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7 Pop Culture Solutions for Your 2021 New Year's Resolutions

Books, streaming platforms, TV series and apps help make it easy

A notepad with 2021 New Year's Resolutions written on a page with a laptop and a cup of coffee nearby on top of a wooden desk

Nora Carol Photography/Moment/Getty Images

En español | It's that time of year: We take stock, look ahead and vow to do better. Ah, if only we had some help for our new year's resolutions, especially when just getting through 2020 seemed overwhelming. It turns out that the pop culture world of TV, books and apps has all kinds of entertaining ways to get us over the resolution hump. See if you don't add a few more resolutions once you check out our guide to what to read, watch, listen to and even drink for a happier and healthier 2021.

The resolution: “I need to get more sleep."

The pop culture solution: If the melatonin isn't quite cutting it, download the app Calm, which reached 4 million downloads this year. In addition to guided meditations and ambient music tracks, the app features a lineup of soothing Sleep Stories, narrated by the likes of Matthew McConaughey, 51; Laura Dern, 53; and Idris Elba. Some tales are wistful and fairytale-like; others are boring by design. Take, for instance, “But Seriously, the Rules of Tennis,” read by none other than John McEnroe, 61. In October, HBO Max released the spin-off A World of Calm, which pairs celebrity narrators — including Nicole Kidman, 53, and Keanu Reeves, 56 — with relaxing images of everything from falling snow to noodle-making.

What to do: Download Calm from your favorite app store and subscribe for $14.99/month or $69.99/year. To watch the series, subscribe to HBO Max for $14.99/month.


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Kate Black and June Diane Raphael

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Kate Black (left) and June Diane Raphael

The resolution: “I should get more involved in local politics."

The pop culture solution: You might recognize comedian and podcaster June Diane Raphael from her role on Grace and Frankie as the acerbic Brianna Hanson. Much like her TV mom, Jane Fonda, 83, Raphael has emerged as an activist, and in 2019, she teamed with Kate Black — a former chief of staff at EMILY's List — to write Represent: The Women's Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World. Filled with infographics and politician profiles, the book is of course entertaining, but what sets it apart is just how plain useful it is, taking the form of a 21-point checklist covering the nuts and bolts of politics, including filing deadlines, fundraising and campaigning.

What to do: Pick up a copy from your local indie bookstore for $19.95.

RELATED: The Best Movies Coming to Screens Big and Small This Week

Actress Jane Fonda speaks outside the US Capitol during a climate change protest

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Jane Fonda speaks outside the U.S. Capitol during a climate change protest in Washington D.C.

The resolution: “I want to do my part to help the planet.”

The pop culture solution: Speaking of Jane Fonda, the Energizer Bunny of an actress and activist published a new memoir this fall called What Can I Do? My Path from Climate Despair to Action. In 2019, the two-time Oscar winner moved to D.C. to lead weekly nonviolent climate change demonstrations on Capitol Hill, and her new book weaves her personal stories with speeches by and conversations with climate scientists and community organizers. You'll come out of it inspired to make real change in your own life, and best of all, 100 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Greenpeace.

What to do: Order a copy from your local indie bookstore for $30.

Chef Bobby Flay

Stephen Davis Phillips/Food Network

Chef Bobby Flay

The resolution: “I want to expand my cooking skills beyond PB&J."

The pop culture solution: Cooking-show addicts rejoice! On Jan. 4, the new streaming service discovery+ launches with more than 55,000 new and classic episodes from the Food Network and other members of the Discovery family, such as HGTV, TLC, Discovery Channel and many, many more. In addition to the how-to programs you love, the service will feature an enormous slate of original shows, many of which are aimed directly at the hearts (and stomachs) of food lovers, including a culinary tour of Italy featuring Bobby Flay, 56, and Giada De Laurentiis, 50; a show about food history starring Carla Hall, 56; and a family-friendly program that pairs baker Duff Goldman with puppets from the Jim Henson Company.

What to do: Download discovery+ to your smart TV, phone, computer, or tablet for $4.99/month with ads or $6.99/month for ad-free. Verizon customers will receive up to 12 months of discovery+ for free on select plans.

RELATED: 5 Food and Cooking Podcasts You'll Love

The resolution: “I want to become a better writer."

The pop culture solution: Think of MasterClass as an online university with an absolutely hall-of-fame-caliber faculty, offering online video courses from experts like Jane Goodall, 86; Helen Mirren, 75; and Gary Kasparov, 57. A particularly robust “department,” if you will, is writing, which offers a “professor” for nearly every genre. Working on your first novel? Margaret Atwood, 81, and Salman Rushdie, 73, have you covered. Want to tackle a thriller? Dan Brown, 56, and David Baldacci, 60, will show you the ropes. By the end of 2021, you just might master a short story (Joyce Carol Oates, 82), a play (David Mamet, 73), a TV pilot (Shonda Rhimes, 50), a film script (Aaron Sorkin, 59), a side-splitting memoir (David Sedaris, 63) and the perfect joke (Steve Martin, 75).

What to do: Download MasterClass from your favorite app store and subscribe for $180 per year to access all online tutorials.

Cameron Diaz and Katherine Power drinking wine

B2820/Retna/Avalon.red/Newscom

Cameron Diaz (left) and Katherine Power

The resolution: “I'd love to learn more about the wine I'm drinking.”

The pop culture solution: The past year may have seen us buying more wine than usual, but how much do you know about what goes into your favorite bottle? Actress Cameron Diaz and her friend Katherine Power — cofounder of lifestyle site Who What Wear — are on a mission to educate drinkers about “clean” wine through their new label Avaline. Available in red, white, rosé and sparkling, the wines are all about simplicity: the grapes are organic, there are no unnecessary additives, and they're vegan-friendly (many wines use fish bladders, egg whites or milk-derived casein in the fining process). And did we mention they're all under $26?

What to do: You can find Avaline wines in 43 states or buy online at wine.com.

The resolution: "I need to get more organized."

The pop culture solution: During a year that often felt chaotic, it's unsurprising that many folks embraced culture devoted to getting organized. If you weren't one of the Americans who spent the lockdown purging your closets (à la Japanese guru Marie Kondo), 2021 is a great time to get acquainted with The Home Edit, a Nashville-based home organization firm founded by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin. In addition to in-person and video consultations and a robust product line (including storage bins and labels), the duo premiered a new Netflix show, Get Organized with The Home Edit, during which they help celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Neil Patrick Harris clean house. And their new book, The Home Edit Life, is an encyclopedic guide to everything from perfectly packing a suitcase to storing holiday decorations to wrangling messy phone cords.

What to do: Watch their series on Netflix and buy a copy of their book from your local indie bookstore for $28.50.

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