What Kansans Are Reading: Harriet Lerner

Harriet Lerner is a psychologist in Lawrence, Kansas. She is the author of many best-selling books including “The Dance of Anger,” and a new book, “Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up.”

What kinds of books do you enjoy reading, and why?

I like to read gorgeously written books that take me out of my life and plunk me down in a new one. Short of that, the book should leave me wiser and laughing. Anne Lamott’s books, especially “Operating Instructions” and “Bird by Bird,” do all of the above for me.

What are you reading right now?

“An Alzheimer’s Love Story” by Robert McAllister. It’s an achingly honest book that looks more deeply into the world of the Alzheimer’s patient and caregiver than anything out there. It’s also a universal story of love, tenacious faith and spirituality pushed to the limits. McAllister, a psychiatrist, was 92 years old at the time he finished this memoir and kept his promise to care for his wife in their apartment until her death. His age makes the exquisite writing all the more remarkable.

What books do you recommend when people ask for a good book?

If left to my own devices, I’ll pick the most recent novel from my vastly talented Kansas writer friends, for example, the prize-winning western novel “Rode” by Thomas Fox Averill, or “The Divorce Girl,” by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. I could make a long list. The prolific track record of Kansas authors amazes me.

What book did you give most recently as a gift, and why?

Being a good mother, I bought 25 copies of my younger son Ben’s novel, “Leaving the Atocha Station,” which Jonathan Franzen and others named one of the best fiction books of his generation. If you’re my buddy, you’re getting this gift, like it or not.

What is one of your all-time favorite books?

The 1947 children’s classic “Stone Soup” by Marcia Brown. Three hungry soldiers enter a village asking for something to eat. The suspicious townspeople, wary of strangers and fearful of scarcity, hide their food under their beds, down the wells, and in their cellars. But the clever soldiers transform the entire village with their “magic” communal pot of stone soup. While the book is aimed at ages 4-8, it has a lot to teach all of us about living wisely and well.