Brené Brown brings us another #1 New York Times bestseller



In Atlas of the Heart, Brown, based on extensive research, describes 87 different emotions. This doesn’t necessarily sound like a book you can’t put down but it is. While a book that describes emotions runs the risk of being overly intellectual, Atlas of the Heart is warm, practical and deeply relational. It is not a book about definitions but rather about understanding ourselves, others and our experiences in a far more meaningful way. This is essential, because as Brown writes “If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories that we hear”. Understanding emotions and our experience of them is critical to both storytelling and story hearing; essential foundations of relationship.

Atlas of the Heart describes different emotions based on the situations in which we might experience them. The chapter titles are for example

  • Chapter 1. Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain or Too Much. In this chapter Brown describes the emotions of stress, overwhelm, anxiety, worry, avoidance, excitement, dread and fear.
  • Chapter 10. Places We Go When Life Is Good. Here Brown describes joy, happiness, calm, contentment, gratitude, foreboding joy, relief and tranquillity.

Brown is a natural storyteller. Warmth, authenticity and humour are woven throughout the book as she teases out seemingly subtle, but significant differences between emotions such as empathy and sympathy, anguish and despair, happiness and joy. Brown references Gottman’s work and strengthens understanding of experiences such as flooding, defensiveness, anger, contempt.


One of the challenges we have in connecting is that our language around emotions is often quite limited, and yet it is through our emotions that meaningful connection most easily occurs. Atlas of the Heart not only makes for good holiday reading, it’s also an invaluable reference book that will support individuals and couples in communicating as they aim to strengthen meaningful connections.