Showing posts with label self help. Show all posts
Showing posts with label self help. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Title: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at  The Rumpus,  now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir  Wild —is the person thousands turn to for advice. 
Tiny Beautiful Things  brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book   is a balm for everything life throws our way.

My Review:

The raves that I heard about this book.  THE RAVES.  Shannon @ River City Reading was the ringleader, but Leah @ Books Speak Volumes was in on it, as well as several other of my book blogger friends...hard to remember them all because THE RAVES all started to smoosh together after a while.  :)  I knew this was a must for Nonfiction November.

Honestly, I was unsure about how I would like this at first.  Excerpts from an advice column?  Can't I get the same thing by perusing Dear Abby?

Answer: no.  Dear Sugar (aka Cheryl Strayed) is not one lick like Dear Abby.

The big difference in Sugar's responses is how she adds (very) personal experience to them.  Most advice columnists give suggestions based on seemingly objective, well-rounded perspectives.  Sugar, however, often gives advice by relating it to specific events in her own past.  This includes her experience with everything from divorce, to child molestation, to affairs, to grieving a loved one, and beyond.  This, paired with her unique tone (best described, I'd say, as "snarky and smart, yet loveable"...she calls everyone "sweet pea," how adorable is that?) gives her columns a flavor the likes of which I've never seen before.  Sugar tells it like it is, moreso than any other advice columnist that I've encountered.

While not every piece in this book will relate to your own life, I'm quite sure that any adult reader will find at least one story here that pulls quite harshly on their heartstrings.  Many of the letter writers are looking for advice on love and marriage, but others are worried about work, friends, children, relationships with their parents, grief after a death, etc.  Every age from high schoolers to 60+ are represented, so you'll find a wide range of perspectives.

While I did fall for this book by the time it was finished, I have to be honest--I was pretty lukewarm about it at first.  I think Sugar's tendency to share so much from her own past was off-putting for me.  I kept thinking, "Is this a tell-all memoir, or an advice column?"  As I mentioned above, many of her personal revelations can be quite shocking, and I think that made me feel like it was teetering beyond what is appropriate in trying to counsel these anonymous took the focus off of the letter-writer, and put it more on her.  When she gives advice (even without any personal narrative), it is beautiful, eloquent, and tear-inducing, and I often felt that the stories of her past were unnecessary to get her points across.

However, as the book went on, I did become more comfortable with Sugar's level of "oversharing," so to speak.  Her stories illustrate some rather poignant life lessons, and for that, you've got to commend her honesty.  I think once I saw the stories paired with her tone, it all started to flow a bit better, and I fell into the rhythm of her conversations with these help-seekers.

My thoughts on this book are rather complicated, as you may be able to tell (though given the subject matter, I'd say that's rather appropriate).  My overall feeling is that I did enjoy it--Sugar has a way of getting to the heart of the matter that exceeds the abilities of any of her contemporaries, and her advice is truly amazing.  Plus, the book is perfect if you're looking for something that's easy to pick up and put down at will, as each letter is only a few pages in length.  However, sometimes I wished Sugar's guidance was allowed to stand on its own, without the addition of her personal experiences.  I commend her for sharing them, but I didn't always think they were appropriate tools for giving counsel, as they sometimes took the focus away from the contributor's concerns.

I fully expect to be lacerated for this review, but there it is.  :)  I will say that I'm curious about Cheryl Strayed's other work now, though!  And I look forward to getting to know her through her more biographical works.

Have you read Tiny Beautiful Things?  Do you think it's helpful for an advice columnist to add in their personal stories and life lessons, or are they better left at home?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book Review: Be Happy Without Being Perfect by Alice D. Domar

Title:  Be Happy Without Being Perfect: How To Break Free From The Perfection Deception
Author: Alice D. Domar, PhD, with Alice Lesch Kelly
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: March 4, 2008
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Do you have trouble going to bed at night when there’s a mess in the kitchen? Do you think you would be happier if only you could lose weight, be a better parent, work smarter, reduce stress, exercise more, and make better decisions?

You’re not perfect. But guess what? You don’t have to be. 

All of us struggle with high expectations from time to time. But for many women, the worries can become debilitating–and often, we don’t even know we’re letting unrealistic expectations color our thinking. The good news is, we have the power to break free from the perfectionist trap–and internationally renowned health psychologist, Dr. Alice Domar can show you how.

Be Happy Without Being Perfect  offers a way out of the self-imposed handcuffs that this thinking brings, providing concrete solutions, practical advice, and action plans that teach you how to:
• Assess your tendency toward perfectionism in all areas of your life
• Set realistic goals
• Alleviate the guilt and shame that perfectionism can trigger
• Manage your anxiety with clinically proven self-care strategies 
• Get rid of the unrealistic and damaging expectations that are hurting you–for good!

Filled with the personal insights of more than fifty women,  Be Happy Without Being Perfect  is your key to a happier, calmer, and more enjoyable life.

My Review:

Yesterday, in my monthly review, I alluded to an unfortunate personal event that occurred last month.  My recovery from it was made all the more difficult by my tendency for perfectionistic thinking--something that I've dealt with for many years now!  And when I first saw this book title a few years back, I remember thinking, "OMG, this book was written for ME AND ME ALONE."  It's been on my TBR list for a few years, so even though I am rather behind on my ARCs, I decided to put them aside for a little while and read this book instead--the timing seemed to be ideal, and I needed a book that would help me mentally nurture myself for a while.

If you think perfectionist thoughts are a source of stress for you, I HIGHLY recommend this book.  This doesn't mean that you have to be a perfectionist in all areas of your life--the book is broken into parts, so you can decide if you need to work more on your work life, your home life, your parenting skills, etc.  (I should also note that the book is geared towards women...sorry guys, you might need to turn elsewhere if you're looking for help in this area.)

The book begins with a quiz that helps you identify the parts of your life where perfectionist thinking plagues you the most.  This was helpful for me, because I often use the blanket statement "I am a perfectionist"--but the quiz helped me realize that that is not true in all aspects of my life.  That alone is a stress reliever!  And I'm sure most other readers will feel similarly.

From there, the authors present a set of mental strategies that you can use to combat that type of thinking.  I am a personal fan of the "stop, breathe, reflect, and choose" strategy that they highlighted throughout the book.  They then devote one chapter more specifically to the different areas of your life: health/fitness, housekeeping, work/office life, relationships/marriage, parenting, and general decision-making.  It's likely that not every chapter will be relevant for you: for example, I don't use a lot of perfectionistic thinking at my job, or in terms of my health/fitness, so I didn't devote as much time to those chapters.  But in housekeeping, relationships, and parenting?  I soaked those chapters up fo' sho'.

Did this book cure my perfectionism?  Nope...I still have lots more to work on in this crazy brain-o-mine.  But, the book did help me break my thought patterns down into smaller chunks, allowing me to consider why I put so much stress on certain areas of my life.  And by thinking more critically like that, I am now more conscious of those thoughts and can use the strategies in the book to help me combat them.  This is a lifelong journey for a lot of perfectionists, but I think reading this book is a helpful first step.

Do you struggle with perfectionistic thinking?  And if not, have you read any other self-help books in other areas that were beneficial for you?
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