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Stay or Leave? by Beverly Stone

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Self-help books abound on the shelves of your local library. Some will tell you that it’s not your fault; others will encourage you to confront the bully in your life; and nearly every single one of them will implore you to brainstorm, make a plan and stick to it.

This isn’t one of those books.

Rather, Stay or Leave: Six Steps to Resolving Your Relationship Indecision by Beverley Stone is a self-help book for those who need a kick in the proverbial pants – and we all do, sometimes.

A psychologist with over 25 years of experience, Stone is adamant about helping you wake up and realize that your life is slipping away, (even as you read this blog post!) and that you must make difficult choices. She doesn’t stroke your ego and tell you that you’re smart and strong and beautiful enough to make them. None of that mushy stuff, here. Instead, she says: Choosing is hard. And so is stress. But not choosing is hard and stressful, too, so which would you rather? What I found particularly motivating is the idea of regret. It’s the things we don’t do that cause the deepest regrets. She’s also got tremendous insights about catastrophizing. Are you worried that announcing your intentions to get a divorce would “kill” your parents or children, or that you’d “die” if you were to leave your current (woefully inadequate) living situation, or routine? Shake off those visions of doom and realize that you’re not the centre of the world; your parents, friends, children and others will survive the change – and maybe even benefit because of it. No, you’re not the centre of the world, but you are a world unto yourself – and nobody else can open the doors that were meant for you and you alone. It’s time to make the commitment and act, before you realize that yours has been a life well wasted.

So what will it be? Are you going to quit your job and follow your dream of becoming a playwright? Or finally admit that your lover/husband/wife is a drag, and cut him or her loose? We’ve got books that come in handy at any of life’s difficult junctures. Check out your local library branch today!

A Hero Lies in You (not a Mariah Carey post!)

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

I’m reading a great new book these days – well, actually, it’s a tremendously popular 1998 title, The Hero Within, by Carol S. Pearson. When my train arrives at the Central Library these mornings, I feel like a therapist has just told me: “We’ll have to continue this another time...” and I want to plead: “Please – just 5 more minutes!”

The Hero Within is an exploration of archetypes and their role in our psychological development and health. We all live out patterns of thinking and doing that reveal our psychological similarities. We cope with problems, challenges or obstacles, and we do so by telling ourselves stories about ourselves and the world. Stories like “I just can’t win. It’s so unfair!” or “...no one really understands me, anyway” or “...no one appreciates the work that I do, and the sacrifices that I constantly make”. Or stories like “I have to take this journey, even though I’m not sure where I’m going”. At any given moment, we may be operating within the narrative of the orphan, innocent, magician, wanderer, warrior or altruist.

Heroes aren’t perfect people. They often come from dysfunctional or impoverished backgrounds, and are flawed individuals. But we admire them because they don’t give up. Heroes aren’t great because they’re fearless. They’re great because they act in spite of their fear. Heroes learn to recognize what is important and what is not; they learn to cope with loss, and to summon the strength to fight for what is just. Heroes don’t care about what others think.

Even though it sounds corny, it’s true: each of us is on her own journey. Read The Hero Within and be encouraged to show courage, adopt a new life pattern (and lose the old ones!), make a difficult choice, and grow.

For general psychology and self help, browse section 158 of your local library.

Love Shrinks, by Sharyn Wolf

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Sharyn Wolf is now divorced, after having been married three times - unlikely statistics for a marriage counselor!

Sure, your shrink may give thoughtful advice and ask the right kind of questions, but that doesn’t make her immune to the kinds of problems that ultimately lead to separation and divorce. She’s only human, after all. And so is her soon-to-be ex-husband.

In Love Shrinks, Wolf bares all about her relationship with her ex-husband, and the relationships that her patients have with their own significant others. But this is by no means a list of grudges and complaints; rather, Wolf treats her patients with compassion - even when the things they do are horrific - and she treats her ex-husband with respect and honesty. Throughout the tale of their undoing, Wolf includes touching vignettes that beautifully illustrate how someone who drives us crazy can also be capable of loving us wholly and beautifully. This book is touching, funny, and fast paced.

As this is a memoir written by someone who works in a therapeutic environment, it does include its share of painful details. But, I think that overall it’s a hopeful book. Check it out if you’re the type who might like to read another person’s diary – and you know you are! The only downside is that now you’ll spend a lot more time speculating about your therapist’s personal life.

