A new year always brings with it good intentions to make positive changes in our lives. But now, more than a week into the new year, you might have found those intentions starting to slip away and those healthy salads and savings jars being replaced by takeaway pizzas and impulse buys.
Recently, I’ve read some books that may help you to stick with some commonplace resolutions, including improving your finances, getting your family to eat better, and spending more time working on your personal goals.
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Managing Your Money by Jane Bingham and Holly Bathie
Although aimed more toward teen readers than adults, Managing Your Money will still be of use to anyone looking to take control of their finances in 2020. Written in clear, easy-to-understand language and divided into helpful chapters, this short book covers everything you need to know about money from how to set up a budget to the difference between a wage and a salary and the different types of interest that may be paid to you or by you over the years.
I did have a few issues with the book, primarily regarding over-simplification, but that’s somewhat expected from a book aimed at a young audience. One quiz (of which there are several dotted throughout) asks you to decide whether various items are “needs” or “wants,” yet without extra information, it’s impossible to make those calls. For example, is the bus ticket one you need to get to school/work or one you want to meet up with friends on a Saturday?
Whether your resolution is to get out of debt, save more, or simply spend more wisely, understanding more about money is absolutely key, and this helpful little book will almost certainly cover whatever areas you’re hoping to improve your knowledge of. There’s even an associated webpage filled with links to budgeting apps and spreadsheets, worksheets for younger kids, advice for students, and much more alongside a very helpful glossary at the back of the book that will help you remember the difference between AER, APR, and ATM.
The Adventurous Eaters Club by Misha and Vicki Collins
I read this brilliant book at the end of last year and it inspired me to begin eating better in a way no other book had before. Misha Collins is one of the stars of Supernatural and also a father to two young children. The Adventurous Eaters Club, co-written by Misha and his wife Vicki, tells how they went from being a family whose kids refused all vegetables and lived off a familiar diet of chicken nuggets and goldfish crackers to one where their kids will frequently request spinach and kale as a snack.
The book is split into two sections. The first (and shortest) section tells us Misha and Vicki’s story in their own words. They talk about making food fun, involving their kids in the kitchen, and allowing themselves, their kids, and their house to get messy in the pursuit of better diets for all. The pages are filled with photos of the Collins family being silly with salad—Misha is the force who gave us GISHWHES after all, so expect some truly bonkers things in these pages—but there is some truly great advice here too, with notes from psychologists backing it all up. This first section also includes a guide to the best items to keep in your store cupboard and kitchen implements to have on hand, and it’s refreshing to see one of these that isn’t filled with expensive and difficult to find items that will rarely be used in an average kitchen.
Section two is closer to a traditional recipe book, but as this is Misha Collins and his family, “traditional” isn’t really the right word. There are sections for salads and salad dressings, breakfasts, snacks, and main meals. There are also a few recipes created solely by the Collins kids (yes, this includes the infamous “pasta and jam sauce”) for the bolder among you—but if they get your kids interested in new ideas, then why not give them a try?
Of course, this book isn’t guaranteed to solve your family kitchen problems—no book could ever make those promises, and the authors are clear to point that out, especially in cases where there are other factors at play such as mental health issues—but out of all the recipe books I’ve read over the years, this is the one that has inspired me to get into the kitchen and start trying new vegetables more than any other. After reading The Adventurous Eaters Club, I’m actually excited about eating veg, and that’s not something I could ever have imagined myself saying even a year ago. Oh, and 100% of the author’s profits are going to charities that “provide access to healthy food and the arts to underserved families” too, so what’s stopping you from ordering?
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal
Distraction is a huge problem for all of us in 2020. We are constantly surrounded by it: 24/7 group chats, endless social media feeds, open plan offices filled with chatty colleagues, and much more. The ability to focus and tune out these endless distractions is vital to achieving our goals, no matter what they may be, and Indistractable by Nir Eyal aims to help you do just that by providing a tool kit to help.
Divided into four areas, Indistractable helps us “Master Internal Triggers”—understanding the emotions and personal events that make us seek distractions—“Make Time for Traction”—those activities which push us toward our goals rather than pulling us away—“Hack Back External Triggers”—reducing distractions from meetings, our phones, email, etc—and “Prevent Distraction with Pacts”—creating pacts with ourselves, friends, and even apps to help us become the people we want to be. There are also sections dedicated to helping our workplaces, children, and relationships indistractable. Online resources are also linked to help plan your time, with examples of how to use them at the back of the book.
Indistractable is more than a book that simply advises you to put your phone down and get on with life. It acknowledges that the problem of distraction is more than willpower alone can overcome and more complex than simply blaming smartphones. The tools and techniques it suggests have already helped me get more organized and do more with my waking hours this year, and I’m confident it can do the same for you.
GeekMom received a copy of this item for review purposes.