Paperback: 400pp

Published: Eye Books (August 2023)

ISBN: 9781785633843

This One Wild and Precious Life

Sarah Wilson

£12.99

From the New York Times bestselling author of
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful

‘A brilliantly raw book that reveals the truth of what really matters’

Fearne Cotton

We live in truly overwhelming times. The climate crisis, the pandemic, AI advances, conspiracy theories, political polarisation…and the rest…have left many of us in a state of ‘spiritual PTSD’, feeling disconnected from one another, from our values, from our joy.

In this radical spiritual guidebook, New York Times-bestselling author Sarah Wilson puts on her backpack and spends three years hiking around the world – in Jordan, Cornwall, the Lake District, the Australian Outback, Japan the Sierra Nevada and beyond – to find a path through it all.

She follows in the footsteps of Nietzsche, Wordsworth and other favourite poets and thinkers, venturing deeper into nature, going to ‘spiritual edges’ and meeting monks, lovers and renegades along the way. And she emerges with a blueprint for living a wilder, more connected life, and one that must just save our precious life on this planet.

Extracts

The customs queue at Los Angeles International Airport at 5:30am is a lonely place. Flights from Australia often land here at this fractured hour. None of us has had enough sleep. The overhead lights flicker. We smell stale and too-human and our nerves are frayed.

I have come to LA to do some research for this book. We land as the smoggy sky hues orange and in the arrivals hall I’m shunted to the long interrogation line. “A writer, hey?” says the stocky uniformed and armed guy looking at my form when I get to the front of the line. His badge says his name is Jose. “What do you write?”

“Books,” I say.

“What are you writing right now?” He’s flicking through my passport.

“Well, the working title is Wake the Fuck Up.”

Jose looks up, his eyes widen. “As in, wake up to what’s going on? Around us...the planet, what’s happening to kids?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Boy, I’d read that,” he tells me.

“Really?” I ask, excited. At any given point in the many years it takes me to write a book, I am 98 percent convinced I’m entirely off target. I grasp at glimpses of recognition from people like Jose. I lean in closer over the bench. “I think it’s making us so sad . . . the climate stuff, the leaders we’ve voted in, all the consuming, the inequalities, the scrolling on our phones.”

“Yes, exactly!” Jose says.

“Do you talk about it with your friends?” I ask. “Your family?”

He winces. “We’re starting to. We’re definitely starting to. But we don’t really know how to talk about it.”

Jose writes down my name on a scrap of paper and hands back my passport. “I’ll be looking out for your book,” he says and nods his head to dismiss me.

read more...

Extracts

1. The customs queue at Los Angeles International Airport at 5:30am is a lonely place. Flights from Australia often land here at this fractured hour. None of us has had enough sleep. The overhead lights flicker. We smell stale and too-human and our nerves are frayed.

I have come to LA to do some research for this book. We land as the smoggy sky hues orange and in the arrivals hall I’m shunted to the long interrogation line. “A writer, hey?” says the stocky uniformed and armed guy looking at my form when I get to the front of the line. His badge says his name is Jose. “What do you write?”

“Books,” I say.

“What are you writing right now?” He’s flicking through my passport.

“Well, the working title is Wake the Fuck Up.”

Jose looks up, his eyes widen. “As in, wake up to what’s going on? Around us...the planet, what’s happening to kids?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Boy, I’d read that,” he tells me.

“Really?” I ask, excited. At any given point in the many years it takes me to write a book, I am 98 percent convinced I’m entirely off target. I grasp at glimpses of recognition from people like Jose. I lean in closer over the bench. “I think it’s making us so sad . . . the climate stuff, the leaders we’ve voted in, all the consuming, the inequalities, the scrolling on our phones.”

“Yes, exactly!” Jose says.

“Do you talk about it with your friends?” I ask. “Your family?”

He winces. “We’re starting to. We’re definitely starting to. But we don’t really know how to talk about it.”

Jose writes down my name on a scrap of paper and hands back my passport. “I’ll be looking out for your book,” he says and nods his head to dismiss me.


2. I hear you, Jose. It’s hard to talk about something so...nebulous. To talk about something that is so...everything. Something is not right. We’re not living life right. To try to grasp such a pain, to find the beginning and end, is like trying to bite your own teeth.

When I started writing this book, I pointed out to my publisher Ingrid that we had a very unorthodox battle on our hands. “You realize,” I said to her over the phone in a mild panic, “no one even has a word for this thing I’m going to try to write about.” It’s a foggy feeling, not a defined phenomenon that we can point at. It’s a deep itch that we can’t quite get to. “I’ll have to first convince everyone that the itch is a legit thing before I can come galloping in with some kind of fix.” Which is not how books like this tend to go.

For me, this all-encompassing, itchy feeling was in part a state of shock from the constant bludgeoning of global crises and news of the stunningly immoral behavior of our world leaders. We now receive hourly the kind of highly charged headline that we used to get perhaps a few times a year. We once had time to digest the news, to frame it against the back- drop of the rest of life and talk about it in a measured fashion over watercoolers and dinner tables. Now it’s a multi-car pileup every time we turn on social media. The “leader of the Free World” tells his Department of Homeland Security to nuke hurricanes and suggests Americans inject bleach to treat a pandemic; Brits “accidentally” vote to leave the EU; Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister blames exploding horse manure for the devastating bushfires that changed a nation; koalas and giraffes face extinction; a revered Hollywood producer is found to have sexually assaulted more than 100 women (and we’re told most of the industry knew but said zilch for decades); robots are coming for our jobs...and...and how can we possibly emotionally process it all? It’s truly stunning stuff.

And so you might call this itch a form of PTSD.

