Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Title: You Don’t Have to be Famous to Have Manic Depression

Author: Jeremy Thomas and Dr Tony Hughes

Genre: Self-help

Rating: 3/5

How I’m doing: 40 to go.


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“In my mailbox” is a not-very-weekly-in-my-case meme hosted by The Story Siren in which people share the books that they have acquired that week.

From BookMooch:

I have heard this raved about on Twitter and thought it would be a good one for the Victorian Literature Challenge, since I so enjoyed the Cranford stories.

And also.

This is my husband’s, but I’ve decided to read it so it’s going on the list. Which is up to 51.

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Title: As Meat Loves Salt

Author: Maria McCann

Published: Harper-Collins, 2002

Genre: Historical fiction

How I came to own it: I received this as a birthday/Christmas present one year, after seeing it recommended in my Mslexia diary.

What I thought: I’m not sure I’m up to reviewing this, to be honest. I’m still reeling! It was very vivid, intense, very well-written and almost unrelentingly horrific. The protagonist was a creation indeed, both despicable and pitiable. It was interesting to read about the homosexual relationship: though I did find the sex scenes a little uncomfortable, that probably says more about the culture I was raised in rather than the writing itself. It was also interesting to see rape presented from the point of view of the attacker rather than the victim. But it was all rather disturbing and, while I can’t deny that this is an excellent book, I couldn’t help longing for a glimmer of hope and for some sort of redemption.

Rating: 4/5

How I’m doing: 42 to go.

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“In my mailbox” is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren in which people share the books that they have acquired that week. The traditional day is Sunday, so I am a day late.

From Amazon, for my book group:

A couple of days after this arrived, I read it in a single day. You can read my review in the previous post.


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Title: Room

Author: Emma Donoghue

Published: Picador, 2010

Genre: Fiction

Blurb: Jack is five, and excited about his birthday. He lives in his Ma with Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on TV is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day that Ma admits there’s a world outside…

Told in Jack’s voice, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. Unsentimental and sometimes funny, devastating yet uplifting, Room is a novel like no other.

How I came to own it: I bought this on Amazon because it was the first choice of our new book group.

What I thought: The success of this novel is in its treatment of a plot which contains kidnap, a mother/son bond, a stillbirth, abuse, a suicide attempt… everything, in short, which made it likely to be sensationalist and sentimental. Instead, it is funny and deeply moving. This is partly due, I think, to the success of the narrative voice: consistently maintaining the perspective and diction of a five-year-old is difficult enough, let alone a five-year-old who has so far led the bizarre and limited existence known to Jack. Room is also realistic in that space is created for joy and humour even amidst the most terrible suffering. And there is a great use of subtlety. Horrors are rarely dwelt upon and often skipped over. The act of deducing strengthens the impression upon the reader. Things beyond a child’s understanding are usually described in the language of a five-year-old, or the language one would use to a five-year-old, and are transformed in the process. The work is also structurally impeccable. It describes the events of about a month, divided into five clear chapters: presents (Jack’s birthday: his and Ma’s existence in Room); Unlying (Ma and Jack living without power – the ‘last straw’, Ma explaining there’s a world outside Room); Dying (Ma and Jack plan and carry out their escape); After (Ma and Jack in the hospital, Ma overdoses); and Living (Jack stays with Grandma while Ma recovers, Ma and Jack get a flat together). This structure imposes extra order on a plot which, to Jack as our protagonist, could be so overwhelming that it blurred into chaos.

Rating: 4/5

How I’m doing: Still 43 to go, as this wasn’t on the original list.

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Title: The Interpretation of Dreams

Author: Sigmund Freud

Published: First Avon Books, 1965

Genre: Psychology

Blurb: This ground-breaking work, which Freud considered his most valuable, forever changed the way we think about our dreams. In it, Freud made this century’s startling discoveries about why we dream, what we dream about, and what dreams really mean.

Now, in this definitive translation by James Strachey, Freud’s timeless exploration of the dream world is clearly and precisely rendered. Including dozens of case histories and detailed analyses of actual dreams, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ remains an invaluable tool in helping us all discover the truth about ourselves.

How I came to own it: A BookMooch special.

What I thought: At a hefty 664 pages, this was hard work at times, and I did skip the last forty pages or so because it was dragging and I was excited about my next book. The bits that dragged for me were the highly theoretical bits. What I liked best were the case histories and the analyses of Freud’s own dreams and those of his friends and family. This book was most enjoyable when Freud put most of himself into it. He seems to have been a peculiar but ultimately rather endearing man.

As the blurb promised, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ did change the way I think about dreams. I’ve been able to look over records kept of old dreams with a fresh perspective. What I got most out of it was the idea that dreams are wish fulfilments. I would argue that they are other things too, but I see elements of wish fulfilment in almost all of my dreams. It’s sort of how we reconcile ourselves to the gap between reality and all that we desire. I didn’t accept all of Freud’s claims – I would have been very surprised if I had done. I started the book a bit ironically: Freud is well-known for his theory that everyone wants to shag their parents and pretty much anything else that moves. In short, he’s known for being obsessed with sex. This element of his thinking wasn’t really apparent until about half way through through this book, in which there’s a hilarious chapter on symbolism. Everything represents genitals, apparently: umbrellas, nail-files, boxes, cupboards, ships, keys, staircases, tables, hats, coats, neckties, ploughing, bridges, children, animals, relatives, luggage, all other body parts…  we had a jolly good laugh about this in bed.

Rating: 3/5

How I’m doing: 43 to go. The thought of getting below 40 is a happy one.

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Title: Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality

Author: Dr. Henry Cloud

Published: Collins Business, 2007

Genre: Self-help

Blurb: Integrity – more than simple honesty, it’s the key to success. A person with integrity has the ability to pull everything together, to make it all happen no matter how challenging the circumstances. Drawing on experiences from his work, Dr. Henry Cloud, a clinical psychologist, leadership coach, corporate consultant, and nationally syndicated radio host, shows how our character can keep us from achieving all we want to (or could) be.

In Integrity, Dr. Cloud explores the six qualities of character that define integrity, and how people with integrity:

  • Are able to connect with others and build trust
  • Are oriented toward reality
  • Finish well
  • Embrace the negative
  • Are oriented toward increase
  • Have an understanding of the transcendent

Integrity is not something that you either have or don’t. Instead it is an exciting growth path that all of us can engage in and enjoy.

How I came to own it: I bought this on Amazon after it was recommended to me by a friend. I had asked her for reading suggestions to prepare me for the community work I’m now doing.

What I thought: Initially, I was not impressed. I am unaccustomed to reading self-help books and the style grated. I felt that everything which could have been said in twenty words was instead being said in twenty pages. I felt patronised. By the end of the book, however, I had completely changed my tune. I really benefitted from this book in terms of personal growth: it encouraged me to look at myself and my reactions toward others honestly. In short, the content was excellent, once I was able to see past the style. The culture factor was, I think, the main issue (Henry Cloud is American). My only other niggle would be to suggest that the structure could have been altered slightly: overlaps between the chapters are inevitable, but could perhaps have been handled better. However, here be wisdom. I would recommend it – indeed, I have recommended it.

Rating: 3.5/5

How I’m doing: 44 to go.

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