Atlas of the Heart – Swan Song?

Brené Brown is incapable of writing a bad book. She’s a guru’s guru, though her humility wouldn’t allow her to believe it.

She writes and speaks beautifully with a soft, sweet Texas accent that belies her power.

She holds – and in fact, is – a welcoming light. She personifies grace and gratitude.

Brown is not new to this blog. I have written several reviews of her books, all winners. (Link HERE)

It isn’t easy describing this book… but I like this quote about connection, which I believe is the thread that pulls it all together.

To be honest, Atlas of the Heart is the kind of book I would have expected Brown to write in her third act … perhaps as a retired senior with one last burst of inspiration.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she is far from “Done” and I’m not suggesting she should be. All I mean is that this book feels (to me) like her swan song.

You may wonder why I say this? Let me explain…

Brown has been a prolific writer and guest on many radio and television programs. I first heard her years ago on Oprah (Link here for all the videos on Oprah’s channel).

Through the years, there were times when it felt like she was speaking a new language. Vulnerability? Who was talking about that? I’ll tell ya who: NOBODY. Well, except Brown! She was different, new, and exciting!

And so it went with vulnerability, imperfection, shame, and empathy!

Her work has been profoundly important to me. To many of us!

Each book she wrote centered around one subject.

Atlas of the Heart is different.

I should first say that I love the idea of an atlas for travelers…

As you may remember, I am a big fan of compasses, maps, and timekeepers of all kinds (watches, hourglasses, etc.).

Still, I didn’t get this book when it first came out.

I read about it.

It felt …


I don’t mean that in an unkind way. People who hadn’t read her before would no doubt find TONS of excellent info. But me? What could be new under the sun?

Do you know what I mean?

Turns out, I was kind of right about that.

And also, wrong. More on that in a moment.

This book felt like an amalgamation of all her previous books. (Link to list of Brown’s books)

That’s why I say it feels like her swan song.

But it also comes at things in a whole new way… and with that came a different perspective… so it also feels new.

In Brown’s own words: “As I mentioned in the introduction, we asked around seventy-five hundred people to identify all of the emotions that they could recognize and name when they’re experiencing them. The average was three: glad, sad, and mad—or, as they were more often written, happy, sad, and pissed off. Couple this extremely limited vocabulary with the importance of emotional literacy, and you basically have a crisis. It’s this crisis that I’m trying to help address in this book.”

I decided it was certainly worth a look-see and I’m glad to have it in my collection.

So, let me tell you about it…

Atlas of the Heart is a larger book with an easy-to-read font and high-quality paper and colors. It’s heavy! Physically, I mean.

There are lots of quotes and graphs/illustrations like this one:

The chapters are broken down into “Places We Go When…” which cover pretty much anything you can think of.

Places we go when… things don’t go as planned… things aren’t what they seem… we fall short… when life is good… and on and on.

The chapter I liked the best was about the search for connection. That felt new!

This is also where my favorite quote in the books is:

“We have to belong to ourselves as much as we need to belong to others. Any belonging that asks us to betray ourselves is not true belonging.”


In this chapter, I am reminded that Brown is at heart a researcher. I love how she describes the word connection, as formed by her research: “Connection [is] the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

I now realize why some of my friendships ended – and can UNDERSTAND and RESPECT those endings. It feels like a renaissance! I finally get it now! This is NEW!


What I’m trying to say is this…

If you are new to Brown’s work, this book will be fantastic as a foundation for everything she has to offer.


If you’re a long-time follower, like me, there’s always something new to glean! Even if it’s just one chapter.

(And, er, revisiting the old subjects like vulnerability and shame is nothing to scoff at either. Know what I mean?)


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