Raising Men: Reads for Modern Masculinity

I recently spotted How to Be a Real Man by Scott Stuart at our Fairmount branch and I really recommend you check it out. This super cute children’s book draws you in with verse and a gently progressive message about identity and value. First, it examines different “tough guys” from history — vikings and pirates, etc. — and how “tough” they were. Then it offers a real set of guidelines for good men: fight for what’s right, express your feelings, help others. It’s a good read for all ages and genders to feel a hopeful breath of fresh air.

Here are some reads from the adult section that share a more enlightened view of masculine identity:

Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity by Justin Baldoni

In this urgent, groundbreaking and provocative reimagining of what it means to be man enough, Justin arms readers with new tools and the ability to have both compassion and empathy for themselves and the men in their lives.

Pretty Boys: Legendary Icons Who Redefined Beauty (and how to glow up too) by David Yi

In this inclusive, illustrated history and guide to skin care and beauty, journalist and founder of Very Good Light David Yi teaches us that self-care, wellness, and feeling beautiful transcends time, boundaries, and binaries-and that pretty boys can change the world.

Father Figure: How to Be a Feminist Dad by Jordan Shapiro

Shapiro presents an exploration of the psychology of fatherhood from an archetypal perspective as well as a cultural history that challenges familiar assumptions about the origins of so-called traditional parenting roles.

Better Boys, Better Men: The New Masculinity That Creates Greater Courage and Emotional Resiliency by Andrew Reiner

How modern forms of masculinity are harming men-and what we can do about it.

Tough: My Journey to True Power by Terry Crews

Not only the gripping story of a man’s struggle against himself and how he finally got his mind right, but a bold indictment of the cultural norms and taboos that ask men to be outwardly tough while leaving them inwardly weak. 

Cultish by Amanda Montell

Okay, language lovers–You have to add Cultish to your to-read list! Amanda Montell’s explorative work weaves together several interviews and primary accounts of people who have been entrapped by the linguistic power of, yes, cults, but also of organizations like Crossfit or multi-level marketing schemes. With each former cult member and cult-like group that Montell examines, she picks apart the diction that is used to isolate and persuade potential followers–and how saturated our society is with this linguistic phenomenon. 

She begins by discussing the heavily debated difference between religious groups and cults. It turns out that even incredibly well-researched academics cannot narrow down criteria that technically distinguishes one from the other. One difference that has been pointed to, though, is the age of the organization or faith-based group. Christianity, Islam, and Judiasm are ancient and that passage of time grants a respect to organized religions that newer organizations do not have. They do, however, still use language that makes individuals feel special and eventually creates a divide between them and those outside the group. Cults, Montell argues, do this as well and then some. 

What sends cults and cult-like groups into territory that alarms most people in ways religion doesn’t is the way they warp language. A commonality amongst all the groups that Montell examines is how they expand the standard definition of words in the English language to fit their needs. The end result is believing in a shared language that is fundamentally different from the vernacular our society uses to function together, which is ultimately divisive. 

Montell also debunks and demystifies the idea of “brainwashing,” explaining that it is incredibly unlikely for so many minds to be overtaken by buzz-words, mantras, and glossolalia against their will. For one’s mind to become complacent in what we colloquially refer to as “brainwashing” they must already be in a state of mind where they want to be controlled and validated. There is a “charisma” that cults have, Montell argues. They make people feel safe and not alone, which is attractive to most and is the reason why so many people get caught up in cultish groups. 

As someone who loves words and how powerful language is, I hung onto every word of Cultish. There is an incredible variety to Montell’s research, which provides an approachable reading experience that allows you to put it down and pick it back up without disrupting the narrative flow. I could write many more paragraphs about her findings and arguments, but I will leave you all with this sliver of insight into this riveting book. I cannot recommend this enough! 

This title is also available as a Book-on-CD

 

Presence by Amy Cuddy

A very convincing, evidence-based explanation of how our posture has a huge impact on how we think, feel, and behave, Amy Cuddy’s Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges is the book of science-backed empowerment we all need. It’s the bestselling follow-up to her popular TED talk, “Your Body Language May  Shape Who You Are”.

