Title: Notes on a Nervous Planet

Author: Matt Haig

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Canongate Books

The Blurb

The world is messing with our minds.

Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.

– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?
– How do we stay human in a technological world?
– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?

After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him. Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the twenty-first century.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

There are very few people who are as candid as Matt Haig is about mental health – in particular, his own. Matt Haig has spoken openly about how he has been suicidal, how he has panic attacks, how basic things that people take for granted are like mountains he has to climb on a daily basis. For this, I am grateful to Matt Haig.

As someone who suffers with anxiety, I know how easy it is to become introverted and to shut people out of my life due to my condition. I am lucky in the sense that I know the root of my anxiety and I can adapt my life around it (for full disclosures sake my anxiety centres on my Ulcerative Colitis and the locations of bathroom facilities which has led to a mild form of agoraphobia). However, it is rare that someone will speak so honestly about this unknown.

What is great about Notes on a Nervous Planet is that Matt Haig looks at all the bad aspects of mental health but he celebrates all the good stuff in life. He isn’t saying that by looking at all the greatness that life has to offer will change your anxiety or “fix” you but he is showing that there is a light at the end of the darkness.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig is available now.

For more information regarding Matt Haig (@matthaig1) please visit www.matthaig.com.

For more information regarding Canongate Books (@canongatebooks) please visit www.canongate.co.uk.

Title: The Story Cure An A – Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise

Author: Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud

Pages: 369 Pages

Publisher: Canongate Books

The Blurb

The stories that shape our children’s lives are too important to be left to chance. With The Story Cure, bibliotherapists Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin have put together the perfect manual for grown-ups who want to initiate young readers into one of life’s greatest pleasures.

There’s a remedy for every hiccup and heartache, whether it’s between the covers of a picture book, a pop-up book, or a YA novel. You’ll find old favourites like The Borrowers and The Secret Garden alongside modern soon-to-be classics by Michael Morpurgo, Malorie Blackman and Frank Cottrell-Boyce, as well as helpful lists of the right reads to fuel any obsession – from dogs or dinosaurs, space or spies. Wise and witty, The Story Cure will help any small person you know through the trials and tribulations of growing up, and help you fill their bookshelves with adventure, insight and a lifetime of fun.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

A few years ago I was off sick and bed bound for a few months and to cheer myself up I bought the book A Novel Cure – a book that acts as a guide for any ailment. If you have a tummy ache this book will direct you to a book that will make you feel better. And it really did. The novelty of the book was an element that made me feel better but equally it was great reading a book by likeminded book lovers that helped direct me to books I may never have come across.

When I realised that there was a second book that was aimed at a younger generation I couldn’t help but buy it. I love YA fiction and The Story Cure was equally, if not more, charming than its predecessor. The list of books with the accompanying illustrations was interesting and I definitely added a few to my TBR pile.

If you are struggling to choose what book to read next then these two books are a must have on your bookshelf.

The Story Cure: An A – Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise by Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud is available now.

For more information regarding Susan Elderkin (@susanelderkinUK) please visit www.susanelderkin.com.

For more information regarding Ella Berthoud (@Ellaberthoud) please visit www.ellaberthoud.com.

For more information regarding Canongate Books (@) please visit www.canongate.co.uk.

Title: The Scribblings of a Madcap Genius

Author: Noel Fielding

Pages: 300 Pages

Publisher: Canongate Books

The Blurb

Enter the surreal, diverse, self-styled madcap universe of Noel Fielding, comedian extraordinaire (Mighty Boosh) and the maddest man on TV. Originally trained at art college, this collection represents some of his superbly original paintings, drawing, thoughts, scribbles, portraits, designs, defacing’s and much more. Essential for both fans and anyone else.

The Review

I love Noel Fielding, that androgynous bird of prey! He is, as the title of his book suggests, a ‘Madcap Genius’. I think the reason why I love Noel Fielding is that he is so very silly. He takes his stories or his characters to places that you would never think that they could go to. This is definitely the vibe that you get when you look at his book of art The Scribblings of a Madcap Genius. It is crazy, silly and to some extent very serious. You can see that Fielding takes his talent seriously and if I was being a bit pretentious I would say that his work is a reflection of postmodern society but since I don’t have a clue about art, I won’t.

Either way, if you like Noel Fielding you will like this book.

The Scribblings of a Madcap Genius by Noel Fielding is available now

For more information regarding Noel Fielding (@noelfielding11) please visit www.noelfielding.co.uk.

For more information regarding (@canongatebooks) please visit www.canongatebooks.co.uk.

3 Stars

The Blurb

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE?

Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

‘I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.’

The Review

Some books are read for fun, some for education, some of them are read for escapism but then a book like Reasons to Stay Alive comes along and it falls into that elusive category – books you NEED to read. There are people that would question as to why they need to read a memoir. My answer to this is because Reasons to Stay Alive is so much more than a memoir of a person but it is an insight into one of the scariest most heartbreaking illnesses that there is – mental illness.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert on mental illness but I can only go with my own experiences – both as a spectator and (at times) sufferer of panic attacks to know how harrowing it can be. Matt Haig has opened the door to anyone who has no personal knowledge of this chronic condition.

In my own personal case I can justify my panic attacks; mine are down to suffering from Ulcerative Colitis. My IBD closes me off somewhat. Long journeys, walking to the local shops that are literally three minutes away – in fact, travel in general causes a stir in me that I find difficult to control. Going out is like a military operation. Routes are planned ahead with maximum places to stop in mind should my IBD play up. It probably won’t but that doesn’t stop the slow crawl of panic. The reason I am telling you this is because in Haig’s book he wrote my experience. Not something about me but his experience is exactly what I go through on a daily basis. It was eye opening and I felt – for want of a better word – ‘normal.’

