Becoming Your Best: A Self-Help Guide for Thinking People by Ronald W. Richardson

Becoming Your Best: A Self-Help Guide for Thinking People by Ronald W. Richardson

Had Claire Bellanti not recommended I get this book, it is unlikely I would have discovered it. It’s not a novel and thus not located with the other literary works, and Jane Austen’s name is not on the front cover. Her name is, however, all over the back cover, and her work offers instruction in the development of “emotional maturity” that Richardson argues we must develop in our own lives.

People often ask me, when they come to understand how devoted I am to the life and work of Jane Austen, why she resonates so well with me, and with modern audiences. Richardson provides a succinct and clear answer: the stories are “so much more than the conventional romantic love stories” into which Hollywood sometimes morphs them. The stories, Richardson explains, “are truly about her characters struggling to become better people, the best they can be, and how this increases their satisfaction and happiness in life.” Add to that “her wit, her sense of irony, and her exceptional writing,” and suddenly, novels about how better to “live the values we profess” become sheer pleasures to read. The characters, delivered to us by a distinctly-voiced narrator, teach us what we should aim to be—and not to be.

The text begins with a lot of psychological theory, which is somewhat repetitive but which also makes sense. Then Richardson explores how Austen’s novels demonstrate, naturally and comedically, that “being a better person leads to better and happier relationships.” Richardson provides examples from his own therapeutic practice, examples from Austen’s work, and strategies for directly applying the lessons to our own lives. It is a brilliant idea, and if not quite as riveting as a Viera Rigler novel, worth some investment of time. After all, even if we are not motivated sufficiently by principle to become better human beings, should not our own happiness provide sufficient impetus for analysis, and perhaps, change?

Published in: on June 26, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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