How to Live Well with Chronic Illness; Written by Toni Bernhard
Toni Bernhard’s book– soothing and restorative–brings to mind the work of Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hahn, and Jon Kabat-Zinn.  An abiding spirit of mindful optimism underlies her intelligent strategies for making difficult moments bearable and, at times, for being able to transform their pain into life-affirming opportunities. The author is as tough in the face of life-shattering adversity as she is nurturing of the ever-present possibilities for healing. The book rings with humility and emotional presence. I have recommended it to clients, friends and family.  Ms. Bernhard guides us beyond cynicism and skepticism about achieving happiness despite debilitating obstacles. Internal struggles with disappointment, disillusionment and self-criticism—typically suffered in isolation—are brought to light, revealed as neither shameful nor even remarkable but only elements of ordinary living. She points us towards loving-kindness with grace and humor. Her voice is gentle, sweet and sure.  These pages supply potent anti-hopelessness medication.  Her deft touch of true compassion works healing wonders in this open-hearted masterpiece.
Getting the Sex You Want  by Dr. Tammy Nelson

The experience of reading Getting the Sex You Want is like having an extended conversation with a warm and sharing expert who is patient enough to guide you through a variety of perspectives to help you think clearly about sexual issues. Dr. Nelson points out—using Imago dialogue patterns—ways in which difficult conversations can not only be conducted effectively but contribute to creating warmth and connection. At the same time, she describes how many couples fall into avoidable patterns when faced with the challenge of negotiating differences. Couples who read this book will find encouragement and usable tips for dealing with issues that, left unaddressed, would likely result in isolation and loneliness. The book includes dialogues between couples in which genuine empathy, honesty, validation, vulnerability and exploration are shared and come to life. Also, there are examples of unsuccessful conversation between partners that illustrate pitfalls of communicating without empathy, validation and so forth. Although I am an experienced couples therapist who has read a fair amount of sex therapy self-help literature, the frank discussion of sexual options and ways in which partners can share secrets they may be holding, without scaring themselves or their partners, was useful to me personally and professionally. Likewise, the review of information regarding anatomical information pertinent to sex added to my knowledge base. Five stars.

How We Live Now by Dr. Bella De Paulo

This important book, How We Live Now, focuses on the ways in which activists, architects, and others are re-conceptualizing the settings that best create a sense of community for their dwellers. De Paulo develops a sub-theme that moves the reader into a very different yet equally valuable sphere. Her discussion illuminates the notion of emotional intimacy itself. She talks about the balance that we all struggle to maintain between our need for privacy and solitude while also addressing our need for connection and companionship.

De Paulo describes innovative settings that promote a feeling of connection. There is careful discussion of how and why potential partners in a living situation need to methodically explore many dimensions of knowing one another before they live together. Exploring compatibility for child-rearing is given the kind of intensive scrutiny that, unfortunately, often is missing prior to the decision to parent. The emphasis here is on mindfulness, preparedness, conscious decision-making and humility in staking out the parameters of what living together means, and what child-rearing entails—notably cooperation and communication.

De Paulo talks to the reader about the research-backed trends towards greater valuing of friendship between those who co-habitate and married folk alike. The book elaborates on the social trend that is enabling more and more of the elderly to avoid institutionalization, to remain as in-control of their environment for as long as they possibly can, without feeling isolated in an apartment.  The author talks about structuring multi-generational communities in such a way as to afford the elderly greater personal care and connection while, at the same time, giving them opportunities to contribute to the care and development of others—often that involves children in need of adult attention. Many of the interviewees in this book are impressive social innovators who accomplish remarkable feats by bringing people together for mutual advantage.  The single mom who has, over time, aided thousands of other single moms across America to find co-parenting partners comes to mind. The stories are instructive and inspirational. They validate a humanistic side of our culture that is often overlooked, and certainly under-publicized.