After a brain injury in college, Amy Cuddy began a lifelong fascination with identity, self-confidence, self-doubt, and how good performance happens. When she became a psychology researcher, Cuddy began investigating the role of the body in determining or changing psychological states. In this book, she explains all the research, her own and that of others, that demonstrates the power of body posture to change mood, thoughts, and behaviors. Basically, using open, expansive postures (shoulders back, head up, chest out – things that make you physically bigger) leads to greater feelings of confidence, calm, and self-efficacy, which translates into taking more risks, having better pain tolerance, and much more. On the flip side, getting stuck in contracted, closed postures (hunched shoulders, crossed arms or ankles – anything that shrinks you into less space) makes you feel and act more timid and powerless. Cuddy gives specific examples of how this works, also digging into the role of gender, cultural differences, and more.

My favorite thing I learned in this book is the concept of “personal power”, as opposed to “social power”. Where social power is the authority and status that allows you to direct or control other people, personal power is an inner feeling, a wellspring of resources that gives you the capability of meeting any challenge or situation with poise. You can have personal power without having social power, and it’s not something anyone externally can take away from you. It’s personal power that is increased by changing your body language. I loved how understandable and achievable Cuddy made this concept through clear writing and good advice.

The second-best concept from this book is the “iHunch” – this is less empowering, but very important. Cuddy describes research into the effect of continually hunching over a mobile phone (which she dubs iHunch or iPosture), research which indicates that this posture not only has bad health effects but also makes you feel and act more powerless. For me, that was an important cautionary tale, giving me just one more reason to get off my phone.

If you want to feel better, perform better in challenging situations, or just generally have more confidence, I definitely recommend you read this book – or at least try a power pose or two. It turns out that, as long as you do it in private and not to grandstand or intimidate, standing like Wonder Woman with your hands on your hips or manspreading in a chair might just be good for you.

Healthy Conflict: Books on Communicating

I buy books for the non-fiction section, specifically in the 100s (in Dewey Decimal numbers, this means philosophy, psychology, spirituality and self-help). Sometimes this means that I see books or buy books in my section that send me down a rabbit hole of discovery; most recently I accidentally ran across a 2008 self-help book called Feeling Good Together by David D. Burns. Burns popularized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which can make a big difference in the treatment of depression and anxiety, and in this book he gives his advice as a therapist on how to build better relationships with our family and friends. He focuses mostly on the principles of good communication, and how to talk to each other to build more trust, goodwill, and understanding.

I really liked how evidence-based it was, citing lots of examples of actual patients he’d worked with and how their problems had developed and been addressed in therapy. I also appreciated his realistic outlook. He was never afraid to point out times he’d also said the wrong thing, which made it easier to believe his recommendations for good communication. And as recommendations go, they’re kind of hard to swallow: first, you can only focus on changing yourself and the way you think and respond to people. There’s nothing you can do to change the other person you’re clashing with, and trying to change them will only make them dig in their heels and fight back harder. If you change yourself, your perspective and your approach to them, however, they’ll feel more able to meet you halfway as you express humility, respect, and open-mindedness. The most important thing you can do, he says, is to acknowledge how they’re feeling and find some truth in what they’re saying, while sharing, respectfully, how you’re feeling. It’s surprisingly hard to do! Luckily he includes lots of exercises, tables, and journal prompts to help you practice. He also devoted a lot of time at the beginning to discussing whether improving the relationship is really what you want or need, which also shows his realistic understanding of people.

It was a fascinating read, with some helpful concepts, and it made me look for more books on how to resolve conflicts and build better relationships. Here are a few published more recently that touch on similar themes, which I think are also worth checking out:

High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out by Amanda Ripley

Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak and Listen from the Heart by Diane Musho Hamilton

Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How We Heal by Benjamin E. Sasse

Empowered Boundaries by Cristien Storm

De-escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less by Douglas Noll

Buddhism for Couples: A Calm Approach to Relationships by Sarah Napthal

Beginners by Tom Vanderbilt

I love lifelong learning! One of my most important values in life is curiosity, because of the way it empowers me to seek out and discover all the wonders and fascinating things going on in the world. For that reason, Tom Vanderbilt’s book Beginners was right up my alley.

