BOOKS FOR BRIGHTER DAYS
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Reading for a hopeful, more compassionate world
Hands up, who is finding everything a bit challenging at the moment? Even the most optimistic individuals amongst us are surely struggling to maintain a sunny outlook amidst the worrying daily news cycle? If so, I hope this fortnight's book edit will provide something of an antidote.
Among the hundreds of books published this September (our shelves are groaning with gorgeous new titles), those that really stand out for me all seem to have one thing in common: they offer a way to counter the current turmoil, reminding us that with a little courage or inquisitiveness, there is so much out there to appreciate and learn from – people, ideas, places and progress.
All new out, these are books that celebrate the power of individual work and goodwill, explore philosophies for making better sense of the world and advocate for a fairer future: they encourage us to live with more compassion and hope.
I recommend any of these books to help brighten your day.
The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion
Christie Watson is Professor of Medical and Health Humanities at the UEA, an award-winning writer who has also been a nurse for over twenty years. As well as two novels, she wrote The Language of Kindness, a memoir about nursing which became a bestseller in 2018. This new book couldn't be more timely as it focuses in on individual stories of the critical work that nurses do, from mental health nurses, to school nurses to A&E nurses. It is an emotive read, reminding us of human frailty but also of the incredible human capacity to care, particularly in challenging times. Our NHS has never felt more precious and this book is a clear illustration of the incredible strength, bravery and compassion that those working in it practice and by default, teach us.
Tomorrow Will be a Good Day: My Autobiography
Captain Tom Moore
JARROLD PRICE £17
I’ve no doubt Captain Tom Moore never imagined he would be catapulted to national fame in 2020, but then again, it has been an unpredictable year! You can’t fail to have missed his efforts during the long weeks of lockdown as he walked the length of his garden to raise money for NHS Charities Together, quickly becoming a household name and inspiring donations of 1.5 million pounds in the process. This is the story of who 100-year-old Tom Moore is, from his humble Yorkshire childhood, fighting during World War Two in Burma, walking the Himalayas and starting a family. His curiosity and courage are inspiring but so is the fact he, like any of us, is an ordinary man who simply reacted to extraordinary times.
Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present
The Greek politician and economist has made a name for himself as a bestselling author here in UK where he has written simply and eloquently about his ideas for a fairer economy. His new book is hard to define – part philosophy, part economics and part speculative fiction, it asks the question: what would a fair and equal society look like? He writes from the perspective of three fictional characters in 2025, imagining a world without capitalism, where there are no commercial banks or stock markets, and people are good and prosperous without it costing the earth. A utopia or an impossibility? You decide, but it is a fascinating and smart way of presenting an increasingly necessary alternative for our future.
How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division
This is a pocket-sized essay, described by its publisher as a 'plea for conscious optimism'. Shafak, the British-Turkish novelist and activist wrote this short, sharp manifesto during lockdown so focuses largely on the conditions of the pandemic and the inequalities it has heightened. But she uses this as a springboard to urge us to find a way through feelings of anxiety, suffering and anger, trying to harness them as a force for good. She writes beautifully and powerfully about sharing and embracing diversity as the key to a better future: 'Stories bring us together, untold stories keep us apart', she says, exploring both the dangers of shutting out particular voices and simultaneously, the importance of being willing to listen. Exactly as Shafak argues, we need to hear all kinds of ideas and opinions and right now, I think hers is one of particular note.
And Now for the Good News… to the future with love
Ruby Wax has an amazing ability to make you sit up and listen and in this new book, she argues that there is far more hope in the world than meets the eye - we just won't necessarily find it on the news or in the media. She admits that it might seem a little tactless, or perhaps misguided, to be publishing a book about good news this month, when so much around us feels uncertain, but her mission is sound: 'to share the green shoots of hope peeping through the soil of civilization'. And where does this hope come from? Wax interviews world leaders, scientists, tech giants and more, to home in on progress and positive change, for example an increase in world literacy, technological advancements, life-saving procedures. Instead of poor timing, it might just be the seed of hope we all need to tend to.
The Stoic Guide to a Happy Life
According to one publisher I spoke to recently, Stoicism is this year's Hygge, which was actually overtaken last year by Lagom, not forgetting Mindfulness and Ikigai. All jokes aside, as we continue to try and find ways to stay calm and live fully, more and more ancient lifestyle philosophies from different parts of the world are being re-popularised, often in pocket-sized books and often with great success. Here is it the turn of Stoicism, which was first practiced in the 3rd century BC by Hellenistic philosophers as a form of personal ethics based on living fully in the present and not allowing yourself to be ruled by desire or fear. In this pretty little hardback, author Pigliucci offers a modern reinterpretation of Stoic philosopher Epicetus's 53 lessons for living a happy life and far from Stoicism being about 'grinning and bearing it', as I previously thought, this is senstive, sensible advice for living and loving with simplicity and worth.
Price sand availability checked Friday 18 September 2020