Nov 17, 2012

Tiny, Beautiful, Things Book Review

Back story: I meet a lot of great people through friends of mine and this year during SXSW I met a wonderful gal named April, who I immediately felt akin to because she too devours books and has a background in English. This brings us to a random Facebook status that April made where she shared that she had just read a book entitled Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar and her enthusiasm for the book immediately had me curious. I requested the book from the library and was surprised that there was no wait for it and picked it up with the intention of reading it after I finished the 10 (literally 10) other books I’m waiting to read. Yes, I read a lot.

For some reason I just couldn’t start another book until I read this book and I think it was because I NEEDED to read this book and I’m thankful that I did. I plan to return it to the library and immediately go out and purchase it as well because it’s brilliant. The book is compiled of letters that readers have written in over the years to her “Dear Sugar" advice column and Cheryl Strayed’s responses. While this would seem like any other book of its type there is something so real and honest about the responses in this book that I can’t quite put into words. There were times when I found myself screaming "yes!!" at the pages and times when I almost felt like crying at some of the stories and times when I wanted to hunt my friend April down and give her a hug for introducing this book into my life. 

The picture above is from the essay “The Future Has an Ancient Heart” in which Dear Sugar writes a would-be commencement speech to a group of people graduating with English degrees and MFAs. This one was my favorite for my own personal reasons and reading it almost made me cry. The entire essay is brilliant. 

It is rare that I have this kind of visceral reaction to an artistic work but when I do, I am thankful. This book was perfect and helped me realize that a lot of the stuff I go crazy about isn’t worth it, that I’m naive about a lot of stuff, and that just like the last line of the book says, I should simply “say thank you” more. I can’t properly express to y’all how wonderful this book was but I’ll simply say read it, let it soak in, and then share it with a friend. It’s good, so good. Below are a few of my favorite quotes and you can find more here.

"Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore." 

"You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else."

"You don’t have to get a job to make others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating it’s financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts."

"I happen to believe that America is dying of loneliness, that we, as a people, have bought into the false dream of convenience, and turned away from a deep engagement with out internal lives- those fountains of inconvenient feeling-and toward the frantic enticements of what our friends in the Greed Business call the Free Market. We’re hurtling through time and space and information faster and faster, seeking that network connection. But at the same time we’re falling away from our families and our neighbors and ourselves. We ego-surf and update our status and brush up on which celebrities are ruining themselves, and how. But the cure won’t stick."

There are so many different ways I could describe this book and I don’t think any of them would do justice to how I felt after reading this book. There are some books that just stay with you and make you more self-aware and put you on the path toward becoming a better version of yourself; Tiny Beautiful Things is one of those books. 

"Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don’t stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don’t fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight. Don’t focus on the short-term fun instead of the long-term fall out. Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore. Don’t seek joy at all costs. I know it’s hard to know what to do when you have a conflicting set of emotions and desires, but it’s not as hard as we pretend it is. Saying it’s hard is ultimately a justification to do whatever seems like the easiest thing to do—have the affair, stay at that horrible job, end a friendship over a slight, keep loving someone who treats you terribly. I don’t think there’s a single dumbass thing I’ve done in my adult life that I didn’t know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it. Even when I justified it to myself—as I did every damn time—the truest part of me knew I was doing the wrong thing. Always. As the years pass, I’m learning how to better trust my gut and not do the wrong thing, but every so often I get a harsh reminder that I’ve still got work to do.”

Read this book, now.