Mini Review: The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

Mini Review: The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Nonfiction
  • Psychology/mental health
  • Paperback
  • 272 pages
  • Goodreads rating: 4.13

The Comfort Book is Matt Haig’s third nonfiction book about mental health and mental illness. Just like the first two, this book is autobiographical and contains a collection of stories meant to comfort you in an increasingly stressful world.

The Comfort Book definitely lives up to the expectations set by the title. Reading it literally feels like somebody is hugging for a few pages. You need to be present for the full experience, though. If you’re just flicking through, you’re not going to get the full effect. Even though the book is literally written to make you feel good/better, it’s not necessarily an easy, relaxing read. I zoned out every once in a while and I put down the book to pick up a little later, so that I wouldn’t just be reading to finish, but to actually learn and gain something (this is actually a theme that is mentioned in the book).

“It is easier to learn to be soaked and happy than to learn how to stop the rain.”

Matt Haig, The Comfort Book

I would recommend this book to pretty much everyone, at least everyone who is open to the idea of changing their mindset in order to be happier. While it is definitely a comforting book, it also encourages you to look at yourself a little critically. I am definitely someone who has a habit of being completely bummed out when it is raining (see quote) when I was planning to go outside, the rain could completely ruin my day. Since I read this book, I’ve been on a run while it was raining twice already, something I never thought possible. This book is already making me a better/happier person.

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Rereading Harry Potter – Week 14

Rereading Harry Potter – Week 14

Hi fellow bookworms! Thank you for clicking on the second to last Prisoner of Azkaban post. We are so close to the exciting finale that I pretty much know by heart (the movie version anyway). I decided to cut the final 130 pages into two posts, since it would otherwise become way too long. Let’s get started!

We left off at Gryffindor finally winning the Quidditch Cup. Wood and McGonagall are over the moon and so is pretty much everyone except Slytherin house. By now it’s June and everyone is getting ready to take their exams. The Astronomy exam is being held at midnight and how cool is that? I wish I had a class like Astronomy when I was in school, but no, it was all maths and geography for me. During History of Magic, Harry writes down pretty much everything that Florean Fortescue had ever told him about medieval witch hunts. That seems about right, I remember learning more French in one week of Duolingo than I did in 6 years at school. It seems like Hogwarts, sadly, has the same problem. Is this a dig at the school system? I don’t know about the school system in the UK, but the Dutch one could definitely use an upgrade.

The Divination exam with Professor Trelawney is next. She tests every student individually. When Harry is finished with his exam, Trelawney suddenly starts predicting the rise of the Dark Lord with the help of his servant’s aid, who will be freed TONIGHT. Boy, are we in for an eventful evening. The events from here on out have always been one of my favourites from the entire series. I’m so excited!

‘My boy, you may well be seeing the outcome of poor Hagrid’s trouble with the Ministry of Magic! Look closer… does the Hippogriff appear to… have its head?’

Professor Trelawney, Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban

Meanwhile, Buckbeak’s appeal has taken place and sadly, Hagrid has lost, which means that Buckbeak will be executed at sunset. Despite the fact that Hagrid told them not to come, they decide to retrieve the Invisibility Cloak from the secret passage (or rather, send Hermione, because Snape will be ready to give them detention the minute they come near that statue) and go see Hagrid anyway. They find Scabbers in one of the pots at Hagrid’s house and Ron apologises to Hermione. Fudge, Dumbledore and the executioner arrive at Hagrid’s hut, so the golden trio slip on their Invisibility Cloak and start making their way back to the castle. When they’re halfway to the castle, they hear the swish and thud of an axe from the direction of Hagrid’s hut, which means that Buckbeak must have been executed.. Even though I know that it was just a pumpkin that lost its head, because naturally they are going to rescue Buckbeak (or going to have rescued or whatever), this moment still gets me every time!

