Matt Haig spoke in front of a packed Book Festival audience about the importance of reading and writing in maintaining mental health and its role in helping him conquer depression, as part of the Festival’s Staying Well strand. Matt said he used the books he had read as a teenager to help rediscover his concentration and distract himself from his own distress, before leading him on to writing. He captured his experience of depression and recovery in his latest book Reasons To Stay Alive.
“Books can save your life,” he said. “I don’t mean that in a vague airy-fairy way, either, or just to enrich your life or help you impress your friends, though they can. I mean that books can actually help keep you alive.” He added: “People don’t just read books for escape. We read to find new paths for ourselves. We think we are in this one room house. Books help us realise we are in a mansion. Reading is a way to find the lost parts of us. To know what’s there. What you have. To work out how far you can dream.”