TIME Books

A Book About Dying Tells You How to Live

© 2011 Dorann Weber—Getty Images/Moment Open

Quinn Cummings is a writer of three books, Notes From the Underwire, The Year of Learning Dangerously and Pet Sounds.

Atul Gawande's 'Being Mortal' provides a useful roadmap for making life meaningful

In 30 years, there will be as many people over 80 in the United States as there are under the age of 50.

So notes Atul Gawande in his recently published book, Being Mortal, a book I cannot recommend highly enough. This should be mandatory reading for every American. Hell, every global citizen. Yes, it’s about growing old and dying, and the social and ethical consequences of how we treat our aging population, which might not sound like ideal reading while enjoying a pumpkin spice latte and the changing weather. But we’re all going to grow old, if we’re lucky, and most of us will be caring for an aging person at some point in our lives, if we aren’t already. (For years, I’ve been lobbying for the phrase “Sandwich Generation” to be replaced with “Panini Generation,” because anyone living it knows about the heat and pressure coming from both sides.)

Being Mortal is a clear-eyed, informative exploration of what growing old means in the 21st century; it provides a useful roadmap of what we can and should be doing to make the last years of life meaningful for everyone experiencing the aging process up close. I’ve been a fan of Gawande for years. He’s written three other books and is a staff writer for The New Yorker, a practicing surgeon and a professor at Harvard Medical School, so his medical chops are solid. But his writing chops are just as solid, and this book made me do something I usually resist. After about 10 pages, I grabbed the dreaded Hi-Liter from my drawer so I could remember not just useful information but also beautifully crafted prose. One example:

People with serious illnesses have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others and achieving a sense that their life is complete. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The question therefore is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health care system that will actually help people achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.

And that’s just one passage. My copy of Being Mortal is crisscrossed with yellow stripes. I won’t be lending this one out any time soon.

Maybe that’s how I coax you into reading a book about death on a lovely autumn day; because a book about aging and dying is, ultimately, a book about how to live. My hope is that the holidays arrive, you’re sitting with your loved ones over the remnants of a big meal, and this book gives you the courage to say out loud: “Tell me how you want to live.”

Quinn Cummings is a writer of three books, Notes From the Underwire, The Year of Learning Dangerously and Pet Sounds. Her articles have been published in, among others, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, The Huffington Post and Good Housekeeping. She is a passionate animal lover, an indifferent housekeeper and would eat her own hand if you put salsa on it.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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The Baby-Sitters Club Author Reveals the Name of Her Favorite Baby-Sitter

summer book club-Washington DC
The Baby-Sitters Club-The Summer Before " by Ann M. Martin on June 09, 2010 in Washington DC. Mark Gail—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Shockingly, it's not Stacey

Long before women were deciding whether they were a Carrie, Miranda, Samantha or Charlotte, they were young girls deciding whether they were a Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne or Stacey. (Or, later on, a Dawn, Mallory or Jessi.) For many women of a certain age, the best-selling YA series The Baby-Sitters Club was their first introduction to an iconic group of tight-knit girlfriends in pop-culture.

The series, about a diverse group of 13 year-old girls who start their own babysitting business, was created and partially written by, Ann M. Martin, a major YA force throughout the 1980s and ’90s, inspiring several spin-off series, a TV series and a movie. In an interview with Jenn Doll for ELLE about her new book, Rain Reign, Martin reminisced about the famous series, saying, “[M]y favorite thing to hear about are people who grew up reading them, and have gone on to go into writing, become librarians, teachers, authors, editors. I just love hearing about that..”

And, in the true spirit of BSC fandom, Martin even revealed which character she felt was closest to her own personality — and who was her favorite: “My favorite is Kristy, mostly because I created her first. I feel she set the series in motion. Also, she is my alter ego. I’m much more like Mary Anne. Kristy is so unlike me that it was a lot of fun to write her.”

