Bookworm: ‘Let’s Talk’ is for gluing together relationships and hearts

‘Ouch’ and ‘First Steps’: It’s time to go lie down, take a rest, and read one of these timely books

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Let’s Talk About Hard Things”

  • By Anna Sale
  • c. 2021, Simon & Schuster
  • $27, $36 Canada; 289 pages

Don’t even go there. That’s a sore subject, and you’re not going to talk about it. You really don’t want to even think about it, much less articulate your thoughts. Forget it, it’s done, over, finished. Give it some time – or read “Let’s Talk About Hard Things” by Anna Sale, and how about now?

“Let’s Talk About Hard Things” by Anna Sale

Like many couples who marry and then divorce, it was obvious that Anna Sale and her first husband simply grew apart. They just “didn’t want the same thing anymore.” Notifying friends and family was hard, as was the healing, but once Sale started to pull her life together again, she realized that there was an opportunity here.

To her bosses, she proposed the idea of a radio program dedicated to talking “about the things that mattered most in life but that we talked about least.” Death, Sex & Money was born, and this book came from that.

Though we are at the tail-end of a pandemic, for example, we still feel awkward about death, in part because we’ve had to change the way we grieve. We’ve lost so much and so many that it’s hard to imagine how our forebears perceived death as “sad, and it was natural” and then, though they grieved, they seemed to move on surprisingly quickly.

“Let’s Talk About Hard Things” author Anna Sale.

So how do we get past that don’t-know-what-to-say phase to appropriately say what helps?

Think before you speak. Don’t tell a bereaved person to “let me know if you need anything” because, let’s face it, they won’t. Understand that there’s a right way to acknowledge the truth of an impending death. Avoid pretending that death “didn’t happen.”

Learn to “step through the awkwardness” when talking about sex and ask for what you need. Before having a money talk with someone, understand and be able to state your own thoughts about money. Listen more than you speak when talking with family. And when someone tells you who they are, where they’re from, and how they identify, remember that a few sentences are not the end of the conversation.

You can make a hundred well-meaning casseroles. You can lay there and think of England. You can raise your eyebrows and be parsimonious, but when are you going to actually say something that means something? So how about now, with “Let’s Talk About Hard Things.”

Start by being prepared to put sentiments together by yourself. Author Anna Sale doesn’t offer advice here, or even a list of Things to Utter. There’s not even a clear-cut plan of action; instead, you’ll mostly find anecdotes and been-there-done-thats in this book, which makes it seem more like a biography than advice so why read it?

Answer: if you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re tongue-tied and feeling useless, you don’t want it to happen again. Those stories will teach you for the next time.

Chatty, genuine, and open, this book is for gluing together relationships and hearts and avoiding those socially squirmy moments. If that’s your aim, then reading “Let’s Talk About Hard Things” should be almost unavoidable.

More:Bookworm: Two great books about dogs

“Ouch! Why Pain Hurts, and Why It Doesn’t Have To” by Margee Kerr and Linda Rodriguez McRobbie and “First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human” by Jeremy DeSilva.

“Ouch! Why Pain Hurts, and Why It Doesn’t Have To”

  • By Margee Kerr and Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
  • c. 2021, Bloomsbury Sigma
  • $28, $38 Canada, 320 pages

“First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human”

  • By Jeremy DeSilva
  • c. 2021, Harper
  • $27.99, $34.99 Canada; 334 pages

Everything hurts. From the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, you’re one gigantic wince. It’ll go away soon, you know it will, but in the meantime – yikes! It’s time to go lie down, take a rest, and read one of these timely books ...

Ugh, pain. Even something as slight as a paper cut can sting for a surprisingly long time – but why is that so? It won’t hurt to find out by reading “Ouch!” by Margee Kerr and Linda Rodriguez McRobbie.

You burn your hand and you pull it back, fast. Bump into something sharp, and you’ll jump away. Hit your head and you won’t do that again. We like to think we don’t invite a painful experience, but we do: 8 out of 10 American women have pierced ears and a likewise large number of our fellow citizens have tattoos. Millions of us visit waxing salons. And when was the last time you ate a super-spicy meal?

In this book, you’ll learn exactly what pain is and why the way we describe it matters. You’ll see how it protects the body, how some people’s warning system goes haywire, and why others feel no pain at all. You’ll read about why pain might be ignored by a doctor, and what science says about what you’re feeling. See why a little pain is good for kids, learn a thing or two about pain meds, and see why we literally can’t live without something hurting.

If it’s pain in the foot you’ve got, well, you’ll learn more about those things at the end of your legs in “First Steps” by Jeremy DeSilva, who is a paleoanthropologist specializing in the study of “the foot, and in particular, the ankle” and especially that which is ancient.

The fact that you are upright, balanced on the lower side of relatively thin sticks that end in a mess of bones and muscles, is somewhat of a miracle that started millennia ago. In this book, you’ll get some idea of how humans started to walk and why.

Walking, as DeSilva shows, affected our ancestors’ health, as sure as it does ours today. You’ll see how feet differed between various ancient hominoids, how their movement across the planet through millennia affected their feet, and how human feet affected the planet. You’ll read about the different ways we walk, the benefits of it, and how our entire bodies adapted to walking as we do, rather than chimp-like. You’ll see how walking upright made us who we are today, from crown to the toes on our feet (and including those toes!) And you’ll see why it’s so important to take care of those body parts that let us walk, run, bike, step up, skip, and dance.

If you’re looking for more books on health-related topics, visit your favorite bookstore or library; the staff there will be able to help you choose the right reads to inform you or to distract you from the pain. Ask them. It wouldn’t hurt.

More:Bookworm: There’s still work to do, so find ‘The Secret History of Home Economics’

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.