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OPINION: My book is an engaging, cultural history of wellness that reveals its origins in the experimental atmosphere of the 1970s

There’s lots in there about what the 1970s can teach us now

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My name’s James Riley, I’m Fellow of English at Girton College, University of Cambridge. On 18 April I’ll be doing an Author’s talk at Paus, Cambridge linked to my new book on the history of wellness in the 1970s.

Link here: https://www.paus.life/retreats-events. Thursday April 18, 6-8pm: Well Beings author’s talk at Paus, Cambridge. Toft Rd, Cambridge CB23 2TT.

I’ll also be speaking about it at Heffers in Cambridge on April 30. Link here:  Meet James Riley – Well Beings Tickets, Tue, Apr 30, 2024 at 6:00 PM | Eventbrite

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I will be in conversation with the poet and writer Rod Mengham. We will be talking about the book, there will be a reading and a signing afterwards.

The book is called Well Beings. It’s an engaging, cultural history of wellness that reveals its origins in the experimental atmosphere of the 1970s. Icon Books are publishing it.

More information along with some early responses can be found here: https://www.iconbooks.com/ib-title/well-beings/.

Heffers is one of the oldest bookshops in Cambridge. Paus is a wonderful outdoor bathing and retreat centre in Bourn, which offers a spa-like atmosphere, beautiful scenery, and a bistro.

The book is called Well Beings. It’s an engaging, cultural history of wellness that reveals its origins in the experimental atmosphere of the 1970s

The book is called Well Beings. It’s an engaging, cultural history of wellness that reveals its origins in the experimental atmosphere of the 1970s

The Heffers event will be an ‘in-conversation’. The Paus event will be an author’s talk.

Copies of the book will be available at each event or can be ordered via the publisher: https://www.iconbooks.com/ib-title/well-beings/.

Book details: 

At both events I’m going to be talking about my book, Well Beings (Icon Books, 2024) which is a cultural history of alternative health and wellness in the 1970s.

I look at the Esalen Institute, primal screaming, floatation tanks and the birth of the modern health and well-being industry we now know as wellness.

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In short, its hippies doing yoga in California and lots of references to 1970 popular culture as well as experimental attempts to be well in an age of crisis.

There’s lots in there about what the 1970s can teach us now, given the decade’s own focus on stress, over-work, nervous breakdowns and the like.

I describe how, in the 1970s, ‘wellness’ did not mean luxury products and expensive celebrity branding, it was more about an aspirational approach to individual and social well-being, often with a distinctly political spin.

‘Self-care’, for example described an autonomous approach to health in the absence of readily available support, not a momentary sense of indulgence.

Here is the publisher’s page: Well Beings – Icon Books. There’s also a Spotify playlist here to set the mood: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1zN6g41Msc1Z8nizOECBqb.

Well Beings is a stand-alone book, but it’s also a follow-up to another book I wrote about the 1960s called The Bad Trip.

About the author:

James Riley is Fellow of English Literature at Girton College, University of Cambridge.

He writes about modern and contemporary literature with an emphasis on cultural history and countercultural ideas.

He has been published widely on the 1960s and 1970s and appeared on radio / television speaking about the same, including a recent documentary about Jimi Hendrix for the BBC with Romesh Ranganathan.

He is also on Twitter / X: @EndOfSixties

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