The best part of the interview for nostalgic fans is Martin’s answer to the question of whether she’d ever write a Baby-Sitters Club reunion book: “Who knows? Never say never.”

TIME Books

Patrick Modiano, Beware: The Curse of the Literature Nobel Prize

French novelist Patrick Modiano poses for a photograph. Patrick Modiano of France has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature.
French novelist Patrick Modiano poses for a photograph. Patrick Modiano of France has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. AP—AP/Gallimard

Why some authors have had mixed feelings about the honor

Patrick Modiano is probably feeling pretty good right now. It was announced Thursday morning that the French author had beat out bet-makers’ favorites like Haruki Murakami to become the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

But that warm, fuzzy feeling may not last. As TIME reported back in 1998, the Nobel for literature has a mixed reputation — one that some would go so far as to call a curse. Even for those writers who receive the prize while still at the height of their careers, the burst of worldwide fame that it brings can actually contribute to a decrease in artistic output. As TIME explained:

Caribbean poet Derek Walcott, who won the prize in 1992, recalls a [...] burst of joy followed by a prolonged state of siege. “The phone rang endlessly, and a lot of invitations came. It was a really terrible time, not terrible in a bad sense but terrible in how exacting it is. For a while you can’t work, because it’s so demanding.” What Walcott characterizes as the Nobel’s less than phenomenal influence on his book sales didn’t make up for the chaotic fuss. What did soothe him, however, was the prize money, as he frankly and cheerfully admits. “It was almost a million dollars,” he recalls. “What I’m really grateful for is the fact that I could build a very nice house in a very nice little bay in St. Lucia with a studio.”

Once labeled a potential “kiss of death” by novelist Saul Bellow, after he won the prize in 1976, the Nobel can be a bittersweet distinction. For William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, the prize was a swan song, a tribute to past masterpieces whose greatness their subsequent work did not approach. For others, it’s just a very prestigious distraction. Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, the 1996 laureate, complained that the prize destroyed her cherished privacy by turning her into an “official person.” According to Jonathan Galassi, editor in chief of Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Gordimer’s and Walcott’s publisher), the prize can “inundate” a writer. “People,” he says, “want a piece of your ass even more than they did before.”

But as for Modiano, he may have an edge when it comes to avoiding the curse. The BBC reports that the author has lots of practice staying away from the press and others who want a piece of his time and privacy — in fact, he’s so good at it that the Nobel Academy was unable to get the good news to him before the rest of the world found out too.

TIME Books

French Novelist Patrick Modiano Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

French novelist Patrick Modiano poses for a photograph. Patrick Modiano of France has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature.
French novelist Patrick Modiano poses for a photograph. Patrick Modiano of France has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. AP—AP/Gallimard

Modiano is well known in his home country of France

Patrick Modiano, a French author whose work deals with memory, identity and the impact of the Nazi occupation on his home country, won the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.

The Swedish prize worth roughly $1.1 million was awarded to Modiano “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

Modiano’s father was of Italian Jewish origin, and his work often focuses on the effect of the Nazi occupation of France, according to the Associated Press. Some of his works, including “Villa Triste,” “A Trace of Malice,” and “Honeymoon” have been translated into English.

Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said that Modiano, 69, has written some 30 books, primarily novels, the Guardian reports. “Those are his important themes: memory, identity, and time,” Englund said. “He is a well known name in France but pretty well not anywhere else.”

He beat out several presumed front-runners for the prize, including Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and the Kenyan poet Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Canadian short story author Alice Munro won the prize last year.

TIME Books

Don’t Bother Betting on the Nobel Prize for Literature

Haruki Murakami
Perennial Nobel favorite Haruki Murakami (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File) Bernat Armangue—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The bettors always predict Haruki Murakami (and they're always wrong)

Maybe it’s because there are way more people who read books than there are people who follow developments in chemistry. Maybe it’s that people like betting, and betting on literature feels more edifying than going to the racetrack. Either way, this week brings the culmination of the speculation around the Nobel Prize in Literature, to be awarded tomorrow. As ever, the chatter is focused around betting on British site Ladbrokes, where, as of this writing, Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is the odds-on favorite, with Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami pulling a close second. This despite the fact that, speculation aside, the winner is a closely held secret — and the fact that, in recent years, the winner has been someone entirely unexpected.

