Sunday, August 16, 2009


I love to read. I started reading at 5 or 6 and, as a shy person with serious depressive issues, never stopped. Books were an alternate universe where I could live unselfconsciously.

I can't read as devotedly as I used to. Part of that is age, I'm sure; part of it is due to the fact that the world outside the book is more inviting, by far, than it ever was in the past.

Over the years I've bought a lot of self-improvement, self-help books. I've learned what I like and don't like, what helps me and what doesn't. I don't do religious (for me, Buddhism isn't like a religion). I don't do books that look for places to lay blame, or books that indulge any sense of feeling put-upon. (Some people learn from those books; I don't. It's a matter of what works for you.)

Dr. Al did me a huge favor when I first went to see him. He took a brief family history, as any doctor would do, and then he said "Now you get to choose. We can spend a lot of time digging over your family relationships and your parents - or we can get to work going forward into a healthy life." I was 37 at time. I chose to go forward, and I'm grateful to him for the hint.

A brief list of books that have helped me over the years - sometimes with only an idea or two, sometimes with more -

A Handbook for Constructive Living, by David K. Reynolds - the original source for the name of this blog.
How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself, by Sunny Schlenger
Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, by Geneen Roth
Changing for Good, by Prochaska, Norcross, and diClemente

There are several more, and I'll mention them as time permits.

I should note that I seldom "buy" or adopt the full philosophy from any one book. If I can learn one or two things from a book, be spurred to one or two new habits, then I consider it a success. Sometimes it's not what the book tells me, but the thinking it prods me to do - "The Time Paradox," by Zimbardo and Boyd, set off a very productive thought train. And recently I read "Move a Little, Lose a Lot" by James Levine. I never made it past the second week of his plan - but I'm consistently exercising and more consistently eating fruits and vegetables, and that makes the book a winner.

I don't want books that patronize me, or "there, there, isn't it unfair" empathize with me. I don't have time for that. I want books that say "Here's a new way to look at an old problem," or "Here's a method that works for some people." I want a map. And over the years I've put together a fairly good atlas.

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