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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The Midnight Library Book Review

The Midnight Library Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Fiction / contemporary / magical realism
  • Paperback
  • 288 pages
  • Goodreads rating: 4.07
  • TW: depression, suicide, anxiety

Nora Seed has decided that she has absolutely no reason left to live. She has nothing but regrets for all of the choices she has made. She has nothing and nobody will miss her. She ends her life at the stroke of midnight. When she wakes up, she sees a library. This is not the afterlife, but a Midnight Library, where every book is a life she could have led if she had made different choices. She gets to live those lives to see what could have been. If she can find a life that leaves her with no regrets, she gets to stay there.

“A person was like a city. You couldn’t let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don’t like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worthwhile.”

Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

Matt Haig has a way with words, that’s for sure. His writing is soft and gentle, but still gets its point across. I didn’t know that Haig had struggled with his own mental health when I read the book, but I had a hunch. He describes depression and anxiety from the main character’s point of view in a way that I’ve never seen any writer describe it before, which made me wonder about his own experiences with mental illness. Turns out I was right (though for his sake, I would rather have been wrong). Haig approaches such delicate subjects with so much care, but he also makes it clear that it is okay to talk about mental health. There is no taboo around mental illness in this book. Though the book is a work of fiction, there are plenty of ideas on regrets and mental health to take away from it.

“Sometimes just to say your own truth out loud is enough to find others like you.”

Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

I read this book as a part of a buddy read back in December, which had its pros and cons. Pro: the book was a little slow, especially around the 50% mark. Spreading the book out over multiple days definitely helped keeping me interested (I loved the book, but I have a hard time getting through slow-paced books). Con: If someone who hasn’t read the book is in charge of dividing the pages, you end up with pauses in places where it was just getting interesting.

“You’re overthinking it.’ ‘I have anxiety. I have no other type of thinking available.”

Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

It was the concept of the book that really made me want to read it. I didn’t really know Matt Haig or anything he has written, but the summary really spoke to me. It wasn’t at all what I had expected the book would be about and I was intrigued. It is wonderfully executed as well, I was definitely not disappointed. At no point was I bored with the story or did I find it predictable. Haig kept surprising me with turns on events and was always one step ahead. Every time I thought I knew what was happening, it turned out.. I didn’t.

I would definitely recommend this book to any- and everyone. If depression, suicide or anxiety are a trigger for you, don’t do it, though. These are not just a scene or two, they’re a main theme throughout the book. Everyone else: if you haven’t read this yet, I urge you to pick it up. You’ll read a wonderful work of fiction that might actually teach you a thing or two. This will definitely not be the last Matt Haig book I read. Feel free to send me recommendations for my next one.

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