for better mental health

Bookclub archive

Reviews from past bookclubs are shown below.

**Content warning: This book contains descriptions of depression**

This book is very much, a warm hug and a helping hand that charts a way through depression. It is a positive, sometimes humorous, but never flippant book written in the face of what can be a negative and often misunderstood illness. The writer speaks candidly and shares this growing understanding with the reader in a way that is easily understood.

His honest recounts of meetings with his doctor, counsellor and his employer, taking medication, talking with family and friends, brain chatter, even leaving the house and going to the supermarket were thought provoking and offered self-tested solutions to making these challenging experiences manageable. His thoughts on mindfulness and meditation strike a chord with anyone interested in their mental well-being and his experiences of cooking and crafting, as a pathway to achievement, are a reminder that pleasure and self-worth can be found in small things.

The shared information about depression and a range of other mental health issues, which can be linked to depression, was informative and more accessible because it was placed in the contexts of his daily life. This is a book for people suffering from depression and wanting to find their own way through it. It is also for those people surrounding them who want to understand how they can be a source of support.

Gary, CEO at Darlington Mind

**Content warning: This book contains descriptions of depression and suicide**

Ifemelu is a strong, educated Nigerian woman, who has a knack for writing. Looking to expand her horizons after high school, she moves to America, with hopes and dreams of going to university and becoming a writer. Upon arriving, she is instead faced with the harsh reality of a lonely way of life and her first experiences of racism.

In Americanah, Adichie explores Ifemelu's struggle to fit in amongst two very different cultures, and a woven love story with high school sweetheart, Obinze. Obinze has his own troubles; trying to immigrate to England; a place where his social status in Nigeria means nothing.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and found it a real page-turner. It opened my eyes to the experiences of people from developing countries who move to the western world, and the challenges that they face. At times it was heart-wrenching and I found myself rooting for the happiness of Ifemelu and Obinze's characters. The social commentary on immigration and racism is insightful and Ifemelu's blog postings are cleverly used throughout the book to add to the narrative.

Tash, Marketing Officer at Mind

I picked The Vinyl Detective up at a book swap so didn't have very high expectations but actually I found a little gem. This turned out to be the first book I finished in five years.

The Run-Out Groove is actually the second book in the series and I was a bit wary that I hadn't read the first one, however, each book is more of an anthology and they work as stand-alone stories.

The Run-Out Groove sees our hero, the Vinyl Detective finding a record in a charity shop which launches a search for the missing child of Valerian, lead singer of a rock band in the 1960s, who died under mysterious circumstances. Cartmel's style is wonderfully easy to read and throughout all the high jinks it remains charming and had me smiling again and again.

I loved that the characters were so eccentric and were portrayed as the most extreme version of their personality. I also enjoyed that the book was set to the backdrop of psychedelic rock of the 1960's and I liked finding the little references dotted throughout the book. I did sometimes feel the plot slowing but that didn't stop me and there are some great twists and turns throughout. Some books are just fun to read. This is one of them.

Mike, Mind member

**Content warning: This book contains strong language as well as descriptions of physical and sexual abuse and suicide which some readers may find upsetting**

On the face of it, The Trauma Cleaner, which offers a window into a little known area of life, already sounds like an interesting read. The practicalities of what happens after someone dies at home and lies undiscovered or hoards for 40 years are fascinating, but what gives this book its warmth and sincerity is Sandra. Compassionate, empathetic and never judgemental, Sandra and her team bring care and order to the living and the dead.

The book alternates between Sandra's work and the story of her hard and varied life. Sandra, born as Peter, was abused by her adopted family; and went through an early marriage, fatherhood and divorce, to living full-time as a woman. Before starting her successful trauma cleaning business Sandra has been sex-worker, housewife and the first female funeral director in Victoria, Australia. Sandra's story is truly epic.

This book is often not an easy read as you are confronted with the reality of what Sandra and her clients have been through. But the book is also brilliantly written and incredibly touching and Sandra is most definitely extraordinary.

