3 New Books About the Power of Self-Reflection
We live in a world that seems to be more self-directed than ever before, but that navel-gazing appears to be primarily for public consumption. Is it really self-reflection if it’s posted in a performative capacity for everyone to read? Regardless of your answer, there’s something to be said for quiet internal contemplation of the world around us. The three new books in this week’s book club celebrate the inner world of thought, the possibilities of imagination, and the highly pleasant activity of “wasting” a day in solitude.
College-aged Leda, the main character of Casale’s debut novel, is first shown reflecting on the adult feeling that comes from sitting in a coffee shop: “What she loved most about sitting at the coffee shop was not the coffee or the shop but the brief, listless feeling it gave her of having her life together. She could sit beside the richness and warmth and see herself as something so divinely competent. This is what it is to be an independent person, and she’d take a sip. This is what it is to be a cosmopolitan person, and she’d take a sip…At least I know that I don’t really have my life together. At least I know that I don’t know, she thought.”
Hampl loves to daydream; she calls this making sense of things by seeing them from all sorts of different, reflective angles. In her memoir, she looks back at this inward, solitary journey, waxing poetic on the rewards of relaxed contemplation and differentiating between solitude and loneliness. In childhood, Hampl was floored to find out that the Church considered daydreaming to be a sin, because she thought it was a beautiful thing. It was that beauty, that ownership of each thought that passes through one’s head that she concluded must mean “the imagination is up to no good.”
“Nenny lives in two houses. The first one is haunted. The second house is not haunted, but still: some nights she lies awake in bed and cannot sleep.” Summerfield’s book shows the potential dark side of a little too much inner thought, as for young Nenny, it manifests itself in anxiety and catastrophizing premonitions that seem unlikely to actually come true.