Ok, so that title is a bit of a clickbait, but well…it’s February (aka Valentines Day month) and the 15th (which is apparently Singles Awareness Day), so I thought I’d share different books that focus on as many kinds of healthy relationships as I can.
Coming from someone who kinda finds self-help books cringey as a concept, this was also a challenge I set for myself to find titles I would actually read publicly. This is not to say I’m judging anyone else for reading or liking such books! I just don’t like admitting to needing help, pretty much ever.
(…Feel free to recommend me a self-help book to get over this.)
With that introduction out of the way, let’s dive in!
The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook by Tim Desmond
I will admit that I frequently and freely judge books by their covers, and this ’14-Day Plan to Transform Your Relationship With Yourself’ by Tim Desmond caught my eye because 1) it’s pretty and 2) it screams workbook first and self-help book second. Also, I think many people’s unhappiness with themselves stems much of the time from being far too hard on themselves about things that are normal and natural to the human condition. We are people, we are messy. But we don’t have to be miserable messes, and here’s an actionable guide to getting on the road to being kind to ourselves!
Desmond’s aim with this book is to improve your ability to motivate yourself; regulate your emotions; learn resilience; lessen self-criticism and destructive behavior; heal painful experiences; and be more present and compassionate with others. It also contains downloadable audio recordings!
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Are we normal peple?
Sally Rooney, the 27- year-old Irish author, received much attention when Normal People was longlisted for Man Booker Prize in 2018 and subsequently won a few other awards in 2019. Rooney returned to the spotlight in April this year. When we were all stuck at home, Normal People was made into a 12-part series by BBC3 and Hulu, and premiered in Canada through CBC Gem.
Normal People gained not only critical but also commercial success. Rooney was regarded as “Salinger for the Snapchat generation,” and the book was raved as “a future classic” by some credible review sources. But if you look at Goodreads, the book has mixed reviews, ranging from 1 star to 5 stars.
Apparently reverse psychology works … the polarized review ratings triggered my curiosity, and I started reading the book. After I read the book, I finally understand the reviewers’ opinions better. I can see why some criticized the unconventional editing of the book – how many adverbs were used in the book?! (Not that those editing rules are important to me.) I also understand why others thought some critical background information wasn’t explained enough – what did Carricklea and the supporting characters look like? Why did Connell feel so insecure even he had such a loving mother?
But perhaps what I agree the most is the on-and-off relationship between Connell and Marianne was upsetting at times. Therefore, I can’t agree how a credible review source described the book: an exploration of “intense love across social classes.” I don’t think their young love was intense – how could it be on and off if it was intense? It wasn’t even so much a love story to me, though you probably would argue with that.
The book reminds me of Leaving Las Vegas, an old movie based on John O’Brien’s book with the same title. The film won Nicolas Cage the best actor. It was about two desperate people, an alcoholic screenwriter and a prostitute. They met and consoled each other with sex. It was a love story to me when I watched it over 20 years ago, but now, my definition of Love has changed, and I no longer think that was a love story. RogerEbert.com says: It was about addiction’s real pain and the two desperate souls using love as “last resort” for their pain. I think that’s very precise.
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For the last few months, many people, even the most avid readers, have been having trouble picking up a book and getting through more than a few pages before their minds start to wander. My colleague Kasey wrote about this recently and I can certainly relate.
One way that I have been coping with the anxiety of these uncertain times, besides my weekend stress baking, is reading more romance novels. Romance is often considered an escape. It tends to be about regular people living their lives, and you know there will be a happy ending, whether it’s happily ever after or happy for now. There’s something comforting about that, and even the predictability of the story lines can be reassuring – you know what’s likely to happen but you get invested in the characters and you continue the story to its satisfying conclusion. Continue reading →