Amy, Marketing Manager at Mind

**Content warning: This book is not intended for all audiences. Reader discretion is advised**

This is J P Delaney's second book, after the bestselling The Girl Before, and solidified him as my current favourite author. Believe Me is a fantastic thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the last sentence.

The main character, Claire is a British drama student in America trying to make it as an actress, but without a Green card work is scarce and hard to come by. She takes on a job, hired to entrap cheating husbands but when one of Claire's targets is accused of a violent murder, she starts to wonder whether Patrick Fogler is a murderer, or the only decent man she's ever met.

From the very first page of Believe Me is a truly engrossing page turner. The clues, the lies and the unknown leave you trusting no one in the story and yet the twists just keep coming. I loved the way the book sometimes read as a script - Claire lives her life as if watching a movie so it does read a bit like a script in parts which helps to show the way her mind works.

Believe Me won't be for everyone. It is filled with despicable characters and sometimes it is hard to sympathise with any of them, and yet again, this is another aspect of Delaney's writing that makes the story so unique.

This is a psychological thriller like no other I've read. It will keep you hooked until the end and stay with you long after.

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

**Content warning: Details of physical and emotional abuse**

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard is the follow up to 2015's Beautiful Broken Things (BBT), although they work as standalone novels. BBT follows very ordinary teenager Caddy, her best friend Rosie, and their whirlwind friendship with new girl Suzanne, and the deterioration of Suzanne's mental health and her escalating reckless behaviour.

This book picks up two years later, and it follows Suzanne's bumpy but resolute road to recovery. She has been through things nobody, let alone someone still in their teens, should ever have to go through, and Sara Barnard doesn't shy away from how difficult it is to try to live a full and healthy life, without resorting to old vices.

Fierce Fragile Hearts is one of the only stories I've read that shows the real damage sustained abuse can do, long after the fact, and how it can impair functional living as an adult. What is even more impressive is the depiction of the thorny relationship Suzanne has with the well-intentioned members of her family, who, although they support her, can misunderstand or even dismiss her experiences and needs.

The bright shining star of this series of novels is the friendship between Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne. As Caddy and Rosie go to university, their friendship between the three of them enters new waters as they deal with new people, new love interests, loneliness and misguided acts of support, and all of it felt so incredibly real, and true to each individual.

Candy, Digital Marketing Officer at Mind

**Content warning: This book contains details of abuse and reference to suicidal thoughts**

I Never Said I Loved You is Rhik Samadder's brave, raw and incredibly honest account of depression, abuse and grief. Whilst his story will break your heart, and as a reader you will probably need to take a break at times, his brilliant personality shines through on every page, and his ability to weave humour throughout the narrative is incredibly touching and refreshing.

Not only does Rhik's own character radiate throughout this book, but those of his friends and family members do too. Rhik portrays them all in a colourful and revealing way and shows how they've shaped his life and mental health journey. His eccentric mother was a particular standout for me, with her hoarding of Kinder Eggs... much to his sensible father's dismay.

This is an emotional read that will make you laugh and cry all at once. Rhik finds a unique balance of humour and heartbreak for the reader, and his brutally honest words will stay with me for a long time.

Frances, Senior Media and Celebrity Officer at Mind

**Content warning: Contains descriptions of depression, reference to BDSM and a reference to suicide. Includes scenes of domestic abuse.**

For me, Normal People captured the essence of that awkward transition from flourishing adolescence to young adulthood.

At first glance the female central character Marianne is somewhat of an enigma, she's incredibly bright and wealthy but awkward with no friends and a mysterious family life. Connell is more obviously 'normal', he's good looking, popular and the star of the school football team.

Normal People tells their story from an initial awkward attraction to a deep and lasting connection, with sex, romance and rivalry all thrown in at various points along the way.

What Sally Rooney does so well is to bring these two characters together – first over weeks, then years, teasing out the similarities of their experiences and their emotions against the backdrop of their contrasting personalities and backgrounds.

There are some tough moments, mid-way through Connell spirals into depression following the suicide of a former friend but the story of his recovery and his interaction with student mental health services is refreshingly honest and free from cliché.

