The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

I’m not really one for self-help books. I tend to find them too preachy even though I know they’re supposed to be good for me. 

I have tried. I’ve read the Brene Brown titles that (almost) everyone seems to rave about, but, well, yeah and nah. I get the concept but just can’t get caught up in it. I like my wisdom in bite-sized and a little irreverent and given in a random take it or leave it this worked for me but it mightn’t work for you format.

Which is why I adored Matt Haig’s The Comfort Book.

More of a collection of snippets that helped him through his darkest days – and whenever the clouds have gathered since, the chapters (and I use the term loosely) are sometimes a line, maybe two. There are the occasional story or playlist of music or books, a quote here and there, maybe a thought or observation.

Take this for example:

Continually looking for the meaning of life is like looking for the meaning of toast. It is sometimes better just to eat the toast.

and this:

The sky isn’t more beautiful if you have perfect skin. Music doesn’t sound more interesting if you have a six pack. Dogs aren’t better company if you’re famous. Pizza tastes good regardless of your job title. The best of life exists beyond the things we’re encouraged to crave.

or this:

No physical appearance is worth not eating pasta for.

Haig talks about ambition and perspective:

We are often encouraged to see life as one continual uphill climb. We talk about ladders without even thinking. Career ladders. Property ladders. On being on the top rung of the ladder. Or the bottom rung of the ladder. We talk of climbing the ladder…The trouble with ladders is they give you no room to move around. Just room to fall.

He discusses happiness:

Happiness occurs when you forget who you’re expected to be. And what you’re expected to do. Happiness is an accident of self-acceptance. It’s the warm breeze you feel when you open the door to who you are.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

Helen Keller

and has quite a bit to say about randomness and embracing it.

Mostly though, this is a book about hope and possibility – two of my favourite words. 

You don’t need to know the future to be hopeful. You just need to embrace the concept of possibility.

Despite having grown from the darkest of times, this book truly feels like a little ray of sunshine – or, rather, a whole heap of little rays on every page.

Uncertainty is the cause of anxiety, but also a solution. While everything is uncertain, everything is hope. Everything is ambiguous. Everything is possible. We exist on a spinning coin. We cannot predict how it will land but we can enjoy the shine as it spins.

Haig muses on resting, mystery, passion, comfort and discomfort:

You are waterproof. It’s easier to learn to be soaked and happy than to learn how to stop the rain.

and practical acceptance.

We are where we need to be. We have never lived in the past. There is no past. There is no future. There is just a series of presents. One after the other. And although there are an infinite number of meditations and online tutorials teaching how to ‘inhabit the present’, we already do this without trying. We always inhabit the present…Yesterday and tomorrow are also todays.

He encourages us to broaden our perspectives:

Each of us has the power to enter a new world. All we have to do is change our mind.

and warns against a search for closure and resolution:

Nothing is closed…there are only open endings in life.

None of this is prescriptive, it’s often not even really advice, so if you’re picking up this book thinking it will make you into a better, more successful person, forget it. The messages here are more about acceptance, finding joy in the randomness of the every day, and hope where there is possibility.

I borrowed a copy of this from the library and it took me ages to straighten all the corners I’d turned (don’t look at me like that…), but I’ll be buying my own copy to duck in and out of when things get a tad overwhelming (as they very often do).

Remember. There will be other days. And other feelings.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

17 thoughts

  1. Love this so much JO and like you I’m surprisingly not into Self-help books. I did download this one when you mentioned it a few weeks ago. Great quotes and isn’t it true that ‘Nothing is closed…there are only open endings in life’ Have a beautiful day and thanks for putting this book out there.

    1. I loved that one too. It gave me a new view on endings. It’s like the lyric in a song “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

  2. Hi, Jo – Thanks for this awesome review. I’m not usually good with self-help books either (it’s the quality in me that simply is not good with being told what to do). But this book does seem different. I love the snippets that you shared. I will definitely check it out. But, as you likely guessed, there will be no corner-folding from me (sacrilege)! 😀

    1. I’m the same re being told what to do. Or even being left feeling as though I’m no good unless I “dare” or “show up”.

  3. I’m not fond of self-help books either. I don’t mind learning another person’s perspective but I am not very good at being told how my life would be better if only… I do like the snippets that you shared of this book, though. “No physical appearance is worth not eating pasta for” is definitely a favorite:)

  4. Great to read your words on Matt Haig’s words Jo. I actually used Brene Brown’s books (mostly as audio versions) to help me through the darkest and most puzzling times of my life. I agree that some self help stuff is…meh & condescending but as Brene worked from a research perspective (& I am that kind of person who needs to know that!) lots of what she found helped me resolve how poorly some aspects of my inner conversations went. This is not to say, time passing, good people to help me in my real world etc didn’t help too
    However, I needed that! And now I love my bookending of each day with calm and headspace.
    It’s all about what resonates and works in our minds…and my husband tells me I can be very resistant to change so listening & absorbing and letting things become worked out for me have helped.
    Back to Matt! His voice reading his words truly adds to the experience. I am savouring slowly too. It was his “find one beautiful” thing or have one beautiful experience a day which gave me the idea for one photo one word!
    Warmest wishes from me to you!

    1. It truly is a horses for courses thing isn’t it? My concentration span is a tad like Dory’s in Finding Nemo (“oh look, there’s something else that looks interesting!” Warm wishes right back to you…

  5. LOL! I try not to turn down the pages on library books but sometimes I just can’t help myself! It sounds like a really great book. I used to read a lot of self help books but have slowly gotten away from them and I’m not really sure why..

  6. Jo, I can see the appeal of this book. I have curated a group of memes on a Pinterest board that I named “Wallpaper.’ Whenever I’m having a particularly ‘sorry for me’ day, I scroll through and read a few. Short and to the point, with a side of quirky, works much better than pompous and preachy for me. One of my favorites is ‘No is a complete sentence.’

  7. I am currently listening to Matt Haig read this book to me on Audible and I’m loving it. Thanks for the recommendation! The bite sized pieces is perfect for me at the moment and I think I’ll end up getting a hard copy when I can get out to the shops again. I’m loving the quotes and can see them being useful in future as well as now. I love this one ‘A reminder for the tough times, One day this will be over. And we will be grateful for life in ways we never felt possible before’. Also ‘It’s okay to be the teacup with a chip in it. That’s the one with a story.’ Really enjoying it!

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