Wellmania: Misadventures in the Search for Wellness (Brigid Delaney, Nero)
Wellmania takes on the industrial wellness complex, a billion-dollar industry that mainstreams and monetises ancient traditions for affluent consumers. Feeling depleted from decades in the fast lane, journalist Brigid Delaney explores the modern (and very Western) pursuit of what she calls ‘clean, lean and serene’ living. Going gonzo on wellness, Delaney undertakes and entertainingly documents her own search for these goals via trends such as extreme fasting in Bondi, yoga in Sri Lanka, an enema in the Philippines and group therapy in the bush. Her search is earnest, and she’s game for just about anything, but Delaney is also unflinching in her examination of the darker side of the wellness industry: the tendency to swing between hedonism and contrition, which she sees reflected in society at large; the environmental, cultural and moral quagmire that the West’s wellness industry leaves in its wake; and its attendant narcissism and body-image obsession. Delaney is a relatable and fearless tour guide on this journey, game enough to go to the very edge while you watch from a safe distance; there is something both methodical and simultaneously chaotic about her process. Readers who recognise themselves in Delaney’s search will be amused and uncomfortable in equal parts.
Jenni Kauppi is an editor, critic and bookseller