In this memoir/investigation, Vanderbilt tells the story of the year he spent learning new skills, just for the sake of it, alongside the research from psychology and science on how learning works as an adult. Motivated by his daughter and his own feelings of stagnation, Vanderbilt took on 5 new, notoriously difficult learning paths: chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling. The experiment leads him to experiences funny, frightening, and fascinating, underscored by research which suggests being this kind of adult beginner can have real benefits. From the publisher: “Ultimately, he shares how a refreshed sense of curiosity opened him up to a profound happiness and a deeper connection to the people around him–and how small acts of reinvention, at any age, can make life seem magical.”

That last sentence is my favorite, because I think everyone (myself included) could use more feelings of magic and possibility these days. One thing I really liked was how strongly he argued that this type of learning is good for EVERYONE, detailing all the potential benefits and solutions to common objections. For instance, he emphasized that the problem of childcare could become a solution by learning a new skill WITH your child, or using your time waiting for your child to finish an activity/practice/school day by practicing your own new skill. He also cited significant evidence that proves it really is never too late, you’re never too old, to learn something new, and in fact you’ll be much better off for it. His main point is actually one of my life’s mottoes (gleaned from a very wise professor): if it’s good for kids, it’s good for everybody. Yes, kids benefit from learning new skills, but so do adults, so don’t stop learning!

If you’re looking for interesting science, a feel-good story, and inspiration that it’s never too late, try reading Beginners. If you’re still not convinced that learning a new skill is for you, try reading this book anyway just for the chapter on babies and how they learn – guaranteed to warm the heart of parents and those who love kids!

Untitled Goose Game for Nintendo Switch

Perhaps you already heard about when Untitled Goose Game took the gaming world by storm. If you haven’t, I’m here to tell you that not only is this game good fun, it’s now available for Nintendo Switch, and you can check it out from the library! The game is built on a simple premise: a goose (that’s you, the player) wanders into an ordinary village to ruin everyone’s day. That’s it, and it’s fantastic.

One thing I liked as a newbie gamer is the game’s structure, in which you learn both in building blocks and by being creative. You unlock one area of the village at a time by crossing items off your to-do list (it’s a great list, including ‘lock the groundskeeper out of the garden’, ‘make someone buy back their own stuff’, ‘get on TV’, etc.) and each section lets you build skills and strategies that help you in the next, more complicated section of town. But there’s no particular order of tasks you have to do, and no instructions on how to get them done. You learn how to move the goose, make it pick things up and (very importantly) honk, and then your job is to wander, explore, and experiment until you figure out how to do things on your own. This makes it a good game to build your creativity and strategic skills in a low-stress environment, with simple, charming art and occasional musical accompaniment.

I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed being the town nuisance, moving people’s possessions around, chasing and honking at them. It was almost like a release valve for all my petty frustrations and rude impulses, and the structureless, low-stakes feel of the game made me feel free and empowered to take action (albeit impolite action) in the world. All in all I would recommend this game for all ages as a lighthearted romp with some psychological benefits.

Reese Witherspoon November Pick – ‘Group’

Reese Witherspoon has selected Group by Christie Tate as the November pick for her book club.

Curious what Group is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

The refreshingly original debut memoir of a guarded, over-achieving, self-lacerating young lawyer who reluctantly agrees to get psychologically and emotionally naked in a room of six complete strangers—her psychotherapy group—and in turn finds human connection, and herself. Christie Tate had just been named the top student in her law school class and finally had her eating disorder under control. Why then was she driving through Chicago fantasizing about her own death? Why was she envisioning putting an end to the isolation and sadness that continued to plague her in spite of her achievements? Enter Dr. Rosen, a therapist who calmly assures her that if she joins one of his psychotherapy groups, he can transform her life. All she has to do is show up, and be honest. About everything—her eating habits, childhood, sexual history, etc. Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: “You don’t need a cure, you need a witness.” So begins her entry into the strange, terrifying, and ultimately life-changing world of group therapy. Christie is initially put off by Dr. Rosen’s outlandish directives, but as her defenses break down and she comes to trust Dr. Rosen and to depend on the sessions and the prescribed nightly phone calls with various group members, she begins to understand what it means to connect. Group is a deliciously addictive read, and with Christie as our guide—skeptical of her own capacity for connection and intimacy, but hopeful in spite of herself—we are given a front row seat to the daring, exhilarating, painful, and hilarious journey that is group therapy—an under-explored process that breaks you down, and then reassembles you so that all the pieces finally fit.

