REVIEW: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

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“I can remember the day the old me died.”

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive (2015)

I meant to pace myself when reading Reasons to Stay Alive but somehow I opened it late one night and found myself finishing the last few lines the next evening. On one hand, I’m slightly annoyed with myself for not relishing in the writing more, but on the other hand I think it’s a testimony to how compelling a read it was.

Haig is brutally honest about his battle with depression and anxiety- something we still seem to shy away from today, even worse something we still struggle to understand. The moments in which he describes his struggles to do everyday things like getting a pint of milk are particularly poignant. The book is split into sections that detail his thoughts, his worries and his gradual recovery. In between these sections are lists that Haig has compiled detailing different aspects of his illness. For me, the most profound was the list entitled Things people say to depressives that they don’t say in other life-threatening situations which brings to light how much we trivialise mental illness in our society. It’s this attitude; this assumption that if we can’t see the effects then they can’t really be there, that proves that when it comes to mental health we’re still not quite there. Maybe Haig’s book can help put us in the right direction.

There were moments when reading that I related to. Not to make light of what he clearly went through, I know that my own worries are small by comparison, but there’s always something reassuring in knowing that you are not alone in what you feel. Maybe this initial spark of empathy will help those who don’t understand depression to finally comprehend and provide support for those who are continuing to fight.

Rating: 4/5

BOOKISH BITES: Leaf

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Leaf has become one of my favourite places in Liverpool. They have great food, cosy nooks, fresh bakes, but most importantly they have a selection of teas that will make the most stalwart tea-lover weep. Black tea, white tea, herbal, oolong, rooibos. They literally have it all and more. There glass infuser tea pots are also on the top of my wish list, right now.

What’s great is that they also sell the tea leaves in tins or sample packs so you can take them home with you. I picked up a couple of samples to try at my leisure. I’ll probably end up splurging on more!

BOOKISH FINDS: Library Loans

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I seem to be unstoppable when it comes to buying books recently, which I don’t regret at all, but my university has an impressive library and it seems like a wasted opportunity if I don’t at least take out a few books. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I am an aspiring short story writer. I’m also trying to write poetry. The verdict’s out on that one for now. So I went on a spree and reserved these books, which I was loaned until Febuary 24th. I may have been too enthusiastic, but luckily I can extend the loan for as long as I want. Hurrah!

Here’s what I borrowed:

  1. Dear Life by Alice Munro
  2. The Collected Stories by Katherine Mansfield
  3. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
  4. Saints & Sinners by Edna O’Brien
  5. Poetry in the Making by Ted Hughes

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REVIEW: Tenth of December by George Saunders

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Why was it, she sometimes wondered, that in dreams we can’t do the simplest things?

George Saunders, Tenth of December (2013)

The ten short stories of George Saunders’ Tenth of December reside in the not-too-distant future where there is a growing pressure to conform – to think, and feel, and act a certain way- and there are drugs to help you do it. Worryingly, it’s a world that doesn’t seem that far away from our own. It’s a world driven by money, appearances and material gain. Doesn’t that sound all too familiar?

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5 Short Story Collections I’ve Read

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In my humble opinion, short story collections don’t get half the recognition they deserve. Perhaps the fact I write my own short stories makes me biased, but most short story collections I have read I’ve loved.  Here are 5 I’ve particularly enjoyed (in no particular order):

  1. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
  2. Dubliners by James Joyce
  3. Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien
  4. The Woman and Her Little Dog and Other Short Stories by Anton Chekov
  5. Pieces edited by Stephen Chbosky

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BOOKISH FINDS: Blood Work and Rupture

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Poetry, I’m afraid to say, is a writing form I’ve disregarded in the last few years. Part of it is down to the way it was taught in school, but largely it’s to do with the fact that I’ve prejudged poetry based on my own cringe-worthy attempts as a teenager. Luckily they are all buried in the abyss known as ‘Documents’, and I’ve come to realise that just because I read two or three drab poems in a classroom, and wrote a hundred more angst-ridden ones in my bedroom, doesn’t mean that all poetry is the same. It’s like saying every novel is the same. It’s ridiculous.

I’ve been introducing myself gently through poetry events at The Bluecoat, which I didn’t just tolerate, I enjoyed. I bought the books to prove it.

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