Length: 320 pages
Recommended reader age: Adult
Publisher: Canongate books 2018
Genre: Personal memoirs/mental health
About the author:
Matt Haig is an English author from Sheffield who studied English and History at the University of Hull. He writes fiction and non-fiction books for both adults and children, his memoir “Reasons to Stay Alive” was a best seller in the UK, staying in the top 10 for 46 weeks.
More info can be found on his website and he is active on twitter.
Notes on a Nervous planet is a collection of memoirs from Matt’s time with severe anxiety and depression, lists on topics such as work, internet anxiety and being kinder to yourself.
He blends research and definitions with his own comments and experiences as well as quotes from books, interviews and conversations with people. If you have read any of his other work the writing style is much the same, if not his writing style is unique but easy to read and incredibly quotable.
I have been a huge fan of Matt Haig since I first read “Reasons to Stay Alive” while in the worst depression of my life and fell in love with his clear yet descriptive writing style and how he manages to clarify thoughts in a way I cannot. Needless to say this left me with a rather large amount of expectation for “Notes on a Nervous Planet” but it absolutely did not disappoint.
His style is true to form, although it does read as less of a book and more a collection of essays and short stories with one common theme, anxiety. I really enjoyed this though, he doesn’t hold back from discussing hard topics and is completely open and honest about the struggles he has faced in the past and how he continues to cope today. This can make it a read that encourages introspection and that I found mentally challenging at times (I am trying not to use the word “triggering” but maybe it is a little.)
The short chapters, interspersed life lessons and changing topics help to keep things light, incredibly easy to read and mean you can easily dip in and out if reading the whole book in one go is challenging.
A huge part of the focus of this book is the use of the internet and social media in a fast paced and ruthless mindset of commercialism. It is something that in this day and age is relevant to everyone with an internet connection or a smart phone. He talks openly about how twitter impacts his own mental health and gives incredibly insightful steps that we can all take to switch off from the relentless social media, to take a step back and to reconnect with loved ones and nature.
I cannot praise enough how relevant this book is to the age we live in, at the time of writing this the world is struggling with corona virus, and if ever we needed a reminder to reconnect with the world and to take a step back from consumerism it is now. If you read one book this year make it this one.
But while choice is infinite, our lives have time spans. We can’t live every life. We can’t watch every film or read every book or visit every single place on this sweet earth. Rather than being blocked by it, we need to edit the choice in front of us. We need to find out what is good for us, and leave the rest. We don’t need another world. Everything we need is here, if we give up thinking we need everything.