January 1st might be an arbitrary day in the calendar, but according to a ton of science, landmarks like the new year have incredible power to shape our thinking and help us relaunch or reshape our lives.
So if your 2016 has been disorienting, disappointing, or even downright depressing, consider the coming holiday the perfect opportunity to start turning things around and get back to a more positive and determined frame of mind.
How exactly should you do that? The TED blog recently offered an incredible number of suggestions in the form of a massive list of 70 titles to help you kick off 2017 with optimism, rounded up from some of the organization's best speakers over the years. Here is a tiny selection of their recommendations, but check out the complete list for many, many more (including great books for kids).
1. The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey
"Casey follows surfers and scientists to look at some of the largest waves ever witnessed on our seas. In her firsthand account, she offers adventure laced with science, exploring issues like global warming and the health of our oceans," explains Jill Heinerth, who shared stories of life as a cave diver at TED.
2. Do it Like a Woman: ... And Change the World by Caroline Criado-Perez
According to Ione Wells, the founder of the international #NotGuilty campaign against sexual violence, "this book is a fantastic collection of inspiring stories by women who have succeeded in monumental achievements -- often having had to break through glass ceilings in their fields along the way. Its central message is a hopeful one for women: no matter how much you've been told that a career or path isn't right for you due to your gender, it's all a myth."
3. The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction by Matthew Crawford
"Did you think being an individual was to be free of all relations and encumbrances and demands? Think again, says Crawford. We are a social animal, and we only become ourselves when attending to the demands of that which allows us to lose our detached self-possession," explains professor Sajay Samuel, who shared his radical idea to solve America's student debt problem from the TED stage.
"This fascinating book offers an intriguing dive into the minds of our young and how they develop and function. Gopnik encourages us to revisit many of our assumptions on these subjects and to confront anew the the meaning of life and other philosophical big questions," writes author and entrepreneur Isaac Lidsky. "Her book is bound to make you think and to find hope in the miracle of the human mind."
5. Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet's Future by David Grinspoon
"Who knew that taking an interplanetary, billion-year view on our environmental troubles could inspire such optimism? Grinspoon is a planetary scientist, and he thinks big -- very big," notes environmental writer Emma Marris.
6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
"This memoir is one of the finest books I have read in recent memory," says immigration scholar Sayu Bhojwani. "Physician Kalanithi -- who died from cancer before he could complete this book -- has written a deeply moving story that could be depressing, but in his hands, it's both insightful and uplifting."
7. Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin
Science fiction writer Monica Byrne explains: "Science fiction writers imagine the future and therefore, we hope, can shape the future. Here, writer Le Guin imagines a future Earth that looks radically different from our present Earth -- a place of peace, prosperity and sustainability."
8. The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz
"Novogratz, founder of the nonprofit venture capital fund Acumen, donated a beloved blue sweater to Goodwill, only to see it again, years later, worn by a young boy she met in Rwanda. This story symbolizes how interconnected we've all become, a theme that the author explores in this deeply inspiring memoir," notes anti-hunger activist Andrew Youn.
9. Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders
"Saunders' short stories are weird and sometimes dark, but no one is better at writing about the awful, beautiful vulnerability of being human," says Mandy Len Catron, TEDx speaker and author of the viral article "36 Questions That Lead to Love."
10. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit
"Almost anything Solnit writes is insightful and moving, but this book especially so. It's a nonfiction work of history, spirituality and memory about the little utopias that have arisen in the wake of earthquakes, floods, fires and other catastrophes," notes Eric Liu, founder of Citizen University.
11. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
"This book is full of the same kind of nuanced, wide-ranging intelligence about what makes us human as her radio show and podcast, 'On Being.' You'll close the last page feeling intelligently hopeful about how our wounds actually do serve to make us more wise and connected," writes journalist Courtney Martin.
12. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
"This is one of the most exquisite nonfiction books I've ever read," claims Courtney Martin of her second recommendation. "It is written like a novel, filled with human-centered stories about what it takes to make huge transformational change in our personal lives and our nation as a whole."