Haig describes in detail what it feels like to be anxious and how devastating and all encompassing it is to suffer from depression. With excerpts and examples from his own life he tells the reader the tools he used to help him survive. He gives hope that joy can sometimes be found in daily routines and advocates writing down our thoughts and accepting ourselves with all our faults as a way to survive daily life.
To cement his thoughts still further he cites some of the world’s great writers and philosophers from Marcus Aurelius to Emily Dickinson and mixes their thoughts up with his own philosophy on life. For those who have never read Matt Haig before The Comfort Book’s short passages peppered with this good advice and some quirky anecdotes make it an easy read.
However, the problem lies in the fact that, aside from the title it is not a particularly comforting book at all. Perhaps if you suffer from anxiety or depression (or both) there is some positive advice but otherwise there is very little he has not already said in his previous books such as Notes on a Nervous Planet or his first, and arguably most enlightening read, Reasons to Stay Alive. Haig surmises that “we are messy because the universe began with an explosion and the debris has drifted ever since.” He calls humans “cosmic miracles” but the reader can really feel his anxiety on every page; his words giving the feeling that he is looking for something he has not yet found. He finds the world a scary, bewildering place with no one in charge and no reason for existence.
Perhaps this is a book best picked up and delved into in five minute chunks and then put aside but from the author who gave us novels like The Radleys and The Humans this reader would request more fiction please.