Creatures of A Day by Irvin Yalom #BookReview by @FTThum

It is such sweet anticipation knowing a book by Irvin Yalom awaits me.


Title:                    Creatures of A Day and Other Tales of Psychotherapy
Author:                Irvin D Yalom
Publishers:        Piatkus (5 March 2015)
Format:                Paperback
ISBN-10:             0349407428
ISBN-13:             9780349407425
Pages:                   224
Genre:                 Literary Non-Fiction; Psychology

What’s it about?

Once again, Irvin D Yalom does not disappoint. On the contrary he proves (not that he needed to J) yet again his mastery in conveying the complexity of the human psyche into short stories designed to engage the imagination and to teach. For those who do not know, Yalom is an eminent existential psychotherapist and author. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Standford University who is cautious of the perils of diagnosis and pathology, rather preferring to delve into human psyche. At the age of 82 (when the book was written), Yalom’s curiosity and ‘work’ on himself lies with the reality of impending death.

In ‘Creatures of a Day’, Yalom explores through ten tales (of real cases) the existential theme of ‘death’ or ‘existential death’, and how we, no matter our age, experience and respond when confronted with our own mortality. There is no formula, no correct answer – just a deep appreciation for the complexities that is the human psyche. Yalom’s humility and candour shine in the short stories. Though a master therapist, Yalom does not shy away from owning his missteps in therapy sessions, nor his judgment, non-engagement and not-knowing. What is important, as he highlights in ‘Creatures of a Day’, is the therapeutic relationship between him and his clients, one that is authentic, honest and transparent. He demonstrates the transformative power of this healing relationship.

If there is one ‘flaw’ it is that ‘Creatures of a Day’ through Yalom’s exquisite storytelling makes the psychotherapeutic process seemed a ‘natural’ process and can be attempted with ease. Here is the paradox – the therapeutic process is hard work and difficult for the client and the therapist; it is never simple.

As Yalom states,

The patients in these stories deal with anxiety about death, about the loss of loved ones and the ultimate loss of oneself, about how to live a meaningful life, about coping with aging and diminished possibilities, about choice, about fundamental isolation.

Yet this book provides such an uplifting, hopeful perspective to our humanness and our capacity for growth.

Would I recommend it?

So would I recommend this book? A resounding ‘yes’.

And the book’s audience?

I will quote Yalom. “I write for those of you who have a keen interest in the human psyche and personal growth, for the many readers who will identify with the ageless existential crises … and for the individuals who contemplate entering therapy or are already in the midst of it.”

Savour the book not just its entertaining tales but take time to explore the nuanced interactions between Yalom and his patients.



Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think:               4.5/5
Overall enjoyment:           5/5
Readability:                       5/5
Recommended:                 5/5
Overall Rating:                   5/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD $8.27
  Paperback USD $15.99
Booktopia Paperback AUD $23.80
Bookdepository Paperback £9.38

– FlorenceT



© 2016 LitWorldInterviews


Book review @FTThum : Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

Well, it has an interesting title, don’t you think? Provocative, really.


Title:                Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us
Author:          Jesse Bering
Publishers:   Penguin Random House, UK(2015)
Format:         Paperback
ISBN-10:        0374230897
ISBN-13:        978-0374230890
Twitter:          @JesseBering
Pages:             333
Genre:            Non-fiction; Psychology

What’s it about?

Jesse Bering is a former director at the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast and also a former professor of psychology at University of Arkansas.

The book begins with the characterization of sexual deviance, and the label ‘perv’. Bering provides the evolution of the term ‘perverse’. It would seem the moniker of ‘perverse’ is attributed to one who is turning away from what is right according to the Judeo-Christian religion, namely an atheist. It was only in the late 19th century that ‘perv’ is common usage in reference to sexual deviance.

Sexual deviance is only deviant as compared to a persisting standard or norm. It was not that long ago that masturbation was considered a sexual deviance and a psychological illness. Further Bering claims, as the title indicates, we are all sexual deviants in varying degrees. We have all thought sexual thoughts which we would not divulge to others in general conversations. Consider, rape fantasies or voyeuristic or exhibitionist fantasies… There is a social standard or norm which few of us would casually flout.

Which brings us to the notion that what goes on in our minds is no one else’s business unless and until we act it out, and perhaps not even then.

Bering states that the present debate on sexual deviance rests on the dichotomy of ‘what is natural’ against ‘what is unnatural’. He suggests perhaps a better test may be ‘what is harmful’. His argument is rather convincing, at least to me.

Treating an individual as a pervert in essence, and hence with a purposefully immoral mind, because his or her brain conjures up atypical erotic ideas or respond sexually to stimuli that other have deemed inappropriate objects of desire, is medieval in both its stupidity and its cruelty.

The gendered conception of sexual deviance between the sexes can be seen from the psychological explanation and treatment approach to nymphomania and satyriasis (this being the male counterpart to nymphomania) – for example, satyrs are men who do sick things, while nymphos are women who are sick as women cannot possibly have sexual desires.

Bering then went on to explain and describe the many different sexual inclinations and with case studies to match, including ornithophilia (an intense desire for birds), necrophilia, foot fetish, podophilia (toes being the object of desires), etc. They are mind-boggling to say the least. His take on paedophilia and the age of consent is courageous indeed given the prevailing sentiment surrounding it. I will leave you to read it for yourself. He does make a sensible point.

