When my kids were younger and more inclined to listen to me, I’d try to impart to them some impressive pearls of wisdom. “Hey kids,” I would say, “sports offers a metaphor for practically everything.” And, “Never try to compete in someone else’s arena.” For this month’s article, I am Ndamukong Suh at a Lansing Country Club cotillion. If you are going to judge me on this article, please do so on effort — not outcome! Love and Romance In 10th grade, I read Love Story by Erich Segal ($7.99). It wasn’t assigned and heretofore no one has ever known. I did so because: a) I liked the movie’s theme song; b) I thought that Ali MacGraw was cute; and c) it was in the library of the retirement home where I was being paid to work — not read. With the exception of reading Oliver’s Story (Love Story’s sequel) by Erich Segal ($7.99), immediately afterwards, I don’t know if I’ve read another romantic book since (unless of course you count Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season, by Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King ($15)). Since cheating is seriously frowned upon in both sports and relationships, I hope that you can forgive this transgression (in other words — I have not read any of the next 10 books that I’m going to list). According to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (they ARE legit), their top-10 romantic books of all-time are: 1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen ($8) 2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte ($8) 3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell ($8.99) 4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier ($7.99) 5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte ($7) 6. Katherine by Anya Seton ($15.95) 7. Persuasion by Jane Austen ($7.99) 8. Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy ($4.95) 9. The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough ($7.99) 10. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier ($13.99) Relationships Wow. If ever I could figure out the secret to sustainable and joyous relationships, I’d write a book. I haven’t yet, but mercifully, others have. A title that kept coming up during my research was Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine ($12.95). Real-life stories illustrate the ill effects of not setting limits and the benefits gained by respecting our own boundaries and those of others. Teens Somehow I’ve ended up with both a teenaged daughter and a teenaged son living with me. Fortunately, there are some very good books to help teens identify what is healthy in relationships and what is not. Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships by Ruth Bell ($24.95) is a very fine choice for reinforcing the healthy ideas that you’ve shared with your children and for picking up the ball in areas that make you blush. Yes, they do talk about sex and drugs (not so much rock and roll), but if you read the book first, I’m reckoning that you’ll find most all of the advice sound and reassuring. Starting Over Please forgive me for suggesting a book that’s part of a “franchise,” but … this was a really helpful and practical book when I reentered the dating scene as a single parent. Mars and Venus Starting Over: A Practical Guide for Finding Love Again After a Painful Breakup, Divorce, or the Loss of a Loved One by John Gray ($14.99). Dr. Gray offers gender-specific advice on how to deal with pain, find forgiveness, discover the strength to let go, rebuild confidence and rise to the challenge of finding fulfillment again. Chocolate According to the National Chocolate Guild’s constitution, Americans should “buy and consume more chocolate in order to preserve our nation’s sovereignty and independence” from something or another. (Disclaimer, I was too busy to check this claim’s veracity on Snopes.com). What is verifiable though is that chocolate can be healthy. The fact that my wife (I am happily remarried) works in cardiology and loves chocolate should provide you with all the evidence that you need. If it doesn’t, try Chocolate Unwrapped: The Surprising Health Benefits of America’s Favorite Passion by Rowan Jacobsen ($12.95). Heart Health Let’s assume for a moment that you are a communist and don’t like chocolate (or that maybe you’re allergic) but still care about your heart health. Another good read would be The American Heart Association: To Your Health! A Guide to Heart-Smart Living ($5.99). With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to set realistic goals and follow through on them. In Summation Be mindful of your heart and the affairs contained therein. Love cautiously and with abandon. Laugh at some quotes (“A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he’s finished.” — Zsa Zsa Gabor ), while heeding others (“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” — Friedrich W. Nietzsche). And best of luck!