Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

by Cheryl Strayed

Paperback, 2012




Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2012), Edition: Original, 368 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Family & Relationships. Self-Improvement. Nonfiction. HTML:NOW A HULU ORIGINAL SERIES â?˘ NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER â?˘ REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK â?˘ An anniversary edition of the bestselling collection of "Dear Sugar" advice columns written by the author of #1 bestseller Wildâ??featuring a new preface and six additional columns. For more than a decade, thousands of people have sought advice from Dear Sugarâ??the pseudonym of bestselling author Cheryl Strayedâ??first through her online column at The Rumpus, later through her hit podcast, Dear Sugars, and now through her popular Substack newsletter. Tiny Beautiful Things collects the best of Dear Sugar in one volume, bringing her wisdom to many more readers. This tenth-anniversary edition features six new columns and a new preface by Strayed. Rich with humor, insight, compassionâ??and absolute honestyâ??this book is a balm for everyth… (more)


(448 ratings; 4.3)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jnwelch
My thanks to Mark for blazing the trail to this one. I really enjoyed Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, her startlingly honest memoir of hiking that trail at a very difficult time in her life, and was curious about her Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of her
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advice given as "Sugar" in an Internet column. After Mark had a positive reaction, I dug in and loved this one. Again, her honesty and clear-eyed view of life, along with her straightforward, conversational, engaging writing style, made this one a standout. The Internet forum has additional benefits, as the language is sometimes quite blue, but always appropriate. This is not your mother's advice column.

Strayed often begins her answer to a question about relationships, addiction, betrayal, confusion, or whatever, with a story from her own life. We know from Wild some of the marshy traps she has survived, including heroin addiction. Her stories always connect up with the key issue in the sometimes disjointed questions she receives. One reader's simple question about life, "WTF?", causes Strayed to disclose that she was sexually abused as a child, which made her ask WTF? a lot, too. Based on her experience, she eventually tells him: ''Ask better questions, sweet pea. The f--- is your life. Answer it.''

A reader is involved in a harmful but sexually intense relationship, and her cry for help includes a warm reference to her lover's poetic exclamation to her physical "naughty bits". After astutely dissecting the troubled relationship, Strayed quotes a John Donne poem: " I choose to love this time for once/ with all my intelligence". She suggests the reader try the same. She concludes by saying, "I'm not talking to your crotch, sister. I'm looking you directly in the eye."

Ones that particularly moved me included her exchange with a man whose only child was the victim of a senseless drunk driving accident. Strayed discusses how much she learned from her mother's sad early death from cancer, how much it still hurts, and how much her mother is still with her. "The kindest and most meaningful thing anyone ever says to me is: Your mother would be proud of you. . . . When you say you experience my writing as sacred, what you are touching is the divine place within me that is my mother. 'Sugar' is the temple I created in my obliterated place. I'd give it all back in a snap, but the fact is, my grief taught me things." She encourages the man to learn from his son's death and do honor to it.

How to deal with "Icky thoughts turn me on", writer's envy and writer's block, leaving the nest, cheating in a monogamous relationship, sleeping around, raising children better than you were raised, are just some of the topics raised. I liked her advice throughout (although no doubt there's room for disagreement), and enjoyed learning more about her life in the process. At the end she's asked what advice she'd give her younger self, and the title of this collection comes out in the answer.. And that's part of the fun of this particular read: what advice would you give to these questioners; what advice would you give your younger self if you could?
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LibraryThing member msf59
“Run to the darkness, sweet pea.”

Dear Sugar: I do not read advice columns, online or in the newspaper. I never saw the appeal. I figured they were for the lonely and dispossessed, but when the writing is this damn good, I’m there all the way. Thank you- Eternally Grateful.
This book compiles a
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selection of Q & A’s from an anonymous (not anymore!) advice column featured on the rumpus.com. They feature the forlorn, the lost, the disenchanted, the disfigured, the abused and of course the heartbroken. Strayed answers with steely eloquence, like a tough, sassy, older sister, spreading advice, like a bouquet of roses and thorns. She pours herself and her own difficult history into each response, leaving the reader with a fat lump in the throat and eyes brimming with tears.
I think Strayed has quickly become one of the best new “voices” out there and I am looking forward to see where this amazing talent takes us next. Here is just a quick sampling of her replies:

“Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.”