This speculation is nothing new for Murakami, in fact; he was a favorite among bettors last year, followed by Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro and American scribe Joyce Carol Oates. Munro ended up beating odds only slightly stacked against her and picking up the prize, as did Chinese writer Mo Yan in 2012, when Murakami was, again, the frontrunner. This compilation of bettors’ favorites compared to actual winners by The New Republic indicates just how rare it is for the odds to favor actual winners. The predicted winner is, with some consistency, more famous and more traditionally “awardable” (less experimental, say) than the actual winner. The widely-honored Syrian poet Adonis is often the predicted winner, but Nobels often go to writers that thrive on controversy, like Harold Pinter, or write shockingly explicit books, like Elfreide Jelinek, or work in obscurity, like Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio.

There are names that consistently appear, year after year, in Nobel speculation — Murakami, Adonis, Oates, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, Bob Dylan. And their recurrence, as well as the very act of Nobel Prize betting, demeans both the winners and the losers. The Nobel Prize for Literature has for decades now been peculiar and idiosyncratic, as likely to go to a radical playwright or little-read poet as to a more renowned writer. But bettors engage, year after year, in magical thinking, that this will be the year that Murakami or Adonis, about as successful and respected as a novelist and a poet can be, will get an award. When they lose, it becomes a disappointment, and the winner, whoever that is, looks like an interloper.

The Literature Nobel is more fun to speculate upon because literature itself is so subjective; unless prizes for chemistry or physics, with their empirical evidence, one person’s great leap forward for writing is another’s failed experiment. But excitable coverage of the Ladbrokes betting should be taken both with a grain of salt, as it’s usually wrong, and a sense that the real fun of the Nobel is its serendipity. The real frontrunner for the prize, if history is guide, is someone we’re not thinking of — an exciting twist ending.

TIME Books

Everything You Need to Know About J.K. Rowling’s New Project

The Harry Potter spinoff caused a social media scene this week—here’s why

Harry Potter fanatics worked tirelessly this week after J.K. Rowling posted an anagram on her Twitter account that hinted at her latest project. And it took just 24 hours for a Potter super fan to solve it.

Though fans thought (and probably hoped) the author might be hinting at more Harry Potter books, she was referencing a Potter spinoff: The screenplay for the first movie in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trilogy. The screenplay is based on a book that once only existed in the wizarding world and served as a textbook at Hogwarts. But in 2001, Rowling published a copy under the pseudonym Newt Scamander with money from sales going toward Comic Relief, a U.K.-based charity.

The anagram was not an actual part of the script but a synopsis of Newt’s story, which Rowling has said kicks off in New York around the year 1920.

“‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world,” Rowling said in a statement late last year. “The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.”

Though Potter fans are familiar with the wizarding world, little is actually known about Scamander. According to the “About the Author” section of the book, he was born in 1897 with his interest in fabulous beasts encouraged by his mother, “who was an enthusiastic breeder of fancy Hippogrifs.” Scamander, who spent his years at Hogwarts as a Hufflepuff, later worked for the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He also worked in the Office for House-Elf Relocation and in the Beast Division, creating the Werewolf Register in 1947 and the Ban on Experimental Breeding, “which prevented the creation of “new and untamable monsters within Britain.” He also worked for the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau, which led to many research trips abroad.

These trips abroad will most likely set the scene for the film, and with chapters on Thestrals, Hippogrifs, Norwegian Ridgebacks, Merepeople and Werewolves, the movie should prove to be another exciting adventure.

