Welcome to our weekly Books Digest where we round up the new books you should and shouldn’t read. This week features Life Time: The New Science of the Body Clock, and How it Can Revolutionize Your Sleep and Health by Russell Foster, Tenants: The People on the Frontline of Britain’s Housing by Vicky Spratt and The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw .
For more books, take a look at our Books Digest archive.
Lifespan: the new science of the biological clock and how it can revolutionize your sleep and your health by Russell Foster (Penguin Books, £12.09)
Overstimulated and overworked, we are all guilty of falling victim to the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Jet lag, night shifts, and artificial light all conspire to throw our bodies out of whack, disrupting our built-in biological clocks and making it harder to get a good night’s sleep. In LifetimeProfessor Russel Foster – a world expert in circadian neuroscience – takes the reader on a journey of days and nights, explaining the science behind our biological clocks.
Our biology is governed by a 24-hour biological clock with daily internal adjustments made to function optimally in our dynamic world, the book explains. But when it comes to health, sensible advice is often turned into “shrill orders”, and the media is awash with imperative demands of “musts” and “must nots” around the topic of sleep. Rather than presenting our biological rhythms as something to conquer or heal, Foster suggests we need to understand and embrace them.
Only once we begin to realign with our internal clocks can we begin to work harmoniously. with our bodies to create the optimal personal routine, he says, and his enthusiasm for the science of sleep is contagious. We could all benefit from this revealing guide to our biological clocks. A refreshing blend of knowledge and humor, this is the science of sleep made accessible.
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Tenants: people on the frontline of housing in Britain by Vicky Spratt (Profile Books, £14.29)
Around 22 million people across the UK are currently without safe, secure or stable housing. It’s one in three. Over the past 20 years, the number of people in England living in precarious private rental accommodation has doubled. Private tenants spend on average a third of their pre-tax income on rent. So while helping a landlord pay off their mortgage, most renters struggle to save. For homeowners, each monthly mortgage payment is an investment in their future security. For tenants, their place in the world becomes neither legally nor financially more stable over time.
Housing inequality in Britain shapes our country – socially, politically and economically, says journalist Vicky Spratt – the i Paper correspondent, who led the successful 2016 campaign to ban rental charges in England and the UK. Wales and cap deposits. In his new book, Spratt dives deep into this national crisis, explaining how decades of bad housing policy have destroyed the dream of homeownership for so many and caused the social housing safety net to collapse. making homelessness a constant threat for many. Population.
Tenants is the culmination of five years of research and hundreds of interviews with charity workers, policymakers and tenants themselves, who let Spratt into their homes. Although determined to stick to journalistic accuracy, Spratt acknowledges that this is not objective work: she is invested in change. She’s also clear that landlords are convenient villains, but blaming them alone stands in the way of real change. Our politicians have “contracted out a vital service – the provision of housing – to unqualified people”, she writes. We rely more and more on private owners because home ownership is unaffordable and social housing is scarce.
Fortunately, Spratt offers us both short-term and long-term solutions to deal with the housing emergency in Britain. Covid-19, she argues, “has laid bare the seriousness of our weakened social safety net”. But it also demonstrated that radical action – to give everyone a chance for safe housing – is possible. The pandemic has been a once-in-a-generation disaster, but it offers us “a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change and innovation.”
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (Pushkin Press, £11.09)
Grazie Sophia Christie
Among the many narrators of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is a woman who says: “I build monuments to my impulses and my desires. Deesha Philyaw’s book, shortlisted for the National Book Award, can be read as nine such landmarks, nine stories of daughters, mothers and lovers whose bodies offer the most powerful kind of conversation.
The not-so-secret life of church ladies happens in worship, of course: getting saved, being good. Philyaw shows us that their secret lives also pass in this way, although in prayers of another kind. Eula seeks love in Bible study but finds it in her friend. Olivia mistakes her mother’s lover for God. Jael doesn’t believe in God anyway. Their prayers, and the prayers of Philyaw, are addressed to the body, “trembling, lush, fearless.”
And Philyaw’s prose is close as a prayer, close to the skin, under the clothes, in sentences that are hard to remember. The book’s only limitation is also its strength, with sex being shorthand for emotional and spiritual calculations that might have been just as interesting literally played out, played out.