This week, our choices are:
How to Be Sad: Everything I've Learned About Getting Happier by Being Sad by Helen Russell, HarperOne
Helen Russell has travelled the world in search of happiness—not necessarily her own, though I’m sure that was a big part of it, but to look at the ways people in different countries and cultures search for it in their lives. It started when she moved from London to Denmark and wrote The Year of Living Danishly about her life and quest for happiness in a place that has consistently ranked as the happiest on Earth. A few books later, she followed that up with The Atlas of Happiness—an illustrated compendium on the many ways nations around the world define happiness.
Her new book takes us on a different journey, into the depths of her own psyche and self, weaving together her life story with the latest discoveries in brain science and mental health, along with some timeless wisdom of (mostly Danish) philosophers and some sound real-world advice on the topic. It is also different because its focus is on sadness—how in order to be truly happy, we must become comfortable being sad when it is appropriate. Happiness is, to some extent, a choice we get to make. Sadness is not. As Russell writes early in the book, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” It is something we have to feel, that is instructive in both our private and public lives. It can and should be a catalyst for change, but only if we feel and experience it fully, to get to know it fully. How to Be Sad is a good guide. (DJJS)
The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti, Nicholas Brealey
For history buffs and those in search of an adventure while staying curled up in a chair this fall, The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti is about Westerners’ 70 year quest to climbing the world’s highest mountain! And it’s especially timely considering that this year marked the 100th anniversary of the first expedition that found a successful route to the mountain’s base. From Tibet to India to Afghanistan and Central Asia, the Himalayan landscapes Storti introduces are vivid and, to the mountaineers who explored the land and interacted with inhabitants, full of unknown dangers and allures.
The sport of mountaineering is not one I’ve ever given much thought to, growing up and living in Wisconsin where the land is much more optimal for cultivating corn than climbing. But this book makes me feel like we were all born to be mountaineers and that elevation is to be explored.
It is a tale of spies, intrigue and beheadings; of war (two wars, in fact) and massacre; of breath-taking political, diplomatic and military bungling; of derring-do, hair-raising escapes and genuine bravery.
You’ll read about the many British men who dedicated a good portion of their lives to surveying the land surrounding Everest—Francis Younghusband, Cecil Rawling, John Noel and Alexander Kellas—all leading up to the expedition of Charles Howard-Bury and George Mallory who circumnavigated hazardous cliffs and glaciers to reach the summit of the mountain. Beyond the expeditions, you’ll also learn about the geography of the Himalayas and the influence of other mountaineers on the mountain’s history, such as the man for whom the peak was named, George Everest, known for surveying northern India in 1818 at 26 years old. The work and risk that went into not even summiting but simply arriving at the base of the highest point on the planet is unfathomable without well-researched books like The Hunt for Mount Everest taking us along for the journey. (GMC)
Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace by Minda Harts, Seal Press
In 2019’s The Memo, Minda Harts offered women of color advice on how to overcome obstacles at the office. She proved herself a fierce and resilient mentor in that book and on her active and engaged Twitter account, so when she begins Right Within with a sensitive look back at the difficulties of last year, I’m immediately paying attention. Society has always been skewed away from women and people of color, and yet Harts asserts “I had never felt worried about being a Black woman in this country until 2020.”
Harts’s new book allows room for weakness, starting from scratch, and reconceptualizing what healing from trauma looks like. Led and joined by an equally empathetic and exasperated guide, Right Within gives women of color permission to unpack their baggage. Harts reveals the workplace traumas that almost made her give up on her goals, how the church can both give strength to and fail Black women, and the positive power of therapy on her mental well-being. The stories she shares are both personal and from other women of color, providing a variety of situations in which readers can see themselves and their traumas in the guide. (GMC)
Worlds in Shadow: Submerged Lands in Science, Legend & Myth by Patrick Nunn, Bloomsbury sigma
We’ve all heard stories of sunken cities—all their inhabitants lost to the sea. The oceans swallowed them up overnight, island paradises disappearing into the depths of the water as if pulled into the mouths of angry waves. Patrick Nunn, a Professor of Oceanic Geoscience, looks into the history and mythology of lands submerged throughout time, and the science behind the stories about them, passed down orally through the generations. There is usually truth embedded within these stories, created to understand the catastrophic events at the time. Atlantis is the most well-known, but in Worlds in Shadow we learn about other city islands, such as Dunwich, the islands of Yap and Chesapeake Bay, and even villages we currently reside in today that will soon be lost to the seas over time. We know, scientifically, that we now face the specter of rising seas, but Nunn cautions:
We must be wary of superimposing our own beliefs and values on those of our distant ancestors who occupied quite different worlds and rationalized their existence in quite different ways from us.
Some stories from long ago mention gods dragging islands into the depths, or giant animals or other deities blowing them away or wishing the island gone. These stories were the ways our ancestors could understand what had happened to them, what they experienced without having the knowledge of science to explain the traumatic event. Nunn packs many different stories of the submerged—some familiar, others mostly unknown—into this engrossing book of the lands, memories, and people who once were lost to the depths of the oceans. They are stories, combined with the scientific understanding of geography, geology, and climate change, that can help us today and in the future as so many of the places we call home are at risk of being submerged. (EPP)