“Forgiveness doesn't sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.”
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
tiny beautiful things has been calling to me since it first came into the house in January, and I promised myself I would read it soon, but not this weekend when the husbeast was to be away. Because it promised to be thoroughly wreck-making, and it's so much easier to unwreck with another soul
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stomping around. But then Saturday I flipped through and read a column here and a column there. And Sunday morning I said, "Well, just the introduction, and maybe one or two more." And then, an hour later, still, the refrain, "Just one more, just one more." And I carried on until I had read the whole collection. And you know what? I wasn't wrecked, and I really ought to have known better, because the very essence of Dear Sugar is to unwreck, to lift up, to remind us that we are human and that that means we will hurt, but there is always a way through, and we are always good enough to find it.

If you don't know Dear Sugar, acquaint yourself. Here is an online advice column whose questions will tempt you to despair but whose thoughtful, personal, essayistic answers are so perfectly affirming that you will feel fortified to carry on, always. There are pieces here I will read again and again and again. Recommended, unreservedly.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
Because I've had to grapple with my fair share of nature/nurture shortcomings (i.e. bipolar & anxiety disorders, along with parents who didn't have a f*cking clue about adulting, for starters), I've had various forms of counselling & therapy & advice given to me from childhood onward by well
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meaning friends and professionals with various degrees of talent, proficiency and levels of empathy.

As I'm now approaching my 5th decade and have been more even-keeled than ever in the last decade or so because of many consistent efforts made by me and various health professionals as well as a regular meditation practice, I consider myself rather well versed as far as seeking mental health and well-being. I'd say Cheryl Strayed ranks right up there with the very best of them as far as giving advice to those seeking perspective in their life on love and life situations such as cheating partners; losing dear ones; overcoming student debt; dealing with grief; whether one should stay or leave a relationship, and countless other situations her readers have written to her in her anonymous online forum where she was only known to them as "Dear Sugar".

Her qualifications come mostly by way of having gone through more than her own fair share of hardships, and having processed those with loads of humanity and empathy, a very good brain, and also plenty of good judgment, acquired by way of having made plenty of bad decisions and correcting her own course along the way. This journey seems to have made her more qualified that at least 50% of diploma-holding social workers, shrinks and therapists I've personally encountered in my life (there were many, many, many as I was a very troubled kid & young adult), as far as not being a judgmental a-hole, being an excellent writer, and giving advice that is actually worth listening to.

Who do I recommend this book to? Basically, anyone who's ever asked themselves if they were doing things right in their life as far as being a decent lover, daughter or son, parent, grandparent, friend or human being. Or anyone who's ever asked themselves wtf, wtf, wtf, wtf??? over and over again at any point in their life and hasn't found satisfactory answers to what is pretty much as open-ended a question as you can get. She's actually got an answer to that question, though be warned it's pretty hardcore! Be prepared for a good dose of healing, sobering, and sometimes harsh truths, but always delivered with love.
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LibraryThing member zimbawilson
If you are looking for Ann Landers you have come to the wrong place. Strayed gives advice to questions that Ann and her sister Abby would have never considered answering (and probably would have given them a case of the vapours just reading). Both with the wisdom that comes from life experience and
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her remarkable ability to be both brutally honest and eloquent at the say time, Strayed gives advice to strangers both honestly and compassionately. If you don't find at least one of her columns gut-wrenching, moving or powerful you are dead inside.
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LibraryThing member co_coyote
I'm not really the sentimental type, and I don't generally cry when I'm reading books. But, I had tears in my eyes twice in the first 100 pages of this book. I think because this book speaks to my life. Or, at least a portion of my life that I had someone partitioned off into some other space.
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Cheryl Strayed is a complex person, but she has lived a real life, and her advice comes from that perspective. Her language is a little rough for my particular taste, but I've heard worse (often coming out of my own mouth) after a wayward shot on the tennis court. This is clearly the most thought-provoking and remembered book I have read this year.
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
Cheryl Strayed (aka Sugar) wrote an advice column for The Rumpus, and in this volume, she has pulled together some of her best letters. Sugar is no Dear Abby. Her advice is bold, and ranges from humorous to starkly honest to comforting to profane. In responding to letters from readers, she also
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shares many of her own life experiences, making this not only a book of advice columns, but also a memoir of sorts. Many of the letters cover topics that I have not had to deal with in my life, and that I hope never to face. But I read Sugar's replies with interest simply because I love the way that she is able to take an either-or situation and see a third option. I aspire to be like Sugar, with her blend of empathy, humor, and wisdom.

But honestly, I read a similar description of this book in an early review, and it didn't convince me to read it. It wasn't until I read one or two of Sugar's actual replies that I was hooked. Take, for example, the shortest letter in the book:

Dear Sugar,
I'm asking this question as it applies to everything every day.

Sugar replies by sharing some harrowing events from her own life that really do beg the question asked by the letter writer. But she ends with some encouraging words, concluding "Ask better questions, sweet pea. The f*** is your life. Answer it."