The film is set for release on November 18, 2016 and will be produced by David Heyman, who produced all the Potter films, and directed by David Yates, who directed Harry Potter films Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Warner Bros. has also noted the new trilogy will inspire potential additions to the Harry Potter park at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

While Scamander’s story will not sync up with Harry’s, it’s worth noting that his grandson, Rolf Scamander, married Luna Lovegood, a member of Harry’s crew who made an appearance alongside her husband in Rowling’s surprise story posted to fansite Pottermore in July. Emma Watson’s Potter character Hermione won’t have even been born during the time the film takes place, but the actress has said she’s up for a cameo nonetheless.

If you’d like to brush up before the film is released, Albus Dumbledore, who penned the forward to the book, writes that the edition can be purchased for two galleons at Flourish and Blotts as well as in Muggle Bookshops.

TIME Books

30 Self-Help Books That Permanently Changed My Life

Dimitri Otis—Getty Images

If you met me in high school or college, you would not recognize me as the self-assured chick I am today. I owe it all to these 30 books


This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I was the kid in high school who agonized over whether I had interacted with the popular girls the “right” way as we passed in the hallway between classes. Every moment a potential minefield or humiliation. To seem stupid. To look like a loser. There was this fakey hug-kiss thing that started when I was a freshman that was so hard for me to not feel like a dork when I mimicked. I mean, I didn’t feel comfortable in my own too-tall skin let alone embracing someone else, all the while trying to act as if I, you know, actually felt good about myself or something.

It was all so stressful. I would fret when someone looked at me the wrong way, if a teacher said a potentially critical thing (because obviously one’s entire worth as a human being is determined by academic accomplishments), or most mortifying of all, if a “friend” who talked to me in private then gave me shade when a more cliquey group of girls passed our way.

I felt wrong, wrong, wrong.

I don’t know how much was nature and how much was nurture, but I know I was a very sensitive, hyper-aware kid who felt things very intensely. This physical makeup was also molded by a dysfunctional, boundary-less childhood with some trauma along the way.

Then, everything in my life and perspective dramatically changed — when I got divorced at the age of 30.

The dark wrongness now permeated everywhere in my life, and somewhere along the way I think I realized: If everything is wrong, then maybe nothing is.

This is when I first wholeheartedly gave the whole stupid embarrassing oeuvre of self-help a chance.

God, how glad I am that I did.

My brain is totally different now and I know that I control my happiness — not anyone outside of myself.

P.S. One quick contextual anecdote before I get to The List. I dated a guy once who said, very concerned as he saw me poring through some of these books, “It’s like one day you’re into this self-help author and the next you’re into another one. I mean: What’s next?” I believe he was afraid that I was addicted to seeking, which I do think can be an actual problem (see: Scientology), when you don’t trust your own self and intuition, but I also disagree with his thesis.

You would never say to an MBA student: “One day it’s this course, and then the next day it’s this other one. I mean: What’s next, statistics?” I think that investment in your own personal development is one of the best investments you can ever make in your own life and happiness, even if isn’t cool to admit to doing so.

My progress from a weepy self-hating paralytically over-apologetic constantly worrying shy chick to a person who is quite the opposite is absolute testament to that, I believe. (Also: Having done Caron Institute’s exquisite Breakthrough Program, I wholeheartedly recommend their suggested reading list as well. It is excellent.)

And here’s mine.

1. “The Breakout Principle — This audio book got me through my divorce. I used the principle of “severing” immediately when I found myself going into a trauma cycle by drawing a picture (changing my state) or going for a walk or taking a shower. It also taught me (through legit scientific examples of functional MRI) that when you work your brain intensely, by giving it a break, you’re giving yourself a chance for the “a-ha” moments to come to the fore.

2. “Awaken the Giant Within — Goofy Tony Robbins. He’s ridiculous, sure, but he’s also boiled down a ton of cognitive theory about how to change your interior world view, and he gives incredible motivation that can offer critical fuel in the very toxic at times world we live in.

3. “The Secret — Take it with a major grain of salt. All I know is that when I started employing the whole law of attraction hocus pocus, I saw results again and again. Is it placebo? Fine. I’ll take it. Are people responsible for their own cancer? Nope. That’s looney-pants.

