Kate’s Book Club Reflections

Kate Shurety

25 Nov 2021

As we approach the end of the year it always feels appropriate to take stock and generally reflect. This time last year felt very bleak – infection and death rates were escalating with the emergence of the then new Delta variant of Covid 19, the NHS was experiencing overwhelming demand, the economy was in freefall with growing and increasingly complex social needs emerging across the country and the vast majority of people felt disconnected from their normal lives and relationships. 

A year on – some of these challenges are on the verge of feeling intractable although they no longer have the strangeness and absurdity of the new that they held last December. 

Yet I am probably feeling more fired up and positive as I contemplate what comes next in 2022.

So, what has changed?

Firstly, I probably need to qualify the word’ positive here’ – it does not necessarily mean optimistic. I mean I feel actively engaged, focussed on the actions and impact I can have rather than the comfortable negativity that often accompanies my own tendency to apathy. 

One of the things that has kept me positive in this sense, and focussed on the difference I can make in the present, has been the Civil Society Book Club for Wellbeing and Connection. When I was first approached by Mark to host the first couple of sessions it felt like an interesting way to connect with some new ideas and interesting people – and also a commitment to do something – even if that doing was something as simple and quiet as reading a book. 

A year on, our book club has read some incredible, thought-provoking books and shared our responses to them with their authors – an impressive line-up by any accounts – and full credit and gratitude to each and every one of these authors who have generously shared their time in dialogue with us. 

With them, we have considered our relationship with the natural world through acts of gardening; why our current era risk being one of increasing loneliness and alienation; how our common history of Empire is something we would do well to confront together; the biological and evolutionary nature of our need to form friendships; whether we can re-establish a relationship with work that provide purpose meaning and dignity for all; and why our society’s current divisions are deepening and the simple actions we can take to enlarge our social circles and acquaint ourselves with people of different outlooks. 

Finally, our last book is providing us with an international and deeply personal perspective  on some of these same themes and injected us with poetry too – how to deal with the sometimes crushing sense of impotence in the face of the daily news and emerge still with our humanity and need for human connection intact and active.  

We are really looking forward to our book club event on 7 December with Ece Temelkuran to discuss her latest book Together: 10 Choices for a better now and I am sure we will also touch on her previous work How to Lose a Countryhttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/170998690687

All of these books have not only kept me reading but also ensured my brain and heart have been nourished through the year. Some of the learning we have done as a group is now feeding into our daily work – most of us work within civil society (Third sector/ VCSE sector  – we have a range of identities) and from these encounters we are building our own ‘resolutions’  – the actions, big and small that we will take into 2022 to create and sustain impact – as well as preserve that important sense of agency we all need. 

Our first book next year will be Deep Adaptation: navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos – so plenty to get our teeth into there: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/202897942207

Please feel free to join us and extend the invitation far and wide. And send suggestions for what should be on our bookshelf in 2022 to mark@civilsocietyconsulting.co.uk.

And look out for our New Year’s Resolutions drawing on the lessons we have taken on board this year.

*Our 2021 Reading list

  • The Well Gardened Mind, Sue Stuart-Smith
  • The Lonely Century, Noreena Hertz
  • Empireland, Satnam Sanghera
  • Friends, Robin Dunbar
  • The Dignity of Labour, Jon Cruddas
  • Fractured, Jon Yates
  • Together, Ece Temelkuran

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