feb-2017-tbrI’ve got a NetGalley review here, and one that should  have been done for 12 January. How do you keep track of when you’re meant to submit reviews when there are embargoes in place? I’d love to know! Anyway, like many non-fiction advice or self-help books, this one gives a list of the main points early on, then goes on to explain the background and give examples. Nothing wrong with that, of course! In this case, reading the e-book was a bit odd, as the actual book only went up to about 69%, then it was all the notes. I’ve realised that I usually check this proportion in a “real” book so I know where I’m reading up to, and this one took me by surprise! Anyway, thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for supplying this for an honest review.

Emily Esfahani Smith – “The Power of Meaning”

(e-book, 12 January 2017)

Subtitled “Crafting a Life that Matters”, this new book takes a look at studies of meaningfulness – as opposed to happiness, which is an altogether different thing – and how the “pillars” for one’s life that they identify can be applied in our lives in a world where the erosion of religion and family/community/social structures but a rise in thoughtfulness and meaningfulness-seeking means this is something people are actively looking for.

Meaningfulness, according to the research (Smith moves from a portrait of her Sufi community to good, evidence-based academic research which, of course, backs up what the Sufis have been doing all along), rests on people feeling their lives are significant as part of something bigger, their lives make sense and they have a sense of purpose. She bases the remainder of the book, once she’s covered the history and theory of happiness and meaningfulness studies, on the areas of belonging, purpose, storytelling, transcendence and growth, and explores how different groups of people, including, but not limited to, mediaeval re-enacters, older people and people who have survived horrific experiences have used the various pillars to a greater or larger extent to promote meaningfulness in their own lives. This can range from the mediaevalists’ sense of community to people who take part in huge storytelling initiatives, to older people having a plant to look after in their care homes.

A section on cultures of meaning rounds the book off, reminding us that cultures can use meaningfulness to bring people together for evil purposes (e.g. so-called Islamic State) or good purposes (new and inclusive workplace cultures, etc.). The book is particularly interesting to me on resilience and differences in how we tell our stories affecting our mental and physical health outcomes and feelings of meaningfulness – the ways in which we tell those stories being open to change if we are.

I’m currently reading another review copy, “Irresistable” which is – ha-ha – proving quite compulsive reading, and Deborah Devonshire’s autobiography by way of a change. Have you read this book? What did you think of it. How DO you organise your NetGalley reads and read and review them in the correct order?