Books & Literature

Book Review: Reasons Not to Worry, by Brigid Delaney

PHILOSOPHY: Reasons Not to Worry is an accessible introduction to Stoic principles of virtue, moderation and self-discipline, adapting this ancient knowledge to inspire practical advice for everyday life.

Read the Stoics themselves rather than this book.

Feature image credit: Allen & Unwin

This is the fourth book author Brigid Delaney produced while working as a senior journalist with The Guardian, writing a well-regarded weekly column concerning her somewhat chaotic life. In October 2022, Delaney left journalism to become a speechwriter for the federal Finance Minister Katie Gallagher.

This book is meant as both an introduction to the philosophy of the ancient Stoics and a record of Delaney’s personal journey in adopting the philosophy during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic. She notes the original meaning of being a Stoic has, overtime, been almost completely reversed. Today it is used to describe someone who stifles their emotions, which is quite different from the original Stoics who practised visualising the worst that could possibly happen in order to prepare for the inevitable vicissitudes of life, including being aware of our own mortality.

The reader is introduced directly to the writings of Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius in particular, and these are the most interesting parts of the book. In comparison, when Delaney relates such principles to her own life, as if she’s channelling the Stoics, the instances are often facile and somewhat simplistic, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. For instance, banging her head when judging a reality TV show as an example of learning to live with ill health is hardly comparable to how Epictetus had to live with the ill health of a permanent limp resulting from abuse when he was a slave.

Yes, we need to be aware of those things beyond our control and try to stop worrying about them. But how does one stop worrying about where your next meal is coming from when your welfare payments are well below the poverty line? Those of us who are in positions of privilege because of our race, gender, financial situation or other positive aspects of our life, also need to acknowledge that such privilege provides opportunities to follow Stoic philosophy, or any other philosophical path we may choose. This privilege is unavailable to far too many people in today’s inequitable society, something the author signally fails to acknowledge.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Allen and Unwin
Released: September 2022
RRP: $26.99

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