Overall his path is a positive one – he grows up, he learns more about himself and he makes better choices. Marianne's journey is harder to watch, she bounces from one traumatic relationship to another and any progress she makes emotionally or otherwise never feels quite so satisfying. But even though some part of me would like Marianne to be happy in a more conventionally 'normal' way that would be to do her an injustice. Part of reading this book involves the reader learning, alongside Marianne, to accept and love her for who she is.

This book follows the pair for a period of their lives and then stops. It feels both unresolved and bursting with promise but it's without a doubt the best thing I've read all year.

Tanya, Membership Manager at Mind

This is the book I wish I'd had as a teenager.

Anna Williamson covers a range of topics from family stresses to staying safe online, peer pressure and anxiety. She leaves no stone unturned as she informs and reassures the children of today as to how the mind can react to these different situations.

Anna gives advice on all the important aspects of a modern child's life whilst sensitively acknowledging that everyone has their own struggles and we all deal with situations differently. This is a very important message that Anna stresses throughout the book.

Even though aimed at children and teenagers, I enjoyed reading How Not to Lose It. It reminded me that even as an adult, we don't necessarily know any better and there are things we need to be reminded of – particularly that it is alright to say 'no' as much as 'yes'.

I particularly enjoyed the myth busting sections and the Dear Anna pages will make children realise they're not alone in their way of thinking. There's even sections for writing things down and a letter template for when a child wants to talk to an adult.

How Not to Lose It is so easy to read, honest, and written in a chatty and friendly way that children and teenagers can relate to. We definitely need more books like this one to give an updated look in to how modern society can impact mental health.

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

As a big fan of Bella Mackie's writing, I was really looking forward to reading Jog On. Thankfully it both lived up to and surpassed all my expectations, as this book is moving, funny and motivational all at once.

Jog On starts with Bella newly divorced and struggling with long-standing mental health issues. The breakdown of her marriage leads her to put on her old trainers and go for a run. Although this was just a small run, in a dark alleyway by her house, with this small step Bella began to find solace from her anxiety. Each day she would do a little more, push a little further and continue to surprise herself. She recounts milestone moments including running through a busy Camden Market, to getting on the tube for the first time in 15 years after one of her longest runs.

This is an informative and accessible read, showing both the physical and mental health benefits you can get from running, and it certainly makes you want to put on your trainers and give it a go too. Bella's running narrative is not one of a race or a marathon, but of running for the simple joy and escape it gives her from her anxiety. This is the aspect of the book which I found the most inspiring, as the goal for her is simply to feel better, and this is something which I'm sure could resonate with – and give hope to – so many.

Bella gives the reader an honest, brave and unfiltered account of what it is to live with anxiety and depression and her warm, anecdotal and often self-deprecating style is endearing and makes the book even more relatable. Jog On is both a huge comfort and an inspiration, and anyone who enjoyed Bryony Gordon's Mad Girl or Alexandra Heminsley's Running Like a Girl, should pick it up – alongside their trainers!

Frances, Senior Media and Celebrity Officer at Mind

Queenie is a 25 year old South Londoner of Jamaican descent, first in her family to go to university, smart, clever, beautiful, first and funniest of her name, treasure to her family. She has a cool job, and a nice boyfriend, and seems to have it all together. But the book is clear from the very first page; Queenie is all these things. But she is also, very slowly and inwardly, falling apart.

I loved it. I really did. I found Queenie relatable, funny and so incredibly sad. Much of the book is a heart-breaking descent, but this makes the part of the story where she prioritises her mental recovery so rewarding.

The other big plus points are the layered relationships in Queenie. Her familial relationships are complicated, with a lot of things buried and unspoken that should be dug up and said aloud. But their love for each other, for Queenie, is clear, even if it can suffocate her.

Some parts of it felt like finally finding a shoe that fits, her experiences with friends and family so real and representative to being a young black woman who grew up in London. However, Queenie is her own heroine.

Candy, Digital Marketing Officer at Mind

When it comes to measures of physical health, men underperform women in pretty much every area you care to name: we are more likely to smoke, more likely to drink too much, we will eat less healthily – and as a result, we're more likely to die earlier.

