[Review] “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey
Daily Rituals is an interesting book that outlines the daily routines of people who are famous for their creative work. I turned to the book in the middle of quarantine season, when my own days had started to feel quite unstructured and I had hoped to find inspiration to organize my life in favor of my creative pursuits.
I largely skimmed this book, reading the entries of the people I was interested (mostly authors I had read, architects, and artists). I think the concept is interesting and I am sure the blog it was adapted from was fascinating. However, there are a few things about the collection of people in this book that annoyed me and made it profoundly unrelatable:
1. There is a strong bias towards male creatives, which makes sense given that more might have been written about their lives, but also overlooks fundamental differences between how men and women are expected to, or have the luxury of, organising their lives. Many entries talk of men who retreated into their studies for hours on end, leaving chores and child-rearing to their wives. I wanted to know more about how women organized their lives, juggling conflicting domestic and professional demands. A few entries on the likes Maya Angelou, Syliva Plath, and Ayn Rand do not suffice to fill this gap in a book that has over 150 collected profiles.
2. The vast majority of profiles are about people who worked in the 19th and 20th centuries. With the exception of Haruki Murakami, I couldn’t really spot anyone who remains active today. Again, this may simply be a result of the amount of information available on creatives’ daily rituals (though I suppose interviews may have filled the gap today?) but I often felt that the book was describing people who lived in a world completely different from my own. I had hoped to learn about navigating digital life and non-creative professional obligations but it seems like most of the people profiled lived in relative luxury due to inherited wealth or early success. Only the profiles of the architects like Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier, who maintained private practices, somewhat filled this gap.
3. This is my weakest critique — the book is definitely written for a Western audience and profiles mostly Western creatives. Again, I think this overlooks lifestyle differences around the world, a consideration of which would’ve added significantly to the book.