I feel like a broken record mentioning that The Book of Joy has been on my list for awhile, but one thing I really love about this bookclub is that we often read backlist titles (aka older books, not newly published titles). So yet again, I’m so glad to have checked another book off my long list of books to read. But on to the good stuff…
Besides feedback like, “this book is amazing!” I didn’t really know what to expect from The Book of Joy. Outside of having watched Seven Years in Tibet decades ago, and being able to put a face to the name Desmond Tutu, I could have told you very little about the book’s co-authors. And still this book surprised me in many ways.
First was its humor. The Book of Joy is the product of a week of conversations between Reverend Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama around joy, and moderated by author and collaborator Douglas Abrams. Maybe I expected it to be a little dry and overly intellectual? But when the Reverend says to a cackling Dalai Lama, “Don’t laugh at your own jokes, man” I was laughing out loud. There was so much self-deprecation, laughter and joking between these two. And as Abrams points out, there’s such a tie between lightheartedness and holiness for these men. A repeated theme that I found very refreshing.
I felt like I could have highlighted nearly every sentence. This book was so much more than only a conversation about joy. Don’t underestimate it as a “how to get happy” kind of read. The Book of Joy felt like bearing witness to a historical event and a meditation on life’s biggest questions; how do we live a good life, why do we struggle, how do we forgive, how does perspective affect us, what’s the difference between curing and healing, what is joy and where does it lie (to name a few)? The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu provide their answers to these burning questions, and I’m here for it. Their struggles, years of contemplation, spirituality, curiosity, and the 170 years between them are more than enough to have me revisiting their words of wisdom on repeat.
The only criticism I have is I wish Abrams had given us a little more information on the Reverend and Dalai Lama’s histories. Over the course of the book you can slowly glean the information you need, but I would have liked an early chapter giving the reader a brief history on these two men.
But that being said, I loved it! This book could be easily consumed chapter by chapter if that’s what you’re looking for, or all in one sitting. And I know I’ll be picking it back up from time to time. There’s so much to consider and question that this book gives you enough food for thought for a lifetime. Or two lifetimes 🙂