While glossy lifestyle mags like Men's Health have encouraged a generation of men to pay at least some attention to their physical health there's been less of a focus on how men can better look after their mental health. Men don't like to talk about their feelings or ask for help, and this ultimately plays out in the male suicide stats.

This Book Could Help – The Men's Head Space Manual sets out to address this problem. The author, Rotimi Akinsete, notes the messages that men absorb from a young age: be tough; be self-reliant; man-up. It's not surprising, he says, that men struggle to be themselves when this is what they are faced with.

The book is subtitled as "Techniques and Exercises for Living" and this is pretty much what you get. Akinsete is an experienced psychotherapist but he keeps the theory light and focusses instead on a series of key practical questions, reflections and activities, with lists and prompts to help the reader think things through from their perspective. What's important to you? What do you value? What do you make time for?

This is an accessible introduction to a subject where lately there's been growing interest but not too much change in evidence – this book may indeed help.

Stephen, Head of Information at Mind

I have never felt so emotionally connected, empathetic and inspired by a goldfish before or since I read Fishbowl.

All Ian the goldfish wants is freedom and adventure and when given the chance he leaps, clears the balcony and finds himself airborne. The chapters are told from the point of view of Ian as well as the residents of the Seville on Roxy. There's Ian's owner, the handsome grad student, his girlfriend and the other woman, the caretaker that feels undervalued and alone, the construction worker that hides a secret he can't share and a woman suffering from agoraphobia.

These are only some of the character's you'll meet, each more endearing than the last. This book is clever, funny and sometimes emotional. It proves that you never know what is going on behind closed doors and that sometimes, taking a risk is the only way to move forward.

"An entire life devoted to a fishbowl will make one die an old fish with not one adventure had."

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

Milkman, written by Anna Burns, won the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. The book is set in Northern Ireland and it's actually the first time a Northern Irish writer has been awarded the prize.

This book is quite unlike anything I've ever read. For example, none of the characters have names, not even the central character who narrates the book. Everyone is either described by their relationship to the narrator (for example, first brother-in-law and maybe-boyfriend) or by a community nick-name that the characters has earned. There's the Milkman, and there's Real Milkman and Somebody McSomebody. I found this way of describing people very endearing, and cleverly at odds with how many of the characters behave. The Milkman, for example, an older married man, with whom the narrator is believed to be having an affair with, is incredibly creepy and sinister.

"But I had not been having an affair with the Milkman. I did not like the Milkman and had been frightened and confused by his pursuing and attempting an affair with me."

This book describes a community ruled by rumour, gossip, suspicion and reputation. Where being a bit different, can mark you out and attract unwanted attention. The confines of this community within which the character lives make this a book a difficult yet thoroughly enjoyable read.

Amy, Senior Communications Officer at Mind

Developed in partnership with Mind, this stunning little book is full of uplifting exercises and activities designed to help you take a moment and unwind. I read it over the chaotic Christmas period when I was trying to keep up with all the present-buying, wrapping, Christmas parties and family arrangements and it was a brilliant reminder to slow down and be mindful. I really enjoyed the journaling activities, because I find writing really helps me unwind, and I know that developing my own happiness box will help me in the future when I am going through a difficult time.

Rachel, Communications Officer at Mind

I enjoyed reading The Stress Solution much more than I expected to. Even though written by a Doctor, the writing is conversational and not intimidating at all. Complex biological processes are simplified and explained in a way that is easy to understand and follow.

The book focusses on finding purpose, connecting more, eating smart and discovering calm. For each section Dr Chatterjee explains the effect of stress on this part of your life, the internal processes and advises various methods to try to get us below our 'stress threshold' and feel happier and calmer. The methods given are simple and it would be easy for you to pick a couple and give them a try. I particularly found the smart eating section fascinating and am excited to try Chatterjee's 'eat the alphabet' method.

I believe this is a great book that you could read cover to cover or dip in and out of the different sections depending on what is most relevant to you at the time.

I very much enjoyed reading The Stress Solution and found each section extremely interesting. I learnt a lot from reading it and will be giving some of the methods a go. It shows that small changes can make a big difference to your mood and in your life. I would definitely recommend having a copy on your shelf.

