How to be Hopeful was an absolute gift of a book, and it's definitely the book I'll be giving people this Christmas. As with everything in September, I missed publication day for this review, but it has been the perfect book to read this month, and I think that if you're feeling a little dispirited or generally finding that 2020 is a pretty tough place to be, you'll get a lot out of it.
Firstly, the book itself is just beautiful. Pale blue and gold is such an uplifting combination and it really does feel like you're being given, as the subtitle says, 'a toolkit to rediscover hope and help create a kinder world', but the main thing about How to be Hopeful is that it doesn't require you to do anything major. Instead it's all about subtle mindset shifts and changing your focus. The way that the book is written is that it's divided into chapters each focusing on a different aspect of life - childhood, community, death and grieving, the news and lots more - and each chapter allows Bernadette Russell to really dive into the ways that we can get disconnected and simple, small ways to reconnect us to each other and have us finding the good in the world around us.
Russell's writing style is conversational but informative. Throughout the book I felt like I was being given a helping hand by a friend (I find that the best, most life altering books in this genre are written in the same way, because then that makes you feel encouraged and who doesn't want a bit of encouragement now and then?) and I really liked the 'Try This' ideas that are interspersed very regularly throughout the book. These range from making a hope collection, where you collect things that inspire hope in you and put them together in a scrapbook or a special box, to talking to strangers on the bus and everything in between.
For me personally the chapter on the news ('The Edgelands: finding the balance between good news bad) was the most helpful as being overwhelmed by the negativity of the news is something that I really struggle with, and I've been trying for a while now to balance my need to feel like I'm engaging with the world and trying to make changes where they're needed with being overwhelmed by the relentless awfulness of the world and getting stuck because it all seems so unchangeable and hopeless. How to be Hopeful gave me easy, small steps that I can take immediately to move away from the overwhelm and turn it into positive action, and really this is where How to be Hopeful shines. It's all well and good to read a book that makes you feel better while you're reading it - it's a large part of why I love reading so much - but this book does that special extra thing in that it gives you ways to feel better after you finish reading it too, and that's what makes it a book that can actually change mindsets, and change lives.
Many thanks to Emma Finnigan PR for my gifted copy of How to be Hopeful by Bernadette Russell, which is out from Eliot and Thompson now. You can find out more and buy a copy here.