Life's Little Instruction Book

Life's Little Instruction Book

Read it, but not for the reasons you think

If you are looking for a great book to review in your book club, might I suggest Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.? I know it’s an oldie—published in Nashville ten years ago—but it’s a goodie, and it’s one of the top books I would recommend for people to read.

The book is filled with little one-liners like, “Respect teachers,” and “Don’t waste time learning tricks of the trade. Learn the trade.” Some are quite obvious, while others make a light bulb go off over your head. The book was out before the big self-help rage that began more recently, so its material is more fresh and honest rather than the quick sell we’ve come to expect.

I don’t recommend this book for the same reason that many other people do—because they think the wisdom within it is so important and unique that every human being must experience it and incorporate it into their lives somehow. The thing is, this is true for a few gems you will find in the book. But the real reason why I like to recommend it is the same one an honors college professor gave to me when he recommended it—so I could further build upon my critical thinking capacity.

He wanted me to evaluate the instructions and choose ten that I really felt were good and to explain why. He also wanted me to select another ten and explain why I thought they were a load of crap. Another ten, he said, should be items I thought were partly true, and that would be true if modified a certain way; I was to modify them and explain why. Finally, he wanted me to create ten of my own.

How I wish I could remember the ten little instructions I made on my own! Knowing my feminist roots, I am sure one HAD to have been about the menstrual cycle… All joking aside, this is a fantastic way to evaluate the written word, but also the world itself. You can learn quite a bit about yourself when you do this, and I bet if I did it again and had my original paper to compare my new lists with, it would be quite different.

My own copy of the book has been passed around family members over the years, with some items underlined, others crossed out; we have many margin notes including a few of our own perspectives, too. My dream when purchasing the book as a young adult was to pass it around and glean wisdom from my elders, and then to add my own thoughts when I was older to share with my own children. If you can get a copy of this book—or the others in its series—and wish to do the same, I would be honored in your sharing of my tradition.