Dear Book Dr., I love this idea! I am interested in reading about what it takes to make healthy, sustained changes in our lives. They say that it takes 21 days to create or break a habit. In a perfect world there would be a “normal” book about both–creating new, healthy habits and breaking unhealthy ones, that doesn’t recommend 600 burpees a day or never eating bread (gluten-free or otherwise) again. If you know of such a book, please let me know and thanks in advance. -Hip to be healthy

Thank you so much, Hip to Be Healthy!

I like your question for a couple of reasons. First, I think it’s great that you are looking to make sustained change in your life, rather than trying to do anything extreme. In my experience, and training, the best changes are those that last.

The first thing I will recommend to you isn’t actually a book at all, but rather a website: Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project (a book that might be good for your question as well) is currently working on a book about habits, and has been exploring that topic in a very thought-provoking way on her site. If you don’t mind a little web reading, I would hit that up for certain.

In addition, I would suggest two other books for you…

 

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One is called Rewire, and just came out about a month ago. People are going nuts over it in the reviews and it purports to offer just what you asked for: straightforward advice about making good habits and breaking bad ones. Let me know what you think if you try it… I have it on my wish list now.

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The second book is called Hardwiring Happiness. The reason I suggest this one is because the desire to create new habits often stems from a desire to live a happier life and to improve how you’re spending your time. I found this book to be a tremendous resource and support around enjoying life more and really connecting with positive experiences so they made a more lasting impact, as well as moving through negative experiences more effortlessly.

If one of the habits you want to break is negative self-talk or if one of the ones you want to create is being happier, I recommend this book highly.

Happy reading! Let us know how you do with these.

The Book Dr.

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I received a letter from a Book Dr. reader this morning through the question submission page and realized there was a backlog of messages from many of you. How wonderful and yet how sad that I am just now getting notifications about these letters. 

I shall begin answering one a day and catch up as soon as I can. In the meantime, please do keep writing!

Dear Book Doctor, Something strange happened to me the other day. I had copies of “Astoria” and “Tom’s River” ready to go and I flipped through them and felt no inspiration. Typically I like adventure/politics/science/history books. I am embarrassed to say this but I think I need something cheery. Cheery non-fiction? I need help.

Dear Cheery Non-Fiction,

I think I have just the book for you. My recommendation isn’t for something that is, strictly speaking, chipper or overtly cheery, but it is for a fascinating read that had me thrilled and amazed through the entire book. 

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Perhaps I am building it up too much, but I just finished Bill Bryson’s One Summer yesterday on the way home from work (as the audio version– I have not resorted to reading physical books in traffic- yet) and I was so sad that it was over. 

I found it so astonishing that so many incredible things happened in one summer: Lindbergh’s flight, Al Capone’s best stretch, the invention of television, the collapse of the Klan, turning points in prohibition, major boxing matches, Sacco and Vanzetti, Ponzi’s original scheme and on and on. 

I found the sort of optimism and desire to invent new things and cross boundaries and advance to be both invigorating and inspiring in my own life. Plus, some of the crazy things that people believed during this time had me shouting “What?!?” like a crazy person at my stereo in the car more than once. 

The book is, to put it mildly, a weighty tome. It should be out in paperback before too long, but I think it’s one to read at home, as an eBook, or to listen to. I actually love Bill Bryson’s delivery as a reader so I do recommend the audio version he does. 

Do let me know what you think. I absolutely adored it. I hope you do, too. 

Happy reading,

The Book Dr. 

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This one is a heartbreaker. It took me quite a while to chew on this letter to source the right book. During that time, I have had an update that the missing kitty has not returned. I think I know the right book today.

Dear Book Dr., 

I’ve been very sad and upset about my missing cat and I am planning to spend the weekend relaxing at home and waiting for him to return.  

I’d love a good, lightly smutty summer romance with a bit of humor to cheer me up…any ideas?  

xoxo, 
Abby

Dear Abby,

First of all, let me say how sorry I am about a kitty going missing. I can’t think of many things that are quite as gut wrenching as the loss of a beloved pet. Losing anyone I love is impossible to digest in anything but tiny bites. 

I send a lot of love and the most distracting book I can think of:

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It’s not really smutty or a summer romance, but I am not as strong in that area. What it does boast is the honor of being the only book that has ever made me laugh so hard that I snotted in public and made a man cross the street to get away from me. It is also the only book ever to make me laugh like that and make me cry. 

I have a little bit of concern that I have already recommended this to you at some point? This is likely, as I recommend this one to everyone if they ask me about books at all. I have three people reading it right now. Damn it’s good. 

The other book I love that I find incredibly diverting and a total fun romp is this one:

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Goddamn is this good. It’s a supernatural funny thriller. I gave this to everyone in a three mile radius one Christmas and everyone was thrilled. The only thing better than reading the physical book? The audio version. One of my very favorites of all time. 

I hope these two distract you during a painful time. 

I send lots of love and, hopefully, many happy hours of reading. 

The Book Dr. 

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OK, admittedly, this post is pretty late. The Book Dr. has been underwater at the regular job, but the office is now open once again for reading prescriptions. 

