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Untying Knots: Eli Finkel’s Recommended Reads For Getting the Most From Marriage

Use the findings of relationship science to get real about your relationships, and keep that spark lit over the long-term.
by Natallia Darozhkina | Dec 28 2017

Eli Finkel is a professor at Northwestern University who researches relationships and modern marriage. Given that we now expect far more from our partners than ever before, there’s far more capacity to be dissatisfied in a marriage. Therefore, we need more information and tools to help make it work long-term.

Untying Knots

If you enjoyed the Simplify interview and fancy looking deeper into the secrets of good marriages, check out this book list that contains works on the history of marriage and practical relationship advice, with a couple of dystopian novels thrown in for kicks.

Eli Finkel’s Book Recommendations

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is an emotionally (and at times, gastrically) taxing novel about the journey of a father and his young son across post-apocalyptic America. Their relationship is the only light of hope in an otherwise hopeless, ashen world.

2. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

All the Pretty Horses is the first volume in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and tells the story of 16-year-old John Grady Cole, the last in a long line of Texas ranchers. Along with his two friends, he rides away from his hometown on horseback across Texas to Mexico, discovering the high price of following your dreams in the process.

Eli says:
“Right now I’m reading some Cormac McCarthy, I read The Road and I’m reading All the Pretty Horses right now and I’m loving it just for the beauty and linguistic mastery.”

3. Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel

Mating in Captivity is a sensational book on sex, love and intimacy written by Belgian psychotherapist, Esther Perel. It explores the contradictory combination of domesticity and sexual desire, and explains what it takes to bring lust home. Through research and multiple case studies, Perel examines the complexities of long-term relationships and explains how desire can be sustained.

Eli says:
“In terms of people who I think think well about relationships, I would highly recommend Esther Perel. Her first book is called Mating in Captivity. It was one of the most eye-opening books that I’ve read. And I study this stuff for a living.”

4. The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz

The Way We Never Were examines the history of the American family and argues that families of the past were not so idyllic while modern families may not be as dysfunctional as we think. Coontz warns that “traditional values” are not useful in solving today’s problems and presents a fresh new perspective on such complex matters as labor division, parenting, privacy, feminism, and sex.

5. Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz

Marriage, a History looks back across the years to the foundation of the institution of marriage, from its utilitarian genesis in the Stone Age to its function in the present-day primarily as a love partnership.

Eli says:
“My book owes a great debt to Stephanie Coontz. She’s got great books one of which is called The Way We Never Were, where she talks about this idealizing of the 1950s as if that was like traditional life. But the 1950s were like a weirdo eyeblink of time and then her book called Marriage, a History is just fascinating.”

Simplify Extra Credit Reading

Based on the episode of Simplify with Eli Finkel, we created a book list that you can read (or listen to!) on Blinkist in 15 minutes or even fewer:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Mindset discusses the differences between a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. Our mindset determines the way we deal with tough situations and setbacks as well as our willingness to deal with and improve ourselves. This book outlines how we can achieve our goals by first addressing our mindset.

Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected by Tania Luna and LeeAnn Renninger

Surprise takes a closer look at the very concept of surprise, how it works and how to embrace and create it. What’s more, the authors show us how surprise can keep our relationships flourishing and allow us to live life to the fullest.

The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte

In The Three Marriages, David Whyte explores the three great loves we cultivate throughout our lives: the love of a vocation, the love of our own deeper self and the love of a special person with whom we choose to share our lives.

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