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14 New Reads We’re Falling in Love with This February

February 1 2021
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February is the month of love—no, we’re not talking about boyfriends or girlfriends. We’re talking books. When it’s the tail end of winter, and everyone’s curling up with their loved ones, we’re getting excited to curl up with our loved ones as well. Here are all of the new releases coming out this month we can’t wait to read, from winter thrillers and twisted sci-fi to cozy historical fiction and heartwarming rom-coms.

The Paris Library
by Janet Skeslien Charles

Jess’s Pick #1: Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable tale of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together. Its World War II setting alternates with Montana in the 1960s, and as the author skillfully drew the two plotlines together, I was totally rapt. Perfect for book clubs and bookworms alike!

Watch author Janet Skeslien Charles talk about her book! 

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The Paris Library
Janet Skeslien Charles

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

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The Witch's Heart
by Genevieve Gornichec

Sara’s Pick #1: The witch Angrboda finds herself punished with a fiery death for not providing the god Odin prophecies of the future. After escaping to a forest, hurt and powerless, she is found by the trickster god Loki. After falling in love with him and giving birth to three children, Angrboda finds her prophetic powers returning, but the future of her family isn’t pretty. Will she be another casualty of fate or can she change their stories? THE WITCH’S HEART is steeped in Norse mythology, but its message of bravery, love, and hope will speak to readers today.

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The Witch's Heart
Genevieve Gornichec

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14 New Reads We’re Falling in Love with This February

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 1, 2021

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We Had a Little Real Estate Problem
by Kliph Nesteroff

Heather’s Pick: As a white woman who grew up in suburban Florida, my understanding of Native culture was for many years limited to deeply flawed history books and equally flawed Hollywood films. Reading Tommy Orange’s THERE THERE and taking a virtual class on Indigenous Canada have been eye-opening, but I have so much to learn. Case in point, I had no idea about the storied history of Native comedy, the subject of Kliph Nesteroff’s WE HAD A LITTLE REAL ESTATE PROBLEM. A “human encyclopedia of comedy” (at least according to Vice), Nesteroff traces the Native influence on the art form back to the 1880s, when Native Americans were given the cruel “choice” of going to prison or serving as entertainment in wild West shows, and then follows it through to modern day. Along the way, he introduces readers to comedians like the Red Lake Nation’s Jonny Roberts, who pursued stand-up comedy in addition to his day job as a social worker, and Kiowa-Apache comic Adrianne Chalepah, who founded Native Ladies of Comedy. I can’t wait to dive in!

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We Had a Little Real Estate Problem
Kliph Nesteroff

From Kliph Nesteroff, “the human encyclopedia of comedy” (VICE), comes the important and underappreciated story of Native Americans and comedy.

It was one of the most reliable jokes in Charlie Hill’s stand-up routine: “My people are from Wisconsin. We used to be from New York. We had a little real estate problem.”

In We Had a Little Real Estate Problem, acclaimed comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff focuses on one of comedy’s most significant and little-known stories: how, despite having been denied representation in the entertainment industry, Native Americans have influenced and advanced the art form.

The account begins in the late 1880s, when Native Americans were forced to tour in wild west shows as an alternative to prison. (One modern comedian said it was as “if a Guantanamo detainee suddenly had to appear on X-Factor.”) This is followed by a detailed look at the life and work of seminal figures such as Cherokee humorist Will Rogers and Hill, who in the 1970s was the first Native American comedian to appear The Tonight Show.

Also profiled are several contemporary comedians, including Jonny Roberts, a social worker from the Red Lake Nation who drives five hours to the closest comedy club to pursue his stand-up dreams; Kiowa-Apache comic Adrianne Chalepah, who formed the touring group the Native Ladies of Comedy; and the 1491s, a sketch troupe whose satire is smashing stereotypes to critical acclaim. As Ryan Red Corn, the Osage member of the 1491s, says: “The American narrative dictates that Indians are supposed to be sad. It’s not really true and it’s not indicative of the community experience itself…Laughter and joy is very much a part of Native culture.”

Featuring dozens of original interviews and the exhaustive research that is Nesteroff’s trademark, We Had a Little Real Estate Problem is a powerful tribute to a neglected legacy.