Then Scabbers makes a run for it in the direction of the Whomping Willow. Enter Crookshanks and the Grim, two seemingly unlikely bff’s and also a very cool name for a pet store. The big black dog drags Ron into a tunnel at the base of the Whomping Willow. Crookshanks touches a knot at the base of the trunk, which makes the Whomping Willow relax all of its branches, so that Harry and Hermione can cross safely. They enter the tunnel and follow it all the way to a dark landing with an open door. They enter the room and find Ron, with Scabbers in his lap. But where is the dog? Plot twist! There is no dog! The dog is in fact Sirius Black!

Harry wants to kill Sirius asap, but Sirius makes him listen to the whole story of the betrayal of his parents first. Lupin barges in and interrupts Sirius, though (rude). He was looking at the Marauder’s Map and suddenly saw Peter Pettigrew appear, which was naturally a little odd, since he’s supposed to be dead and everything. I can’t help but wonder, is Hagrid’s hut on the map? Do you think Pettigrew was hiding in there because it isn’t on the map? Could be.. Lupin reveals that Scabbers is indeed not a rat, but a wizard by the name of Peter Pettigrew. How scarred do you think Ron is after finding out he has been sharing a bed with a middle-aged wizard for 12 years?

Meanwhile, Hermione proves yet again that she’s the brightest witch of her age by deducing that they must be in the Shrieking Shack and also, Lupin is a Werewolf. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that she is the only one who figured out that Lupin is a werewolf, with Lupin getting sick every full moon and his boggart changing into full moon and everything. Lupin’s friends became Animagi to be there for him during a full moon, when he went up to the Shrieking Shack to sit out his transformation. If they went with him as humans, they would’ve probably died, but as animals, Lupin would not harm them. The Whomping Willow and the tunnels that lead to the Shrieking Shack were all put there for Lupin’s use, so that he could safely go to Hogwarts and not, you know, kill anyone.

Snape joins the party too, hidden under the Invisibility Cloak that the golden trio had left lying around. Earlier in the book, Snape told Harry that his father did indeed save Snape’s life, but only because he had put his life at risk in the first place. Lupin tells them the whole story: Snape had always been curious about what the four of them were up to and one day Sirius tricked him into going up to the Whomping Willow during a full moon. James stopped him from meeting his maker by the hands (claws) of a fully grown werewolf.

Snape tries to hand Sirius over to the Dementors, but Harry takes him out in stead so that Sirius and Lupin can finally finish their explanation. It is revealed that Sirius was in fact not the Secret Keeper, but had made Peter the Secret Keeper, because they would never go after him. With a flash of blue light, they make Scabbers transform back into Peter Pettigrew.

That’s it for this week! Next week will be the grand finale to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I’m looking forward to it so much, the ending to this book is one of my favourites from the entire series. Subscribe if you want to be kept up to date on the rest of the series! I’ll see you all next week!

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Mini Reviews: Reasons to Stay Alive & Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Mini Reviews: Reasons to Stay Alive & Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Nonfiction
  • Self Help
  • Psychology/Mental Health
  • Hardcover
  • 266 pages
  • Goodreads rating: 4.11

Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt Haig’s memoir from the years his depression and anxiety were at their worst. Haig describes how he crawled out of his mental illness(es) step by step with the help of his girlfriend/wife.

“How to stop time: kiss.

How to travel in time: read.

How to escape time: music.

How to feel time: write.

How to release time: breathe.”

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Reasons to Stay Alive is definitely my favourite one of these two books. It felt a little more hopeful, where Notes on A Nervous Planet felt more of an instruction manual at times. Reasons to Stay Alive felt like 266 warm hugs that you can just take when you need one. Every page shows you a different aspect of life that makes it worth living. Haig’s writing is so open and honest and I have the biggest respect for him that he is willing to share his own experiences in this way. This book, and Notes on a Nervous Planet too, may actually save lives. I recommend buying this books and just reading a couple of pages whenever you are having a bad day. It will make all the difference.

