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Other Formats Available Ebook, hardback (paperback release date March 2022)
Publication Date July 2021
Length 272 pages
Content Warnings References to suicidal thoughts, mental illness (including anxiety, depression, and panic disorder)
What It’s About
When author Matt Haig was in the darkest days of his depression, he noted down any and all of the quotes, advice, observations, inspiration, or anecdotes that brought him comfort and hope.
The Comfort Book grew from this principle of hope and Haig’s desire to share it with readers. Designed to be a cover-to-cover companion on the worst days, or simply to dip into when you’re feeling a little lost, this unique read offers a gentle dose of affirmation and self-care within every page.
The Comfort Book really does feel like a hug in book form! I loved all of the books by Matt Haig that I have read so far, including Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet. The author has been such a valuable contributor to reducing the stigma around mental illness. So when I saw that he had a new release, it went straight onto my list of anticipated reads for 2022.
I was not disappointed by this delightfully eclectic collection that incorporates psychology, philosophy, history, fiction, and more. The style is down-to-earth and unpretentious, placing renowned philosophers side-by-side with movie recommendations. Matt Haig also speaks honestly and openly about his own struggles with mental illness, which frames the book as a whole and gives it context.
Although I enjoyed the impressive variety of the book, I would have preferred a bit more structure. My favourite chapters were the longer, in-depth inspirational stories, where I could ponder a little before rushing off to a new theme or idea. If this depth had been extended to the book as a whole, I think its moments of inspiration would have felt less fleeting.
Having said that, my issues may have been related to the format – I listened to the audiobook on BorrowBox but I do think The Comfort Book is more suited to physical form. It lends itself to being flicked through at random for a quick pick-me-up, or for dipping in and out on bad days, rather than straightforward linear narration.
However it is delivered, the author’s message remains as valuable as ever. I especially liked how the book constantly resists the mindset that we have to somehow ‘earn’ our worth as humans through success or productivity, which seems to have become dangerously pervasive in modern life.
“Your worth is you. Your worth is your presence. Your worth is right there. Your worth isn’t something you earn. Your worth isn’t something you buy. Your worth isn’t something you gain through status on popularity or stomach crunches or having a really chic kitchen. Your worth is your existence.”~ Matt Haig, ‘The Comfort Book’
Diversity and Representation
The Comfort Book draws on a diverse spectrum of sources, from inspiring women journalists to Buddhist philosophers. One advantage to the book’s lack of structure is that all these sources are presented in a non-hierarchical manner, without being submitted to any kind of authoritative judgment.
- Mental health
Beyond the Book
The content of The Comfort Book, not to mention its bestselling success, seems to indicate a wider shift away from stigmatising mental illness and towards greater acceptance. I worry, though, that this hopeful perception is an over-simplification and we cannot become complacent. Many people, especially those from marginalised groups, still feel unable to be open and vulnerable about their mental health.
If you’re reading The Comfort Book as a book club pick or just looking to ponder it in a little more depth, these questions should help get you started:
1. The Comfort Book is full of concise inspiration and endlessly quotable. Share one or two of your favourite quotes.
2. What did you think of the book’s structure? Did you like how it promotes freely dipping in and out, or would you have preferred a more linear form?
3. In speaking up about his own struggles with mental illness, Matt Haig empowers others to do the same. Do you think the stigma surrounding discussions of mental health has drastically fallen away in recent years, or do we still have much further to go?
“You don’t need to be happy to be hopeful. You need instead to accept the unknowability of the future, and that there are versions of that future which could be better than the present. Hope, in its simplest form, is the acceptance of possibility.”~ Matt Haig, ‘The Comfort Book’
You want to sink into a hopeful and affirming read that feels like a hug in book form!
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Have you read The Comfort Book or any other books by Matt Haig? What are your go-to comfort reads? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!