Book Review: Atlas of the Heart

Book: Atlas of the Heart

Author: Brené Brown

Reviewed by: Ashley Michael


The Premise

In Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown breaks down 87 different emotions into groupings such as “places we go when we feel wronged,” “places we go when we fall short,” “places we go when we search for connection,” etc. For each emotion, she defines them, identifies how they differ from something that seems similar (think envy vs. jealousy) and explains how they can be misused. The main purpose of this book, and the research she did for it, is to help people to build up and expand their language around emotion. When we can label our emotions and identify them properly, we’re more equipped to have effective conversations and find constructive ways to feel better. A term from the coaching world that I’ve always liked came to mind when I was reading about this book: “Name it to tame it.” When we can name our feelings it helps to tame it, or feel more control over it. Our vocabulary needs expand way beyond “happy”, “angry” and “sad,” which are most people’s go-to words when describing their feelings.


The Bottom Line

As humans, we all have many different emotions every day so this book is extremely relatable. The fact that there were 87 distinct emotions was surprising and enlightening to me. Prior to reading this book I think I would have struggled to identify more than 10. I liked that it opened my eyes up to new language, helped clarify differences and taught me a few things. There certainly were several “aha” moments. I realized that I’ve not been using shame vs. guilt or jealousy vs. envy correctly. I also learned that resentment doesn’t live in the “anger” family, but actually lives in the “envy” family. This was a very different perspective and a new way to make sense of resentment in myself.

At times, I did find myself wanting to skip ahead and read about a section that was more interesting to me as it read a bit like a dictionary. Thankfully, Brené is skilled with her use of stories and humour, which helped to bring the emotions to life.



I recommend this book for anyone looking to improve their connections with others. As a coach, co-worker, friend, parent, and partner, there were so many nuggets that I resonated with and will share with others in my life.