Even though I didn’t even make it halfway through Lean In, I love a good, inspirational, kick-in- the-pants self-help book. Whether it’s healthy living, getting organized or trying to be better at my job, I like to read what works for other people and try to adapt their advice to deal with my own goals and issues. I think this applies to the resolutions we tend to make this time of year, so here’s a handful of my favorites from the past year, plus one I’m getting ready to add to my bookshelf. 

By Mel Jones


I came across this book last year during a time when I was particularly overwhelmed with life, and was struggling to write my daily to-do list, let alone finish anything on it. What You Can, When You Can really helped me snap out of the unrealistic, all-or-nothing expectations I had for myself, like getting back to my five days a week gym routine even though I haven’t stepped foot in the place in months and couldn’t be more out of shape. What You Can, When You Can, or #wycwyc as it’s called by its large online community, is a simple, baby steps philosophy that breaks down all of the things we want to accomplish into small, realistic bits. “While WYCWYC stands for ‘what you can, when you can, it encapsulates so much more. WYCWYC is about acknowledging that doing your best—and making compromises when needed—is always enough,” say authors Carla Birnberg and Roni Noone. The book is organized into short chapters and sections that make it easy to find inspiration for conquering whatever roadblock you’re facing, and is peppered with fun challenges and great quotes that make for a modern and refreshing take on the self-help book. 

I hopped on the KonMari bandwagon a little late in the game, but it didn’t take more than a few pages for me to become intrigued. By Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up introduces the KonMari Method of organizing your home once and for all. It’s so simple it’ll make you smack your forehead and go, “Oh, this makes perfect sense.” Instead of cleaning room by room, the method suggests going by categories, such as clothing, books, papers and everything else. I recently made it through the first three categories, which resulted in a ton of clothes delivered to the consignment store and donated to the thrift shop, not to mention a massive box of papers that are ready for the shredder. I ignored the section about getting rid of books, because that’s just not in my reality. But eliminating the amount of “stuff” we’ve got has become a positively addictive activity.

And you can bet I’ve pre-ordered the follow-up from Kondo, entitled Spark Joy. Based on her approach that if something doesn’t spark joy it should be discarded, this book promises to serve as a step-by-step illustrated guide to the KonMari method for newcomers, and for those of us who have tidied up to an extent but want more, we can expect an “Encyclopedia of Tidying Up” that answers questions and gets to the nitty gritty of the method. It’s available January 6. 

Aliza Licht went from med student to senior vice president of communications for Donna Karan International; you might have known her on Twitter as the once-secret @DKNYPRGIRL. In Leave Your Mark, Licht offers insider advice for anyone searching for that dream job, considering changing careers or how to make the most of being at the top of your game (see chapter 17, “When You Get to the Top, Don’t Be an A-Hole”). Reading about Licht’s own experiences at different stages throughout her career is like having your own mentor guiding you through everything from dealing with an office bully to building your personal brand and style, using social media to your advantage and learning essential skills like public speaking. I loved Leave Your Mark not just for the advice, but also for the behind-the-scenes look into the world of fashion PR. And since publishing the book, Licht has left DKI in order to grow her overall brand and Leave Your Mark as a company in its own right. So although @DKNYPRGIRL is no longer, @AlizaLicht just a tweet away, often giving advice and always inspiring those of us who keep up with her.  

She owns our Thursday nights with Gray’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, and now Shonda Rhimes has a little bit of advice for us, too. In Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person, Rhimes took on the challenge of saying yes to everything that she would normally say no to, such as public appearances that forced the introvert to step away from the wall and mingle at parties, and give media interviews that typically would send her into severe panic attacks. Year of Yes explores Rhimes’ life of saying no, and chronicles her life after she started saying yes. As someone who has her own social anxiety introvert issues to deal with, I’m looking forward to reading about how a writer whom I admire made such big changes in her life.