4. “You Can Heal Your LifeandYou Can Heal Your Life: Workbook — My favorite. My absolute favorite. I buy this book for people on the street sometimes. If you don’t change the way you talk to yourself — or continue slogging yourself down with criticism — nothing will change.

5. “The Road Less Traveled — This book almost made me break down it hurt so much at times to read. All of the advice the author gives to parents for teaching children about their inherent value above all else — and categorizing the two fundamental neuroses of the world (you either think YOU are responsible for all the world’s problems or you think the WORLD is responsible for yours) — hit spot on. No one said self-awareness and looking within was easy, but it’s worth the discomfort. I promise.

6. “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem — Another book I will randomly buy for strangers. I like my self-help books like I like my math: straightforward, logical and broken down into units. I listened to this book after a year of sobriety, and I could feel my backbone strengthening.

7. “Many Lives, Many Masters — Self-help? Maybe not, but this book gave me incredible peace about death in a way I never dreamed possible. It also contains the beautiful analogy of our souls being shined like diamonds amidst the pressure along the way.

8. “A Return to Love — An atheist comic friend, who I had a 48-hour-romance with, recommended this book to me and told me just to ignore “all the Holy Spirit mumbo jumbo.” I love that. My atheist ex-boyfriend saw me reading the book one time and said, “Ah, Marianne Williamson. So what does that charlatan have to say for herself now?” God I do love atheists. They’re so fucking funny. So, sure. Like “The Secret,” there’s a lot of woo-woo hoo-hoo. But it gave me peace. It helped me get better at loving myself. Two things which aren’t easy to do.

9. “How to Survive the Loss of a Love — This is one of the most popular self-help books ever written. Millions sold. It is very sweet. One of the only books to gently, as a person might, take your hand and help you through the grieving and mourning process: whether the death be an actual person, a relationship, a job, or even a past incarnation of yourself.

10. “Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind — This book taught me how to do EMDR on myself and also helped me to understand to stop bartering for love. I’m getting better. That’s all I ask.

11. “Your Inner Awakening: The Work of Byron Katie — Even if you don’t read the book, the Cliff Notes version of her work is worth checking out, or as this Oprah blog on it asks: “Can these 4 questions change your life?” My mom and I listened to this one together, and it was very epiphany generating. Essentially, it helps you break down all those assumptions that might be screwing you up by helping you “turn it around.” Crying that your partner isn’t giving you enough love? Break it down using her process, and you might end up examining how YOU aren’t giving enough love. Challenging, in the best way possible.

12. “Waking the Tiger — A dear friend gave me this book, and it altered the way I looked at my body’s responses. For instance, I jump out of my seat at any loud noise, just like my father who is a combat vet. I have in the past started to cry when someone seemed to care and give me love genuinely, because it was hard for me to take. This book is a wonderful mind-body connector.

13. “Courage to Change — Even if you don’t do Al-Anon, if you’ve had any kind of dysfunction in childhood, this book reads as if it was written directly for you. So nurturing and life changing.

14. “Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing” — I do not care for a lot of Carolyn Myss’s stuff, but this book has always stayed with me. Particularly the idea, the metaphor, of the “cell tissue” you are expending through lower-energy emotions of jealousy, hatred, bitterness, etc. If you like spiritual works, you may find this book healing.

15. “Zero Limits — “I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you.” These four sentences as a little prayer of offering are explained as a “secret Hawaiian system” to all wonder of prosperity. I say it to myself quite often when I’m walking my dog or even as an alternate to stressful thoughts that seem to come on like a panic attack. It’s a beautiful clearing, just like doing one of my favorite meditations, the Metta Bhavana.

16. “New Psycho-Cybernetics — Written by a plastic surgeon who dealt with so many people who wanted to cut themselves up because they hated what was inside, he knows of what he speaks.

