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How to Be a Well Being - review

My natural inclination on encountering a self-help book is to cringe - but I have to admit I rather enjoyed How to Be a Well Being by Andy Cope, Jim Pouliopoulos and Sanjeev Sandhu. It's amiable, quirky and doesn't take itself too seriously (a common fault of many such books).

Inside we find 22 (a strange number) lessons or rules for life, each getting a short section that gives us some detail, some thoughts on addressing the lesson and often a story of personal experience from one of the authors. Although the authors touch on spirituality occasionally, there is no resorting to woo, mindfulness and other such stuff (despite the dubious term 'wellbeing') but, rather, sensible observations on life.

One way to look at these 22 sections is a series of short sermons for those who don't go to church - little contemplations on something important to our lives. It's interesting how many of the rules are obvious. We all really know them. So we get, for example, things like 'seize the day' (without using those exact words), 'life isn't fair', the benefits of saying 'thank you' and the importance of getting enough sleep and eating well most of the time. Another way of looking at these rules is as the set from which most people choose their New Year resolutions (if they have them). Unfortunately, of course, most who do make New Year resolutions break them pretty quickly, which I suppose is why there needs to be more than one self-help book in the world.

Overall, then, it may be obvious stuff - but it's obvious stuff most of ignore much of the time. And it can't be a bad thing to get occasional reminders of the little things which can genuinely make our life better.

On the downside, I found the authors' relentless jokiness rather wearing. The book has the same tone as something like Horrible Histories, which works well for children, but can feel a bit heavy going for an adult reader. Also, while I'm happy to give the book 3 out of 5 stars, which is probably the most I would ever give a self-help book, I very nearly reduced that to two stars for one reason. One of the authors, Andy Cope, has a PhD. Where the other authors refer to themselves as Sanj and Pouli, Cope calls himself 'Dr Andy'. I'm sorry, that just feels uncomfortable to read - it's hard to trust someone who calls himself Dr Andy.

One other disappointment. The book opens by tell us this is a book for NOW (sic) because the world has changed due to the pandemic. I had hoped that meant the rules would give specific reflection on the impact of coronavirus on our lives and how to deal with it. In practice this seems to have been bolted on at the last minute as the pandemic isn't mentioned again.

Do you need this book? Quite possibly, because we are so bad at picking up on these simple but really helpful points in our life. Will it change the way you live your life? Experience suggests, no. But it's worth having a go.

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