The Power of Nunchi: The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success

Penguin. Nov. 2019. 240p. ISBN 9780143134466. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780525506263.
In the wake of Meik Wiking’s widely popular Little Book of Hygge comes this latest from Hong (The Birth of Korean Cool), who asserts that the Korean concept of nunchi is not just a quaint custom but a subtle art of gauging other people’s thoughts and feelings to build harmony, trust, and cooperation. The author refers to this skill as a superpower, a form of emotional intelligence that enables one to “read” quickly a room or situation and respond appropriately. Hong instructs readers how to develop nunchi and use it to improve their everyday life. One intriguing rule is “never pass up a good opportunity to shut up,” advice that can serve everyone well. In contrast, psychologist Navarro considers the Japanese art of kintsugi, which focuses on tending to what is broken while making reconstruction highly visible. While the term kintsugi actually refers to the repairing of objects, Navarro applies it to healing one’s own broken pieces with loving attention and kindness. Navarro suggests that we can face adversity head-on by first picking up the pieces, analyzing what happened, connecting with our emotional strength, and restoring what was taken apart. Navarro offers specifics for healing after job loss, raising low self-esteem, and finding hope, then segues into mottainai, giving oneself a new opportunity.
VERDICT These two books give readers the chance to incorporate principles into their daily lives that will help them see through many everyday challenges.
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