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

Harry Potter is a series of children's books based on a young wizard. However, there is nothing childish about them. It delves into friendship, loyalty, family, loss, loneliness, love, adventure, being the outsider, and the challenges in life that help you discover your greatest strengths.

I remember reading about the Dementors and relating them to how depression feels, later finding out that the author, J.K.Rowling, had based them on her own experience of depression. I think what I love most about these books is that you lose yourself in a world of magic and imagination, where good versus evil and light versus dark.

Dumbledore has some cracking wisdom that we can all follow (one of my favs: It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live), and Harry, Ron and Hermione and friends take you on a journey where you witness them grow up and fight for what they believe in, right to the bitter end.

Sabrina, Membership Manager at Mind

**Content warning: This book describes scenes of violence from and against children**

Lord of the Flies is a classic read which I would recommend to anyone looking to read something a little different. The story starts with a plane crash which leaves a group of school boys alone on an uninhabited island. I very much enjoyed the description of these boys creating their own society with their own rules and the downfall of this fragile civilisation. It's interesting to think what you would do in such a situation and whether you would stick to the norms of society as you would at home or would you would find yourself giving in to nature and going back to your primal instincts as some of the boys do.

I've read Lord of the Flies twice now, each time finding it an intense page turner.

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

I don't usually enjoy romance novels as I tend to feel that there is usually a simple solution to the drama, but for 'One Day in December' that was not the case. I adored this book.

The story is not an overdramatised love triangle but a saga of the three characters and the exploration of love, heartbreak and friendship through challenging circumstances. The characters are truly brought to life in such a real and relatable manner that you could be sat on the sofa with them. The raw emotions of the characters are written with compassion and sensitivity with touches of humour leading you empathise with all characters. There are no good guys or bad guys, there is no simple solution, just people trying to feel their way through life, as we all do.

Josie Silver's writing is fantastic. The chapters are told in an almost diary-like way and even though they can swap from one character's perspective to another and there can be months between chapters, you never lose the story.

I would recommend this to anyone that is looking for a feel-good read this winter.

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

I didn't know what to expect from Tom Hanks as a writer but he has found a way to convey his talent into this collection of short stories.

The tales are an eclectic mix of stories, sometimes related, mostly not, delving into the everyday lives of everyday people. As short tales, there are no big twists or drama but they are told with compassion in a simple, old-fashioned way that suits Hanks' style.

There is a theme along the seemingly unconnected stories in that a typewriter appears in each of the tales, sometimes part of the plot and some hidden in the descriptions. This created a connecting thread that ran through the collection and made it more than random stories placed next to each other.

Like all short story collections, I enjoyed some tales more than others. I particularly enjoyed the one about the bowling prodigy who, after rolling perfect game after perfect game, has to decide whether the fame is worth ruining the game he loves.

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

**Content warning: This book contains descriptions of suicide**

I picked up this book as I'd heard some hype and thought the front cover looked nice but Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was so much more than I was expecting.

Eleanor Oliphant has had a hard time but is ready to make some changes to her carefully routined life. Whilst trying to win the affections of one man, she softens unexpectedly to another. This sets Eleanor down a path of events that allows us to get to know the character and how she got to be who she is.

The author, Gail Honeyman, has constructed the character of Eleanor so well. She's a greatly flawed character with which we can all empathise and identify with a part of her life. The writing is funny and original and deeply touching, sometimes heart breaking. This book takes you on such a rollercoaster of emotions, one minute I was laughing out loud and the next I wanted to cry for Eleanor.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is an absolutely stunning book, delightfully funny and compassionate whilst containing a powerful and important message about the mental health problems so many people suffer with every day.

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

A landmark or a relic is a name for famous buildings, or where important historical events took place, like the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London or Kensington Palace. It's not a name that would be given to something as unassuming as a local lido. Libby Page's bestselling debut novel, makes a case for places like the lido.

This novel is about a blossoming friendship between Kate, a young local news journalist writing a piece on the Lido and Rosemary, an elderly woman who is a lifetime user of the lido, and their fight to stop the impending closure of the building. The book is told in their alternating points of view, which makes for an enjoyable read; as we learn more about Rosemary's past, her love story and why she has such a connection to the lido, we are also privy to Kate's growth as a character, as she wrestles with her insecurities and loneliness.