Pants on Fire!

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

Recently, during a time of great turbulence and tumult, I found myself morphing into a liar. And a pretty deft one, at that. I lied to my ex about my new boyfriend, and I lied to my new boyfriend about my ex. I lied to my family about both of them, and I lied to myself about how long this house of cards could continue to stand. I lied to my friends, too, whether that meant strategically omitting details, or fabricating new ones.

When a friend’s simple observation (“It’s just easier to tell the truth”) finally sunk in, I began to unravel my knotted web, and to start acting with integrity and honesty. And I feel a whole lot better. But interestingly enough, I had dinner with that same ex last night, and he’s now lying to his current girlfriend about me! Where does it end?

The truth (I promise!) is that we lie for many different reasons. We lie to protect our or others’ feelings, to maintain an image or reputation, and because sometimes it’s the path of least resistance.

Looking for more about lies, lying, and liars? Here’s a list, to get you started:

Out of Character book coverOut of Character: Surprising Truths about the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in all of us, by David DeSteno

The Liar in your Life: the Way to Truthful Relationships, by Robert S. Feldman

How to Spot a Liar: Why People don't Tell the Truth... and How you Can Catch Them, by Gregory Hartley

When Your Lover is a Liar: Healing the Wounds of Deception and Betrayal, by Susan Forward

To be Perfectly Honest: One Man's Year of Living Almost Truthfully Could Change your Life - No Lie, by Phil Callaway

Through Thick and Thin, by Gok Wan

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

A number of years ago, when I lived at home and had access to television (oh, the things you take for granted!) I used to watch a British show called How to Look Good Naked. A self conscious woman (typically one who was disheveled and encased in horrendous, baggy clothing) would be put through a series of challenges, all designed to convince her that her body was beautiful, attractive and sexy – and that so was she! The show would culminate with the woman strutting down a catwalk in only her underwear – a testament to her newfound confidence and acceptance of her body. I loved it!

The host of the show was a stylist named Gok, who would help the woman select strategic wardrobe pieces – items that tucked, concealed, supported or disguised whichever body parts induced insecurity. Gok loved the clothes, but you knew that he loved the women more. In fact, he played the token “gay best friend” that every woman needs – supportive, hilarious, and committed to the idea that beauty comes in every size.

I’ve just finished reading Gok’s autobiography, Through Thick and Thin, and I really enjoyed it. Frankly, it’s a beach read. There’s nothing in here that’s profound or intellectually rigorous. Rather, it’s a nice light read for people who watched and loved the show, or for people who might be interested in how to break into the styling business.

Gok’s road to stardom wasn’t an easy one. He was obese and then anorexic; he worked several dissatisfying jobs before finding the one he loved, and he both made and lost friends along the way. Indeed, life wasn’t simple for a self-described “fat, gay Chinese kid”, yet Gok’s determination and the love of his family saw him though challenging times. This biography has an ultimately heartwarming tone.

Check it out if you need a nice, light read. Or if you’re interested in a career in fashion and styling. Or if you’re a fat, gay, Chinese kid. And especially if you’re struggling with body issues, and you just want to feel better.

The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, by Rachel Shteir

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Stealing is as old as human culture, and it even exists in the animal world. So it’s no surprise that with the rise of capitalism and department stores in particular, we witness a specific type of stealing: shoplifting. I’m partway through a fascinating new book on shoplifting. It covers the history of shoplifting, as well as the various theories that have sprung up to explain it. Shoplifting can’t only be about poverty – think of that infamous Winona Ryder! - but it’s not just about greed or temptation, either. Is shoplifting an uncontrollable impulse? Can it be said that it’s a political act or statement? What are its real costs to business owners and consumers?

Most fascinating to me is the way that shoplifters describe their own behavior. Some are remorseless; others are ashamed. Some shoplifters do it to get a cheap (make that free) high, while others enjoy the feeling of superiority that results when they’ve conned a “stupid salesman”. Shoplifting is committed by both men and women, old and young, and by people of every ethnicity and class – and it affects everyone in the marketplace.

Find out more by reading this interesting, fast-paced read. The Steal is part history, part anthropology, and totally fascinating!

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