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  • Louise Lilja

Book Review: Enchantment by Katherine May

In Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age, author and podcaster Katherine May embarks on a search for wonder and joy as an antidote to the pressures and anxieties of modern life.  Join us for a discussion of the book on June 27th—no need to read the book in advance!


A person sitting in front of their computer at sunrise
Image: Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by author and podcaster Katherine May is an exploration of how to find wonder and joy amid modern life's pressures and anxieties. The book explores the ongoing balancing act of work commitments and family responsibilities that many people experience. It offers a pathway to finding a sense of being amid a life full of doing. The book is a follow-up to her previous work, Wintering, and continues her examination of how we can live more meaningful and connected lives, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

I increasingly feel that a part of me is missing, the part that is able to sit with the seismic changes that come, to sense them and experience them and integrate them, rather than to merely administer them. As I grow older, this begins to feel like a desperate lack. There has been a yearning in me that I’m only just beginning to understand, a craving for transcendent experience, for depth, for meaning making. It’s not just that the world needs to change – I need to change too.”  Katherine May, Enchantment 

May is on a quest to find enchantment in the world. She’s not sure how, when or with whom or what to engage in order to get there but she knows she wants to, and needs to, find it. Enchantment is, for her, an “elemental human feeling”. She believes it is what will help her heal from anxiety and burnout, both brought on by everyday modern life and work juggling but also exasperated by the pressures brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. May is looking for enchantment to guide her towards more meaningful experiences and connections.  

 

The book is divided into four sections based on the four elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air. Each element serves as a metaphor for different ways of engaging with the world and finding enchantment. May uses the force of nature to try and find her way back to a world that excites her and makes her want to get up in the morning. She argues that nature offers a source of endless wonder and can provide refuge from the chaos of modern life. From going swimming in natural waters to walking in the woods, nature helps her to be present and connect back to herself.  

 

Image of sun shining through trees
Image: Shutterstock

Throughout the book, May takes us through various childhood memories, recalling what captivated and thrilled her, and juxtaposes these with her lockdown experiences, sharing fears and worries that resonated with many around the world. She vividly describes the enchantment she felt as a child, whether it was through exploring the natural world, engaging with imaginative play, or finding wonder in small, everyday moments. These early experiences of wonder serve as a foundation for her argument that such enchantment is still accessible to us as adults, even amid life's stresses and anxieties. May is a firm believer that wonder is a powerful force that can help us all to face our busy work and lives with a greater sense of resilience and motivate us when we need it the most.  

 

When I picked up this book, unfamiliar with May or her previous work, I found a blend of autobiography and self-help—though May herself might resist such labeling. The book flows well, taking the reader on a journey that feels less about the destination and more about the process of connection. 


I go to yoga classes every week and often notice how the sessions give me a sense of the weight of the world lifting. Reading May’s book felt similar: simple and straightforward, yet with a depth that gradually seeps into you. Her writing resonates with the questions, worries, and sense of feeling "flat" that many of us experience. This makes the book both engaging and introspective, though perhaps sometimes challenging to pick up in our busy world. This duality perfectly encapsulates the essence of Enchantment

 

Enchantment is a heartfelt and insightful guide to rediscovering wonder and joy, offering readers practical and philosophical tools to navigate an anxious age and reconnect with the magic of everyday life. It’s a great read for anyone who’s ever had a sense of there being more to this life and for anyone who’s trying to find their way back to, ultimately, themselves.  


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