Friday, April 17, 2015

Mini-reviews: Daring Greatly and If You Find This Letter

Early in this book, researcher Brene Brown discusses a TED talk that she gave. She asked if people in the audience saw their own vulnerability as a weakness. Then she referenced the men and women who had been onstage before her and shared some of their deepest secrets. Brown asked her audience if they thought those people were courageous. The same people raised their hands after both questions.

In Daring Greatly, Brown unpacks our misconceptions about vulnerability one by one. She reveals our dismissal of vulnerability as a refusal of our emotions and a certainty that we don't need other people. One chapter deals with the various methods we use to prevent vulnerability - perfectionism, numbing, and oversharing. Then we learn how to deal with each of those impulses in a healthy manner. She covers disruptive engagement in a workplace or organization, where people realize where they are and work together towards where they want to be. The last chapter deals with parenting, and teaching our children to be vulnerable as we work on it ourselves.

Brown is a researcher and so this book is a mix of research and personal anecdotes. The reader looking for a light read might be wise to look elsewhere. But reading Daring Greatly inspired me and it just may give you the courage to be vulnerable and create meaningful, growing connections with the people in your life.

Daring Greatly: How The Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
By Brene Brown
Gotham September 2012
260 pages
From the library

After college, Hannah Brencher moves to NYC to work with a non-profit. She is far from family and friends and soon finds that her day to day life is a very lonely one. As she sits on the subway one day, she notices a woman who looks the way she feels. Hannah decides to write her a letter full of encouragement - the kind of letter she herself might like to receive. The woman reaches her stop before Hannah can finish the letter, but it sparks an idea. She begins writing letters of love and support to strangers and leaving them around the city. When she takes requests for letters via her blog, she soon has hundreds of people waiting for her words. Can a single letter change a life? Can writing hundreds of them change Hannah's life?

If You Find This Letter introduces readers to a young woman right out of college who is struggling with many of the things her peers do - depression, loneliness, and wanting to find some purpose for her life. But I think what sets Hannah apart is her heart. She takes those moments of feeling like she is not enough and will never find her place in the world and she channels them into other people. This memoir is very honest and admittedly, in some places, she sounds like that college kid that makes you roll your eyes. But most of the time, her words are thoughtful and inspirational as she navigates this growing up thing and reaches out to other people with kindness and compassion.

“Looking back, I wish that everyone could have that sort of moment: a moment where you realize that your hands are so impossibly small and this world is so impossibly big. And the two don’t seem to add up. Maybe recognizing the smallness of your own hands is just the very first step to changing anything at all.” 

If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers
By Hannah Brencher
Howard Books March 2015
272 pages
Read via Netgalley 


  1. I really liked Daring Greatly, too. It was interesting to see vulnerability from that angle and pulled apart that way!

    1. I think it's one of those books I should probably buy already, so I can refer back to it. Vulnerability can be scary stuff!

  2. Both sound interesting but I would probably be more comfortable reading If You Find This Letter. What an inspiring message!

  3. These sound great!