This itch was also a despair that I have strayed from the values that matter to me, mixed with a bewilderment that life was meant to get better not worse. Indeed, we were being told the world was richer, there were fewer wars and less slavery, yet it felt like we’d gone backward. My itch was also a gnawing worry for young people and how they will cope with the planet we’re leaving them, combined with a cringy guilt that I’m complicit, liberally sprinkled with a frustration that no one can answer a question honestly anymore! All of which was polluted with a horrible, and alienating, rage that surfaced when I felt that no one was bloody doing anything! The planet is burning, refugees cry out for our help, the gap between haves and have-nots has become a cruel chasm, and we...yeah, well, we scroll.

And binge-watch.

And buy stuff.

Which makes the itch worse.

I didn’t ask Jose about his stance on the climate crisis.

(Was he a denier? Did he recycle adequately?) Nor what his politics were. Because it almost doesn’t matter anymore. I thought about this as I stood at the baggage claim listening to Cat Power in my headphones, feeling the surreal expansiveness of arriving alone at the beginning of something. We might rage about our differences and troll and blame each other, but deep down we are all feeling the same shock and despair. The same itchy sense that we are so fundamentally off track.

Was there a word we could put to this societal shitstorm? I had to find a better word than “itch.” I looked around at other people’s faces, downcast and scrolling as they waited for their bags, and I realized that what we’re all feeling, at the most basic level, is disconnected. Disconnected from what matters, disconnected from life as we thought we were meant to be living it, disconnected from our care and love for it all.

Ironically, in such inverted times, it’s our disconnection that actually unites – or connects – us.

quotes

‘This book will stay with me; I loved it so much. It gets to the roots and truth of what really matters and shakes us from the numbness that has crept in’

Fearne Cotton, broadcaster and author

‘I’ve encountered no other book that articulates with so much passion or clarity the unique feeling of this moment in history. This One Wild and Precious Life is the ideal guidebook for our long overdue journey back to nature, to each other, and to sanity in the deepest sense of the word’

Oliver Burkeman, author of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management forMortals

This One Wild and Precious Life is what the UK has been waiting for; Sarah Wilson’s journey is inspiring’

Rio Ferdinand

‘Sarah Wilson is a force of nature – quite literally. She has taken her pain and grief about our sick and troubled world and alchemised it into action, advocacy, adventure, poetry and true love. She’s a great teacher and a great leader, and I admire her with all my soul’

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love

‘Sarah Wilson’s mission is our joyful survival. With curiosity and heart, she delves into the biggest questions facing our planet. Essential reading – I defy you not to feel deeply inspired’

Katherine May, author of Wintering

‘Sarah Wilson is a traveller of worlds, outer and inner. And her reports from the journey are both intensely personal and germane to a sick and distracted world. In the midst of the collective malaise, she zeros in on her determination to live her life, not someone else’s, and on the work to which we are all summoned if this species is to survive. Her work is, as the world is, both wild and precious’

James Hollis PhD, Jungian analyst and author of Living Between Worlds:Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times

‘The inchoate sense that something is missing – something related to connection and community and meaning – nags at many of us. This book has some smart suggestions for how to move out of that purgatory, and perhaps, in the process, help build a world that works’

Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play ItselfOut?

‘The timing of this book couldn’t be more critical. Sarah takes us on a series of wild hikes around the world and shows us how inherently connected to nature we truly are, while also shedding light on how desperately we need to find a new path in our changing world. Wild and Precious speaks to my soul’

Emilie Ristevski, wilderness photographer

‘Sarah’s courageous book illuminates a path to preserve and cherish this Wild and Precious life’

Dr Martin Rice,The Climate Council

reviews

‘I began writing “Yes!” in margins, so well does Sarah Wilson articulate the problems of our time. Speaking as someone who has spent much of the past few years despairing about the state of the world, I believe we need more people like her’

Marianne Power, The Times

‘This practical, actionable, spiritual guidebook proposes a path to joy even amid pandemics, climate change, social injustice, and other profound crises’

USA Today

‘Wilson explores why it’s worth it to take the risk and move past the comfortable, assuring her readers that doing this is how we find meaning – and hope’

Spirituality and Health

‘Anxiety and disconnection are natural consequences of over-consumptive modern life, argues Wilson in this vibrant take on how to build a more joyful existence and sustainable world... The reading experience has the feel of an impassioned conversation with a friend’

Publishers Weekly

‘Her thought-provoking call to action shines light on the personal fog and spiritual trauma experienced while living with consumerism, climate change, Covid-19, social injustice and collective anxiety… This book is inspiring’

Booklist

‘This may be one of the first books that culminates in the events of 2020 and offers a solution for moving forward… [ Wilson’s] stories are fascinating and her message is universal and hopeful. Readers with wanderlust will be inspired by her journey and calls to action’

Library Journal

‘One of the most beautifully messy, visceral, wise and wonder-inducing non-fiction books I’ve read. It’s not often you see such clarity in a person: an understanding of who they are, what they are committed to and why they must be this way. It shakes you’

Rebel Book Club

extras

ABOUT

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson is the author of the New York Times bestsellers First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety, which redefined the mental health genre, and I Quit Sugar, along with eleven cookbooks that have been published in fifty-two countries.

Previously, she was editor of Cosmopolitan Australia, host of MasterChef Australia and founder of iquitsugar.com, an eight-week programme that has seen millions worldwide break their sugar addiction. In May 2018, Sarah committed to giving all proceeds from the business to charity.

She now builds and enables charity projects that engage humans with one another, and campaigns on mental health, consumerism and climate issues. Sarah is an obsessive hiker and spent eight years travelling the world with one bag. She presently divides her time between Australia and Europe.

selected works

more titles coming soon...

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