Books to reset the mind while the world reboots

03 August 2020 - 12:16 By Jennifer Platt
'Humankind', 'Unf*ck Yourself', 'Sermons of Soul'.
'Humankind', 'Unf*ck Yourself', 'Sermons of Soul'.
Image: Supplied

Reset is rethinking who we are, how good we are, and how capable we are under pressure. Three books come to mind, and the first is a vital read for the entire world at this time.

Published by Bloomsbury, Humankind: A Hopeful History is written by Rutger Bregman (the folk hero of Davos, remember?). His main point is that human beings are good. There is no veneer of civilisation that will crack under pressure as leaders so desperately want us to believe. Bregman gives many examples of when this has happened in history. He talks about World War 2 when London was bombed. Hitler had hoped the blitz would strike chaos in the British but the bombing of the city’s homes didn’t demoralise people, it brought them together.

Then during the Vietnam War, the mass bombings carried out by the US against the Vietnamese did not stop them from fighting' together. He also writes about how during 9/11 people were not selfish, horrible beings but showed their deep humanity in those terrible moments. It gives us hope during this time — when we see the visible divides in society — that we can come together and change for the better.

Stephen Fry sums up the book beautifully: “An extraordinarily powerful declaration of faith in the innate goodness and natural decency of human beings. Never dewy-eyed, wistful or naive, Rutger Bregman makes a wholly robust and convincing case for believing — despite so much apparent evidence to the contrary — that we are not the savage, irredeemably greedy, violent and rapacious species we can be led into thinking ourselves to be.”

Another book to put on your list is by Iman Rappetti, who unpacks the popular opening segments on her show on Power Talk in Sermons of Soul (Pan Macmillan SA). She sought to engage her listeners with a daily sermon of sorts — a moment for them to feel challenged, appreciated and cared for. The book is filled with her thoughts, positive validation, calls to action and sociopolitical critiques, and the most powerful message is about connectedness. Something we tend to forget. The poet Lebo Mashile says: “Rappetti shares the voices that play in her ear — ones that compel her to keep her light burning consistently in a tumultuous world.”

Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop (Hodder & Stoughton) is a blunt read for those who are feeling stuck and unproductive. It’s designed to give you that kick you need to combat self doubt, deal with your inner critic and, most importantly, break out of your rut. British daily newspaper The Times said: “Most self help books are the literary equivalent of a yoga class, a soothing stretch liberally sprinkled with some ‘because you’re worth it’ aphorisms. This one is the equivalent of those… boot camps where the instructor screams at you to do squats in the pouring rain … It’s an approach that has won legions of fans… It’s appealingly direct advice.”