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The Love Proof
by Madeleine Henry

Courtney’s Pick #1: THE LOVE PROOF is the book I’m most anticipating reading this February. The story follows Sophie, a physics prodigy, as she falls in love and leaves academia until a shocking discovery pushes her back into her research. Spanning decades, Sophie’s research on the nature of time shows us how we are always connected to those we love. This story sounds like the perfect blend of heartwarming and heart-wrenching and I can’t wait to dive in.

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The Love Proof
Madeleine Henry

“Henry has done a masterful job…This book is academic and heartfelt and tender and loving. It is worth every minute spent reading it.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

A brilliant physicist studying the nature of time embarks on a journey to prove that those we love are always connected to us, leading to surprising revelations in this fresh and unique love story.

Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.

When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities.

Spanning decades, The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.

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Dark Horses
by Susan Mihalic

Anne’s Pick #1: I can't think of a character I've rooted for more than the protagonist of DARK HORSES, Roan Montgomery. She's on her way to becoming an Olympic horseback rider, but at age fifteen, she’s also ready to confront her long-term sexual abuse by her coach . . . who is also her father. This book certainly calls for a content warning for sexual abuse and incest, but debut author Susan Mihalic takes great care with Roan. So much of Roan's story is unexpected: the dynamics with other adults in her life, what it's like to fall in love and date while still dealing with abuse, her ability to fight for her survival and freedom, and the world of competitive horseback riding. DARK HORSES is shocking and well-worth a read.

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Dark Horses
Susan Mihalic

A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.

Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.

At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Room by Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic’s debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.

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Good Neighbors
by Sarah Langan

Jess’s Pick #2: I was absolutely haunted by this story and its incredible characters. Part thriller, part literary novel, and entirely fantastic, GOOD NEIGHBORS centers on a suburban street in the near future of Long Island. The cast of characters is diverse and complicated, and each one is entirely damaged in their own way. When a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, tensions rupture between the neighbors, secrets are revealed, and no one on Maple Street will ever be the same.

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Good Neighbors
Sarah Langan

A modern-day Crucible….Beneath the surface of a suburban utopia, madness lurks.” —Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish

“Sarah Langan is a phenomenal talent with a wicked sense of wry humor. Good Neighbors knocked me out. Like Shirley Jackson, Langan’s work blends a bleak streak with an underlying sense of the humane that wrung my heart.” —Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburbpitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.

Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroedera lonely community college professor repressing her own dark pastwelcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.

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How to Not Die Alone
by Logan Ury

Courtney’s Pick #2: Whether you’re single and looking for love or in a relationship that you want to make last, this is the book for you. Logan Ury is a behavioral scientist-turned-dating coach who uses data-backed methods to help you create and nurture great relationships throughout your life. This is the kind of book you buy, mark up with notes, and refer back to year after year. I recommend everyone give it a read.

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How to Not Die Alone
Logan Ury

A funny and practical guide to help you find, build, and keep the relationship of your dreams.

Have you ever looked around and wondered, “Why has everyone found love except me?” You’re not the only one. Great relationships don’t just appear in our lives—they’re the culmination of a series of decisions, including whom to date, how to end it with the wrong person, and when to commit to the right one. But our brains often get in the way. We make poor decisions, which thwart us on our quest to find lasting love.

Drawing from years of research, behavioral scientist turned dating coach Logan Ury reveals the hidden forces that cause those mistakes. But awareness on its own doesn’t lead to results. You have to actually change your behavior. Ury shows you how.

This book focuses on a different decision in each chapter, incorporating insights from behavioral science, original research, and real-life stories. You’ll learn:
-What’s holding you back in dating (and how to break the pattern)
-What really matters in a long-term partner (and what really doesn’t)
-How to overcome the perils of online dating (and make the apps work for you)
-How to meet more people in real life (while doing activities you love)
-How to make dates fun again (so they stop feeling like job interviews)
-Why “the spark” is a myth (but you’ll find love anyway)

This data-driven, step-by-step guide to relationships, complete with hands-on exercises, is designed to transform your life. How to Not Die Alone will help you find, build, and keep the relationship of your dreams.

