Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Book Review – This Book Will Make You Stronger

Book Review – This Book Will Make You Stronger

Review Written by Casey Douglass


This Book Will Make You Stronger

I’ve long been familiar with the benefits of getting thoughts out of your head and down onto paper, but it isn’t always helpful. Sometimes you can get bogged down with what you are doing, and rather than creating some mental breathing space, you actually end up creating a kind of bureaucracy around your issues. Books or journals that already have a framework inside can be a useful way of avoiding the pitfalls that can come from inking your thoughts, and Ollie Aplin’s This Book Will Make You Stronger is one such book, with an interesting twist: it’s aimed at men.

“Manliness” can be a thorny topic, just like giving a definition to anything that might have different meanings to different people. I’m not going into definitions here, but I think it’s safe to say that some people will view the idea of a man keeping a journal as not very manly. This is quite amusing to me, as all kinds of great figures from history are known to have kept a journal, from Ernest Hemingway to Bruce Lee. In fact, one of the early sections of TBWMYS tells the reader what journaling is, what its benefits are, some famous people that have kept one and, most importantly, how to go about it.

The book is written in a warm and friendly voice; one early section contains Ollie’s story, how the events of his life brought him to a mental breakdown, and how, from the pieces of that breakdown, journaling emerged to become a powerful tool for recovery and beyond. He admits that he battled with journaling initially, feeling it was unnatural to write so many thoughts down. Talking with friends, he realised that his struggle with journaling was by no means a one off, and he set off down the path to creating a journal that actually helps with the act of journaling. He also realised that men could probably benefit most from this, and via a successful Kickstarter campaign (reaching its goal in only 72 hours), the book emerged, and started helping guys straight away.

This Book Will Make You Stronger

This Book Will Make You Stronger is split into different sections. The first 30 or so pages are taken up with the above mentioned backstory, what journaling is, and what you can expect by working through the book. The middle area of the book is the journal itself, split into three stages: Warm Up, Hurdles, and Strength. These stages are designed to ease you into the act of journaling.

This Book Will Make You Stronger

The Warm Up section is intended to be “light stretching” for the brain, a way to get you thinking about the past and how your life is now, by way of drawing diagrams, using Thought Triggers (writing prompts basically), and even writing a rap. Hurdles contains a collection of tougher Thought Triggers, and focusses on the reader and the people around them. It will also help to show the reader’s strengths and weaknesses, on the basis that knowing these can help you to make best use of them. Strength is the toughest section and gets you thinking about your needs and the future.

The last section of the book contains a Support Guide, a place where you can turn if you are struggling or if you get caught up in something that you don’t know how to deal with. Topics covered include things like giving yourself permission, how to deal with stress and a further FAQ on journaling. This is a great idea, as journaling can throw up some previously unknown stuff. Some of it might be an amazing relief, and some could be heavy shit that just depresses the hell out of you. Having somewhere to turn for extra advice is very handy.

This Book Will Make You Stronger

As I worked through and browsed TBWMYS, I found myself appreciating the layout. It’s black and white and well designed, each title and word feeling “punchy” and well placed. The pages that are intended for you to write on are clearly laid out, with areas for you to write the date, take stock of your current mood or feelings, and a whole free page for your thought writing (I’m never comfortable writing in “proper” books, it always feels so naughty, like the time I got told off for scribbling in my Button Moon book when I was five).

This Book Will Make You Stronger

The structure is indeed very useful, as it guides the journaller enough to give them a topic to think about, but not too much to make things constricted. It’s nothing like using an empty notebook, staring at a blank page wondering where to start. The Thought Triggers will likely make you think of some things that you haven’t even thought about in depth before, like what actually brings you joy, and “How does crying make you feel?” Taking the crying one as an example, it’s easy to focus on the unpleasantness of feeling bad enough to cry, any shame associated with “being weak” etc, and miss the positives such as the relief and expression of strong emotions. If crying just equals “feeling shit” to someone, they might just be missing out on the good stuff that comes with it too.
This Book Will Make You Stronger

This Book Will Make You Stronger strikes me as a very skilful way for someone to get into journaling. It gives you the information and advice that you need to approach journaling in a way that is most likely to help you stick with it long enough to start to see what you can get out of it. Once you’ve worked through the book from start to finish, you will also have completed your first journal in the process, so it’s not a case of perpetually reading about how to do something and not getting around to actually doing it, the book and “doing it” are all in one package. I like this.

This Book Will Make You Stronger

Visit the Mindjournal website here for more information about the male journaling movement, stories and other articles. Oh and links to buying the book too.

I was given a review copy of this book.

Book Title: This Book Will Make You Stronger
Author: Ollie Aplin
Publisher: Ebury Press
RRP: £9.99
ISBN: 978-1785036606

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