Brixton is as much of a character as Rosemary and Kate. Libby Page's writing evokes the smells, sounds and people of Brixton Station Road, from the butchers to the bookshops to the pastors praying on the street. It's a gorgeous, relatable and moving story with a charming cast of characters. I loved it!

Candy, Digital Marketing Officer at Mind

**Content warning: This book is not intended for all audiences and reader discretion is advised.**

This novel definitely pushes boundaries and has to be one of the most interesting and addictive books I've read in a long time.

There are plot twists a plenty and the short alternating chapters made the book very hard to put down. I became completely invested in the characters, their stories and their emotional journeys to find the love they are so desperate for, who wouldn't want to love and be loved so unconditionally? I found myself willing them all to have their happy endings, even the more sinister characters.

The science-fiction twist to this psychological thriller makes the plot seem like a disturbingly real possibility, a unique quality that I loved. Would you take the test? What would you do if you were 'Matched'?

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

 

**Content warning: This book depicts animals in distress.**

I read Watership Down as a trip down memory lane as I adored the film as a child and thought, as an adult, I would be more emotionally equipped to take on the rabbits' plight. As a child this was a fascinating story about rabbits trying to find a new home but reading as an adult I found much greater depth to the story.

Richard Adams' saga is a classic for a reason and his skill of humanising the characters in their thoughts and feelings often left me forgetting that they were animals. He brings into question the artificial life caged animals endure and the effect humans can have on nature.

Even though I knew the plot and how it was going to end I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. I would recommend this book as it is a rare one that can be enjoyed by all regardless of age or genre preference.

Kate, Membership Officer at Mind

Matt Haig's latest book begins with him pacing the room, arguing with a stranger on Twitter. It's the first step on a journey that leads him to question our entire relationship with a rapidly-changing world. Part-personal reflection, part 21st century-self-help guide, Notes on a Nervous Planet is a much-needed examination of what the world we live in could be doing to our mental health.

Matt Haig, author of the bestselling memoir Reasons to Stay Alive, hadn't intended to write another book about mental health. After describing what he learnt from the depression and anxiety that almost led him to take his own life, he returned to writing fiction, thinking he had no more to say about the workings of the mind.

But then he began to notice how the modern world encroaches on our mental state. He realised the impact that social media, in particular, was having on his wellbeing. Gradually he identified more and more 21st century distractions that could actually be driving us to distraction – and Notes on a Nervous Planet is the result.

In it, Matt examines everything from social media to body image to 24/7 news to sleep to our changing relationship with time. He asks whether we're really equipped to cope with the current pace of change, and offers a wealth of advice that's helped him to feel happier and less distracted in an overwhelming world.

Much of his advice could be seen as common sense – but it's common sense that's all too easy to forget, which is what makes Notes on a Nervous Planet so valuable. It's a book to come back to, to underline and make notes in: a book that could make you think differently about the way you live your life.

Sabrina, Mind Membership Team

Before I started reading this book, I thought I had this whole self-care thing sussed. I have nice long, relaxing baths, get enough sleep and floss regularly. What this book taught was that self-care is about so much more than that; it's not just 'a nice to have', it's actually essential to our wellbeing and without it things can go very wrong with our mental and physical health. The author, Jayne Hardy who is the CEO of the Blurt Foundation writes in such a warm, empathic way that it feels like you are chatting over coffee together. She is also honest and funny, and recognises that humans are pretty messy and complicated at the best times, so we may struggle to prioritise self-care. There are some really cool illustrations, with boxes and charts to fill in to help you document your own self-care journey. All in all, I really enjoyed it and look forward to putting what I have learnt into practice!

Rachel, Communications Officer at Mind

 

**Content Warning: This book contains discussions of suicide.**

I, like many, had watched Jonny Benjamin's Channel 4 film The Stranger on the Bridge in 2014, about the stranger who intervened and stopped him when he was ready to end his life at Waterloo Bridge. But I didn't know the details behind his story, or the circumstances that led to him attempting to take his own life.