This book is also available in the following format:

Want to make sure that Reese’s picks are automatically put on hold for you? Be sure to join our Best Sellers Club.

Change Your Habits: Reading for a New Year

I recently read a book I’ve been meaning to for a long time: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. If you haven’t already read this book, it’s an absorbing exploration of the science behind the habits that shape our individual lives, our companies, and our societies. The best part about it is, it’s written as a series of anecdotes about individuals, sports teams, companies, and groups that have changed their habits to improve their performance. Each section and chapter is engaging and readable, and builds on what came before it to craft a detailed picture of how habits work and how they can be changed. It explores neuroscience, psychology, belief, economics, and more, and it left me feeling like I had a good grasp on how habits work and how I could change mine.

Because we’re approaching a new year, you may be thinking about how you want to change your life and what you’d like to do better. My personal recommendation is that the first thing you do on that journey is read a book about habits and how they can change. If you’d like something more recent than The Power of Habit (published 2012), check out any of the great titles listed below.

 

 

 

Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg recommends you start small to make changes.

Habit Swap by Hugh G. Byrne focuses on mindfulness and self-control.

Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood draws on scientific research.

Healthy Habits Suck by Danya Lee-Bagley is a realistic guide to motivation.

Atomic Habits by James Clear highlights small behaviors that drive change.

Stick With It by Sean Young highlights how lasting change is made.

Breaking Sad edited by Shelly Fisher & Jennifer Jones

Breaking Sad: What to Say After Loss, What Not to Say, and When to Just Show Up edited by Shelly Fisher & Jennifer Jones lays out for you what to say when you just don’t know what to say. Loss, grief, bereavement, and sympathy are all complicated emotions and states of being that have the power to bring even the strongest, calmest, and most stoic of us to their knees. When that happens, what are those of us surrounding the bereaved supposed to do? If you’re like me, you stand awkwardly by in fear that you will say the wrong thing or that the words you meant to be kind will somehow be construed the wrong way. Breaking Sad helped me figure out what to do.

Breaking Sad breaks down loss into multiple sections: new loss, sudden loss, loss with time for a good-bye, loss at a tender age, persistent loss, complicated loss, unacknowledged loss, other kinds of loss, and loss and time. It additionally ends with a section of takeaways and an epilogue entitled: “One for the road”. Each section of loss features real stories and real feedback from people who have struggled with each type of loss presented in this book. These personal stories allow readers to gain a better understanding of what the bereaved are feeling. Each story further shows to highlight how people all grieve differently as what comforts one person only proves to irritate another. Grieving with a sudden loss versus a loss with time for a good-bye necessitates mourners to comfort the bereaved in different ways.

The part that I found the most helpful were the suggestions from survivors about how to comfort them. These suggestions are broken down into four sections: best thing someone did or said, worst thing someone did or said, advice for someone going through a similar experience, and advice for those surrounding the bereaved. Reading about such a wide variety of loss coupled with the suggestions from the survivors gave me a well-rounded look into how I should approach someone when they’re going through a loss. This book helped me work through my own grief and helped me become more comfortable when it comes to offering support and caring for people when they’re struggling through their own grief.

In addition to giving me real-life examples and ways to comfort others, this book also helped me work through grief of my own. Being able to read through situations that were similar to mine helped me realize that the emotions that I have felt, both in the past and the present, are normal and valid and that there is no right way to grieve. Having someone say those things to your face are one thing, but being able to read multiple accounts of people going through the same process is another. Everyone grieves in their own way, just like everyone expresses their sympathy and grief towards another in a different way. We’re all human beings. This book continuously reminded me to live in a place of kindness and understanding towards others because we truly have no idea what could be living under the surface. Be kind to everyone because you have no idea the battles waging within.

