52 Good Books

Book Review 43 – Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

A few weeks ago, in celebration of mental health awareness week, my employers put on a Fika morning. We were enticed in with the following :

‘Fika is a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning “to have coffee”, often accompanied with eating baked goods and chatting to your fellow work colleagues in a relaxed environment.’

I’m super glad I went because as well as having my cake and eating it, I got to borrow this weeks book from a selection that were left out.

Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt Haig’s memoir based on his experiences of depression. I never used to read memoirs, I always thought they were boring, but I was just plain wrong about this. I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell proved me wrong the first time and this book has proved me wrong yet again. Although you could argue that this is a hybrid of memoir and self help. Like Maggie O’Farrell’s book, I found myself feeling a sense of gratitude to Haig for sharing these most intimate moments of his life. Laying yourself bare on the page must take some guts. Particularly when it comes to a subject which is still shrouded in taboos.

Haig is candid about his terrifying experience of depression. For those of us lucky enough to never have experienced it, this is a glimpse into what people go through at the toughest stages of their illness. For those who have battled with their own mental health or continue to do so, there may be something in this book that would resonate with them and give them some tools to work with.

There are also some thought provoking insights in this book. At one point Haig ponders on why we feel these extremes of emotions:

The price for being intelligent enough to be the first species to be fully aware of the cosmos might just be a capacity to feel a whole universe’s worth of darkness.

I found myself thinking about human nature a lot whilst reading this. What drives us, what makes us happy and what, at the end of the day, is important to us. Any book that gives us the time and space to think about these things can only be a good thing.

Reasons to Stay Alive is an easily accessible, quick read. It is broken up into short chapters with different focuses on depression or which progress Haig’s own story. The point that Haig presses is that we are all human and despite where we come from, in our very essence, we are all structured the same way. Depression and poor mental health can affect anyone. Literally anyone. You, me, your next door neighbour’s third cousin; anyone. So treat your mental health just like your physical and look after yourself. You can start by reading this book!

Next Monday I’ll be reading The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw (I do recognise the irony of the title, following this week’s one, but it wasn’t intentionally done!) Hope to see you back here for my next review.

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