January non-fiction book of the month: Stephen Grosz' An Examined Life: Read his answers to your Q's.

(51 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 06-Jan-14 17:25:26

Longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, a Sunday Times bestseller and Radio 4 Book of the Week, our January non-fiction choice is a set of short stories with a difference: The Examined Life by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz is based on real-life sessions with his patients. Wonderfully Jargon-free, there are chapters covering a broad range of topics including why we lie, what we fear and how we change.

If you're interested to read and come back and discuss, apply for a free copy. We're also giving you the chance to post a question to Stephen Grosz. All questions must be posted to this thread before the end of January and we'll post up his answers in early February. Everyone who joins the discussion or posts a question will be entered into a draw to win a full set of Vintage books' Shelf help books. Find out more and apply for free copy of An Examined Life.

Trills Mon 06-Jan-14 17:30:37

I wasn't aware that my current reading material had too much Jargo grin

thecatfromjapan Mon 06-Jan-14 18:10:20

I've already read this book: it's brilliant. Fascinating, thought-provokind, warm ... just great.

I really wanted to share that!

Is he planning on publishing more?

Also, anyone on this thread who could recommend similar, please do. I'd be very interested. (Thanks in advance.)

And what is Jargo? Is it a character from the newer Star Wars? A typeface? (Do Trills and myself win pedant/proof-reading badges?)

betterwhenthesunshines Mon 06-Jan-14 18:37:22

Fingers crossed I get my free copy! thecatfrom I just finished reading Sunbathing in the Rain by Gwyneth Lewis. It's about depression but Gwyneth is a poet and includes alot of interesting quotes and references which give her thoughts about depression some cultural reference which I enjoyed as it seems to make it less navel gazing. The chapters that include things she found helpful to do would be useful for anyone who is interested in an intellectual and practical view on living a more fulfilling life. This is a great book if you have ever had depression (but possibly a bit brain heavy if you currently going through a bad patch) and would like to understand more. It would also be useful if you live with anyone with depression.

thecatfromjapan Mon 06-Jan-14 18:51:27

Thanks betterwhenthesunshines . Sounds promising. smile

Nellyann Tue 07-Jan-14 16:20:53

Sounds like a very interesting read especially as it is based on studies relating to real situations. Would be interesting to see if after reading one will reflect on how others have lied to us and our actions or reactions towards that?!?
Does the consequences of lies lead to a change in a person?

Nellyann Tue 07-Jan-14 16:21:45

Sounds like a very interesting read especially as it is based on studies relating to real situations. Would be interesting to see if after reading one will reflect on how others have lied to us and our actions or reactions towards that?!?
Does the consequences of lies lead to a change in a person?

ShellyBobbs Tue 07-Jan-14 19:33:10

Ooooh sounds very interesting, would have to be one to read in the bath for me so I could concentrate.

ShellyBobbs Tue 07-Jan-14 19:34:38

To get some peace and quiet, not because I'm a fish or anything smile

BigGapMum Thu 09-Jan-14 14:00:41

It strikes me that this would be absolutely fascinating. I was married to a compulsive liar. I could never understand why he did it, but certainly suffered as a result.

I wonder how easily he got his patients to agree to forgo their confidentiality.

Lalunya85 Thu 09-Jan-14 17:48:12

Hi there!

Try Irvin Yalom's "Love's Executioner". In my opinion a much more satisfying and more in-depth look into patients' life and the complex relationships between clients and therapists.
For me "An examined Life" felt too polished and conclusive. Yalom's book struck me as more realistic, open-ended and honest. It's a fantastic read too! smile

AliceMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 10-Jan-14 11:13:14

This giveaway is now closed. We will notify those who have been selected to receive a copy of the book via email. Please feel free to join in the discussion of the book and post a question for author Stephen before the end of January for our Q&A.

Loreleigh Wed 15-Jan-14 23:29:14

Question for author Stephen Grosz: As a psychoanalyst, do you find the skills used in your work useful in domestic and social situations, or are there times when you consciously have to stop yourself from analysing a person or situation?

I am also interested to know how long a book dealing with such complex issues took to write?

I hope I've posted this in the right place, and that it qualifies for entry into the competition.

MrsPennyapple Fri 17-Jan-14 15:07:10

I'm very interested in reading the book, I have never read anything like this though, so my question might be a load of rubbish.

Stephen: Do you ever find that you react to / view situations in your own life differently, beacuse of issues that your patients have discussed with you? Like considering viewpoints / factors you might otherwise not have thought of?

SunshinePanda Sat 18-Jan-14 12:46:12

My copy has just arrived. Thanks thanks

Amaryllis Sat 18-Jan-14 15:02:29

I've just started this book: it's a fascinating read and I think appeals to anyone who likes to know more about people, their problems and to some extent solutions. My question to the author is this: does this sort of book where 'stories' are summarised in a few pages do psychoanalysis and anyone considering it a disfavour just because it does give the impression that problems can be solved, perhaps without conveying all the work in between.

lotusbalth Sun 19-Jan-14 12:44:59

Hi, my copy has arrived, thank you smile

Hello Mr Grosz, I am working my way through your book, it's stunning!
I think the line that has got me most is, some people are their stories... That's something that has resonated with me all my life, although I haven't been able to articulate it.

