Group by Christie Tate

2 out of 5 stars

Everybody has a story and this book is Christie Tate’s story. The top-ranked law student in her class, Tate was as lonely and depressed as she was smart and successful.

After having suicidal thoughts, a chance conversation led her to seek out group therapy facilitated by a Harvard-educated therapist.

The story that follows is a raw and unguarded recounting of her going to group meetings and working through the ups and downs she experiences in her dating life over a seven-year time period. 

Group by Christie Tate

Before sharing my reactions, I think it is important to acknowledge how much effort Tate put into working through her issues. Kudos to her for dedicating so much energy and resources to working on herself, and for creating a support network among her group members. She seemed to find a community of people who loved her unconditionally. 

As good as these outcomes were, this book was hard to listen to and connect with. I picked Group as my Audible download for the month so I could highlight it in the mental health section of my blog. I was expecting to be able to glean some tips or insights from the author’s journey that I could apply to my own life or share with readers looking to improve their mental health. This is NOT that kind of book. While there are some vague lessons about not abandoning yourself, readers mainly get a lot of in-depth detail about the author’s sex life.

And, while I recognize that a traditional approach to cognitive therapy isn’t for everyone, Tate’s therapist’s approach was concerning to me. For one, he didn’t believe in confidentiality. She describes him using tactics many would consider unorthodox at best and manipulative and unethical at worst. 

From doling out weird assignments to sitting silently while Tate harmed herself during group, his behavior came across as questionable. At one point, Tate herself refers to him as “the puppeteer” of the group, and wonders why she gives “that strange little man such power” over her life. He didn’t always seem to have his patients’ best interests in mind. For example, it seemed a little suspect that every time Tate went to him about not feeling like she was progressing, he suggested she add another weekly group session to her treatment plan.

While this is a book I would like to discuss with others, I don’t see myself recommending it to anyone to read.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

3 stars

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley.

The Hunting Party is a character-driven murder mystery set in Loch Corrin, an exclusive hunting lodge in the Highlands of Scotland.  

The story primarily unfolds over the course of a 4-day trip a group of 8 pals from university takes to celebrate the New Year. While the focus is on the present day, flashbacks to the past give context to some of the relationships and the events that transpire during the trip.

Each chapter of this closed-room suspense novel is told from the perspective of one of the individuals at Loch Corrin. I listened to the audiobook, and with so many characters, it was hard to keep them straight at first. I did enjoy the accents of the various narrators, which provided some authenticity to the story. The descriptions of the setting also translated really well to the audiobook format.

“I suppose we all carry around different versions of ourselves.”

Lucy Foley, The Hunting Party

The story starts slowly and keeps its deliberate pacing until about two-thirds of the way through when it picks up speed and becomes much more interesting. 

Foley doesn’t reveal the identity of the victim or the murderer until very late in the book, and most of the main characters are unlikable. These familiar elements, combined with an eerie remote setting, make the storyline feel a bit like a rerun of The Guest List. 

Although the storyline was strikingly similar to The Guest List, I ended up liking it a bit more. I didn’t guess all of the twists, including the identity of the killer. There was also something slightly more relatable about some of the characters. 

I do hope Foley’s newest book, The Paris Apartment, mixes up the plot a bit. I definitely do not need to read this same basic storyline for the third time.

Stop Overthinking by Nick Trenton

The cover of the book Stop Overthinking

For many of us, stress levels have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. And, as a founding member of the overthinkers club, a book with nearly 2 dozen tips for stopping stress in its tracks sounded promising. 

The basic premise of this book is that we should not see ourselves as “helpless in the face of stress” because we have many tools at our disposal for eradicating (or at least minimizing) this negative emotion.

The book is very straightforward and doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how your brain works like some other books on the subject. It makes the point that a lot of the stress in our lives is voluntary and the best way to reduce stress is to say no to unnecessary stress. 

One of the observations that really made me think was about how “your schedule can become one of your greatest stress reduction tools.” The concept of reframing my schedule as a stress-reducer rather than an endless to-do list was very powerful for me.

Some of the other advice is really basic. For example, when you encounter a problem, Trenton urges you to “physically see that the problem is separate from you.”

Another simple piece of advice: “Validate your own emotions and accept them.” Both of these tips are easy to understand, but a lot harder to put into practice.

The advice might be overly simple for some, but for me, there was something about the simple, uncomplicated advice that was appealing to me. However, it might not have been as appealing if it was my first read on the subject.

What is your best stress reduction tip? What other stress-reduction books have you read?

Don’t You Know Who I am? by Ramani Durvasula

4 stars

The cover of Don't You Know Who I am" by Rumani Durvasula, Ph.D.

Unfortunately, all of us will encounter a narcissist at some point in our lives.

When it inevitably happens, this book about the proliferation of narcissism in America and how it negatively impacts society and individuals can help you understand how to cope.

Durvasula is clearly an expert on the subject, and this book is full of great insights on how to deal with narcissists in your life. She reminds us that insecurity is at the core of narcissism, and as the subtitle promises, gives us tips on how to stay sane amidst the chaos these individuals create. 

“Stop handing over your kindness to a narcissist.”

Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D.

She does not sugarcoat what optimists and people who believe in fairness need to do to protect themselves from the toxicity of being around a narcissist. She reminds us throughout the book that life isn’t fair and that “there are no exceptions to narcissism — everyone gets hurt.”

I listened to this as an audiobook, and while I got a lot from it, I’d recommend reading this one in hardcopy if you are able. The citations were a little tedious in audiobook form, and it was hard to skip to the chapters that relate directly to the reason you sought out the book.

Despite my challenges with the format, it was one of the better books I’ve read on the subject of narcissism. Years after reading the book I still find myself referring to its helpful reminders such as “stop handing over your kindness to a narcissist.”