BOOK REVIEW | “Reasons to Stay Alive”​ – A Powerful Reading Experience

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. “Reasons to Stay Alive” sounds dramatic, and, fair enough, you’ll be witnessing a journey that is, at times, heartbreaking. My overall experience with this book is positive, though, informative, unique by its approach. I feel it speaks equally to people who face depression and to those who are close to someone fighting it.

I buy a book whenever I am in an airport – it’s mostly Bucharest and London airports. I don’t think I ever made a wrong choice – I read them fast, fully engaged, and pass them on to friends and acquaintances.

Till recently, I credited myself with an excellent taste and evident decision-making skills. I mean, I don’t get to spend that much time in an airport and, look, I just took a highly engaging book off the shelf.

Wait.

What if there is a genius behind the selection of books you can buy in airports? I came to be convinced of that.

I had barely heard of Matt Haig; I tend to avoid titles containing “Reasons why…”, “How to…”. Many other volumes were shouting my name that day, and I never get more than one book from an airport. And there it is, I am buying “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig in an instant and head to the gate. It’s a 3h flight, and I am already questioning buying what appeared to be a self-help book. “Reasons to Stay Alive” is anything but that. 

It’s a rough start – on the first page there is a powerful statement on what this journey is about:

“Thirteen years ago, I knew this couldn’t happen. I was going to die, you see. Or go mad.There was no way I would still be here. Sometimes I doubted I would even make the next ten minutes. And the idea that I would be well enough and confident enough to write about it in this way would have been just far too much to believe.” (Matt Haig, “Reasons to Stay Alive”)

Don’t get discouraged and move forward. Embarking on a (very) personal journey, the author spares no effort diving into the tough specifics of fighting depression. Know that it’s progressing toward a good ending.

From the low point on the first page, the author goes through an inventory of everything he tried to get better and what worked for him. I loved the chapter about reading avidly and how that helped:

“In my deepest state of depression, I had felt stuck. I felt trapped in quicksand (as a kid that had been my most common nightmare). Books were about movement. They were about quest and journeys. Beginnings and middles and ends, even if not in that order. They were about new chapters. And leaving old ones behind.” (Matt Haig, “Reasons to Stay Alive”)

And so it goes with his take on the therapeutic role of things like travel, sports, etc.

Note to self: Must read “The Power and the Glory” by Graham Greene.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. “Reasons to Stay Alive” sounds dramatic, and, fair enough, you’ll be witnessing a journey that is, at times, heartbreaking. My overall experience with this book is positive, though, informative, unique by its approach. I feel it speaks equally to people who face depression and to those who are close to someone fighting it.

For the latest, “Reasons to Be Alive” is a valuable resource for understanding what people with depression are going through. The more we know, the better we are equipped to give support.

Despite its topic, the book is an easy read, no wonder – Matt Haig is a successful author. It’s beautifully written. And if it hadn’t been for the lockdown, it would have been on someone else’s shelf today.

My first “airport book” was “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” by Khaled Hosseini, more than ten years ago. It traveled with me to Bucharest, then went to London and Paris. And who knows where it ended up and how many people read it.

Definitely, there is a genius behind the selection of books you can buy in airports.

By the way, what is your latest airport book?