I am a big fan of advice columns. I love getting that little glimpse into other people’s lives and problems and then enjoying the relief that follows when I remember that I’m not the one who has to figure out how to solve them. I read a lot of advice columns on a regular basis – Ask Amy, Carolyn Hax, Dear Prudence, to name a few – and when I saw that Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice From Dear Sugar has a new anniversary release, I jumped at the chance to read it. Strayed, the bestselling author of Wild, wrote a then-anonymous advice column called Dear Sugar for many years for The Rumpus, and this year is the tenth anniversary of the release of a collection of some of those columns. This release also contains some new letters that weren’t included the last time around.
Why I picked it up: It’s a collection of advice columns!
Tiny Beautiful Things‘ letter writers cover a lot of ground: love, relationships, guilt, fear, addiction, grief, parenting, abuse – the usual fodder for human angst and misery. Strayed’s responses to those who wrote in to her took a little getting used to, as the advice columns I read are usually short and don’t reveal a lot about the respondent’s personal life and experiences. Strayed, on the other hand, usually includes a story or example from her personal life in her very lengthy responses. At first, this bothered me, as I found it self-indulgent. But I quickly grew to appreciate her insights and the gentle, generous way she approached the letter writers. She is firm without being harsh or judgmental. She rarely sees things in black and white, instead giving people grace and the benefit of the doubt as she helps them make a decision or chart a path forward. Her answers are long, but I was rarely bored by them. Instead, I often found ways to apply her guidance to my own life.
The audiobook version of Tiny Beautiful Things is narrated by Strayed, so her responses are even more resonant. She’s not the world’s best narrator, but her tone is genuine and empathetic. I definitely recommend the audio. (Although with the print version, you could pick it up and put it down after a letter or two, preventing the letters from blending together into one big morass of misery, which does occasionally happen with the audio.)
Thank you to PRH Audio for providing this audiobook.
Tiny Beautiful Things was the 53rd book of 2022.