1 August 2022 Susannah

There are a few aisles of a book store that I never visit

Book shop

There are a few aisles of a book store that I never visit – the sports section, Sci-fi books and the increasingly large ‘Self Help’ section. Apart from buying the occasional diet book, I’ve always preferred to get my ‘self help’ from reading novels or poetry. But it’s a genre that is growing increasingly popular and offers you titles on getting rich/thinner/fitter/kinder/calmer, or on how to become more successful in love/work/friendship or life.

However, I broke that pattern recently and purchased Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. I was intrigued by the title. Burkeman states that if you live to the age of 80, you can expect to have 4,000 weeks of life. I’d never thought about life-span in terms of weeks before and somehow it seems a smaller amount of time than does the figure of 80 years.

We do all tend, in our modern world, to get too caught up in the habit of using time well – making lists so as to fit more into each day, trying to ‘get through’ a certain amount each day, and trying to control time. The book is a good reminder of how much of what we do is using time for a future benefit, rather than just enjoying the moment. There’s the example of tourists looking at the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum in London – most are so busy taking photos of it so as to share the experience or look at the famous artefact later that they are not really looking at it properly at all. Burkeman also gives the intriguing example of being made (as part of a course he was doing) to spend 3 hours looking at a work of art (no phones or gadgets or even pen and paper allowed – he simply had to sit and look). To begin with he was fidgety and time seemed to pass slowly, but once he relaxed into the experience, he noticed details in the painting he’d never been aware of before.

Some of what Burkeman wrote felt irrelevant to my own life. He spoke of “boredom on Sundays” – I can’t remember the last time I felt bored on any day of the week (maybe it was the last time I had to visit the sports book section in a bookshop), so I couldn’t relate to any of his comments on boredom. However, he did have useful tips as to how to savour the moment, to work out priorities in life so as not to waste time on pointless stuff, and how to achieve a sensible work-life balance. As a chronic list-maker, I know I’ll still be writing ‘To Do’ lists, and I know I’ll forever feel frustrated that there’s not enough reading time in my life, but I did feel the book taught me some lessons which I’ll try to incorporate into my busy life. However, that’s probably enough ‘self help’ for some years to come – it’s back to novels for me, to revel in all the rich meaning they introduce into my life!

Are you a fan of the self help’ genre? If so, which books have had an impact? What can you recommend? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Book shop by Image from Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/photos/books-book-education-reading-985939/
Body image credit- Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, from Amazon https://amzn.to/3BhzUSn

Comments (14)

    • Susannah Fullerton

      According to the author, it was an extremely worthwhile experience.

  1. Jo Hambrett

    We are in furious agreement Susannah !
    Sport sci Fi self help and increasingly cookbooks!!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Glad you agree. Yes, cookbooks seem to take up increasingly more space. I do wonder why when, these days, so many recipes are available on line.

  2. Christine

    I can recall Dale Carnegie’s book, ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ making a huge difference to my life as a young wife and mother with too few hours in the day.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      That’s such a stressful time in life, isn’t it. With lack of sleep and constant demands on your time. I will recommend the book to my daughter, very busy with 3 small children. Thanks.

  3. Honey

    I loved that idea of sitting and looking instead of wasting time trying to get a picture.

    What a good idea about books as well. A line I remembered from a lecture about reading Walker Percy always makes me smile. “Whenever you are rereading a favorite book and you know a line is coming up and you can’t wait to get to reread it, you know you are reading a classic.”
    Isn’t that beautiful?

  4. Helen Gentle

    As a life-long planner, Susannah, I have learnt through all those cancellations over “the Covid Years” to absolutely live for the moment. As Covid is still well and truly with us, I guess it will be my new life long approach!
    Enjoy the sun. Smell the flowers. Contact friends and loved ones. Enjoy life while we have it.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, Covid has taught us to live in the moment much more than we used to. But I do still like to make lists as it makes ‘the moment’ feel much more organised.

  5. Marjorie June

    Hi Susannah

    The self help book I enjoy and revist is ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle

    Also by the same author ‘A New Earth’ Practicing the ‘Power of Now’
    ‘Stillness Speaks’ and Oneness with all life’


    • Susannah Fullerton

      Many thanks for those recommendations, Marjorie. They sound good.

  6. Heather Grant

    Yet another book to add to the list. He’s correct in that when taking a tour through an art gallery or museum, people are so busy taking photos on their phones that they don’t look at the exhibit thoroughly. I look at the exhibit, read the notes and take a photo if I feel it is worthy of keeping.

    I’m just wondering if any of those taking photos ever look at them again?!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I wonder the same. They are so busy holding up selfie sticks and jostling to get a pic, that I fear they do not actually look properly at the painting.

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