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a session with my bibliotherapist

Rachel Stevenson library

Now that you’ve all fallen in love with my bibliotherapist, Rachel Stevenson since meeting her in yesterday’s post, I wanted to share my first “session” with her. If she’s up for it, there will be many more.

Note: if you are in a particular mood and need a book for whatever ails you, please leave a comment below and maybe Rachel will prescribe one for you.

Okay, I am so sad about the state of the world and seem to always be angry these days. What do you suggest?

The Boy Next DoorI think Meg Cabot is great when you’re feeling depressed. My favorite go-to book of hers is The Boy Next Door. It’s an epistle story so it’s all told in emails and notes, etc. I laugh every time I read it even though I know what’s going to happen. The nude picture misunderstanding is one of my favorite things and I think we all have a little bit of voyeur in us where we secretly like reading other people’s email. You get to do that here and no one gets mad at you. Also you don’t find out that your friends say horrible things about you behind your back. We’ve all been there, I’m sure. It’s just a fun novel and it helps me escape for a while.

I’m trying to lose weight so I’m feeling deprived and missing my donuts. What can I read to avoid becoming hangry?

Well, I won’t recommend my favorite books with recipes in them ! I think I’d recommend reading Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman and its sequel, What Do You Care What Other People Think? Both tell stories about the infamous physicist Richard Feynman, but they are very relatable, very funny, and don’t involve a lot of food. Also I think the second book has a great message. If you’re trying to lose weight for yourself, great! But if you’re worried about what other people think of you … well, take Feynman’s wife’s advice. What do you care what other people think? It’s an important lesson not all of us learn.

Michael and I will be celebrating our 35th anniversary next month. What book(s) would make a good gift? Maybe something that would acknowledge the challenges of a long-term marriage while also celebrating it? And something else that would remind us of the passion of our 20s?

The NannyPablo Neruda for sure for the passion in your 20s. I can’t recommend a certain poem or book, though, because, as my Uncle John taught me, Neruda speaks to people differently and while you can recommend someone read Neruda they must find their favorite Neruda on their own.

As for celebrating your 35th anniversary — although I loved this book in my early 20s, I think people in every stage of adult life can relate to The Nanny by Melissa Nathan. But the secret is buy the British version and NOT the US version. The British version has so much more to it because it has scenes that an eight-year-old is going through that are cut out of the US version. But there’s a complicated marriage that might be in trouble; a new nanny struggling with her new job in a new town, missing her family and boyfriend and annoyed at the grown-up son from a first marriage of her new employers; and a cast of characters that is really quite fun. I think it will help you relive those days of having small children, trying to make it all work while having a job, enjoying watching your grown children succeed on their own, and of course, realizing that through all the struggles the marriage is still worth it. I think you get all of this in The Nanny.

The nest is feeling a little empty these days. Advice?

BehaveRead Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax and be amazed at what people believed in the early days of psychiatry and shocked at what people let John B Watson and Rosalie Rayner do to infants. I was pretty shocked, but I need to say I don’t have kids, so maybe I’d be okay with rats running all over my baby if I had one. I mean they say dirt is good for them, but I don’t think I’d really be okay with that. I also love how it tells Rosalie’s story. So often the men in the scientific relationship get all the credit while their wives go on to motherhood and basically oblivion. But I think this might make you not miss having children as much or at least make you very happy that we’ve come a long way in the psychiatric and parenting field from this.

You could also read The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughn. I know you love The Great British Baking Show and this book is a riff off that. In it there are several contestants of the baking contest that are trying to find themselves. Not all of them are doing it because they have an empty nest, but I think the common theme of trying to figure out if you’re more than just a mother, which one of the contestants struggles with, would resonate.

And speaking of my kids, I just want them to be happy and, of course, I still worry about them even though they’re out of the house. How do I let it go?

I’m going to one of my old standards here. I’m going to recommend that you read Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer. Although I have previously stated this book is about loving someone and their faults, it’s also about a very complicated parent/child relationship. The father has some pretty high expectations and they’re hard to live up to for the kids, but the scene near the end at the party will make you realize your kids will do okay and that they may make mistakes, but they’ll learn from them.

