The Soul Searcher’s Handbook by Emma Mildon – 4.5/5
This book gets a four and a half star review merely because the book is gold – but there are some things that could have been mentioned, like cultural appropriation. THat being said, the book’s like a tour guide. It’s not meant to be a 101 book. It’s suppose to give you a peek into various new age practices. So I forgive it. A few paragraphs of ethical responsibility concerning cultural appropriation would have nailed it for me. But even without that paragraph or two, this book is pretty neat.
Your average practitioner won’t find any use in this book. Instead, this book is excellent for those newbies who say, “I want to get started in this field but I have absolutely no idea of what I want to do or where to start”. This book is written for them.
So I requested this book from my library and waited nearly a month for it. I requested it on a whim – it was on my amazon book list but only because it sounded potentially interesting. The wait had me a little unenthusiastic for it because I picked up half a dozen other books at the same time – three of which I intended to review. So, since this was a mostly a personal read, I stuck it off to the side and waited.
One night, scattered-minded, I picked up the book to get the first chapter read. I figured the book would be super encouraging and deeply personal. The kind of thing you can’t read in bits and bursts but rather in a few long sessions. Boy was I wrong.
Immediately, I liked the book. It’s actually great for short reading sessions because of the nature of the book. It’s half handbook, where you look up things and read about them and half encouragement. It’s the writer’s tone of voice that sells it to me though. She’s funny. She’s all of us. She googled ‘how to be spiritual’. She doesn’t really have a label for what she is but she’s given a good chunk of the new age world a whirl. Fascinated, and hoping the author didn’t fail by cultural appropriation) I moved the book to my current reads pile and dug in.
Let me first say this. This book assumes that you’re female gendered. Flat-out. It refers to training bras and other female exclusive things. The subtitle of the book is ‘A Modern Girl’s Guide to the New Age World’. What it doesn’t do, as far as I’ve understood at least, is define woman or female. So it’s inclusive in that sense. All women are included.
That being said, I do think the book’s worth reading through if you’re of any other gender. It doesn’t shame or degrade other genders but instead focuses on promoting women.
That being said, it’s a really good and honest guide to various new age-y practices. Some of them are things like chiropractors which I don’t even consider new age and others are things like past lives and crystal healing.
This woman has clearly done her research so she knows what she’s talking about from what I can tell. I don’t practice everything in this book so some subjects I’m not as familiar with.
Here’s my concern. While she’s perfectly educated on the history and religious backgrounds of things like chakra, mundras, dream catchers, and yoga, she doesn’t mention cultural appropriation at all. Which, of course, makes me frown. I was extremely surprised to see, halfway through the book, her recommend native or DIY sources for your dream catchers. Hey! That’s a good start. Less pleased when it came to the term “spirit animal” which is a contender for needing a new term so it doesn’t clash with native beliefs. I kind of wish she dug into the reasons why you shouldn’t do various things or the differences in how chakras is in religious context versus western context but… that’s really outside of the scope of this book.
This reads as a primer and gives good, basic, honest info that you’ll want to know if you’re looking into certain practices. You might be able to google several types of yoga but those Wikipedia and google pages aren’t going to tell you what the experience is like. This book does.
So, while I do believe this book could stand to be improved from a standpoint of cultural appropriation, this book doesn’t market itself as a stand-alone guide. It’s a starting point. Something to give someone who’s interested in a topic a little push to start researching. Like a tour book, it’s not going to give full details. For that, I forgive it.
This book has a bonus of a glossary and notes. Specifically, end notes with citations and stuff. Be still by heart. I love that stuff so I can track down whatever source I’d like to and research more about it – and debunk information by looking at that source too.