Notes on A Nervous Planet

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Nonfiction
  • Self Help
  • Psychology/Mental Health
  • Paperback
  • 310 pages
  • Goodreads rating: 4.00

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a follow-up on Reasons to Stay Alive, although I read them in the “wrong” order. There are a lot of references to its predecessor, though none that you will not understand if you haven’t read Reasons to Stay Alive first.

Notes on a Nervous Planet explores how certain aspects of modern society can feed our anxiety and other mental illnesses (depression, eating disorders etc.). It describes how every technological advancement can also have its drawbacks, but also how to shield yourself from aspects of society that negatively influence your mood and mental health. The book focuses a lot on social media and the news, but there are sections on all sorts of subjects, such as the way we work and the importance of sleep.

The writing in Notes on a Nervous Planet (and Reasons to Stay Alive) is very accessible. Like I said about RtSA, the way Haig describes his own struggles with mental health is very open and honest. I especially like how he gets to the bottom of things like WHY supermarkets (a recurring theme in both books) can overwhelm people with anxiety so much. He explores the biology of it and explains that we were not made to have so many choices and so much stimulation at once. It makes you feel less guilty about having trouble with doing certain things or going certain places.

My other favourite thing from NoaNP was when Haig invented Psychograms. There is no unit in which you can measure the psychological weight of certain things, so Haig invented one: the Psychograms. Having to make a phone call costs 200pg for example. Going grocery shopping might cost 500pg, but watching a sappy movie or reading a good book may gain you some Psychograms. I’m all for implementing this system!

I tried to keep it short and sweet, but there was a lot to talk about, in Notes on a Nervous Planet especially. I’m currently reading The Comfort Book, so I’ll be back with a mini-review on that shortly.

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Top 6 Non-Fiction Books on my TBR

Top 6 Non-Fiction Books on my TBR

Hello fellow bookworms! If you’ve been following me for a while now, you may have noticed that I haven’t written about non-fiction a lot. I am actually quite passionate about non-fiction books, especially subjects like history, politics, feminism, nutrition and psychology (that’s pretty much all of them, I guess). The problem is, I’m slightly less passionate about actually reading them. Reading, for me, is mostly a relaxing activity and non-fiction does not always fit that description. I’ve been picking up a little more non-fiction, though, lately, so I thought it was time to do some non-fiction posts. This is a list of the top 6 non-fiction books on my bookshelf that I am most excited about!

1. Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harrari

Homo Deus is the sequel to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, although both can be read separately. As the title suggests, Sapiens focuses a little more on the history of humans, where Homo Deus focuses on the future of humankind and the developments that are still to come. I read Sapiens a few years ago and, even though I really struggled to make it all the way through (I bought an extra digital copy in Dutch to read side by side with the English version, because it was easier to get through), I absolutely loved the book. I was instantly excited about Homo Deus, but since it took me so long to get through Sapiens, I decided to shelf it (pun intended) for a little while. Maybe it’s finally time!

2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

A copy of A Brief History of Time has been on my bookshelf for a while now, though I haven’t gotten around to it yet. A book by Stephen Hawking just seems incredibly daunting. It has always been at the top of my TBR, though. Can someone please talk me into starting on this one?

3. How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Two of my interests combined in one book: politics and history. I have no idea where or when I bought this book, but it’s been on my bookshelf for a while now. I’ve always been interested by the idea that the future can be predicted by looking at the past. There’s this Dutch scientist who published a couple of books and papers on the next Word War (2020 Warning by Ingo Piepers). By looking at the patterns in past wars, he predicted that the next World War would happen around 2020, give or take 4 years. Turns out, he might’ve been right. But I digress, I’m so excited to read this book and find out what we can learn from our past.

4. The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton

Don’t worry, I’m okay. I bought this book years ago, because I came across it at a bookshop and it was pink (just because I want to become smarter, doesn’t mean I can’t like pink!) and it looked interesting, so I bought it. I took a course in mental disorders in college and was fascinated by them, so I’m excited to find out what on earth we can learn from psychopaths.