I’m going to be on a plane to St. Louis next week. What will keep me entertained for a few hours straight?

A Vintage AffairSo six years ago I was flying to London to go to the Ryder Cup with my dad and I was looking for a book to read. I bought A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff. Some things happened and it turned out our plane didn’t leave JFK until 12:30 AM, but I didn’t sleep at all on the plane. I was so riveted by Isabel’s story that I stayed away and finished the whole thing on the plane ride there. Everyone else was asleep and I was dying to know Thérèse Bell’s secret. This book made all of Isabel’s books must-reads in my mind.

What about when I’m home and want to be an armchair traveler? What book will transport me without ever leaving my living room?

The Clumsiest People in EuropeI’m going to recommend two here. One is very tongue-in-cheek, but hilarious and the other is a truly beautiful book that I am savoring. First tongue-in-cheek, The Clumsiest People in Europe by Todd Pruzan. This book is really by bestselling Victorian author Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer. Although she didn’t really leave her house and didn’t step foot out of England, she did write several travel books and they are hilarious. The cheating ex-boyfriend I mentioned yesterday bought me this book. Probably the best thing I got from him!

The next book is In Europe’s Shadow by Robert D. Kaplan. First off, I know you will at least like the author a little as there is a famous picture of Hillary’s hubby as POTUS reading his book about the Balkans during the Balkan wars in the 1990s. Secondly, you will love this book because never before in my life did I know non-fiction could be so beautiful. That is really the only word to describe Kaplan’s prose. I adore this book so much that instead of devouring it quickly so I will have nothing left to read, I am savoring it bit by bit, piece by piece so I can read it for a very long time because it is truly beautiful. It is also dangerous because it references so many other books that my to be read pile or TBR is getting longer and longer and longer as the book goes on. The chapters are lengthy, but worth it. I also really want to visit Romania now.


  1. I adore your bibliotherapist.

  2. I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t be okay with rats running over your baby. I work in a library and patrons are always asking me for recommendations. I’m going to tell them to start reading your blog.

    • Well I said maybe because I remembered a story of my cousin who has a precocious one-year-old and she likes to eat strange things. My cousin said the most disgusting thing she pulled out of her daughter’s mouth was a dead moth, but she didn’t seem too shocked about it. So I thought maybe I wouldn’t mind, but I think I probably would. I would mind rats running over me, so yeah. Probably not good for the baby either.

  3. Thanks for sharing your ‘therapy’. I see several titles on your list that I’ll add to my summer reading plans!

  4. I love her! She does need to know that my nonfiction is often described as beautiful (the second one) the first one is after all about murder.
    Behave looks so creepy, my imagination is going wild. I love all of these suggestions!

  5. I love this post so much. So many great recommendations. I have been in a reading rut and need some new authors and the Recommended for You in Amazon is just not cutting it! I hope you’ll do more of these. We are in the same stage of life, Lois – married 30+ years, grown kids. We would probably like many of the same books.

  6. Her picks are so interesting! I also read a Vintage Affair and liked it. I’m pinning this so i can go back to it later.

  7. I had no idea this was a thing but I like it! I need to get in touch with one so they can give me more books to read!

  8. I really enjoyed reading through your post. I found so many new titles that I want to look into. It was a great breakdown!

  9. there are some great recommendations here – she is so knowledgeable in really diverse areas. I’ll be keeping a few in mind for next time I’m at the library.

  10. My problem is finding new series. I’ll power read then be left with nothing. That and 5 kids leaves me with little time to read

  11. I love that you shared this resource with us. I am an avid reader and can really use some summer book recommendations. You just hooked me up!

  12. I like that it speaks to different people in different ways. That’s a good resource to keep in mind!

  13. I love this so much! I want to read In Europe’s Shadow now! I’ll have to check out Rachels blog! Thanks!

  14. These are all great recommendations! My kids are reading this summer a ton, so when they read on their own I actually have some time to read as well.

  15. I love this! Does Rachel make house calls? 🙂

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