Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Best Beach Book Ever

 The end of summer count down has begun. We have maybe three weeks to push on to the finish line at Labor Day. The wish lists we made weeks ago now weigh on us: the outings, the trips, chores, projects and for many of us--the pile of books we promised to read this summer.

 The books pile up on the coffee table and the bed stand, and the library list is dog-eared and scribbled.  You too?

So, where to begin? You’d like a good novel, and maybe romance and some history too. You’d like help with the relationship thing, and there’s also that stack of business management books you saved to read. And then there are all those recovery memoirs. What’s the story with women and men and addiction?

I have a suggestion. There is one book that you can read now that will give you everything. This is the book for the boat, the beach and the bed. There is one, beautifully written book that illustrates the insidious connection between women and men and appearance and addictions.

Hands-down, the single best, summer book for August is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. With Tolstoy’s tale you get everything: romance, history, a relationship how-to book, and the best management advice you’ll ever read. You’ll see how tiny choices add up to good lives and how tiny choices also add up to disaster. You’ll see a woman, a complex, decent woman—like you or me—undone by a subtle combination of pride, fear, ego, and restlessness. Don’t we know restlessness?

Don’t balk at the bulk. Yes, it’s a big book but every kid and maybe you too—have just knocked off the three Hunger Games books. And by choosing Anna K. you only have to buy one book.  Here’s why:

Anna K. is the best relationship book ever written. It’s got examples of how to make a marriage work and how to how to ruin one from the start. Worried about infidelity? This is the book that, well, wrote the book on that topic. Tolstoy shows how couples get into that terrain and how you can get back out. Robin Norwood’s famous, Women Who Love Too Much, doesn’t even come close to what Tolstoy writes about emotional dependency and the impact of addiction on a family. .

As for new ideas about work: Tolstoy offers the most compelling and insightful analysis of how to motivate employees. Tom Peters has written half a dozen books trying to get at what Tolstoy packs into just a few scenes.

And addiction. It’s amazing that after so many decades of literary analysis how many critics missed the fact that Anna is an addict and crazy codependent. She takes drugs and misuses alcohol. And then her codependence. It’s all here. Tolstoy knew.

But, you may be thinking that fiction can’t help your real life. With all due respect, you’re wrong. Fiction gives us the assurance that the story that we love most—our own—is worthy.

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