Updated date:

A Book Review of “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

Author:

Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles every Thursday. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.

What’s the Big Deal?

A Sunday Times #1 bestseller and Waterstones Book of the Year finalist, Matt Haig’s enormously popular How to Stay Alive is part memoir, part self-help book that is “destined to become a modern classic” (Entertainment Weekly). The book is a staple in the mental health community, a vital piece of nonfiction that aims to help, heal and educate as Haig tells his story of how major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder tore his life apart (and then, eventually, taught him how to live again). If you’re looking for a sign—something to give you any reason why you should continue on, or press through the mess we call life—this is it.

“Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

“Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

Book Summary

Reasons to Stay Alive is split into five parts: Falling, Landing, Rising, Living, and Being. The book is told in brief chapters that range from traditional paragraphs to numbered lists, regular lists, dialogue, and Tweets (ever wondered where the #reasonstostayalive responses went? Well, many are compiled in this book). As Haig tells the story of his breakdown at twenty-four, the before bits and the aftermath of it, he also gives insights, tips, and advice as someone who’s been there and back.

Many of the best chapters in Haig’s book are ones that have second and third versions, too. “A Conversation Across Time—Part One” consists of dialogue from Haig’s present self to his younger self, in which his younger self denies that a happy future (or any future) is even remotely possible—but as the book presses on, “A Conversation Across Time—Part Three” has Young Matt saying to Now Matt, “I am starting to believe in you.” Thus the reader grows with the author, and hope for their own future begins to arise.

Of course, the book isn’t just about Haig’s individual experiences. Many more chapters are dedicated to reaching wider audiences, people who may not believe in the importance of mental health or know how to address it; and for those, chapters like “Facts,” “Warning Signs,” “How to be There for Someone with Depression or Anxiety,” and “Further Reading” are sure to bring light to the darkened subject of mental illness. In this way, the potpourri of Reasons to Stay Alive becomes a lifeline for healthy and ill alike—a story made truly for the masses, challenging stigma and moving hearts since its publication in 2015.

Quick Facts

  • Author: Matt Haig
  • Pages: 264
  • Genre: Memoir, self-help, mental health
  • Ratings: 4.2/5 Goodreads, 4.8/5 Barnes & Noble
  • Release date: March 5, 2015
  • Publisher: Canongate Books

To Read or Not to Read?

I recommend this book if:

  • You’re a fan of memoirs like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Go Ask Alice, or even The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  • You like stories of rising and falling, of growth and recovery
  • You or someone you know struggles with mental health, especially depression and anxiety disorders
  • You have a short attention span, because the book is split into brief chapters, many of which aren’t in paragraph form
  • You like quotes and allusions—Haig references many classic books and famous people throughout his memoir

How to stop time: kiss.

How to travel in time: read.

How to escape time: music.

How to feel time: write.

How to release time: breathe.

— Matt Haig, “Reasons to Stay Alive”

Reviews

“. . . Haig’s book provides unobjectionable advice that will offer some help and succor to those who experience depression and other related illnesses. For families and friends of the afflicted, Haig’s book. . . will provide understanding and support [as] a vibrant, encouraging depiction of a sinister disorder.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Written in brief chapters, this is a book for the social media age, for people who want words of wisdom delivered in short but poignant nuggets. . . Reasons to Stay Alive shows how easy it is to feel crushed by darkness, but the light we’re looking for is inside us. It always has been.” —Star Tribune

Matt Haig, the book’s author

Matt Haig, the book’s author

The Takeaway

Reasons to Stay Alive is, quite simply, a masterpiece. As a memoir of the darkest time in the author’s life, the book could have easily become a mess of self-pity and “advice” far too personal to be universally applicable—but it is, in fact, the opposite. Reasons to Stay Alive is a gold mine of information, references, love, and happy and helpful things that will be saving graces for anyone who struggles with mental health, and even those who don’t.

It’s a book designed to challenge the modern world and the way we think about mental disorders, so if you know anyone with a mental illness, I would easily recommend this book. At its best, it will help you; it will help you help others; it will broaden your horizons; and it will make you feel things. Most of all, though—whether or not you think you need them—it will give you a lifeline in the form of many, many reasons to stay alive.