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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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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Heroes by Stephen Fry

Heroes by Stephen Fry

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  • Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology #2
  • Nonfiction
  • Mythology
  • Retellings
  • Paperback
  • 476 pages
  • Goodreads rating: 4.31

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Such is the paradox of living. We willingly accept that we have no will.”

Stephen Fry, Heroes

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures is the sequel to Mythos, in which Stephen Fry (re)tells classic Greek Mythology. Where Mythos tells the tales of the Greek Gods and their victims, Heroes focuses solely on, sorry for stating the obvious, the heroes of Greek Mythology. It tells the stories of Perseus, Heracles, Oedipus and many others. The Heroes kill horrible beasts, endure the wrath of jealous wives and complete impossible labours.

“Oh Icarus, Icarus, my beloved boy. Why couldn’t you listen? Why did you have to fly so close to the sun?”

Stephen Fry, Heroes

I enjoyed reading Heroes a lot. It definitely lived up to the expectations that Mythos had set. On the whole, the contents of the book appealed to me more than that of Mythos, since the adventures of Greek heroes interest me more than the gods’ pedigree. I read some reviews saying that Heroes is much more organised than Mythos and I have to agree. Heroes is organised by hero. All the adventures of a hero are bundled in chronological order in a chapter with the name of that hero, whereas Mythos was full of shorter stories and felt like complete chaos. What still kind of bothered me, though it isn’t really Fry’s fault, is the insane amount of names in this book. Every time Fry introduces a new character of creature, the name is spelled in capital letters, which happens pretty much every page.. luckily there is a List of Characters in the back of the book. It’s about 40 pages long, so I guess that tells you all you need to know.

Lessons I’ve learned from reading Heroes:

  • If you don’t like someone, just send them to kill some kind of bull and hopefully you’ll never see them again;
  • It is totally okay to throw your children off a mountain if the oracle vaguely tells you to;
  • All mythological creatures are dumb as hell, either insult or flatter them and you’ve practically already won;
  • If you don’t know who your father is, it’s a safe bet to assume it’s Zeus;
  • Don’t insult the gods, especially not by claiming you’re better at something than they are or by having sex on their altar;
  • Beastiality was completely normal in ancient times;
  • If you lay eyes on a handsome youth or girl, it is customary to tell them you love them within the first 10 minutes and then betray your family and risk your life to be with them.

“An unamused Hades cast them into stone chairs, their naked buttocks stuck to the seats, their legs bound by living snakes.”

Stephen Fry, Heroes

Heroes is exactly what you’d expect when you let a comedian write a nonfiction book. The information is definitely there, but you’re not always sure whether he’s kidding or not. I’m pretty sure he paraphrased a little, now and then.

Of course not every hero in Greek mythology is accounted for, but the biggest names are definitely there. It felt like Fry made an attempt to shorten the stories as much as possible to be able to fit more of them into a book, which affected the stories negatively, because a lot of detail was left out. I understand Fry’s choice in this, though, for the book is already 476 pages long and as much as I enjoy Greek mythology, I don’t think I would read an 800 page book about it.

Though this is technically the second book in a series of three (so far), it isn’t necessary to read them in that order. Heroes sometimes gives a reference to Mythos, but you usually get a one sentence summary of the story Fry is referring to.

TW: it may not really be a trigger, but there’s a lot of murder, familicide and sex with mortals, gods and animals, yes, animals, in this book. It’s not very descriptive, but nevertheless, I would recommend younger readers with a curiosity towards Greek mythology to start off by reading some Rick Riordan books, like the Percy Jackson, The Trials of Apollo or the Mark of Athena series. That’s about 15 books worth of kid-friendly fiction based on Greek mythology.

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