At Forge, we publish a lot of tips and guides, offering specific ways of improving your life—a toolbox of research- and expert-backed strategies that will help you be more productive, inspired, and whole. But personal growth is bigger than that. It’s a massive (and growing) industry, full of brilliant minds, but also charlatans.
This list of stories that Forge’s editors are most proud to have published reflects the richness of the world we cover.
How to Think Without Googling by Jacqueline Detwiler
Recommended by Sam Zabell, senior audience development manager
I read to make myself smarter, but I also read to be entertained. This is one of those great pieces that does both. It reminds us that we can unplug our brains (and still live) and it makes me laugh. It also very subtly but lovingly drags me for how often I turn to Google Maps to direct me somewhere I definitely know how to get to.
Welcome to the New Midlife Crisis by Corinne Purtill
Recommended by Siobhan O’Connor, vice president, editorial
There was a period of time this summer when every person I talk to regularly— my best friends, my boss, my husband, my team—was reading Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is In Trouble. I’d walk into the office, book in hand, and be greeted by another editor’s pained look that said she’d finished the second part and it was all feeling way too real. I’d fall asleep and wake up to text messages that said things like “Oh my god,” or “I can’t.” The book gave us a kind of shorthand for expressing things we didn’t want to name.
We all think we’ll be spared a midlife crisis until we’re six months into our 40th year (give or take) and we realize we’ve kind of lost the plot. It’s not all sports cars and sexy affairs—though, hey!—but rather a quietness that sets in when we realize everything we thought we’d figured out is in fact ephemeral. This piece, and the book that inspired it, speaks to a truly modern kind of crisis, where your best and only choice is to sit with the discomfort—and text your friends about it. Because they’re probably in the shit too.
How to Change a Mind by Eleanor Gordon-Smith
Recommended by Sarah Begley, deputy editor, books
Imagine marrying someone who belongs to a cult. Imagine hating that cult and wanting nothing more than for him to leave it. Now imagine not telling him you feel that way for more than five years. In an adapted excerpt from her book, Stop Being Reasonable: How We Really Change Our Minds, Eleanor Gordon-Smith writes about a wife who ran a covert campaign to get her husband to leave his cult, without ever letting on about her intentions. It’s a rollicking story with broad implications for how the rest of us non-cult members make up our minds about what (and whom) to believe.
The Self-Help Movement That Is Upending American Christianity by Allegra Hobbs
Recommended by Kelli Korducki, books editor
The Enneagram is part personality typing test, part self-help talisman. It is also, somewhat counterintuitively, sweeping American Evangelical communities and “upend[ing] the Calvinist’s view of human nature and sin,” writes Allegra Hobbs. Hobbs’ foray into a capitalist-Christian subculture of Enneagram coaches, Enneagram-preaching pastors, and Enneagram influencers is a twisting, can’t-look-away meditation on the tensions between doctrine and self-improvement, and on the contradictory places we turn to for answers about how to live at the close of a head-spinning decade. Oh, and human sin, too.
How to Talk to People Who’ve Been Through Some S#@t by Drew Magary
Recommended by Ross McCammon, executive editor
This piece reminds you that when you’re interacting with someone who has recently experienced a trauma or some other difficult life change, what you don’t say is as important as what you do say. Magary, who nearly died from a brain bleed, has written a powerful endorsement of conversational empathy. You want to make conversation, but you don’t want to burden. Ironically, though, so much of how we try and help can be burdensome. Like asking how you can help. (Offer specific help. Don’t make them tell you what they want. Don’t burden them with that.) And when in doubt, just listen. What they say will give a lot of clues about how much they want to talk about what happened.
Confessions of a Spiritual Dickhead by Sean Hotchkiss
Recommended by Jon Gluck, editorial director, special projects
Hotchkiss, a onetime fast-living New York fashion editor, chronicles his attempt to address a deep-seated feeling of existential unworthiness through assorted trendy modern means — ayahuasca, transcendental meditation, a shaman-led “soul retrieval” — only to discover that his spiritual seeking is itself a form of avoidance. When he finally chucks all the Goop-y stuff and gets to the heart of what’s really been bothering him, you catch a glimpse of something you don’t often see: an honest, open, humbled human being settling into an uneasy peace with his frail, flawed, but ultimately plenty good-enough self.
Why Women Are Obsessed With True Crime by Laura Barcella
Recommended by Amy Shearn, senior editor
For a long time, I, like so many women, felt like I had to keep my obsession with true crime a secret. Most people seem to think that discussing whether an owl could really kill a woman or analyzing the blood-spatter evidence of an infamous crime scene to be a bit, well, horrible. So I loved Laura Barcella’s insightful deep dive into why women love true crime and how, on some level, we all secretly believe we can keep ourselves safe by cataloging cold cases in our brains. It was a total “YES WAIT HOW DID SHE KNOW?!” kind of read.
Make a List of Everything You Have to Lose by Siobhan Adcock
Recommended by Cari Nazeer, deputy editor
You’ll want to have several tissues ready for this one. Siobhan Adcock’s essay on cleaning out her mother’s home after her death is many things: part memoir, part eulogy, part list, part nuts-and-bolts guide. It’s also an achingly lovely reminder that service journalism doesn’t have to be purely instructive — that a story can be useful and profoundly moving at the same time.
The Two-Word Trick That Makes Small Talk Interesting by Dave Schools
Recommended by Michelle Woo, senior platform editor
Small talk with strangers is universally awkward. But we all slog through it, fumbling through the requisite “what do you dos” until the conversation screeches to a halt and the boldest participant announces they’re so sorry but they just got a text from the babysitter and they have to run. Writer Dave Schools tells us it doesn’t have to be this way. In this piece, he shares a two-word trick that instantly disarms people and opens a channel for real connection. (He tested it at a party and ended up having deep discussions with a Mennonite who has 76 cousins, a youth pastor who’s building a church, and a social worker who served Mark Zuckerberg a whiskey ginger in 2012. It really works!) I love that such a tiny change can significantly improve our interactions — and our lives. Try it, and you might just change your opinion of small talk for good.
10 Bad Habits of Unsuccessful People by Darius Foroux
Recommended by Indrani Sen, editor in chief
What I love about Darius Foroux’s no-nonsense advice on productivity and success is that it’s really not about optimizing or “crushing it”; it’s about being happier, kinder, and more creatively fulfilled. The habits of unsuccessful people that he points to are self-defeating in fundamental ways: dwelling in negativity, not listening to others, being uncurious. And, of course, as Foroux points out, you’re simply not successful if you’re not a nice person. “If you have difficulty defining what a ‘nice person’ is,” he writes, “you’re likely a jerk.”