Book Report: The Woman’s Field Guide

Weighing in at 179 pages (including credits), The Woman’s Field Guide to Exceptional Living: Practical Steps for Living a Big, Bold, Beautiful Life! (Morgan James, 2008) by Asheville-based life coach Corrie Woods is the little book that could. It was selected as a finalist in two categories (Women’s Issues and Self-Help: Motivational) at the National Best Books 2008 Awards; it reached the number 10 slot on the Morgan James Best Seller list; was nominated for an Ethan Award and was a finalist in this year’s Indie Excellence Awards.

On the companion Web site, Woods offers free resources, an e-newsletter with “Simple Tips,” and inspirational videos. One of the videos is a three-minute slot where Woods doesn’t mince words when she posits, “How dare you not take great care of you.” But, even though she doesn’t mince words, Woods is a warm presence rather than a tough-love drill sergeant.

On the page, Woods’ positive take is felt even more palpably. “Take center stage, completely expressed in your life, and you will find that the rewards last a lifetime,” she writes. Field Guide is filled with affirmations and common sense suggestions for how to get out of a rut and derive more meaning from life. And it’s not actually gender-specific, as the name suggests, aside from the Web site list, “Some of my favorite fully expressed women,” and the chapter headings, “A BOLD Woman” and “A Change-Savvy Woman.”

Taking a cue from creativity guides like The Artist’s Way and Sark’s Journal and Play!Book: A Place to Dream While Awake, Field Guide is part text, part work book. Each chapter is followed by blank pages for “Field Notes” (headers such as “A new daily gratitude practice for me is…” and “The benefits to tending my life like a master gardener would be…” hint as to how to use the space).

Woods’ suggestions for exceptional living are all pretty straightforward and doable—in fact, “Simple is Do-able” is the model she sets forth in the “Beloved Treasure – Your Body” chapter. Ideas include choosing a fun form of exercise and sticking to it, hosting a sensory feast of favorite foods, and making time for a personal retreat. None of Woods’ suggestions require large sums of money, major time commitments or even big shifts in lifestyle. These are simple ideas and practices that a reader can try and keep if they work, discard if they don’t work. The idea is that little shifts in perception and practice can add to a major change.

Over all, Field Guide is an easy and straight-forward read. This book is best ingested in small bites, perhaps a chapter at a time, with time to digest in between reading sessions. More conservative readers might find certain language too touchy-feely (“When we romance ourselves, it prepares a fertile garden for a profusion of love to bloom in all areas of our lives”), but for the right reader, Field Guide is a compact how-to for acquiring greater happiness, fun and fulfillment.

—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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