Grimacing toddler on the cover of Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness by Melissa Dahl

Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkardness by Melissa Dahl

Grimacing toddler on the cover of Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness by Melissa Dahl You probably know the feeling well. You’re lying in bed, just trying to fall asleep, but images of your worst moments in junior high — the bad haircut, the wrong clothes, the time you called the teacher “Mommy” —  just will not stop tapdancing through your painfully conscious mind.

That’s the feeling Melissa Dahl investigates in Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness.  To get deep inside the cringe, Dahl talks to anthropologists, sociologists, neuroscientists and advice columnists. She puts her own social discomforts, teenage angst and work dilemmas in the spotlight to illustrate and individualize scientific studies and broad research. She pores over her own online writing; attends workshops to learn to talk about race; even reads from her teenage diaries on stage.

Her eager search for compassion for her awkward self — indeed, for all the cringing selves everywhere — is deep and kind and just plain funny. You’ll cringe in sympathy, and maybe stretch your understanding of this very, very human experience.

The awkward in me sees and bows to the awkward in all of you.

*Recommended by Susan.