If you’re looking for a fun read you can devour like a bag of M&M’s, I think you’ll like the BlogHer Book Club’s latest pick: Here I Go Again: A Novel by Jen Lancaster. And if you were coming of age when Nirvana exploded onto the music scene (and that meant something to you)? You’re going to absolutely love it.

Lissy Ryder, the quintessential “mean girl” of the Class of ’92, is now 37 and fabulous. Or so she thought. Twenty four hours after we meet her, she’s sleeping under her David Coverdale poster in her old room in her parents’ house having been fired from her job, kicked out of her condo, dumped by her husband and invited to her twenty year high school reunion – all tragic stuff, right? In an effort to reclaim her old glory and pull her life back together, she goes to the reunion and discovers just how hated she really was – oh, and an opportunity to go back in time and tame that bitch called karma.

It’s Peggy Sue Got Married, if Peggy Sue were Regina George, in book form. So, it’s the kind of story we’ve heard before. But there’s a reason good stories can be revised and retold. We love them. And I loved this one.

If you’ve read Jen’s blog or any of her other books, you know the the kind of snark and quick wit she could bring to the “mean girl” character. She’s written Lissy as so cleverly mean, you’re equally awed and afraid of her ability to insult. I didn’t really like Lissy – not even at the end, once she’d learned her lesson – but I loved disliking her. I enjoyed her journey, particularly the trip back to the 90s landscape that was my high school experience, too. I loved the pop culture references, especially the music. It was all so familiar and fun – a great escape from today.

Really, you should read this book. You’ll like it. But do it quick, before making fun of Justin Bieber gets old.

Want to hear more? Travel back in time and over to Here I Go Again’s BlogHer Book Club page and join the conversation.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Okay. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

You guys, I loved this book.

I was a neuroscience major for my first three years of college. One of the requirements to fulfill the major was to participate in a weekly discussion group about hot neuroscience topics with the other neuroscience majors and professors. It was one of my favorite academic experiences. We’d argue about things like free will or whether or not people had souls, and we’d geek out over amazing research that I couldn’t believe the rest of the world didn’t seem to know or care about. One of the most memorable books we read and discussed was Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

This book reminded me of all of that. The neuron-popping ideas. The cool research. And much like Emotional Intelligence redefined what it means to be smart, this book changed my thoughts on what willpower really is. It wasn’t so much an “I never knew that” feeling as an “I never looked at it that way” sort of experience.

The Willpower Instinct is designed to be used as if you were taking Dr. McGonigal’s “Science of Willpower” course offered to the public through Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program. There are ten chapters that mirror the ten week class experience (and include real-life experiences from former students). Each chapter introduces a new idea about willpower along with evidence to support the idea, and then follows it up with two kinds of assignments. The first assignment called “Under the Microscope” is a prompt that asks you to simply pay attention and observe the way the idea currently operates in your life, while the second “Willpower Experiment” offers a practical strategy for improving your willpower.

I didn’t have ten weeks to review the book, so I have yet to put it to the test with a true Willpower Challenge, but I’m looking forward to trying it. I can see how some of the strategies I read about were ones that had brought me success in the past, and I discovered ways I’ve sabotaged myself without realizing it. The greatest thing about this book, aside from the cool studies I’ve been forcing my family to hear about at dinner all week, is that it all seems doable. It’s reasonable. And it’s liberating for someone like me who beats herself up and feels like she’s “bad” when she stumbles. It’s not necessarily bad. Maybe it’s biology! It’s much easier to overcome the scientific reality of a natural impulse than the idea that you’re somehow deficient for wanting that doughnut or putting off doing the laundry.

We’ll be talking about willpower over at BlogHer all month. Be sure to check it out and join in.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Here’s what’s up with the BlogHer Book Club these days: My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future by Kate and David Marshall. Not so much a book to read, but to work through, you know, like a workbook.

When I got the e-mail announcing this title, I was all in to review it. “This is for me,” I said. “I could use some direction.” I couldn’t wait to start making my life map! And then it arrived. Twenty pages in, I hid it away in my desk drawer. Turns out, mapping out your life takes some effort.

The publisher promotes the book by saying, “Kate and David help readers map their road of life by reflecting on the past, evaluating the present, and dreaming of the future.”

Well, who wants to do that? I mean, the words reflecting, evaluating and dreaming make it sound nice. But I don’t reflect on the past so much as worry about it. I guess you could say I’m evaluating my present when I’m worrying about it. And the future? WORRIED ABOUT IT. I really had to adjust my head space to use this book.

I am so glad I did.

There’s a whole lot to be gained from taking a start to finish view of your life. The “thought-provoking prompts and questions” that laid it all out weren’t always easy to answer, but they revealed so much. It’s easy to to lose sight of where you are when you’ve got your head down and are working hard just trying to make it day by day, which is how I’ve felt lately. But I found that I’d really been minimizing all that I’ve done and had no bearing on how close I am to meeting many of my short-term goals – goals I haven’t been willing to look past. (Let’s be honest, it’s hard to dream about a family vacation when you’re struggling to keep the heat on. What will life be like when the kids are grown up? I can’t imagine what life will be like when they can all poop in the potty.)

Turns out, I’ve done a lot in my life that I’m proud of, I know what makes me happy and I already have what matters most to me: a loving family. The things I get hung up on worrying about, when all mapped out, are such a small part of my life. This book helped me put all of that in perspective and made me feel like it was okay, even reasonable, to dream about the future, like it is absolutely possible and that I will not always be right here, in this spot, with these worries. I needed that.

Want to learn more about this book? Join the BlogHer Book Club discussion.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

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