cover image First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety

Sarah Wilson. Dey Street, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-283678-6

Journalist Wilson (I Quit Sugar) borrows the title of this uplifting, earnest memoir from a Chinese proverb on the theme of acceptance: using one’s anxiety to find purpose, she believes, can make life beautiful. Wilson, one of seven siblings who grew up poor in the Australian bush outside of Canberra, suffered from anxiety for years (as well as from OCD, bipolar disorder, and Hashimoto’s, a disease of the thyroid) and here explores the condition from many angles, meandering, as she explains, “through disciplines and between polemic, didactic and memoir.” In the opening chapter, Wilson asks the Dalai Lama how to stop the internal “fretty chatter that makes us so nervous” (“There’s no use,” he says. “Impossible”). Later, she observes that the “correlation between creative contribution... and anxiety is well documented.” She offers simple tricks and practices throughout the book to reduce anxiety, including making one’s bed every morning and learning to meditate. Wilson also points out that anxiety can have some benefits: anxious folks, for instance, tend to be good planners. Amusing, practical, and filled with delightful asides, this book will appeal to anxiety-prone readers, who will find much to calm them in these pages. Agent: Stacy Testa, Writers House. (Apr.)