yourself more, and question the pursuit of perfection.



Idleness: A Philosophical Essay

At this time of year, more than ever, we’re surrounded by suggestions for self-improvement, setting goals, and making contributions. But does our worth and happiness really improve the busier we are? This year, make your goal one to scale back, unplug, do less, and ultimately appreciate more.


How to be a Friend

How to Be a Friend: An Ancient Guide to True Friendship

Feeling exhausted and depleted by social media, online relationships, and the relentless self-absorption that infiltrates so much of how we relate to each other? If so, make 2020 the year of cultivating your friendships 44 B.C.-style. With wit and wisdom, Cicero offers timeless advice about how to build friendships, how to choose the right friends, how to live with friends in good times and bad, and most importantly, why true friendships are so important. 



Protest!: A History of Social and Political Protest Graphics

Resolve to support a cause this year. And at the same time, learn about the role visual arts play in passionate efforts for change.


Making Up Your Own Mind

Making Up Your Own Mind: Thinking Effectively through Creative Puzzle-Solving

Every new year brings new opportunities, but also challenges. Become better at solving real-world problems by learning creative puzzle-solving skills​. This is a book about changing your mind and creating an even better version of yourself through mental play​.


Birds in Winter

Birds in Winter: Surviving the Most Challenging Season

Are you not the type to make new year’s resolutions? For some, the new year may just mean slogging through winter doldrums. If that’s the case for you, take inspiration from our feathered friends on how to survive the most challenging season.