Self-help reviews

Last month, I posted self-help books for review. Today, before vacation, I'm posting everyone's homework. We'll take the long weekend off. Have a great Thanksgiving, and enjoy these reviews. The take on "500 Dates" is my favorite. Also, if you sent me a review and don't see it, let me know and I'll add it to the bunch. - Meredith

"101 Quizzes For Couples"
If you are working on any of these quizzes and feel like you want to hide or lie about your answers, you shouldn't be with your partner! The best thing that came from this whole exercise was when doing one of the quizzes, my husband said, "If you don't already know this, you shouldn't be with each other!" - GuardiAngelL

"The Energies of Love: Keys To A Fulfilling Partnership”
“The Energies of Love” is perfect for someone who is interested in energy medicine/healing, and how it can be incorporated into improving their relationship with a significant other. The book, divided into three major parts, is a mixture of psychology, energy medicine, some science, and experiences of the two married authors. There is advice on stretches, exercises,"acupoint tapping," methods of communication, and identifying your and your partner's "stress styles/responses." This book will NOT be enjoyable for someone who thinks energy healing is fake, or for someone who does not enjoy elusive theories. At times, the intangibility of the topic at hand is hard to grasp. Lastly, I’m not sure how useful this book is to single people; it seems directed at a reader who is in a relationship and attempting to use energy medicine to resolve conflict. -Laura

"30 Lessons for Loving"
This book was really informative and inspired me to reflect on my own marriage. It increased my awareness about how I treat my husband in general, and had lots of great advice from older couples who have been married for decades. I highly recommend this book for anyone who's starting a relationship, struggling in a relationship, and even those who are happy in their relationship. There are some valuable tips and insights that everyone could use. – Mrs. T

"Idiot's Guides: Kama Sutra”
Welcome to your [grilled cheese] awakening. Welcome to a [cheesier] you. Takeaways: some people like their grilled cheese one way, so go forth with confidence. But others don't necessarily like it like that, so ask for feedback on your Gouda and brie. Above all, honor thy pearl and honor thy wand of light. Verdict: I am not nearly mature enough to take this book or its gentle terms for anatomy seriously. Fingers crossed that 2016 will be that year for me. -hc

"Come As You Are"
While I wouldn’t have picked this book off the shelf, typically saving any kind of non-fiction reading for work, this book ended up being a unique and enjoyable combination of informative and inspiring. Validating is a word that comes up often in my field of mental health and if I had to describe the book in one word that would be it. Throughout, the author emphasized the very important notion that in the often shame ridden world of sexuality, we are all normal as we are. She did so using an effective array of research and case studies, pulling from her experience as a researcher and sex therapist. Further, she does a wonderful job of tying in societal norms and dismantling these misconceptions. The end result is a book I would recommend to anyone who would benefit from knowing that most of what we’ve learned about women’s sexuality is wrong. - KELLY

"Love Under Repair: How to Save Your Marriage and Survive Couples Therapy”
Start here if you are considering couples counseling. Miller, a marriage counselor himself, begins by relating the story of his own marital conflict and his realization that, even as a practitioner, he and his wife were faced with a confusing jumble of options. This book is his map through that maze, beginning with an overview of and comparison between the “Big Three” brands of attachment-based therapy (which he practices and recommends highly). However, he provides a comprehensive overview of many counseling options, stressing throughout the importance of due diligence indetermining the best fit for you. It’s a readable, drily humorous reference book, with a lot of useful information: websites for finding prospective therapists; sample therapist-interview questions; insider tips for dealing with your insurance company; and so so so much more. - A 24-year veteran of marriage

"Love Me, Don't Leave Me: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment & Building Lasting, Loving Relationships"
I read "Love Me Don't Leave Me" by Michelle Skeen.  Skeen employs CBT and other therapeutic techniques to help her clients identify their core beliefs that are in conflict with their core values. For example, if a client has an abandonment core belief, it may be in conflict with their core value of self-respect. If a client then acts in accordance with their core belief rather than a core value (for example, lashing out at a new dating partner who doesn't return a text, causing the new relationship to end), then they will feel pain. The trick is not to deny one's core beliefs but to learn to change the behavior that is triggered by them through a long process of self-reflection to acknowledge and deal with core beliefs. I don't really have this issue in relationships but I do suffer from intrusive thoughts OCD and I found the steps helpful in thinking about that: being able to recognize an ugly thought for what it is, let it exist without stressing about it or trying to block it (making the pain more intense in the end), and moving on. I would recommend the exercises for anyone looking to examine some unhealthy patterns they find in their relationships or other areas, such as their career. - REBECCA

"Fit To Be Bride: The Complete Wedding Workout"
If you can get past the cheesy puns and lame jokes about chasing your fiance for exercise and building your stamina for the honeymoon (wink wink) then this book is a good start for sensible fitness. With a breezy, easy to read style, Bonne Marcus covers the basics - stretching, cardio workouts, weight training, and nutrition. She helps dispel various fitness myths and explains why a balanced meal is better than a fad diet.  She also includes a chapter on dealing with stress, something anyone planning a wedding is bound to experience!  And, after getting fit she tells you how to stay fit. Lastly, she includes some resources for exercise gear, technique, and keeping yourself on track. – Jennifer

