Jo Earp, Editor of Teacher, shares her review of Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.

Book review: Phosphorescence

Wellbeing by Teacher is dedicated to improving the lives of teachers and school leaders by providing them with informative, evidence-based strategies on how to care for their body, mind and overall sense of wellbeing. We also share recipe ideas, fitness tips, book reviews (and more!) from teachers, school leaders and others working in the sector.

In today’s piece, Jo Earp, Editor of Teacher, shares her review of Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.

Phosphorescence – on awe, wonder & things that sustain you when the world goes dark, by Julia Baird, is one of those books that has been on my ‘must read’ list for a long time.

Apart from being a bestseller and multiple award winner, the two words that seemed to crop up again and again in recommendations and reviews were ‘beautiful’ and ‘inspiring’, so I was really looking forward to it. Well, it didn’t disappoint.

Baird weaves together personal stories and reflections with science and research findings – think a memoir, plus advice, with a built-in fact checker!

It’s an exploration of how we can nurture the things that keep us going when times get tough or, as the author puts it, ‘How do we continue to glow when the lights turn out?’. From the benefits of ocean swimming and forest bathing, to owning a pet and Freudenfreude (getting joy from other people’s success).

If you’re short on time it’s a great one for dipping in and out of without losing the flow. I also love books that make you stop, reflect and want to share with others, and Phosphorescence certainly ticks all those boxes. I found myself returning to sections days later, pausing to reread pages again and again, or reading snippets out loud to my partner.

Baird talks about the search for her own inner light during the ‘dark days’ of cancer treatment. ‘I learned these simple, powerful lessons. First, pay attention. Second, do not underestimate the soothing power of the ordinary. Third, seek awe and nature, daily. Fourth … well, so many things: show kindness; practise grace; eschew vanity; be bold; embrace friends, family, faith and doubt, imperfection and mess; and live deliberately.’

Much of the book is about how natural phenomena can evoke a sense of amazement, wonder and awe, and how the simple things in life make a big difference.

Baird manages to do it all without sounding sickly sweet or preachy, and she’s aware of what the reader may be thinking. Towards the end of the book, she writes ‘I am acutely conscious that it may seem as though I am suggesting we all Pollyanna our way through life, always looking for the glad things, the bright parts, the shiny bits. In truth, life is often ugly and awful …’

There’s a brutal honesty to the way she shares her own experiences, including the lows. But it’s also incredibly uplifting and (yes) inspiring. It’s a bit like hearing from a long-time friend and it’s a conversation I’ll be returning to again and again.

Oh, and the cover artwork is absolutely gorgeous.