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What to Read If You Want to Reinvent Yourself

What to Read If You Want to Reinvent Yourself

A new calendar year frequently conjures up visions of radical self-transformation. This year, we tell ourselves, will be the one where we finally lose 20 pounds, take up gratitude journaling, or read 100 books. New year, new you! But then inertia slowly creeps in, inconveniences arise, and by June our New Year’s resolutions are a distant memory. Changing oneself is harder than perky how-to guides and self-help books suggest. The genre is so popular because its titles briefly allow us to imagine that reinvention is a matter of performing specific actions, rather than an ongoing battle with our own recalcitrant nature. This is also precisely why their advice often doesn’t stick: The first step should be attempting to understand the self you’re trying to change. The books below, by contrast, are honest about the difficult emotional realities that accompany personal growth—discouragement, self-recrimination, fear of the unknown—and still offer hope. In depicting people grappling with unpredictable tragedies, the effects of aging, or even, as one memoir details, the fall of communism in a Balkan state, the …