This book by no means captures all types of loss, all stages of grief, and even all the different ways that sympathy can be extended towards the bereaved. Read this as more of a guidebook, a collection of signs, that can help guide you towards what to say and how to act.

New Philosophy, Psychology & Self-Help in October

Featured new additions to DPL’s Philosophy, Psychology & Self-Help collections! Click on the title to place a hold. For more new books, visit our Upcoming Releases page. As always, if there’s a title you would like to read, please send us a purchase suggestion.

y648Jump: Take the Leap of Faith to Achieve Your Life of Abundance by Steve Harvey – On January 13, 2016, at the close of a taping of Family Feud, Steve Harvey spontaneously began to speak. Not knowing that the cameras were still rolling, he offered his studio audience insights into his own happiness and success. His staff, also moved by Steve’s passionate words, shared the riveting six-minute video on social media. In this very personal and illuminating guide, Harvey  elaborates on those spontaneous remarks. His message is simple: You need to jump like your life depends on it – because it does – if you truly want a life of peace and abundance.

 

51-0ynurwdlOn Living by Kerry Egan – As a hospice chaplain, Kerry Egan didn’t offer sermons or prayers, unless they were requested; in fact, she found, the dying rarely want to talk about God, at least not overtly. Instead, she discovered she’d been granted an invaluable chance to witness firsthand what she calls the “spiritual work of dying”–the work of finding or making meaning of one’s life, the experiences it’s contained and the people who have touched it, the betrayals, wounds, unfinished business, and unrealized dreams. Most of all, though, she listened as her patients talked about love–love for their children and partners and friends; love they didn’t know how to offer; love they gave unconditionally; love they, sometimes belatedly, learned to grant themselves.  Each of her patients taught her something – how to find courage in the face of fear or the strength to make amends; how to be profoundly compassionate and fiercely empathetic; how to see the world in grays instead of black and white. In this poignant, moving, and beautiful book, she passes along all their precious and necessary gifts.

51xu-tbfaql__sx329_bo1204203200_American Philosophy: A Love Story by John Kaag – In American Philosophy , John Kaag – a disillusioned philosopher at sea in his marriage and career – stumbles upon a treasure trove of rare books on an old estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that once belonged to the Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. The library includes notes from Whitman, inscriptions from Frost, and first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. As he begins to catalog and preserve these priceless books, Kaag rediscovers the very tenets of American philosophy – self-reliance, pragmatism, the transcendent – and sees them in a twenty-first-century context. American Philosophy is an invigorating investigation of American pragmatism and the wisdom that underlies a meaningful life.

614dfzpgwllGhostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey – Colin Dickey is on the trail of America’s ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and “zombie homes,” Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living – how do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted?

voices-within-the-history-and-science-of-how-we-tal-1497582-5e148f4d561644358a67The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves by Charles Fernyhough – At the moment you caught sight of this book, what were you thinking? Was your thought a stream of sensations? Or was it a voice in your head? Did you ask yourself, “I wonder what that’s about?” Did you answer? And what does it mean if you did? When someone says they hear voices in their head, they are often thought to be mentally ill. But, as Charles Fernyhough argues in The Voices Within , such voices are better understood as one of the chief hallmarks of human thought. Whether the voices in our heads are meandering lazily or clashing chaotically, they deserve to be heard. Bustling with insights from literature, film, art, and psychology, The Voices Within offers more than science; it powerfully entreats us all to take

how-the-secret-changed-my-life-9781501138263_hrHow the Secret Changed My Life: Real People, Real Stories by Rhonda Byrne – Since the very first publication of The Secret a decade ago, Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling book has brought forth an explosion of real people sharing real stories of how their real lives have miraculously changed for the better. How The Secret Changed My Life presents a selection of the most heartwarming and moving stories in one inspirational volume. Each story provides an authentic, real-life illustration of the pathway that leads to success in every area of life: money, health, relationships, love, family, and career.