On Books Being Useful

And now, back to the theme. (Although "enough" is certainly connected to the theme, we all need a break from it!)

I feel like I've written about this before, but I don't know where. Maybe I've just thought about it enough to make it seem like I'd written it. This happens a lot.

Gretchen Rubin posits in her books about Happiness the we often learn more from the idiosyncratic examples we happen upon than texts dedicated specifically to the subjects we desire to learn about.

This has been really true for me. Although I'm a personal psychology / brain research junkie, I've found the most personal growth from more obscure places.

For example, the book that eased me out of some of my adolescent pain and into adulthood was really quite awful. I read it when I first moved back to California from Chicago, in 1999, and I was out of work, depressed, and really lost as to what-next. The story is narcissistic and the writing mediocre.  However, the thing that rang true for me then was the brutal honesty.

I stumbled across a reference to the book in Julia Cameron's The Right to Write in the chapter on honesty in storytelling. (She is another writer I get something from, even if in-spite of the writing.) Here are some of the phrases she used to describe this book:  "compulsively readable," "intimate," "brave," "personally risky," and not "particularly flattering." Sold.

It was just one of those books that no matter how stupid or awful it seemed, you knew the writers were bravely telling their story. I might read it differently today, but at the time the neurosis and pain expressed therein seemed clear and true. That book was The Unimaginable Life by Kenny Loggins and his then wife Julia Loggins Cooper, which is a diary of their relationship. I know, just the description of the book is cringe-inducing, and yet it was deeply important to me at the time that I read it.

I don't recommend it.

. . . more 31 days posts . . .

1 comment:

  1. I am currently reading The Happiness Project and I like the idea that we have to each find our own list to focus on, but the thought is overwhelming. I agree that the best life lessons, or things we learn the most from, are rarely the self-help books written on those subjects. The real challenge is how to recognize when those events happen and incorporate those changes in a positive way. To be cognizant is most of the battle. That applies to the parenting issue in your previous post, too.


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