"500 Dates: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Online Dating Wars"
After being taken on a journey of the author's 500 (first) dates, it's clear that dating sucks but a date with him would be absolutely miserable. A more appropriate title would have been "500 Ways Women Are Terrible." Although this book is supposed to be a comedy, I didn't laugh a single time (mostly grimaced) and almost threw the book across the room while reading the last chapter: his fantasy to date (and have sex with) Barbie. If only Barbie were real there would be one less jerk in the dating pool.- winningatnames

"Rock the Boat: How to Use Conflict to Heal and Deepen Your Relationship"
A book about how couples should allow friction in their relationships to get them to a better place and to grow up. Sometimes the better place might not be together but you both still learned something. If your therapist doesn't help you to see this and usethe same type of tactics then they're a total hack.  - jaxieser

"The Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration, and Cautionary Tales"
This was actually my second choice of book to review, but I am really glad my first one was unavailable. I can’t imagine liking that one more. This book was very entertaining and informative. It is a compendium of material written about marriage, arranged alphabetically by topic. The topics cover just about everything you can think of with regard to marriage – communication, sex, money, gender roles, you name it. Within the topics, the material is arranged chronologically, going from BC to the present day. The editors (a married couple themselves) also provide information about the various authors and material, which ranges from pop culture to the Bible to, again, you name it. It is chock full of interesting tidbits, for instance, the song “Midnight Train to Georgia” was inspired by a conversation the writer had with Farrah Fawcett! – Julie

"Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After"
This is a great book for introverts who will appreciate a fun and humorous guide filled with ideas on how to find a partner. Although a bit overly stereotypical at times, Dembling understands an introvert’s unique challenges, and provides suggestions on how to navigate various social situations. A lot of interesting anecdotes are provided as examples of how others have successfully met their future spouses. I recommend this book not only for introverts looking for love but also for extroverts looking for introverted partners. - Julia

"The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work"
Review: John Gottman is among the world's leading couples/relationships experts. Based on the research, he knows what you should do to give your relationship a better chance of working. And he's right, and he's not shy about telling you. Plenty of vignettes and a conversational style make for easy, engaging reading. Each of the seven "principles" are derived from directly related research. Exercises are provided to guide you and your significant other in improving your relationship on each of the featured areas of focus. If you want practical things you can do to help your relationship thrive, this is the book for you. This is not the whole story – you should also do your trauma healing – but it is good stuff. This book is a best-seller for the right reasons. I just gave away a bunch of classics (in the field), but I'm keeping this one. - RICKYGR

"Deeper Dating: How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy"
A surprisingly jam-packed tome that claims to instill a new script in those looking for love. Part workbook, part textbook, this book provides exercises and assignments so the reader can gain insight into his/her past love life and explore what to change for the future. Note: did raise an eyebrow as Harville Hendrix, PhD is quoted on the front cover and mentioned in the book. Possible conflict of interest? - Deborah

"The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships"
Neil Strauss, writer for Rolling Stone Magazine and a New York Times Bestselling Author for “The Game,” goes from learning the art of the pickup line to learning the art of relationships. After his girlfriend catches him cheating on her, Strauss enters rehab for sex addiction treatment and begins a path of self-discovery. With his inability to maintain monogamous relations acknowledge, Strauss ventures to find out who he really is through various alternative relationships and lifestyles. Through brutal honesty, humor, and self-reflection Strauss opens your eyes to the Truth about relationships and societal views on them. You may begin the book with a strong opinion regarding your beliefs on marriage and fidelity, but by the end he’ll have you questioning those beliefs. An alternative perspective to a taboo topic, The Truth is something that has needed to be said. ~LB

"90-Seconds to a Great Relationship: The Power of the 90-Seconds Rule"
The premise of this book is that you can improve your relationship by taking 90 seconds at various times of the day to send positive thoughts to your significant other. My boyfriend thought this was the cheesiest thing he'd ever heard of. Without telling him I decided to try this for one week. I'm not sure it made a huge impact on my relationship, but I felt good after taking a quick break from my day to just think positively. I tried to end my 90 seconds by sending my significant other a quick 'love you' text. After a couple of days of this, I noticed I started to receive a few 'love you' texts from him at random times. Who knows? Maybe he was catching my vibes. – Christine

"Marriage Boot Camp: Defeat the Top Ten Marriage Killers and Build a Rock-Solid Relationship"
Addressing obvious but real relationship struggles, Jim and Elizabeth Carroll’s “Marriage Boot Camp: Defeat the Top Ten Marriage Killers and Build a Rock-Solid Relationship” was boring, poorly written and not particularly insightful. It could, at best, be a good book for those new to self-help literature. The book breaks down the 10 issues by chapter, from Sex and Money to Chores and Cheating, and provides explanations and tactics for relationship improvement. However, it lacks research that supports the authors’ claims, thus undermining its credibility. For example, Chapter 2, “Sex,” lists the “Top Five Sexual Desires” of men and women and argues, because those desires don’t overlap, there is a “gender gap” that must be bridged – without providing a citation for the study the authors say is their source. Also, the book focuses exclusively on heterosexuals. I do not recommend it for the thinking members of the population. - AnneHamilton