Reading this lovingly designed hard-back tome from Penguin’s lifestyle imprint, I was reminded of something many people commented on when referring to the Marie Kondo decluttering phenomenon. Namely, that it wasn’t just enacting the principles laid out in her books that brought them mental satisfaction, but that the act of reading her books themselves – carefully, logically explaining how to follow her method – that gave them the strongest sense of gentle, blissful mindfulness.
Content wise, I remain relatively half-hearted on what this book has to say about Shinrin-Yoku. I am in no doubt of the benefits of spending time amidst nature, drinking in the natural beauty of our surroundings – but the book’s method of slinging what feels like a hundred skin-deep scientific studies at us to convince us feels a bit like preaching to the converted. Surprise surprise – all the evidence presented here supports the conclusion that, yes, forest bathing is a very good thing indeed!
While the modus-operandi feels a lot more genuine and well-meaning than many of the ‘smart-thinking’ style lifestyle books out there right now, the results can still feel a little repetitive at times. That said, whereas books like the little blue-covered Ikigai one that *everyone* seems to be reading right now felt like a prime example of ‘A few zippy case studies and vaguely related anecdotes to get CEOs fired up about this hip new trend’, at least this one seems to be coming from a place of good-intentions and care for people’s well-being.
For me, consuming this book was less about the actual information contained within it, and more about the *experience* itself. I’ve been watching a lot of ASMR videos on YouTube recently – a phenomenon where whispered voices, crinkling, rippling noises and so on set off a kind of almost sensuous tingle down your nervous system – and reading this book offered a similar kind of feel in many ways. Making your way through the pages and the lavish photography, you’re forced to slow down and contemplate, wallow in a sensory, meditative experience.
My favourite part comes roughly halfway through, where the book spends ample time describing the particular scents of various Japanese trees. To someone who enjoys wine and whiskey, this section resonated deeply with me – touching my taste for sensory experiences conveyed in literary form, and I enjoyed the opportunity to drink in the descriptions of aromatherapy, essential oils and their links to forest bathing. For the record, this book smells absolutely amazing too.
So, ultimately – I ended up coming away from this book seeing it very much as a coffee table piece. Something to be dipped into and returned to, for the photographic content more than anything. It is very much ‘reading-as-experience’ as opposed to reading for meaning. It’s a strong effort on many fronts – and certainly better than some of the similar ‘lifestyle’ tomes on the market right now. Perhaps most of all though, in the hectic world of city living, even the one day of relaxed, contemplative study it gave me felt like something to be pretty thankful for.