In reply to a heartbreaking letter from a mother whose daughter had brain surgery and who was questioning the existence of God, Sugar (who discloses that she is an atheist) offers some theological advice that hit home for me:

"What if you allowed your God to exist in the simple words of compassion others offer to you? . . . What if the worst thing happened and you rose anyway? . . . What if you listened harder to the story of the man on the cross who found a way to endure his suffering than to the one about the impossible magic of the Messiah? Would you see the miracle in that?"

And finally, at the risk of losing you in the midst of this lengthy review, I want to share two paragraphs from a letter asking what Sugar would tell her twentysomething self. These two paragraphs, side by side in the letter, reflect the range of emotions that Sugar's responses evoked in me:

"When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn't "mean anything" because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people's diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming."

Good advice, indeed.
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LibraryThing member Lacy.Simons
I'm getting some casual crying done, let me tell you.

LibraryThing member anacskie
It's a collection of letters that Dear Sugar (Cheryl Strayed) featured in her Rumpus.com. It's kinda like a Dear Abby with a spank. LOL! I like it. The stories and advises made me giggle, laugh, smile, teared-up, inspired, etc. I borrowed this from the library since I'm still on the wait-list for
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"Wild" (Cheryl Strayed best seller book turned to movie starring Reese Witherspoon). Anyway, I did enjoy reading this book.
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LibraryThing member rglossne
Cheryl Strayed's musings on love and life in the guise of advice as Dear Sugar are profound. They draw on her own life to such a degree that this book is almost a memoir.
LibraryThing member deadgirl
Tiny Beautiful Things is anything but tiny, and extremely beautiful.

Cheryl Strayed seems to have lived a full life because everything she says in here is insightful and mind-blowing and oh-so-true. Sometimes I feel like she is talking about my life. My copy of the book is bursting with bookmarks. I
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loved that she is bold and fearless, compassionate and empathetic, funny and shameless and so much more when giving advice through retelling her own experiences and emotions.

This is a book I'd want to keep with me always.
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LibraryThing member snash
Part advice column and part memoir, Tiny Beautiful Things presents the human condition and the best person that we can be with empathy and clarity. Just superb!
LibraryThing member amandamay83
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book through First Reads. All opinions are my own.

A compilation of advice columns written by Cheryl Strayed as, "Dear Sugar." It was a delightful book with beautifully written advice. I'm thinking this might be a good gift for graduates. She
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covers a plethora of life situations, always giving advice gently and eloquently.
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LibraryThing member Meganelise1
I must own this book.
LibraryThing member seasonsoflove
I feel compelled to start this review by saying this is an amazing book, and one of those books that came into my life at a time when I needed it most. A selection of letters to "Sugar" (Cheryl Strayed's pen name while writing the advice column) seeking advice, and her incredible responses, Tiny
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Beautiful Things made me think, question, hope, agree, disagree, and most of all, feel. It made me want to write my own letter to Sugar.
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LibraryThing member cransell
I had seen that friends had read and loved this book, but I resisted it. I didn't really need an advice book. It seemed like a book to read when you were having Hard Times, and I'm not having Hard Times. But I read Strayed's Wild and liked it, and it was available as an eBook from the public
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library, so finally I picked it up. And it is SO good. This is not a book for Hard Times, it is a book for Life. Strayed's writing is beautiful and compassionate and true. I'm seriously considering buying a copy, so that I can reread it on occasion (and I am not generally a rereader).

(Warning: You will probably cry while reading this book. Beware reading in public.)
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LibraryThing member dtn620
Cheryl Strayed can write, no question about it. A number of her responses left me in or near tears. My issues with the book lie mostly in what the book is: a grouping of advice columns.

So the profoundly moving sections are interspersed with the more everyday responses and it can get a little old.
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I am not sure that this is Strayed's fault because most of our problems aren't that interesting. I am not sure that I would have finished this book in it's entirety if I hadn't been listening to it as an audiobook. I'd likely have skimmed portions of the book if I was reading a real paper copy.
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LibraryThing member aliceoddcabinet
Readers who have not already read the columns will like the book much more. They were great to read again, and Strayed is a tremendous writer.
LibraryThing member tjblue
This is normally a type of book I like to read, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.
LibraryThing member ericasmithx
I actually saw Cheryl Strayed read this in San Francisco last year (2012). While sometimes the "sweetheart" got old for me, I really really love her direct, no-holds-barred advice. I like to pick this up from time to time to read, rather than reading this in a linear, chapter fashion.
LibraryThing member ericasmithx
I actually saw Cheryl Strayed read this in San Francisco last year (2012). While sometimes the "sweetheart" got old for me, I really really love her direct, no-holds-barred advice. I like to pick this up from time to time to read, rather than reading this in a linear, chapter fashion.
LibraryThing member Trina0401
This isn't a collection from your typical advice column - and for that I am grateful. Sugar's advice comes straight from the heart and is based on her own insights and experiences. If you find yourself stuck in a pit of despair and ask her for help, she's not afraid to jump in with you - after all,
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she's been there before and knows the way out.
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LibraryThing member GraceZ
This book is pretty much awesome. Mind-blowing. Eye-opening. Thought-provoking. Etc.

