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Book Review: Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

Updated: May 29, 2023

Brené Brown is a professor, researcher and speaker on the topics of shame, vulnerability and leadership. She is also the author of well-known books such as Dare to Lead, The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. In her writings about shame and vulnerability, Brown shows how these emotions become obstacles to creating meaningful connections in our personal and professional lives.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Brown’s latest book is titled Atlas of The Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience. She uses the concept of creating an atlas as she maps out human experiences, emotions, and behaviors. In the introduction to the book, Brown explains that “…we are meaning makers and a sense of place is central to meaning-making. Where am I? How did I get here? How do I get there from here? These questions are central to understanding the physical world, and they are central to understanding our internal worlds…. we need a language to label what we are experiencing. And, just like a map, the interaction between the layers of our emotions and experiences tell the story.”

All 13 Chapters of this book start with the words “Places We Go To.” The titles are followed by a description of the place of the map of human experience and the emotions that relate to it, for example: Places We Go To When We Compare (comparison, admiration, reverence, envy, jealousy, etc.), Places We Go To When Things Aren’t What They Seem (amusement, nostalgia, paradox, irony, etc.), or Places We Go To When We Are Hurting (anguish, hopelessness, despair, sadness and grief). After introducing each “place” on the map, Brown dives into each of the emotions in detail, showing their relationships and interplay.

Brown is a master storyteller, she vulnerably shares her own experiences, fearlessly disclosing her own thoughts, struggles, and feelings throughout the book. Doing so, she gently encourages us to be vulnerable along with her by taking an honest look at our own experiences.

As a researcher, she introduces established as well as cutting edge research into human relationships in each chapter. For example, we learn about Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Vivek Murphy’s understanding of loneliness.

She finishes the book with three different skill sets for practicing meaningful connections with others, knowing that “our connection with others can only be as deep as our connection with ourselves” (page 273).

One other unique feature of this book is that it is full of beautiful images, whole-page quotes, and whimsical cartoons illustrating different points. It is the kind of book that you can keep on your coffee table and come back to it repeatedly. Each time you pick it up, you will learn something new and valuable about your own human experience. Brené Brown will keep challenging you to stay brave, open and vulnerable.

You can find this book at:

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