Not To Be Overlooked
Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of We Need to Talk About Money by Otegha Uwagba and Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton.
We Need to Talk About Money By Otegha Uwagba
Review by Emma Wallace
It sounds peculiar even to my ears to say that my favourite book of this year, thus far, is a book about money. With a less talented writer, this may very well have been a dry read, something that reads like an advice column in a financial support forum, or the ramblings of a wannabe Bill Gates. In Uwagba’s capable hands, however, this becomes an enthralling, thought-provoking analysis-cum-memoir about how money comes to determine an individual’s life and the opportunities afforded to them. Using her own life as a case study, Uwagba unpacks, and wrestles with, the nature of financial privilege, how the lack of it has come to shape her own experiences of the world, both in academia and in the workplace and, more particularly, how there is a sore need to open up more about our own personal finances.
I have been conditioned, as many have, towards thinking that talking openly about money is somehow crude, gauche and intensely invasive. Whether that be refraining from asking university friends who exactly is paying for their accommodation, or remaining somewhat close-mouthed about salaries and mortgages, we grow up experiencing a peculiar dissonance when it comes to money. We are encouraged to see the accumulation of mass wealth as a desirable aim, but hold off from openly talking about money with any kind of transparency. Over the course of this book, Uwagba compellingly advances the idea that we can only correct issues with workplace culture and our own flawed attitudes towards money, once we tackle the subject head on.
Uwagba’s position of liminality places her in a uniquely insightful position to talk about the insidiousness of money. From her time as a scholarship student at an elite private girl’s school, to her tenure as an Oxford student surrounded by the progeny of the moneyed elite, Uwagba has consistently occupied spheres traditionally reserved for the financially privileged.
She has acquired a level of academic and professional success that is commonly seen to transcend the limitations of class and familial wealth. As Uwagba points out when recounting her experiences as a frustrated and disillusioned graduate, that conception of education as a great equaliser is a complete fallacy. From issues with workplace harassment and racist microaggressions, to the dilemmas of rent culture, Uwagba’s career trajectory has been overshadowed by a lack of economic privilege that is in no way mitigated by her talent and hard work. Through using these experiences as a springboard into thinking more deeply about issues within workplace culture, from girlboss culture and the beauty tax to workplace “lad culture” and invisible labour, Uwagba produces an insightful analysis into how money pervades our everyday lives. A genuinely illuminating, outlook-altering book; We Need to Talk About Money is unquestionably an essential read.
Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton
Review by Shridula Singh
Beth Kempton pursued a master’s degree in Japanese and lived and worked in Japan for many years. She is a bestselling self-help author, writer and mentor, and while living in Japan she found deeper meaning in Japanese philosophy, which she delves into in her books.
Wabi-Sabi ("wah-bi sah-bi") is a fascinating Japanese aesthetic principle that encourages us to embrace simplicity and accept the fleeting nature of all things. You may learn everything you need to know about this Japanese way of living by reading Wabi-Sabi. It may bring you some inner peace and tranquility as you read it, it certainly did this for me.
Beth Kempton has written a thoughtful piece using her own experience in Japan and extensive research into the history and origins of the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. The book includes a bibliography and endnotes for those who need further proof.
When you read the book, you will finish it thinking a lot about your approach towards life, people around you and how you treat yourself. Though on a lighter note, the book not only gives you philosophical pointers but in-depth notes about Japanese crafts, tea etc.
But as you keep going, you notice the book gets repetitive and heavy. It can overwhelm you. So take it slow. A few overarching principles I learned from the book include: “be content with less”, “less stuff, more soul”, “less hustle, more ease.”
We live in a world where everything is so fast-paced and about reaching the destination rather than enjoying the journey. When I picked up this book to read, I went with an open mind to help myself slow down when the whole world got closed down. So suddenly, we have to adapt to slow living and the author has done a great job explaining the little things that matter.
I enjoyed the book thoroughly. From time to time, I go back to it when I need to remind myself about the learnings and how to just embrace what I have got in life.
To sum up the book, the following principle is fitting: “aim to emphasise simplicity in your life, while appreciating and accepting complexity.”