Review: The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown

I decided to give this audiobook – narrated by the author – a chance right after having watched Alain de Botton’s talk, Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. I don’t really recall how my mind then led me to associate the aforementioned with Brené Brown’s work, but here we are…

On The Power of Vulnerability, Dr. Brown offers an invitation and a promise – that when we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Here she dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and reveals that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.

I still remember the first time I listened to the author’s Ted talk (back in 2014) on the subject of vulnerability because it changed and transformed a lot in me. Brown’s use of humor and wit to educate the listener delivered everything I wanted. And I was ecstatic to then start the audiobook (albeit, three years later) and discover that her comical anecdotes were still on point with plenty of wit and snark to spare. I laughed heartily and merrily throughout the six sessions, which was so wonderful and centering to experience. Pure comedic gems that lead to fascinating discoveries concerning our lives. I went through a roller coaster of emotions that force me to reexamine myself.

So I thought I’d share next a few points from the audiobook that really resonated with me:

  • Self-acceptance and self-love: “We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”
  • The difference between shame and guilt: the former being a focus on self (I am bad) while the later is focused on behaviour (I did bad). And how crucial it is to pay attention to their differences.
  • Shame resilience and moving through it. Owning your story.
  • The difference between empathy (being the antidote to shame) and sympathy:“Empathy is feeling with, sympathy is feeling for.”
  • Debunking the myths about vulnerability.
  •  Practicing gratitude in the midsts of foreboding joy.
  •  Setting boundaries and learning to say no: “Choose discomfort over resentment.”
  •  Overfunctioning & underfunctioning anxiety.
  • To be vulnerable and let ourselves be seen: “No one reaches out to you for compassion or empathy so you can teach them how to behave better. They reach out to us because they believe in our capacity to know our darkness well enough to sit in the dark with them.”

To put it simply, The Power of Vulnerability is all about becoming aware of your emotions and “bring to light processes people aren’t even aware they’re engaged in.” I wish I could make everyone in my close proximity listen to this audiobook as soon as possible. Already I’ve had so many discussions over the past few days about certain notions shared by Dr. Brown that are well worth the spotlight.

And not only did she make this reading experience feel fun and interactive while following her mindfulness, the personal anecdotes about her husband, kids, and friends made me laugh out loud without fail. That’s just a guaranteed way to make me remember a crucial point a long way down the road. Plus, the book never suffered from giving off vague advice, thanks to Brown having the experiences of those she researched and of her own to back-up the statements.

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Power of Vulnerability, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc

This collection seemed like the perfect blend between Strong Is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker and Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. So the wait to get approved for this ARC was nearly excruciating with me checking my emails every day for a week. But I’m glad to say that it lived up to the hype I created in my mind.

Since 2013 photographer Mihaela Noroc has traveled the world with her backpack and camera taking photos of everyday women to showcase the diversity of beauty all around us. The Atlas of Beauty is a collection of her photographs celebrating women from all corners of the world, revealing that beauty is everywhere, and that it comes in many different sizes and colors. Noroc’s colorful and moving portraits feature women in their local communities, ranging from the Amazon rainforest to London city streets, and from markets in India to parks in Harlem, visually juxtaposing the varied physical and social worlds these women inhabit. Packaged as a gift-worthy, hardcover book, The Atlas of Beauty presents a fresh perspective on the global lives of women today.

I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the women featured in here. They bring dignity, strength, and inner beauty that shines from page to page. From each of them I learned or was reminded of something new, whether that be tolerance, kindness, resilience, natural and authentic beauty, serenity, strength, and generosity. Plus, the vibrant and colorful photographs really brought something new to the table.

However, as captivating as the images were, I feel like the words that accompanied them, save for a few, failed to move me. In comparison to the collections I mentioned at the start of my review, it was difficult to ignore how bland the text is. I wanted to see what lies beneath the surface, to feel like we’re getting to know the person in front of us… But again, save for a few, I rarely encountered it in this collection. Also: I’m low-key sad that the utterly powerful cover picture wasn’t included in here.

On a brighter note, I’d love to share the photographs of the enthralling women that captivated me:

The Atlas of Beauty 1-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 2-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 4-- bookspoils

Pokhara, Nepal:The Atlas of Beauty 3-- bookspoils

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan:The Atlas of Beauty 5-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 6-- bookspoilsThe Atlas of Beauty 7-- bookspoils

New York, USA:The Atlas of Beauty 8-- bookspoils

Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan:The Atlas of Beauty 9-- bookspoils

Tehran, Iran:The Atlas of Beauty 10-- bookspoils

Nampan, Myanmar:The Atlas of Beauty 11-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 12-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 13-- bookspoils

 

Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador:The Atlas of Beauty 14-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 15-- bookspoils

I was truly surprised to see Eden Saban in the above, since she’s quite well-known in Israel, thanks to being on the last season of Big Brother. So now I’m quite eager to find out if the author randomly stumbled upon her and asked for a picture, or if they set this up….

