Notes On A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig #BookReview

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.

In 2015, Matt Haig's Reasons to Stay Alive was an honest, wise and beautifully written memoir about how he learned to live again after depression and anxiety almost drove him to suicide. Having lost my brother to suicide in 2012, I found it immensely helpful and though some parts were painful to read, it is a book filled with hope. Notes on a Nervous Planet is described as the follow-up to Reasons but though Matt still includes his own personal experiences, it's less of a memoir and more an exploration about how modern life may be contributing to the rise in rates of stress and anxiety.
With its short chapters that look at subjects such as the frantic pace of life, insecurity, mirroring on social media and the war on sleep,  I found Notes on a Nervous Planet was the perfect book to dip in and out of, and each time came away with something to think about. By linking themes in the book to his own experiences, the book has an honest, friendly feel to it and as such never feels patronising or prescriptive. It's not a self-help manual - though there is much here that is helpful - but instead it contains little tips and discoveries which Matt Haig has realised make it easier for him to negotiate twenty-first century life and which will probably benefit a lot of us.
Although it acknowledges that we live in a fast, commercial world which has changed more quickly than humans have evolved to cope with, it doesn't suggest modern life is rubbish and everything is doom and gloom. Matt Haig recognises the many advantages we have but suggests ways to manage the often overwhelming stimuli we are all presented with on a daily basis. Though many of the subjects here have been discussed often, Matt's fresh approach will encourage readers to consider their own lives; from social media addiction to how we are manipulated by businesses to the dangerous toxicity of work culture. The chapter, 'A note from the beach' is written as if from the point of view of the beach itself and is the perfect antidote to all those magazine and newspaper articles about the importance of having the 'right' body for the beach,

'I was around at the dawn of life itself.
And I have to tell you something.

I don't care about your body.

I am a beach.'

The use of lists, poems, personal asides and humour combine to produce a book which is perceptive and thought-provoking. All of Matt Haig's books are a balm for the soul, he writes with such warmth and insight, and Notes on a Nervous Planet is no exception. Towards the end of the book he includes a forty point list of things he tells himself when things get too much and though some of the advice may seem obvious, we sometimes need to see it in black and white. We need to read that it's okay to cry; that we shouldn't compare the worst bits of our life with the best bits of other people's; that even during manic times we should add a comma to our day and arguably most importantly of all that a human being is complete just being a human. 'We are our own destination.'
Notes on a Nervous Planet is the book the world needs right now, it's a cautionary read but is ultimately a life-affirming, uplifting reminder that love, hope and kindness are what make us human and the rest of it is just stuff. It's absolutely essential reading for anybody who ever feels pressurised by our modern world - in other words, most of us.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is published by Canongate and is widely available from bookshops in the UK. It can be purchased online here.

About the Author
Matt Haig is the number one bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and six highly acclaimed novels for adults, including How to Stop Time, The Humans and The Radleys. He has also written books for children and has won the Blue Peter Book Award, the Smarties Book Prize and been shortlisted three times for the Carnegie Medal. He has sold more than a million books in the UK and his work has been translated into over forty languages.
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