17. “Your Erroneous Zones — One of the original Wayne Dyer books. It’s quite simple, but like some of Tony Robbins’ takes on dealing with emotions, and choosing the way you use them, it’s incredibly practical and positive.

18. “A New Earth — Can there be such a thing as addiction to misery? Absolutely. Give this fakey-guru a chance and soak it in. You’ll be glad you did.

19. “Women Who Love Too Much — Crappy relationship after crappy relationship where you put up with abuse and keep trying to “fix” someone? Read this puppy.

20. “Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts — So, so ridic, including making a damn mold of your vagina out of Play-Doh or some shit, but I swear to God, if you need to give yourself some sexy energetic female juju, this book is a good kick in the pants. Bubble baths! Candles! Weeee!

21. “A Gentle Path Through the 12 Steps — If you’re interested in recovery, this is a classic. Even if you’re not in recovery, the 12-step principles can be very practically applied, especially the idea of “turning it over.” Doesn’t even need to be to God. Can simply be to just “forces of good.” Letting go is everything. And so damn easy to forget.

23. “7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Do you like what I’m writing, reader? Tell me about that. I’m interested in what you have to say… (Ha-ha, gotcha! Just used a principle.) So it’s hokey and a little schmarmy, but hey, if you’re not naturally Mr. or Ms. Charisma by nature, this book will help you learn how to deconstruct the scariness of intimidating social situations.

24. “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway — I bought this ridiculous, yet helpful, book when I was 20 years old. It was a start. It helped.

25. “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind — Kind of like an early version of “The Secret.” For some reason, it speaks to me. I tried it the night that I read it, thinking to myself, “I’m going to wake up at 8 a.m. tomorrow,” and do you know that I woke up at exactly 8 a.m.? Ha. Yes, that miracle alone is reason enough to recommend.

26. “Love is Letting Go of Fear — This is a quick, beautiful little book. Illustrated and sweet, and definitely the title says it all, but like many of the simplest truisms, can be so hard to integrate into your consciousness. The psychologist who wrote this helps you do that, and the entire book feels like a hug to the soul.

27. “iWant — Know that tabloidy CNN anchor who got sober and then became a lesbian? She wrote this book. It was on the “free shelf” at The Post where I picked it up. Free meaning a publicist sent it, and whichever reporter received it discarded it for anyone who might be interested. I picked it up in my early days of sobriety, and it helped me a lot to read someone who worked in my field talking about the whole upheaval-inducing (in a positive way) process.

28. “The Wounded Heart — If you have any kind of sexual abuse in your past, this book is a must. Stop what you are doing right now and purchase it. I’ve never felt some of my dysfunction related so compassionately to me before as when this author explained about the “weed” of abuse becoming entangled in the “rose” of sexuality, and how the human reaction can be to hate yourself for wanting to be loved. Gorgeous.

29. “The Four Agreements — God this book helped me. Mostly the idea of not taking things personally, something I suck at quite often. Many folks do, I think. The book is boiled down here, which is definitely worth a glance. If you can come from that place of not taking things personally (and the other three agreements are stellar as well), your happiness will increase a hundredfold.

One caveat for “not taking things personally”: I do think that there are people who (be they sick or suffering or perhaps clinically sociopathic) are not good-hearted, well-intentioned people. (Fuck, just read “The 48 Laws of Power” or “The Art of Seduction” if you want a little primer on that.) So in those cases of the baddies, I always say STILL don’t take it personally — but protect yourself.

Here’s how: Stop trying to win the unwinnable and do what you need to do to take care of yourself. For me, in the past, that’s meant just agreeing with a sadistic boss, “Oh I agree, yes, yes. I’m wrong, yes, yes, I agree, uh-huh, you’re right, absolutely,” even when I knew the fighting wasn’t fair. My friend Jessica Delfino actually wrote a song about my tactic called “Nod, Smile and Apologize.” I took care of myself, didn’t take it personally and just got through. Life ain’t fair, kiddos. Use what tools you have.