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Milk Fed
by Melissa Broder

Sharon’s Pick: Reading MILK FED is like eating your favorite flavor of frozen yogurt. This book is an absolute treat to read, and you can’t help yourself from going back for more of its sharply written, hilarious, erotic, and surprisingly touching prose. A twenty-four-year-old lapsed Jew, Rachel is convinced she is fine with merely subsisting as she maintains a strict, calorie-restricted diet, works a dead-end job at a Hollywood talent agency, and pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. However, when she meets Miriam, a zaftig Orthodox Jew, at her local frozen yogurt shop, Rachel can no longer suppress her desires—for unconditional love, for nourishment, and for spiritual fulfillment.

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Milk Fed
Melissa Broder

Milk Fed is a novel of appetites; a luscious, heartbreaking story of self-discovery through the relentless pursuit of desire. I couldn’t get enough of this devastating and extremely sexy book.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

A scathingly funny, wildly erotic, and fiercely imaginative story about food, sex, and god from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today.

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.

Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.

Pairing superlative emotional insight with unabashed vivid fantasy, Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we as humans can compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed, from one of our major writers on the psyche—both sacred and profane.

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The Echo Wife
by Sarah Gailey

Sara’s Pick #2: Evelyn Caldwell is a brilliant researcher, but even she doesn’t see the truth her husband Nathan’s been hiding: he made a clone of Evelyn, using her own research, and has been having an affair with her. Martine, as the clone is called, is the kind of doting, attentive wife Evelyn could never be. But when Nathan ends up dead after a fight between the three of them, the two must work together to cover up the murder, and to keep Nathan’s other secrets from getting them locked away. A suspenseful sci-fi thriller that will keep you guessing to the very last page, THE ECHO WIFE will make you reconsider how well you know those you love . . . and yourself.

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The Echo Wife
Sarah Gailey

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The Four Winds
by Kristin Hannah

Emily’s Pick: This is the year of Kristin Hannah. She has two movie adaptations of previous books coming out—FIREFLY LANE in February, and THE NIGHTINGALE this fall—and her newest book is out this February. Set in Texas during the Great Depression, THE FOUR WINDS tells Elsa Wolcott’s heart-wrenching story. After facing illness and self-doubt as a child, she harnesses her strength, growing up to become a hardworking farmer in an unhappy marriage, only to find herself close to her breaking point at age 25 in the harrowing Dust Bowl era. Elsa’s trials as she prepares to find work out West only make it that much more absorbing (and painful) to read as you fall in love with her persistent demeanor. As the early reviews indicate, this is Kristin Hannah at her best.

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The Four Winds
Kristin Hannah

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Thirsty Mermaids
by Kat Leyh

Anne’s Pick #2: This graphic novel is an absolute ROMP! When three mermaids get tanked on shipwreck booze, they cast a spell to venture on land—so they can keep the party going of course!!! But in the wake of a mean hangover, the friends find that they are trapped on land with no way home. Eisner Award–winning creator of LUMBERJANES, Kat Leyh's characters are diverse, colorful, and joyous. Girls Trip meets Aquamarine in this goofy, grown-up graphic novel about friendship and belonging.

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Thirsty Mermaids
Kat Leyh

The raucous and literal fishes-out-of-water graphic novel from prolific comic artist and writer Kat Leyh, creator of the acclaimed Snapdragon and coauthor of the Eisner and GLAAD Award–winning series Lumberjanes.

Fresh out of shipwreck wine, three tipsy mermaids decide to magically masquerade as humans and sneak onto land to indulge in much more drinking and a whole lot of fun in the heart of a local seaside tourist trap. But the good times abruptly end the next morning as, through the haze of killer hangovers, the trio realizes they never actually learned how to break the spell, and are now stuck on land for the foreseeable future. Which means everything from: enlisting the aid of their I-know-we-just-met-can-we-crash-with-you bartender friend, struggling to make sense of the world around them, and even trying to get a job with no skill set…all while attempting to somehow return to the sea and making the most of their current situation with tenacity and camaraderie (especially if someone else is buying).

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Kink
by R.O. Kwon

Elizabeth’s Pick: The only thing better than new work from your favorite writer is MANY new works from all your favorites! This brilliant anthology brings together some of the edgiest names in modern writing and showcases their talent in the most scintillating of subjects: desire. From BDSM to underground clubs to explorations of power and heartfelt love, KINK goes beyond erotica and steamy passages to celebrate the beauty across all spectrums of passion and experience. Plus, it’s a perfect Valentine’s Day read for these socially-distant times!

