10% Happier by Dan Harris

April 28, 2015

 

I'm not a big self-help reader, and yet here I am, posting on a book that is essentially a guide advocating for meditation, mindfulness and a bunch of other Buddhist practices.

 

Yes, this book does sit squarely in the self-help section of the bookstore. But that's not why I'm writing about it.

 

In addition to its message, which, incidentally, I think is worthwhile, the book is essentially narrative non-fiction--really good, really funny narrative non-fiction. And that's why the reading writer should pick up this book: Because Dan Harris knows how to tell stories.

 

I have a friend like this--we'll call her Suzy. I get together with Suzy about once a month, and each time she winds up telling a story that results in the whole table of us doubled over in laughter, tears rolling down our faces. This is how I felt when I was reading this book. There were even times when I wasn't sure where the book was going, but I decided I didn't really care; the ride was entertaining enough to keep me going. And Harris manages to do this with within the category of non-fiction self-help, which suggests that good storytelling can take place just about anywhere.

 

As a writer, I'd love to be able to master this kind of story, the anecdote. It gets better with each telling, not because of embellishments but because of details, connections and self-depricating insights dotted throughout the narrative. Interestingly, Suzy claims that despite her very entertaining storytelling she can't write stories at all. Are these two different skills?

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