Looking within and without for a new start

Carl East column books December 2021

A number of books to see in the new year - Credit: Carl East

It is traditional for bookshops to stock up on diet and fitness books after Christmas as their customers return after the festivities feeling the effects of overindulging.

We are, of course, in strange new times, and from the time of writing it is not clear whether the country will be placed in further Covid restrictions by the time of printing. Maybe the Queen's Christmas speech has been followed by a Boxing day address to the nation by the Prime minister announcing a lockdown?

The end of the year is a good time to reflect on the year passed and to make plans for personal change in the year ahead, so rather than looking at exercise or fitness books, I have chosen looking within and in one case, outwards towards the countryside, which we know is good for our mental health.

Oliver Burkeman - Four thousand Weeks: Time and how to Use it

Are you busy? As we struggle against never ending to-do lists and the nagging sense that our attention spans are shrinking it is easy to forget the ultimate time management problem, the short span that is an 80-year lifetime.

Using the insights of philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers, Burkeman sets out to realign our relationship with time and reject the notion of getting everything done. This book is a reality check to help us work towards what is truly important; our happiness and embracing the choices we have already made. Maybe accepting our limits is the secret to fulfilment?

Richard Holloway – the Heart of Things 

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As Bishop of Edinburgh Holloway courted controversy and put principle over Church policy as an advocate for gay rights and women in the priesthood.

In his many bestsellers he has been an almost secular voice of compassion and realism, helping us navigate the hectic modern world by turning to other writers and poets to help answer the big questions, and to provide solace and guidance in the face of life's challenges.

Now in The Heart of Things he shares poems and words which have been his guide on mourning, grief, conflict and forgiveness, they are interwoven with his commentary of what they have meant to him.

This is a great book to turn to for inspiration, guidance and comfort in tough times.

Naomi Shragai - The man Who mistook his Job for His Life

Are you trying to strike a good work/life balance? Most business books see work as a separate experience from our personal lives and not influenced by them in the way Psychotherapist Shragai does.

Using work place case studies she investigates how our past experience, childhood, family relationships affect our work interactions. Whether its imposter syndrome, fear of rejection and conflict, personality clashes etc they are all influenced by factors such as reacting to our boss as we would a parent or dealing with our colleagues as we might do one of our children.

The books refreshing if not entirely surprising conclusion is that no matter how much you invest in your career, your work will rarely love you back.

John Wright – A Spotters guide to The countryside Mysteries

Spending time outdoors in the country is beneficial to our health and mental wellbeing, but have you
ever wondered what you were looking at whilst strolling? Why are there parallel ridges across fields
and what are those twiggy clusters we see in trees?

Wright is one of our foremost naturalists and here he answers many mysteries of the countryside and gives us the tools to identify Witch's Broom, Robin's Pincushion, Dew ponds and Hollow Ways, how they come to be, and where to find them. 

From the enormous to the tiny, he illuminates the oddities of our countryside and the pleasure of spotting and understanding them.

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