The Atlas of Beauty 16-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 17-- bookspoils

On that bitter-sweet note, the sharp women and girls featured in The Atlas of Beauty have made a new fan out of me. I’m definitely interested in keeping up with Mihaela Noroc’s photography works next in the making.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: September 26th, 2017

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Atlas of Beauty, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul

“Aren’t we all writers these days? We live through text. With our status updates and our e-mails, many of us spend our days writing down more words than we speak aloud. Anyone can write a book or post a story and find readers. Even those whose book reviews live exclusively on Amazon or Goodreads or in diaries or in the text of e-mails are still active creators of the written word.”

I was ecstatic when I found about this book of books. Similar to the author’s tendency to track every book she’s read over the past 28 years, I’ve been doing the same – granted, for a different length of time – with the subtle addition of writing down the exact time I finished the last page. Looking back, I realize I never really gave it a second thought when I started writing down the books I read, because similar to what Pamela Paul said: “It’s my way of keeping track. Because if I didn’t write it all down, I worry (naturally), I would forget it.”
My Life With Bob 1-- bookspoilsBut what appealed to me in particular with My Life With Bob was the exploration of this next idea talked about in the paragraph below:

“Bob has lasted a lot longer than any of my abandoned teenage journals—I write in it still—and here’s why: diaries contained all kinds of things I wanted to forget—unrequited crushes and falling-outs with friends and angsting over college admissions. Bob contains things I wanted to remember: what I was reading when all that happened.”

What I didn’t anticipate going into this was the memoir-type style of this book, where the author would talk extensively about her own life while focusing on her love for books in the background. But since I love memoirs with a passion, I was more than welcome of this addition. We follow Pamela Paul from her childhood growing up with seven brothers, to her trying to seal a job as a librarian at the ripe age of ten (“Did she not see that I was a book person, different from other, more casual library visitors, that I cared?”), discussing her love for literary heroines, traveling across Asia and Europe fresh out of college (which read a bit like a backpacking travelogue), her journey on becoming a writer and what that meant for her, and moving onto to the present day working as an editor of the The New York Times Book Review, all the while weaving themes of romance, disappointment, marriage, and motherhood into the overall arc.

Also, so many sentiments shared in this book really resonated for me. Like this irrational feeling of jealousy being perfectly captured:

“Like W. H. Auden, who once wrote, “Occasionally, I come across a book which I feel has been written especially for me and for me only,” I considered certain books mine, and the idea that other people liked them and thought of them as theirs felt like an intrusion. (“Like a jealous lover, I don’t want anybody else to hear of it”—Auden, again.) I wanted to be the only one who knew about a book or at least to be the first one there.”

I’ve said these exact words before, so reading someone else expressing the same notion was pivotal. “You know that experience of reading thoughts you haven’t yet articulated to yourself?” This was that.

Plus, I felt like I had so much to say with every turning page. The ideas presented and analyzed in My Life With Bob provided me with “a sense of total and complete identification.”

However, the second half of the book did drag a bit while reading about her fights with her ex-husband over books… It wasn’t exactly what I’d signed up for. I personally preferred reading more about her formative years than the mess of her past relationship.

“The mistake had been thinking I was somehow above fucking up royally, that I was safe. But I had been just as vulnerable and oblivious as anyone else, and reading all the books in the world couldn’t have saved me.”

When the narrative moved on from that point, I breathed a sigh of relief. In particular when the focus shifted on a cherished notion of mine: making your loved ones read your favorite books.

“I didn’t read it,” Roger confessed once the plane reached cruising altitude. “But I meant to.”
I should have known. Except in cases of rare devotion—and even then—trying to make someone read something is like force-feeding a baby. Most people prefer reading what they want to read. This cold fact was particularly upsetting to my father, who viewed reading or watching something he recommended as a demonstration, even a proof, of love. He was obsessed with recommending, cajoling over and over until you submitted. “You have to watch Ballad of a Soldier, he’d insist, strong-arming you into the TV room. “Come in here,” he’d say as soon as I walked into his apartment on the Upper West Side. “I just want to show you one scene from Black Narcissus. Just one scene! Pammy, please!”

I wholeheartedly get the dad in this scenario.

“The prospect of finding someone who takes as much pleasure in the book as I do is often more a reward than the book itself. ”

Another thing I loved about My Life With Bob was the unexpected laugh-out-loud funny scenes, like this confession from the author on why she stayed an extra day in the hospital after giving birth to her third child:

“In truth, I stayed in the hospital because I was in the middle of The Hunger Games. I’d started reading it in early labor, paused so that I could give birth, and then picked it back up to read almost immediately after Teddy was born and latched on, reading as I nursed. It was a genuine page-turner, and for once, with great pleasure, I had time to turn the pages.”

Iconic.

All in all: this being my first nonfiction read purely about books completely satisfied my immediate and all-consuming bookish heart.

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying My Life With Bob, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!