This autobiographical tale includes poignant extracts from Jonny's diary and poems, which really helps to convey how he was feeling at the time of particular events in the book. It begins with Jonny candidly describing his childhood and what he believes to be his first experiences of mental health problems. He then takes us through his teenage years, his experiences of being hospitalised and of course, the #findmike campaign, which undoubtedly helped to raise awareness of mental health problems on a global scale. The book ends with Jonny introducing us to his work as a mental health campaigner, working in schools and running the London Marathon for Heads Together.

Overall, though some of Jonny's accounts were at times difficult to read, this was one of the most important depictions of what it's like to live with a mental health problem that I've ever read. I went away feeling empowered and reassured that I wasn't alone.

Bryony Acketts, Mind Media team

**Content warning: the book contains descriptions of self-harm.**

Aza is a typical teenager dealing with many of the things you'd expect: school work and exams, meeting boys, having fun with her best friend and her relationship with her mum. But there are also some more unexpected things that pop up; including the hunt for a missing billionaire.

Aza is also dealing with her spiralling thoughts and compulsive behaviour.

This is an honest and relatable story based on the author's own experiences of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The portrayal of how Aza experiences and manages her intrusive thoughts came across as genuine and realistic and I could really empathise with what she was going through.

What's powerful is that throughout the whole story, Aza's illness doesn't define her, it's a backdrop to the story for sure, but there is so much else going on in her life.

The book doesn't shy away from hard topics and what I also really liked was that it doesn't contrive a happy ending. When the plot gets tied up at the end of the book, Aza's story is not neatly wrapped up too; her illness is something that she will have to continue to deal with. And the best quote from the book comes from Aza's mum who says to her: "Your now is not your forever".

Amy, Senior Communications Officer at Mind

It's hard to pin down exactly what Bluets is: written in brief, numbered paragraphs, Nelson's book reads almost like a collection of prose poems. It is autobiographical, confessional, emotionally immediate, and shocking, in parts. This slim volume is at once dense and sparse, and while it may be a quick read, you will find tinges of it seeping through you long after you put it down.

Written over three years, in the aftermath of a catastrophic break up and while caring for a close friend, who is quadriplegic, Nelson grapples with heartbreak, loss and grief. She describes the act of writing the book as "way of making my life feel 'in progress' rather than a sleeve of ash falling off a lit cigarette".

Each little fragment is a meditation on art, love, loneliness and Nelson's struggles with depression, and often her relationship with her therapist. The thread that weaves everything together is the colour blue and Nelson's lifelong obsession with it.

Nelson talks about the blue objects, fragments and facts that she collects as a comfort that she can keep around her and help her work through the times that she has struggled, like a bowerbird furnishing her nest, and in a sense that is what this book is itself; a series of intimate moments that you can call on for wisdom, beauty and comfort.

Reviewer: Isobel, Mind Communications team

After experiencing postnatal anxiety and birth trauma after the birth of her first baby, Anna gives honest insights into balancing her mental health alongside becoming a new parent. With advice from an expert psychologist, real life stories from other new parents and easy practical exercises, this book is a reassuring read for anyone embarking on parenthood.

One of the best things about the book is that Anna makes it clear there is no perfect or right way to do things, contrary to the opinions and books often foisted on soon-to-be parents. One of my favourite exercises is where Anna asks the reader to visualise receiving some uninvited baby advice from somebody and encourages them to explain why they are confident in the choices they have made. This helps the new parent develop an armoury of responses, ready for the real life test.

Reviewer: Naomi, Mind Media team

Many of us often find it difficult to find peace in the chaos of modern life. Fearne's 'Calm' is a gentle guide to working through those daily stresses. You'll find interactive exercises, interviews with friends and family, advice from experts and personal insights, along with her usual beautiful hand-drawn illustrations.

After reading the book, I felt immediately equipped with some easy tools to help improve my wellbeing. I have already started avoiding technology in bed, trying some breathing exercises at work and written a confidence boosting letter ready to give to myself when I need it. It's not airy fairy advice but practical tips rooted in reality. There are chapters that focus on how to support with work, family, and relationships.