5. The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal

After years of sitting on my ass, reading books, I’ve been getting into exercising and other types of movement lately. I’ve been running three times a week and supplementing that with a bit of yoga here and there (Yes, I’m looking for a little pat on the back.) An Instagram account that has really been a great help motivation-wise is @kaseykfit. She’s an exercise/healthy habit coach and she’s mentioned The Joy of Movement a couple of times. I got curious, so I bought it a few weeks ago. The book is about all the different ways that exercise is good for you (other than just weight-loss). Out of the six books on this list, I think this is the one I’m most excited about!

6. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

This book has been on my bookshelf for over 2 years and I still haven’t gotten around to it. I’m a sucker for self help books with a catchy title, especially if the cover basically promises you eternal happiness and stuff. I guess this is one of those books that you need to read once, put tabs in and annotate the hell out of and then keep it around to open up every once in a while and read the paragraphs you need at that moment. So that’s what I’ll do.

That was it for today’s list! If you enjoyed this list, make sure to subscribe either through e-mail or WordPress, or to follow me on Instagram or Twitter to be kept up to date on new posts.

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Rereading Harry Potter – Week 13

Rereading Harry Potter – Week 13

Hello again my fellow bookworms! The week has flown by again and it is time for another edition of Rereading Harry Potter. There is so much going on in this week’s pages and I’m so excited to get started.

As you may remember, we left off last week with Hermione running to McGonagall to tell her that Harry had received a Firebolt for Christmas from an unknown sender that could possibly be Sirius Black. The broomstick was temporarily confiscated to be checked for jinxes and Harry and Ron were naturally very cross with Hermione. So cross, in fact, that they will hardly be speaking to each other for the rest of this week’s pages. In part 2 of Ron and Harry not speaking to Hermione and the other way around, a little further up the road, Crookshanks supposedly ate Scabbers. Call me silly, but I would probably be a little cross with you as well if your pet ate my pet.

After the rest of the school has returned from their Christmas break, classes start up again and so do Lupin’s dementor lessons. As you probably know, you have to think of a happy memory, wave your wand and yell “Expecto patronum!” and it will produce a Patronus. Sounds easy, but I’ve been trying and thinking of a happy memory that would be good enough to produce a Patronus is actually quite hard! Let alone when you’ve been orphaned as a baby and have been forced to live with your abusive aunt and uncle for 13 years. I guess that’s why it’s “very advanced magic”.

Harry finally manages to produce a weak excuse for a Patronus (everyone’s a critic these days) and they decide to call it a night. Harry asks Lupin that since he went to school with his father, he must have known Sirius Black as well, which causes Lupin to get all defensive and tell Harry to go on up to bed. Curious, very curious..

During their next Anti-Dementor class, Harry asks Lupin what a Dementor has under his hood and he answers that question a little too.. vividly, to my taste. The way he describes it makes me imagine a combination of the Kraken, a leech and the purple pentapus from the Avatar series. Enjoy that mental image. Lupin describes the Dementor’s Kiss and tells Harry that that’s the fate that awaits Black if they ever catch him.

To win the Quidditch Cup, Gryffindor would have to win from both Ravenclaw and Slytherin. They’re playing Ravenclaw first, who have Cho Chang as a Seeker. I’m guessing Rowling has a think for jocks, because apart from Hermione, pretty much everyone of importance plays Quidditch.. Harry, Cho, Cedric and Malfoy are all Seekers and so was Harry’s father. Fred and George play Quidditch and so will Ginny and Ron in a few years. Viktor Krum plays Quidditch and most of the other Weasleys as well. Did I miss anyone?

