cover image Notes on a Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Matt Haig. Penguin, $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-14-313342-1

Novelist and memoirist Haig (Reasons to Stay Alive) relates his experiences suffering from panic attacks and anxiety in this astute mix of self-help and memoir. Haig divides the book into small chapters (many less than a page) that delve into a single idea, like paying attention to the basics of good nutrition and sleep, or trying to understand the mind/body connection. Throughout, he asks the reader to consider the bigger picture: “Of course, in the cosmic perspective, the whole of human history has been fast.” Wry and self-deprecating, Haig charms with his lighthearted tone: “We are mysterious. We don’t know why we are here. We have to craft our own meaning. The mystery is tantalizing.” While the work reads more like a collection of blog posts than a fully fleshed-out book, readers will appreciate Haig’s approach to living in a playful yet thoughtful way. Switching seamlessly between light and serious, colloquial and formal, Haig’s prose reflects his topic, whether it is 24-hour news and social media, or weightier topics such as inequality, addiction, and faith, with chapter titles such as “Places I have had panic attacks” and “How to own a smartphone and still be a functioning human being.” By challenging readers to rethink their role in the modern world, Haig’s book will embolden them to keep learning and pursuing their passions in order to ease anxiety. (Feb.)