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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sarah Moore

Book Review: Phosphorescence by Julia Baird

1. What the book is about

This book is a collection of essays that explore the mysteries, challenges, beauties and truths that we encounter throughout our human existence. Julia reflects on her own life experiences and how they have inspired her to research and examine the human condition, with an intention of surviving, learning, growing and accepting her journey. Each chapter can be read on its own, however Julia also cleverly weaves a number of themes and messages throughout her essays, linking them to one another such that her story unfolds with the turn of each page. The themes include awe, wonder, imperfection, acceptance, joy, friendship, women’s rights, leadership, grief and loss, savouring, purpose, gratitude, faith and doubt. In her own words, Julia wrote this book “in the hope that it might be a salve for the weary, as well as a reminder of the mental rafts we can build to keep ourselves afloat, the scraps of beauty that should comfort us, the practices that might sustain us, especially in times of grief, illness, pain and darkness.”

2. What I liked about this book

Reading this book was like having a conversation with an intelligent, interesting and generous friend. I loved Julia’s style of writing – familiar, funny, factual and forgiving. I liked that I could pick up this book and choose to read any chapter that caught my attention, but that by reading it from cover to cover revealed a true story that was complex and thought-provoking. I particularly enjoyed the chapters that included letters to each of her children, sharing her insights and advice about living a meaningful life, reading history, walking lightly on the earth and savouring the simple and impermanent moments that thread our days together.

3. Who should read this book

Almost everyone will find pleasure and treasure in reading his book. In particular, I would encourage anyone who is currently facing a life challenge - whether it be with their health, relationships, career or sense of self - to make themselves a cup of tea and find a comfy place to sit and soak up this book. You won’t regret it.

4. Other work by Julia Baird

Julia Baird is a journalist and author who hosts “The Drum” on ABC TV and writes columns for the New York Times and The Sydney Morning Herald. She has written a number of books, including “Media Tarts” and a biography of Queen Victoria. She has a BA and PhD from Sydney University. You can read more about Julia on her website

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