I think people are like prisms, each one has their own colours when light is shined onto them.
I think all people are beautiful, even those who have done 'ugly' things .. all people have colours.

It is often something that I have had to fight for, my thoughts, that even the 'bad' can be good etc.. my family and friends often don't agree with my views..

My question for you is this, do you believe in a soul? Or an afterlife?

Thank you for sharing your world, and your thoughts.

mysister Sun 19-Jan-14 23:02:49

Got my copy,very interesting,only I would have liked a bit more insight in the patients story,especially the ones about children

bughead Mon 20-Jan-14 12:25:48

Received this book as a prize and what a bonus it is, easy to get into and then it just takes you along. Feel it is a book that I have actually learnt from and will use this information to help myself along life's journey.

A book to buy if life is casting up doubts and dilemmas as it provides a good groundwork to grow from learning from others, so well worth buying.

bellingham1 Mon 20-Jan-14 14:41:05

I received this book to review on friday and havent put it down since , compulsive reading , love that its short stories which fit in with my life at the moment. Fascinating to analyse the stories in relation to myself and then people I know , found myself nodding a lot in agreement to the reasons for certain behaviour traits and eager to continue reading about the next person under the spotlight.

This book has already been requested by several people who called at the weekend , spotted the book , picked it up and found difficulty putting it down , very different people too so a hit with many adults. Its like being really nosey without the agro. love it.

FatMumSlim72 Mon 20-Jan-14 19:05:12

thank you for my free book! I cried at the first quote, about finding gratitude even amongst the losses of our lives, and thought I would be a wreck reading the rest, but it has in turn been thought-provoking, sad, insightful and reassuring. I have a question for Stephen: Do you ever get cross with your patients, in the sessions? It's just that I have come out of 3 years of couples therapy and my therapist sometimes got angry with me, and would then apologise at the next session. I wondered if this was a recognised therapeutic tool?

sumac Thu 23-Jan-14 20:31:23

The author is very skilled at distilling his patients' experiences into short summaries and the lack of jargon (which is usually inevitable when professionals discuss mental health) is impressive.

The real life stories are interesting to read, so are the author's insights. However I found the stories a bit too smooth, with all the rough edges gone, making them curiously unemotional.

Question for the author: you make a strong case for the value of psychoanalysis. But do you feel annoyed/sad/frustrated that many who could benefit will never get to experience it due to cost, and will be offered by the NHS, a short course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or nothing at all?

SannaM Fri 24-Jan-14 18:07:59

I also received this book as a prize - thank you! I am about half way through the book and what has struck me most is how easy it is to judge people on their actions and yet to realise what can be behind them can change my perspective on the person. My question to Stephen is: Does the insight into why the person does something generally change their actions going forward i.e. give them the freedom of choice going forward? E.g.Does the compulsive liar take a different path once he realises why he's doing it? I would have been/am interested in an insight into the changes brought about by the therapy revelations and what this changed in their lives.

wait096 Fri 24-Jan-14 18:24:09

I also recieved the book, it's a really interesting read. It's perfect for someone with a young baby, the chapters are short enough to read with constant baby interruptions but feel in depth enough to give you a good understanding into the scenario to the insight Grosz gives feels well thought out. As sumac mentions the way these experiences have been distilled has been really well done and I'm sure it's often taken years to get to the final insight. I do find myself wanting to know what the lives of subjects are like now

My question to Mr Grosz is how did the subjects react to the news you wanted to write about their experiences and did they veto any details/radically make you change the details of their case and how did you balance it to keep the spirit of the insight?

Highanddry Fri 24-Jan-14 19:46:19

I received the book, my first book giveaway success.

I certainly found it compelling and difficult to put down. Stephen Grosz writes really well and is a great storyteller. I got through the book very quickly.

For me the short story format was both a good and bad thing. On the good side it made the book addictive as I just wanted to read one more story. One the bad side it also made it quite unsatisfying. I would start to get to know the characters and get involved with their stories and the events and then suddenly it would be the end. Every time I got to the end of a story it felt like a bit of a wrench as I had to put down those characters, just as I felt I was getting to know them, and start a new story with someone else. I think knowing that they were based on true stories made it easier to empathise with the people. I was always left wanting to know more about what happened afterwards.

Often when I got to the end of the story I felt that although the behaviour had been explained or highlighted, somehow the answers were still out of reach and I wasn't sure what conclusions I was suppose to take away from it.

I think I was expecting something a bit more self-helpish dealing with things in black and white. Maybe the point is that there are no nice, easy firm conclusions or totally happy endings in real life and that everything is actually grey. Everyone has their own issues and it is about understanding them and working with them.

My question to the author is - there were some stories where the behaviour was quite extreme but lots of them were about issues hidden behind more "normal" behaviour. Do you think everyone has issues they are not aware of which could benefit from psychotherapy or it should be used only if they are experiencing problems?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now