The difference between Haig and I is that I know when my brain closes off and I can’t find that ceiling to the panic. Haig, it seems, does not have that luxury. That he deals with mental health issues on such a vast scale (everyday, no less) makes him a superhero in my eyes. Equally, I am eternally grateful to him for writing a book that, without a shadow of a doubt, will help those who read it. It helped me.

Whilst Reasons to Stay Alive is a book about mental health disorders should be depressing it is somewhat ironic that it leaves you feeling upbeat and positive after reading it. Matt Haig, in his almost painful honesty, may have written the book of 2015.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig is available now.

Follow Matt Haig (@matthaig1) on Twitter.

Reasons to Stay Alive

As you may have seen (if you have read my previous post A Month in the Life of a Book Addict) I am addicted to books. I am not ashamed of this addiction…although I am slightly worried about my inability to stop buying books and also the structural integrity of my home under all the weight of the paper. I love books of all kinds and from most genres. If there are words on something I will give it a read – there is no prejudice here. An often told anecdote in my family is how I used to take forever with my breakfast because I would be reading the cereal packet.

It has been said (although not over my aforementioned breakfast table) that when you see someone reading a book you like it is the book recommending the person…or something to that effect. What I have noticed about myself recently is that a new reading habit has emerged. I like reading books about books. I am drawn to knowing what authors are recommending, why they liked the book, what was going on in their lives during this time. Frequently, the books that they mention make it to my book wish list even though I have far too many to read as it is. My Kindle books are in the thousands, my NetGalley downloads are becoming silly and my actual physical copies already manifest two small shelves, one large double layered shelf and I have had to purchase a further six tier double layer shelf for the overspill.

Quite frankly, this amount of literature is daunting. When you think about it and you do the maths I will probably never read all the books that I own. This will not be through lack of trying. At thirty years old, let us say that I am (optimistically) a third of the way through my life. Let us also imagine that I average one book a week (this is a very conservative estimate) that means I only have approximately 3,120 books left to read. This is terrible. In those optimistic sixty years that I have left there are bound to be more books that are released that I want to read. I am mathematically screwed.

However, that does not stop me reading books about books which kind of negate the whole point of reading books; books which deserve to be read.

That being said, here are three of the best ones that I have read recently.

 

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

As some of you may or may not know, I almost died this year. If you didn’t know then you can read all about it here – My IBD Story. However, I didn’t die but recuperation has taken (and is still taking) a long time. Since being out of hospital I have spent my days reading; consuming books with a vociferous appetite. A book that I happened to stumble across was this delightful little gem – The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails.

Broken down into its simplest form it is a book that looks at what illness or condition that you have and directs you to the best literature to make you feel better. So say you are fatigued or you suffer from insomnia or you are an alcoholic or you have period pain this book has the answer for you. It is great because you can dip in and out of it or you can do what I did and read it from A to Z. A lot of the joy comes from seeing the writers mention a book that you have read.

This is definitely the quirkiest book that I have read this year and one that I will probably be giving out to my friends at Christmas time.

 

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller

Ok. I admit it. I was seduced by the title. Escaping near death made me hungry for adventure; safe adventure mind, nothing more daring than perhaps a paper cut from a new book purchase. Also, having nearly died this year (have I mentioned that I nearly died?) I wanted to see if literature could save my life too. Heck it had already cured my ails; and it had also cured my boredom – seriously sitting in bed getting better for a few months takes its toll on the levels of boredom. So with eagerness I picked up this tome from Andy Miller and you know what, I am awfully glad that I did.

Why you may ask. Well let me tell you. This book was special. The premise being that we all fib a little bit about literature. We have said we love a book when never having really read it just so we can stay in the conversation or even just to make ourselves look smarter.

I myself have never lied about this…well that is technically not true. I have a mini confession. Well two really. The first is that I have never made it all the way through Anna Karenina. I got to the book about the fields and I just kind of gave up. Yet on my Goodreads account I still have this Tolstoy classic listed as a book that I am currently reading. I have technically been currently reading it for near on fourteen years. I will finish this book one day. No. I will start it afresh. I will not be beaten by a man and his love for his fields.

My second confession is that I can’t actually remember if I have read Little Women or not. I know what you are thinking. How could someone not remember reading a classic like Little Women? The thing is that I know the story so well. I just can’t remember if that has come from watching the movie or reading the book. Therefore I have added this to my ‘to-be-read’ list. At least then I will know that I am not a literature fraudster.

What I liked about this book was that Miller allowed you to see how and why books mean so much to him and how they shape aspects of his life. I both respect and relate to that. Again, the titillation came from knowing that I had read certain books. Miller did have a lot on his list that I had never even heard of and so I am now keen to read some of them too.

My book wish list had increased by at least 20 at the end of reading it. This does not bode well for me.

 

Stuff I’ve Been Reading by Nick Hornby

I have recently found myself on a Nick Hornby kick. I read Juliet, Naked and A Long Way Down among others. I even did a crazy eBay order which mean accidentally purchased two copies of High Fidelity. I loathed the film even with my bizarre crush on John Cusack but I wanted to give the book a whirl.

Anyway, when I was in my local library I saw this book and I thought to myself “Hey, I like Nick Hornby’s writing. I wonder if we have any books in common.” Out of the plethora of books featured in this book (which happens to be a collection of his articles from Believer magazine – which is, to my knowledge, not affiliated with Justin Bieber or his fan base) I had read three of them. Three. Now I consider myself well read so this low number is shocking but I guess this is what happens when you read books about books rather than reading book books.