6 Degrees of Separation: Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive

Greetings, bookworms and welcome back to Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly meme in which myself and fellow author Emma Chapman invite you to link six books in a chain, according to whatever connections spring to mind.

This month’s chain begins with Matt Haig‘s brilliant Reasons to Stay Alive. Part-memoir, part self-help, and all sorts of other things beside, it is a fantastic insight into depression and anxiety, which is surprisingly uplifting to read—a feat in itself. I recommend it to anyone who suffers from depression and anxiety, or anyone who provides support to someone with depression and/or anxiety, be that a friend, family member, or even a colleague.


Matt Haig’s book is in part, a memoir about his recovery from a severe episode of depression and anxiety. Erlend Loe’s Naive. Super is also a story about a recovery from a mental breakdown of sorts. One of the things that helps Loe’s protagonist is the writing of lists, which gives me bonus connection points because Haig’s book also contains many lists. I love the double connection!

I discovered Naive. Super when Conor Tomas O’Brien chose it as his Friday Fave. He described it as hikikomori fiction, a term I had never heard of, but apparently refers to fiction in which characters step outside the realm of social convention.

A book which fits this description perfectly is Miranda July’s debut novel The First Bad Man. This is perhaps the most surprising book I’ve ever read. I never had any idea where it was going to go next, and not just one but many of the characters lived their lives in a somewhat hikikomori fashion.

Miranda July has a story called ‘Roy Spivey’ which I first encountered on the New Yorker podcast. It was read aloud on the podcast by David Sedaris, which brings me to his hilarious and excruciating memoir Naked.

As seen through Sedaris’ eyes, his family are simply mortifying, not unlike the married couple in Meg Wolitzer’s The Position, who mortify their children by publishing a Joy of Sex type book, complete with images.

The Position is a book which captures aspects of the seventies which now seem a little ridiculous, as does Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm. The Ice Storm is set in a small town in upstate New York in which there is not only a long-running affair but also a key party. Quintessential seventies!

On the subject of extra-marital liaisons, I can’t go past Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour which opens with the wonderful protagonist on her way to begin an affair, against her better judgement.

Reasons to Stay Alive

From books about recovering from mental illness, through characters living outside social conventions, to mortifying families and infidelity, that’s all for this month’s edition of 6 Degrees of Separation.

Where will the chain take you? If you have a blog, I’d love you to play along; if not you can post your chain in the comments.

Next month: On Saturday October 3rd the chain will begin with A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and will be hosted on Emma Chapman’s blog. (We’ll be taking turns to host from now on).

#6degrees rules

20 thoughts on “6 Degrees of Separation: Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive

  1. This month’s book was a great starting point – even though I haven’t read it, the blurb was enough to send my mind in all different directions.

    I’ve read one book by Erland Loe, Doppler – interesting and memorable! I always love Sedaris, he can do no wrong. Interestingly, The Ice Storm is one of my favourite films (was directed by Ang Lee) but I haven’t read the book – will it be a case of film better than book?! The Wolitzer looks good (I really love that cover) but I was one of the few people in the world who found The Interestings not so interesting!

    Here’s my chain: https://booksaremyfavouriteandbest.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/six-degrees-of-separation-from-reasons-to-stay-alive-to-the-secret-son/

    PS. What book begins next month’s chain?

    1. The Ice Storm – film way better than the book. I love Ang Lee. Recently watched Brokeback Mountain – such a brilliant movie.
      Next month’s book is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

      1. Well I won’t rush to read the book then (it is on one of my book shelves somewhere….).

        Very much looking forward to A Little Life chains – I’m reading it at the moment (supposed to be studying but instead A Little Life is providing a good {long} distraction!).

    1. I LURVED Flight Behaviour. Such a generous perceptive book, which dealt with the issue of climate change without ramming it down your throat.

  2. I’ve loved reading these again this month Annabel – thank you 🙂
    Here is my chain:
    I haven’t read Reasons to Stay Alive, but I have read another book by Matt Haig – The Last Family in England. This story of a loyal, loving, confused and misunderstood dog was so sad. Red Dog by Louis De Bernieres also has a dog as the central character, again so loyal and committed when he found “his human”. This beautiful little book brought me to tears in some places, and made me laugh out loud in others. I also laughed out loud recently reading The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. The first Hotel New Hampshire (yes, there is more than one!) is a converted school. Another school I have read about is Hogwarts in the Harry Potter Series. Hogwarts is inhabited by more than one ghost. Oscar Wilde’s poor put-upon Canterville Ghost runs out of red paint to replace a “blood stain” on the floor so he used green paint instead. The colour green is also seen on the floor of cell block E in Stephen King’s The Green Mile.

    Looking forward to next month 🙂

  3. “How to feel time:write”.

    Love it! (Even though I normally hate short, definitive statements about writing.)

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