Thanks so much for the patience waiting for this letter to get answered:

Dear Dr. Book…or Book Doc…or Great Healer of Literary Needs (GHOLN),
I need your assistance.  I am unable to financially fulfill my travel yearnings this summer, so I’m in need of literary submersion into worlds ripe for exploration.  The savannas of Africa, South American jungles, or the romance of the Italian sun have been calling my name.  Perhaps a storyline marriage of The Shadow of the Wind (historical reference and mystery) meets Eat, Pray, Love (humorous enlightenment journey) or even better–a surprise storyline that You, Doc, would only know best in how to heal this aching travel bug.  I am counting on you to fill my summer with adventure, mystery, and global enlightenment.
Yours truly,
An Explorer with Heart and Empty Pockets

Dear Explorer,

I love this idea! And, since I won’t be going on a vacation until the Fall after a year of staying close to home, I am right with you on the need to escape any way that works. 

Given your specific requests, I’ve come up with the following suggestions;

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    For the savannas of Africa, I can’t imagine a better book than West With the Night, by Beryl Markham. A woman pilot, adventures, wild animals, and solo flights across the continent- this book has it all. I was transported. Enjoy!

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    I can’t tell you how happy I was that you said South American jungle. That was like a present because it meant I get to recommend one of my top 10 books of all time- Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. This book is such a dream. It’s about a hostage situation, but what unfolds as a result is so beautiful, one reviewer confessed that it made him want to be held hostage as well. I can’t help but agree. Savor this one. It’s one of the great books.                                                                

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    For some reason, I had a slightly tougher time conjuring something up for Italy. Maybe that’s because I have already recommended Beautiful Ruins on the site and am afraid I can’t think of anything better. So that is a must read. But if it’s quirky characters you’re interested in, perhaps give a look at The Imperfectionists as well. It’s charming and weird and about a bunch of expats working for a dying newspaper. I found it funny, sweet, and diverting all at once.

And, just because it was such a long wait, I’ll share a few runners up to cram in before we get to Labor Day:

For Africa: The Poisonwood Bible and What is the What. I haven’t read either but everyone who talks about each of these goes nuts and says I MUST read them. 

For South America: State of Wonder- a second Ann Patchett that is a bit further out there. I didn’t love it quite as much as I loved Bel Canto, but I still tore right through the thing. Also, there’s always the Motorcycle Diaries for that feeling of being on the road. 

For Italy: I read Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim most Aprils and, while if’s not a summer book, the story is beautiful all year round. 

And there you have it, reading explorer! Please do write in and let us know how it goes reading all these treats for the second half of the summer…

Happy reading,

The Book Dr. 

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I was delighted to receive this letter, as I am a fellow lover of all things French:

Hello Book Doctor!

When I heard about you it was like I found the prescription I’d been looking for since forever! Your website is so clever! I decided to write you directly.

My husband and I are meeting our Italian friends in a few weeks in Bordeaux, France. Going to a wedding of a Frenchman and his love, then up to Paris for the French Open (tennis). They will all be off rock climbing a lot while I sip prosecco or vin on the terrase in my pretty new wardrobe purchased just for the trip. 🙂  During these long lazy afternoons I plan to have some quality time with my trusty Kindle. I love historical fiction, and I’m open to anything that’s not depressing or totally dark. I love good literature. Not too picky. Recommendations?

Thanks!!

Vive la France

Dear Vive la France,

First, and I must get this out of the way, I am completely enchanted and envious of your trip. I plan to get to Paris myself this fall, so I was quite inspired by your description. 

Also, I must thank you as you have identified a hole in my literary expertise: French historical fiction. I can recommend English historical fiction all day long, but France… that is trickier. 

SO. Given that I know how long this flight is, and that rock climbers will probably be quite keen to have a leisurely time of it, I assume you won’t mind a list of options. 

Here are my favorites that I think will be wonderful in France, and some historical fiction I have dug up that comes highly recommended:

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Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl.

This is, honestly, one of my very favorite books of the past few years. Ruth Reichl is a food writer and let’s face it, the best part of most travel is all the wonderful eating you get to do. Particularly in France. Given that you like prosecco or vin, I’m assuming you’re with me here. 

Reichl weaves a romance between her and France, her and food, and eventually, her and her wonderful husband. It’s nonfiction, but I assure you it’s every bit as engaging as a novel. And much of it takes place during the 50s and 60s in France and will make you love the place even more, if that’s possible. A MUST.

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Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris. 

My mother lived in France in her twenties as an au pair. She majored in French in college and, after a long hiatus from the country, she and I took a trip to Paris together in 2002 just before I spent the summer in Switzerland during grad school. 

The essays about language classes and Sedaris’s tortured attempts to best the French language made her laugh so hard she actually fell off the bed in our hotel room. The kicker: she had already read the book. 

Again, non-fiction, but hysterical and one of my all-time favorites. If you haven’t yet read this one, a vacation in France is the time. 

And now for the fiction options:

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The Lover, Marguerite Duras. 

This one doesn’t take place in France, but the writer is french, as is the sensibility. A scandalous tale about a teenaged french girl and her first lover, a much older man in french-occupied Indochina, is bound to be enjoyable while sipping wine. Glamorous, for certain. Enjoy.

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The Paris Wife, 

This one is about Hemingway and one of his wives living in Paris in the 20s. It has appeared on many a recommended table in bookshops and it has long been on my to-read list. If I was off to France (or perhaps when I am off to France this fall, this one would be coming with me.)

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