Overall this is a wonderful book to make you think about things, slow them down and hopefully help with finding a bit more calm in your life.

Reviewer: Lizzie, Mind Information team

Tom Hazard looks like an ordinary 40 something history teacher. However, what nobody knows is that, due to a rare condition, Tom's been alive for centuries. He's had the luck to meet some of the greats along the way including Shakespeare to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Now he's ready to slow things down. However the past has other ideas.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book - it had so many important messages about life and time within it that I took more from it than just a good storyline. I even noted down a couple of quotes!

You completely empathise with Tom. The Albatross society, which is charged with helping to keep Tom's condition secret and protect him, impose on him strict rules to live by, including the rule not to fall in love. This feeling of being constrained and forced to follow certain norms is something that many of us can relate to in modern life. That's why over the course of the book, you become inevitably gripped as he starts to realise that in fact, life can be lived on his own terms.

Reviewer: Sabrina, Mind Membership team

 

Psychotherapist and best-selling author Susie Orbach sheds light on the often private process of therapy using dramatised case studies. Susie does this in a very accessible way – without any jargon or delving into overly complex theories. This book is a must for anyone who is considering therapy as a career or is simply curious about how it all works.

Using the transcripts from her BBC Radio 4 show, where she improvised sessions with actors who had each been given a brief, Susie intersperses them with her insights to their reactions and explanations of her way of working. This format is a great way to show how therapy can work for different challenges in life, breaks down misconceptions and takes away the mystery and fear around it.

Reviewer: Joe, Mind Information team

For Mind member Julia, writing poetry has been a real support to her. Since completing an Open University short course in 2005, she has continued to write and perform poetry, been included in anthologies and magazines (including the Mind Membership magazine) and has now published her own poetry book.

Below Julia talks to the Mind Membership team about how she started, what it means to her and her advice for others who might want to try their hand at poetry.

**Please be aware that some of Julia's poetry covers topics that some people may find triggering. This includes themes around domestic violence and child abuse**

How did you get in to poetry writing?

In January 2005 I left the partner that I had lived with for 2 years due to physical and emotional abuse and moved back in with my parents. After moving back home, I had a nervous breakdown, and I was very depressed and suicidal.

My GP put me on stronger antidepressants and suggested to me that I should sign up for a new course of study, to take my mind off my negative thoughts and give me something positive to focus on.

So I started a short online course on poetry writing at the Open University. It was something that had always interested me since school, reading Shakespeare, Wilfred Owen and Roald Dahl. Six years later, I graduated with BA (hons) in English Language and Literature.

Why is poetry so important to you?

I enjoy writing poetry because I find it therapeutic; I have Bipolar disorder and writing helps me to deal with difficult feelings and to make sense of the world. To me writing is a way of: 'Fighting back' by 'Writing back'.

How does it feel to have your poetry published?

To have my poetry published by Ragiel & Gill Press feels both wonderful and scary at the same time. It's like the book is a closet and the poems are my skeletons; which I've kept hidden for most of my life. Writing the book 'Order & Chaos: A Collection of Protest Poems' has helped me to exorcise the demons of my past which include child abuse and domestic violence. And I'm hoping the book will empower others to do the same.

What is your advice to others who would like to try writing poetry?

My advice to others who want to write poetry are to: a) read a lot of poetry and books in general; b) do a short course in poetry if possible; c) practice writing poetry as often as you can; and d) a good book to buy with lots of helpful advice is: 'How to be a Poet' By Jo Bell.

What is your favourite poem or book and why?

It's difficult for me to pinpoint my favourite book as I have many favourites; but the most recent poetry book which I own and love is 'Sex & Love & Rock & Roll' by Tony Walsh. I also love the poem that Tony Walsh did in reaction to the Manchester bombings in 2017 called 'This is the Place' as it's a poem that celebrates all the best things about Manchester and its people.

 

Find out more about Bipolar disorder.

Find out more about depression.

Find out more about suicidal feelings.

If you have any questions about the above, please don't hesitate to get in touch with membership on [email protected]

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