How To Live. What To Do. — Josh Cohen

A diverting combination of self-help book, literary discussion and psychoanalysis primer. The premise is a bit twee: throughout the books are case notes of famous fictional characters, as if they had gone in for psychoanalysis. These case notes cover a diverse bunch: Young Werther, Alice (the Wonderland one), Jay Gatsby, Mrs Dalloway, Jane Eyre and many more. There are also some characters from more modern novels, such as Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. Cohen talks about their backgrounds, motivations and choices, relating them to the lives of real people like you, and indeed me.

These fictional cases illustrate Cohen’s points well. After each case note is further discussion and analysis of the case, and of related real cases from Cohen’s own practice. It’s life lessons from literature, through a psychoanalytic lens. Fun to read, and makes me want to go back and (re-)read the originals.

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