The Gryffindor’s next Quidditch match is played against Ravenclaw. Lee Jordan is providing the commentary during the match. I think this is the first time Lee Jordan is actually introduced in the books, even though he has already made several appearances in the movies at this point in the story. I guess they liked the character. During the match, Harry’s crush on Cho is foreshadowed by him “noticing that the Seeker is actually very pretty”. I’m looking forward to their relationship and seeing how different it is from what I remember from it. Just when Harry spots the Snitch, a couple of Dementors come onto the Quidditch field. Harry casts a Patronus their way and goes after the Snitch. When he dismounts his broomstick with the Snitch in his hand, he finds out that they hadn’t been Dementors at all. It had been Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle pretending they were a Dementor. McGonagall gives them all detention and takes 50 points from Slytherin (uhm, Minerva? When some of your own students stayed up past their bedtime, you deducted 50 points EACH, what’s up with that?)

After the game, there’s a party in the Gryffindor common room until well past midnight. That night, Ron wakes up to Sirius Black standing over his bed with a knife. Turns out, he got the password to Gryffindor Tower from the list of passwords that Neville had lost. I told you the whole password system was a bad idea security-wise!

The next day, Hagrid sends Harry an owl that he wants to have tea with him and Ron that evening. When they meet up with him, he tells them that he wants to discuss Hermione. Hermione has been to see him a lot lately and has helped him with Buckbeak’s defense (almost forgot about that). Apparently she’s been struggling with her enormous workload and not being able to talk to her friends. The movie never showed that she was struggling with her workload and I’ve always wondered how she could possibly keep that schedule up. It sets impossible standards, so I’m glad to see that it is actually portrayed as impossible.

It’s time for another Hogsmeade day that weekend and Hermione, the royal party pooper, threatens to tell McGonagall if Harry decides to go to Hogsmeade again. I actually agree with her this time, since there is like a billion security measures to keep Harry safe and Harry decides that there’s no way in hell that he’s going to give up on going to Hogsmeade. It’s kind of like when the whole country would be in quarantine to protect those who are in poor health while those in poor health are partying away. Don’t be like this, Harry! And on top of all that, this dumbass got himself caught by Malfoy! Malfoy of course runs to Snape, who points out how arrogant it was of Harry to run off to Hogsmeade while the whole Ministry of Magic is trying to protect him. I didn’t think I’d ever agree with Snape, yet here we are. He makes a whole point of insulting Harry’s father until he loses it and then Snape does this really cool thing where he calls Lupin through the fireplace. I’m guessing he uses Floo Powder or something, let’s hope they’ll explain it to him some day. Lupin, of course, saves Harry’s ass and then confiscates the Marauder’s Map. In the movie, that is the point where he points out that Peter Pettigrew is on that map, but I guess Rowling is saving that for a later time.

On their way back from Snape’s office, Ron and Harry run into Hermione, who informs them that Hagrid has lost Buckbeak’s case. Malfoy takes the fact that Hagrid is inconsolable as an opportunity to make fun of him even more, which earns him a good smack across the face from Hermione.

The night before the final match against Slytherin, Harry has trouble sleeping. When he looks out his window, he sees the Grim moving around the edge of the forest, next to Crookshanks. A while back, I read a fan theory of how Crookshanks was actually the Potter’s old cat, who ended up being forgotten and then finally sold to Hermione. I always thought it was a little farfetched and it had little truth to it, but now that I’ve read this, I can kind of see where they’re coming from. What if Crookshanks was indeed the Potter’s cat and Sirius and Crookshanks were working together to get rid of Peter Pettigrew. That would also explain why Crookshanks has been targeting Scabbers. Just let that sink in!

The next day, it is time for the final Quidditch match against Slytherin. Gryffindor needs to win by at least 200 points to win the Quidditch Cup. Of course Slytherin is determined NOT to let Gryffindor win, so they try all sorts of tricks to sabotage the Gryffindors. Rowling really tried her best to make us hate the Slytherins in this scene. Naturally, Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup and Hagrid, McGonagall and Wood are sobbing and the rest of the school is partying their asses off. And that’s it for this week!

So we’ve only got about 130 pages left in this book, so depending on how much there is to comment on in those pages, I’m either going to make on large post about it or divide it into two posts. I haven’t read the chapters yet, so I guess I’ll decide when I do. Stay tuned!

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