How to Stay Sane

Philippa Perry. Picador, $16 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-250-03063-4

Lumping the insane into two broad groups—those who “lurch from crisis to crisis” and those who “have got themselves into a rut and operate from a limited set of outdated, rigid responses—” Perry (Couch Fiction) explains how to “stay on the path between those two extremes.” Right off the bat, it’s clear her intention is not to transform the clinically crazy into functioning members of society; rather, this brief book is aimed at everyday folks struggling to “remain stable and yet flexible, coherent and yet able to embrace complexity.” Perry, a psychotherapist, explains that people who maintain sanity have changed in four areas: “self-observation,” relationships with others, coping with stress, and telling stories. The author addresses each in as many chapters, wherein she discusses related topics as diverse as biology, learning styles, the effects of exercise, and a Wagner opera, as well as illustrative case studies. Folks seeking further guidance will find more than 30 pages of practical “exercises” , as well as a list of suggested reading. Though Perry’s approach can sometimes be difficult to follow, her inviting tone (complemented by lighthearted illustrations throughout) and friendly prose make this an accessible addition to the School of Life publications. Illus. Agent: Caroline Dawnay, United Agents (U.K.). (Jan.)