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Kink
R.O. Kwon

Kink is a groundbreaking anthology of literary short fiction exploring love and desire, BDSM, and interests across the sexual spectrum, edited by lauded writers R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell, and featuring a roster of all-star contributors including Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, and more.

Kink is a dynamic anthology of literary fiction that opens an imaginative door into the world of desire. The stories within this collection portray love, desire, BDSM, and sexual kinks in all their glory with a bold new vision. The collection includes works by renowned fiction writers such as Callum Angus, Alexander Chee, Vanessa Clark, Melissa Febos, Kim Fu, Roxane Gay, Cara Hoffman, Zeyn Joukhadar, Chris Kraus, Carmen Maria Machado, Peter Mountford, Larissa Pham, and Brandon Taylor, with Garth Greenwell and R.O. Kwon as editors.

The stories within explore bondage, power-play, and submissive-dominant relationships; we are taken to private estates, therapists’ offices, underground sex clubs, and even a sex theater in early-20th century Paris. While there are whips and chains, sure, the true power of these stories lies in their beautiful, moving dispatches from across the sexual spectrum of interest and desires, as portrayed by some of today’s most exciting writers.

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Do No Harm
by Christina McDonald

Allie’s Pick: I was a big fan of Christina McDonald's THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL, and I loved her follow-up novel, BEHIND EVERY LIE, so I was very excited to find out that she has a new book coming out this February! DO NO HARM follows a physician named Emma who, after her young son is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, goes to extreme lengths in order to fund the lifesaving treatment he needs. But when somebody ends up dead, Emma finds herself in a race to save her son before the truth catches up to her. I love a good thriller during the cold winter months, and DO NO HARM will go perfectly in my winter reading stack.

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Do No Harm
Christina McDonald

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Behind Every Lie and The Night Olivia Fell comes an unforgettable and heart-wrenching novel about the lengths one woman will go to save her son.

Emma loves her life. She’s the mother of a precocious kindergartener, married to her soulmate—a loyal and loving police detective—and has a rewarding career as a doctor at the local hospital.

But everything comes crashing down when her son, Josh, is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Determined to save him, Emma makes the risky decision to sell opioids to fund the life-saving treatment he needs. But when somebody ends up dead, a lethal game of cat and mouse ensues, her own husband leading the chase. With her son’s life hanging in the balance, Emma is dragged into the dark world of drugs, lies, and murder. Will the truth catch up to her before she can save Josh?

A timely and moving exploration of a town gripped by the opioid epidemic, and featuring Christina McDonald’s signature “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) prose, Do No Harm examines whether the ends ever justify the means...even for a desperate mother.

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Solo
by Rebecca Seal

Anne’s Pick #3: In the past year the workplace has completely changed. Like many others, I went from reading on my subway commute, keeping heels under my desk for important meetings, and popping in coworkers' offices for quick questions to . . . well, working at home alone. Longtime freelancer Rebecca Seal is no stranger to work from home—in fact, she's thrived on it! In her book SOLO she explains how to make working from home work for you! Seal is gentle and encouraging, but also provides plenty of psychology behind her practical advice.

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Solo
Rebecca Seal

“Kind, realistic, and genuinely helpful...Install a copy on whatever surface is functioning as your desk, and you may even feel a little bit less alone.” —The Observer (London)

A practical, accessible, and charming guide for finding joy while navigating your professional life working remotely from home—without losing your mind.

Like it or not, working alone is now the new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated the process, but the trend is clear—making a living outside the confines of a public workplace is here to stay.

For anyone who needs guidance on how to navigate working from a home office—or a home sofa—here is a charming, expert, and genuinely helpful guide to managing a productive career without impromptu hallway conversations or on-call IT support, but with more joy—and, for most of us, better coffee. Written by a dedicated work-from-home expert, Solo culls wisdom from the latest research in psychology, economics, and social science and explores what we gain, or lose, in the shift to solo work. In chapters like “Loneliness and Solitude,” “The Power of Planning,” and “The Curse of Comparison (and Why Social Media Sucks),” it picks up where the bibles for freelancers stop, offering practical, inspiring, and uniquely reassuring advice culled from a range of influences, from Aesop’s fables to medical journals, and explaining what helps us stay resilient, productive, and focused in a company of one.

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Image credit: istock / vikialis

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