Notes on a Nervous Planet is a non-fiction book that aims to tackle the stresses which humans face in the 21st century, ranging from social media to anxiety to sleep deprivation. Such topics in this day and age usually feel overdone, cliched, and repetitive. It is easy to go into this book wondering what Matt Haig could tell you that you don’t already know about your toxic social media habits, or the anxiety you face every time you see a Kardashian on your Instagram feed. Surprisingly, though, he can tell you a lot.
Haig has a talent for relaying his personal experiences to his readers in an unapologetic and intimate way, which in turn makes you self-aware of your own state of being. When reading this book, you do not feel like you are being talked to by an emotionless psychiatrist trying to psychoanalyse the habits of a modern-day internet user. Rather, you see yourself peering into a discussion that Haig is having with himself. Haig opens up about his anxiety and panic attacks in a manner which does not just tell the story but conveys the effects of such experiences in his own life. From the opening page, you see the author doubt himself and second-guess what he is writing. It’s endearing, but not in a patronising way. The authenticity of such self-depreciation allows the reader to empathise with Haig; you often catch your heart rate rising as you sense the distress in his writing. Fear not, as this only makes his later discussion on how to tackle distressing problems more comforting.
His chapters are short and snappy, as though we are seeing glimmers of his sporadic daily thoughts, which makes such a profound book highly accessible even to those who cannot set aside more than a few minutes of free time a day. Although this writing style is also quite frantic and can be quite overwhelming at first, it coordinates with the message of the book and allows the reader to truly understand the emotions Haig experienced when writing this. It is this particularly unique style which allows Haig to take tired cliches, such as looking at the stars to realise the minuteness of your issues, and rebrand them to provide meaning once again.
In short, this book provides a refreshing take on dealing with the stresses that define the modern era. Although its focus on contemporary issues could make it less hard hitting in the future, it shows that there is no time like the present to pick up this book.
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig.