Book Report: Atlas of the Heart

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Here’s the review of Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, by Brené Brown (2021) that I promised recently. I think I am growing tired of self-help books or something, because this one didn’t impress me as much as some others I’ve read.

Pretty cover.

There were good parts to this book, which consists mostly of a discussion of a wide range of human emotions, which it turns out there is no agreed-upon number of nor many firm definitions. I enjoyed learning the difference between envy and jealousy, as well as pride versus hubris. Pride can be good. Hubris is not a good thing to have. You think you’re great, people think you’re awful, but you don’t care. Sound familiar?

I was disappointed that some of the emotions didn’t get much discussion. I would have liked more information on many of the complex ones. It felt like Brown just stopped at random points, inconclusively.

I liked this one. P. 244.

Anyway, the last part of the book is about a new grounded theory of meaningful connection. I’m all for meaningful connection. Combined with her concept of “near enemies,” Brown defines how to develop grounded confidence, the courage to walk alongside others, and practice story stewardship. The last is interesting to me, as it has to do with listening, believing and acknowledging, without giving advice, taking over people’s stories, or putting others down.

I think this is useful, but not as earth-shattering as it has been made out to be. A lot is common sense. Oh well, it’s helpful information, but it came across like a PowerPoint presentation not a full-fledged explanation. I’m being nit-picky.

And I’ll be eternally grateful for the concept of foreboding joy.

And one more thing. A whole lot of the book is quotes from her earlier books. It seemed a bit like padding. But hey, it’s on really nice paper and has lots of colors. I like colors.

Feeling a New Feeling

Two things have happened that are a fortuitous coincidence. One is my son and his partner moving nearby. The other is reading Brené Brown’s latest book, Atlas of the Heart.

The book has pretty quotes. This one fit in with my current ambivalence about expectations.

The book seems sorta silly in concept. It’s a list of definitions of human emotions. Apparently many people can only identify three emotions: happy, sad, and angry. So, perhaps at atlas is useful after all.

My son in 2019, by Rollie

I learned some interesting nuances about emotions, such as how jealousy and envy differ. But I also learned a new one that explained how I’ve been feeling about the possibility of having some of my family nearby.

I feel like I can’t be happy and look forward to fun times and what the future might bring. It’s called foreboding joy. Brown says it’s a nearly universal experience, especially for parents. Yeah. What a term. Foreboding joy. You can’t let yourself enjoy good things because you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Page 216 of Atlas of the Heart

That’s it. I’ll try to slide some real joy in the next few weeks. I need some goodness, strength, and courage! And I’ll write more about the book later. I’m pleased to have words to describe the weird feeling I’ve had lately. Hmm.

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

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