30. “Handbook to Higher Consciousness — Last but not least, I found this gem on my parents’ bookshelves. They met when they were getting their masters in counseling at San Diego State University so they have a plethora of crap like this tucked away they’ve never actually read. My favorite idea from this book is the very Buddhist notion that all unhappiness in life stems from your addiction of what you EXPECT to happen and how things “should” be. Let go of that sucker, and boom: Freedom.

Honestly, this list was incredibly hard to put together because I wanted to include so many other books also lodged permanently in my subconscious. Like, even, “The Game” by Neil Strauss, which while largely about picking up women provides awesome bullshit-zapping tactical training for women and also boils down tons of NLP and confidence-boosting skills for those who struggle with shyness or social intimidation.

Strauss’s buddy, the semi-conman-ish (but filled with terrific ideas) Timothy Ferriss also wrote a classic in “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which is worth it for the email and media condensing advice alone. Another embarrassing-ish book I like? Well, the subtitle on “Why Men Love Bitches,” which is “From Doormat to Dreamgirl” explains why that book has a soft space in my heart pretty clearly I think.

I also like “Change or Die,” which pinpoints the reason change is so hard for so many: The human egoic fear that to change would to be to admit that You Might Have Been Doing it Wrong All Along. By that token, zeitgeist-plunderer and idea-man Malcolm Gladwell’s books are all worth the effort, especially the chapter on predicting the failure or success of relationships in “Blink.”

I’m also a big fan of quoting the Olympic athletes who visualized their routines beforehand who then won the gold medal anecdote from “The Success Principles” as a justification or motivation for imagining something going well. (I do it with career all the time; now I just need to be better about doing this in my dating life.)

Gary Zukav’s “The Seat of the Soul” is magnificent, and I only read after Jane Lynch recommended it in her lovely, self-help-riddled (in a good way) autobiography “Happy Accidents.” Lynch also loves “Goddesses in Everywoman,” which is fascinating and thought-provoking and leads me to look at Persephone archetypes in my own life to this day.

Also, special thanks to my Facebook friends for helping me remember “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” a book that I was blanking on and spent a half hour Googling “wheelchair,” “motorcycle,” “paralyzed” and “inspirational movie” to no avail tracking it down — and really loved. At the least, watch the Amazon Instant DVD if you’re looking for a shot in the arm of inspiration (unless you are a born and bred cynic, which means I’ll probably love hanging out with you, but yeah this movie is probably not for you).

So… what books have had the most impact on your life (even if they’re not classically stocked in the “personal development” row, or whatever that hidden way, way in the back section at Barnes & Noble is called nowadays)?

What books on this list do you absolutely despise? Let me guess. “The Secret,” right? I feel you. With all of these books, please know I’m recommending with that old unofficial 12-step-ism, “take what you like and leave the rest.”

Mandy Stadtmiller is Editor-at-Large at xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

Sinead O’Connor Will Reveal All in a Memoir

The controversial singer will document her career as well as dishing the "sexual dirt" on former lovers

Irish singer and known rabble-rouser Sinead O’Connor is penning a memoir, her publisher announced on Wednesday.

According to a press release about the still-untitled project, the memoir will cover O’Connor’s early life in Ireland, her breakout and rise to fame, as well as her current career.

The autobiography will presumably include notorious incidents such as the time O’Connor tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II during a Saturday Night Live appearance in 1992, her subsequent booing in Madison Square Garden during a Bob Dylan tribute concert just days later, and perhaps even her open letter to Miley Cyrus. No matter what, the “Nothing Compares 2 U” singer has already promised that the book will include a lot of juicy details about her personal life.

“I’ve never stopped expressing myself in my music, and now, with a book,” the 47-year-old singer said in a statement. “And I look forward to dishing the sexual dirt on everyone I’ve ever slept with.”

The book, which will be published in the U.S. by Blue Rider Press, is slated for a March 2016 release.



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