Book Review: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive is beautiful, open, honest, genuine, brave, and hopeful. It should be read by everyoneReasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haigif you’ve been depressed, are depressed, know someone who is/has been depressed. Honestly, if you are alive, this book is for you.

Author:  Matt Haig

Genre: Autobiography, memoir

Publisher: Canongate Books

Publication Date: March 5, 2015

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Have you ever had a book that you were simultaneously unable to wait for and very scared of reading? That was Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive [Matt is the author of The Humans, which you should ALL know by now that I LOVE].  I’m sure you can tell from the title a little of what it’s about, and you may or may not have been able to guess why I was nervous to read it if you’re a regular reader of my blog. I have never said this outright on my blog, but I am depressed. I have depression. I am a depressive. Do you know how terrified I am to say that on my blog? Petrified. But I’m going to say it because it will make it that much more clear why I needed and appreciated this book. From the very moment I heard about it, I needed it. And thankfully, because I interned at the amazing Canongate Books a couple of years ago, I was able to get an early, digital copy of this one and didn’t have to wait the several weeks it’s going to take for my UK pre-order to get here (though I’m still quite looking forward to my physical copy).

I read this entire book in roughly 4.5 hours. I devoured it. I also cried more than I have probably EVER cried while reading a book. But I also smiled. Maybe not a lot, but it happened. The synopsis says “It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how to live better, love better, read better and feel more.” I was pleased to find that to be very true. I felt a lot reading this book. I like that Matt mentioned that not everyone’s depression is the same, that you can be both happy and sad at the same time (“just as you can be a sober alcoholic”), and how most people will not be able to see it:

To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.

My heart pounded so HARD in my chest practically the entire time I was reading, just as it is beating hard just writing this all down.

Reasons this book made me cry:

– My own sadness and depression
– Matt’s battle with depression
– The feeling that someone could so completely understand me
– The fact that I HATE that I could relate to so much of the book
– The fact that I DON’T WANT to relate to any of it
– The “My Symptoms” section – I related to so many of these that it was a little horrifying. One of them – “A sense of being disconnected, of being a cut-out from another reality”
– “You are on guard to the point of collapse every single moment, while desperately trying to keep afloat, to breathe the air that the people on the bank all around you are breathing as easily as anything.”
– “Minds have their own weather systems. You are in a hurricane. Hurricanes run out of energy eventually. Hold on.”

Matt said at one point he hoped someone else would read his words and that maybe the pain he felt wasn’t for nothing. I know it wasn’t for nothing, but THANK YOU, Matt, for writing this book, for being brave and open and honest, for showing me I wasn’t alone no matter what the depression told me, for telling me that life will wait for me, for The Humans, for all of your words, for being alive.

Let’s get down to the bottom line, shall we? Read this book. Read this book because you have emotions and hopes and feelings. Read this book because you are human and because you are alive. Read this book to live. Reasons to Stay Alive is a celebration of life, books, words, and humanity.

Rating: Honestly, this book defies ratings. How can you rate a book like this? However, I’m sure you can tell that this book will occupy my favorites shelf right next to The Humans forever.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love but Haven’t Talked about Enough | Caught Read Handed

  2. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: My favorite reads of 2015 | Caught Read Handed

  3. Stephen Fry was asked once “What have you got to be depressed about?” and Fry replied “And what have you got to have asthma about?” I think his reply couldn’t have been more accurate. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse. Sometimes you don’t even notice it, and other times you can’t breathe. Depression is so different.

    Sorry to hear about your depression, glad you shared!
    I badly want to read this book!

  4. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books I’ve Read So Far in 2015 | Caught Read Handed

  5. This sounds like a great read, and go you for opening up! I went through a period of depression around 3 years ago, and it was only going through it at 22 that I realised I had it when I was around 12-15 but didn’t know that’s what it was then. Members of my family have also suffered from time-to-time, as have friends, many of them unable to diagnose it or seek any kind of help out of ignorance or embarrassment, or stubbornness. It’s only in recent years I’ve come to appreciate the statistic that 1 in 4 of us will suffer some form of mental health problem in our lives is so accurate. In fact, I think it’s grossly under-reported and that each and every one of us will experience it in some form, at some time. I’m very aware of my own mental health – I’ve looked a lot into psychology, emotional IQ/resilience etc. and because my family can be prone to it and other issues, I’m very conscious of how I’m feeling and of my mood, so that if I do teeter towards an unhealthy attitude I can take action to try and stomp it out. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I have to give myself a week or two of being a hermit to come around in my own time. That’s the odd thing about being an extroverted-introvert like we’ve talked about, sometimes I need to be out and socialising to pull me out of a slump, and sometimes I need to curl up indoors and do nothing for a few days. Aside from having faced depression, I have a type of anxiety that’s hard to explain. I used to get anxiety attacks from 17-20 that were brought on by PTSD, they went undiagnosed for years but over time I’ve learned to control them, so sometimes I’ll get anxious and the symptoms will start but I can stop them from developing? If that makes sense. I’m aware that I now have an anxiety disorder of sorts, and that it’s unlikely to ever go away, but when I started accepting it as a part of me, and openly told people about it (not like randomers but work colleagues, friends etc.) the symptoms actually started getting better. It seems hiding anxiety, creates anxiety. I’m also a firm believer in breaking the stigma, and I think we can only do that when people can be brave enough to admit they suffer/have suffered from it. The more people realise it’s a “normal” part of life, and that the brain can get sick just like the body can, the better. I think anyways. In my role in work, it’s also made SO MANY people open up to me because I openly talk about it, people even ask me questions without any form of ridicule or prejudice or anything, and I work with 80 men, so I think that’s huge. Apologies for the venting, I’ve no idea where all of that came from! Excellent review, this is going on the wishlist! R x

  6. ❤ ❤ ❤ It takes so much bravery to share something like this, Stefani. I'm so glad you loved this book.
    I can have a hard time reading sometimes due to my anxiety—it can really rev up my already over-active brain and make me start panicking over things that aren't real. I totally understand what it's like to read with knots in your stomach and a pounding heart.

    • ❤ Do you get that anxiety reading all types of books or just certain ones? I'm just curious. I haven't ever really had the pounding heart reaction when reading – I've definitely had it in other aspects of my life – so it was kind of strange. Just wondering how you deal with it.

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