Of course, a book on sexual deviance would be incomplete without addressing the issue of sexual orientation – homosexuality, transsexuality etc. Bering states that a person’s sexuality is determined by a lottery at birth – our sexuality is determined through a combination of 4 factors

  • Sexual orientation – homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual or asexual;
  • Erotic target – person, animal, inanimate or none;
  • Erotic behaviour – normal intercourse, courtship paraphilia, other paraphilia or masturbation; and
  • Erotic age orientation – pedophilia (prepubescent), hebephilia (pubescent), ephebophilia (older adolescent), teleiophilia (mature adult), gerontophilia (elderly), or none.

Fortunate for me living under present societal standard and norm (‘social jackpot’ in Bering’s term), I am heterosexual, person, normal intercourse and teleiophilia. Care to identify your combination? Remember, it need not be acted upon, thoughts count too 🙂

This book is made all the more interesting by Bering’s irreverence, dry wit and humor, with his deft handling of the ‘intense’ topics. His humane liberal approach is endearing.  There were many laugh-out-loud moments, which earned me quizzical looks on the train commute especially when I was holding up a book titled ‘Perv’.

Perhaps it is time to look at issues of sexuality from the lens of ‘harm’ instead of ‘nature’ or ‘religion’, and to differentiate the harm value between thought and action. Just because we think it, does not mean we will do it. And if we do do it, are we harming others? And if not, is it a matter for public or private governance? And why the condemnation and/or persecution? As a psychotherapist, my question is this – what benefits can shame, stigma, ostracism and separateness create?

And a word of caution from Bering – when we identify a person by his or her sexuality,

“…we’ve lost the trees for the forest. … our knowledge of a person’s hidden sexual desires overshadows everything else we know about him or her…

Who would I recommend this book to?              

This is a book of ideas, visions and possibilities on sexuality. It is intended to challenge prevailing views, standards and norms rather than a book for scientific study. The 13-page bibliographic notes is indicative of a well-researched book.

I recommend this book for the curious minds, as well as those open and willing to explore, at the least intellectually ;-), different paradigms of human sexuality.


Realistic Characterization:   NA
Made Me Think:                   4/5
Overall enjoyment:                3.5/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                      3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Audible Audio USD 23.61
  Kindle USD 9.64
  Paperback USD 12.97
Booktopia Paperback AUD 20.95
Bookdepository Paperback €11.01


– FlorenceT



Book review by @FTThum – The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

I had read this book when it was first published in 2013. The second print was released in January 2014.  It is a book to share, a book that will change your perspectives which is why I have chosen to review it for my first post in LitWorldInterviews.

Though trained in therapy, this review is written not from the perspective of a therapist but rather that of a reader who happens to be a therapist.

Title:               The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find OurselvesThe Examined Life
Author:          Stephen Grosz
Publisher:     Chatto & Windus (3 Jan 2013)
ISBN-10:        070118535X
ISBN-13:        978-0701185350
Pages: Hardback, 240 pages
Genre: Literary Non-Fiction – Psychology

What’s it about?

The Examined Life is a collection of essays based on Stephen Grosz’ case histories of his work as a psychoanalyst. In Grosz’ words, it is a book about ‘change and loss’.

Grosz’ art in story-telling is apparent. The human-ness of each client, and the interaction between he and his clients cannot help but make the reader realise all of us share common experiences such as pain and  suffering in our living, and we are creative and versatile of ways to protect ourselves by whichever means possible.

In telling these stories, Grosz manages to enlighten the reader to the hidden meanings of his clients’ lives. There are the ‘facts’ obvious to all, and then his narratives which distil the motivations leading to a depth of understanding of the human psyche.

The reader is also acutely aware the therapy process occurs within the confines of a therapist’s room, and the accounts told by the clients are rarely verified or corroborated.  As a therapist, I am aware therapeutic ‘conversations’ are about honouring the client’s perspectives, not seeking ‘universal truths’. So the reader is left with stories of people as seen through the eyes of a highly experienced psychoanalyst and poignant narratives which prompt the reader to reflect on humanity.  Take for example, the young man diagnosed as HIV positive who had spent some 3 years of his therapy sessions with Grosz mostly sleeping because it is there that he felt safe and thus could rest. That was a place of healing. Now reconsider the judgment we have of the benefits or the necessity or the efficacy of those sessions.

This book is inspirational, thought provoking and highly entertaining.  Most importantly, by the absence of technical jargon, it is accessible to all and not just those interested in or within the field of psychology.

The essays illuminate and clarify the process of psychoanalysis – the conversations in therapy and the skills of listening, talking and being present with clients – without advocating for this specific technique or method.

I recommend this most certainly to readers curious about the complexities of human mind and behaviour.

Perhaps Grosz said it best:

        “The philosopher Simone Weil describes how two prisoners in adjoining cells learn, over a very long period of time, to talk to each other by tapping on the wall. ‘The wall is the thing which separates them, but it is also their mean o communication,’ she writes. ‘Every separation is a link.’

        This book is about that wall. It’s about our desire to talk, to understand and be understood. It’s also about listening to each other, not just the words but the gaps in between. … It’s something that is a part of our everyday lives – we tap, we listen.”

LWI Rating:

Realistic Characterization: N/A
Made Me Think: 3/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Readability: 5/5
Recommended: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Hardback $19.05 USD
  Paperback $12.30 USD
  Kindle $9.06 USD
Bookdepository Hardback €17.50 Euro
  Paperback €9.82 Euro
Booktopia Hardback $31.50 AUD
  Paperback $16.50 AUD
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