There is something in there for everyone and often more than one thing, and there are things that I know I will go back and read again later (which means I have to buy the book because I read a library copy) and
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probably fill it with markings and underlinings and notes in the margins.

While I was reading this book, I mainly stopped so that I could text quotes to friends in faraway places or tell them to GO GET THIS BOOK NOW.

Also, knowing that Cheryl Strayed lives in Portland, it was fun to see a few sneaky references to the city (the column was written anonymously). I kept track of some of these, my favorite being about going to "see the elephants at the zoo". (We love our zoo elephants. which reminds me, I still haven't seen Lily!! Ack!)

Anyway. Read this book. You don't even have to read it all at once. Buy this book and then look at it when you are sad or bored or have a problem.

Oh, and also, I have read a lot of comments about their being too much of "Sugar"s personal life/experiences in the columns. I don't get that. It's an advice column. When you ask someone for advice you are usually asking them because they have experience with that issue. If I ask a friend for dating advice I am asking her to draw on her dating experience. If a grandparent gives me some advice, they are basing it on an experience that they had, and I will probably take it into account because I know that not only they have had that experience, but that they have also had a long time to reflect on that experience. So I don't get the idea of keeping personal life out of advice. That is the whole point of advice - to hear about others' personal experiences and how they may or may not apply in your situation.
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LibraryThing member CherieDooryard
Many, many people recommended this as the best read they'd had in a while. As a fan of Dear Sugar on The Rumpus, I expected to enjoy it, and I did. But...a book full of Dear Sugar was a bit much, I'm afraid. Strayed is like that very earnest friend we all have, the one who likes to lean way over
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the table and have serious, heartfelt conversations about the meaning of life or the environment. I like that friend, and I like getting together with her occasionally, but I don't want to be her roommate. Reading an entire book of Dear Sugar was like living with that friend.

It seems the ideal way to read this would be to buy it, put it on the shelf, and open it to random questions whenever you need a boost.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
I was a bit wary of this book when I first heard about it. It’s a collection of advice columns about life and love, and I couldn’t think of why I needed to read someone else's advice about someone else's problems. But as I began to dig in to each letter I quickly realized that you don't read
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the book for Sugar’s advice. You read it because she manages to share intimate parts of her own life in a way that makes you feel connected to the entire human race in all its beautiful fallible glory.

She is so honest and vulnerable in these columns. She uses examples from your own life to advise people on each of their issues. You don't have to be able to relate to her experience for these letters to touch you. They reach beyond the boundaries of what small sliver of the world each of us have seen. They get at the center of things, the piece of our hearts that drives us and scares us. She writes about losing love, being lonely, being brave, and being willing to do the right thing in the right moment even if it terrifies you. Often the thing she talks about our painful to read. There are people all over this world experiencing heartbreak in different ways and she never shies away from tough issues.

I was completely blown away by her ability to expose herself to these strangers. By letting herself be so vulnerable even her harshest advice has a tender feel. I admired her ability to speak truth to people. Even if the answer isn’t what they might want to hear, she still told it like she saw it.

Honestly, I wish I’d read this book before reading Wild. I was turned off at first in that book because it felt like she was using her mother’s death as an excuse for her bad behavior. It won me over in the end, but I think if I’d gotten to this one first I would have understood her better. She’s very honest and open about her failings and struggles and that’s incredibly rare.

BOTTOM LINE: Loved it. You don’t have to agree with all or any of her advice, just treat the whole book as a unique memoir. Strayed personal history is woven into every single reply to a letter. She bares her soul to her readers to help them deal with their own issues and the result is beautiful.

A Few Notes:
There are a couple times where she reads more than one letter in a row and then answers all of them at one time. The first time she did this I thought I missed something because I was listening, not reading a hard copy. I was worried that the chapter had skipped ahead of something, so just a heads up.

I listened to an audio version and tried to just listen to a few at a time. I do think they have a bigger impact that way and they are pretty intense.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

368 p.; 7.92 inches


0307949338 / 9780307949332
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