A Death in Custody, a slower paced book but a thought provoking and emotive read, nonetheless. The story of Delroy Brown, a young man being held in police custody for the supply and sale of drugs to an undercover police informant. While being held in police custody, Delroy Brown meets his death following a confrontation with a police officer in his cell. The police officer claims the accidental death followed an act of self-defence; however, evidence is not always so clear.
The story of young Delroy is very detailed, the book is clearly set out and the chapters flow from one to another. T. S. Clayton’s legal history of being a solicitor is also apparent within this book through the extensive description, and detail of which the legal system is discussed. This being said, as someone with no formal legal background other than watching Suits more times that I wish to admit, the consistent discussion of the legal system was not daunting, nor too confusing, to still understand and enjoy the story being unfolded before me.
The characters within the book are extremely well written, resulting in you feeling for them and being able to see the story from both sides. There is also a strong feeling of inclusivity within this book; all walks of life are considered within the story from the deceased’s family, the homeless, the police and the courts system.
Although a slower paced read, I found myself speeding through this book, constantly curious of the potential for justice for Delroy’s family. At points throughout the book I was unsure of how the story was going to end, but appreciated that the story came to an end clearly.
Reviewer: Georgia, Mind Member
The Hike is a novel that refuses to be defined within the usual literary genres, and it’s definitely a book that is going to split the room – my wife couldn’t get past the first few chapters while I couldn’t put it down! So I’m going to kick off this review by throwing out a few adjectives to help make sense of what’s in store for you when you read this book: weird, frenetic, hilarious, terrifying, feverish, heart-warming, erratic, unpredictable, intense, trippy, spirited, extraordinary.
The backstory is that Ben, a thirty-something dad, goes on a business trip and decides to take a walk in the woods to kill some time – and quickly falls down a metaphorical rabbit-hole to end all rabbit-holes. He finds himself in a fantastical land where his life is in constant danger and friends are few. His closest companion is a talking blue crab who swears a lot and generally isn’t very supportive!
Early in his odyssey (to call it a hike seems wholly insufficient), Ben is instructed to never leave the path that a mysterious ‘Producer’ has created for him, or he will perish. The story is peppered with flashbacks to an abusive childhood living with his alcoholic father that Ben has left far behind in his adult life. Sometimes these memories can motivate him or alternatively hold him back, and at other times they appear to influence the very fabric of a landscape that seems determined to oppose him. At the same time, he faces monsters and demons that wouldn’t be out of place in a H. P. Lovecraft novel. Throughout everything, all Ben desperately wants to do is find a way home to his loving wife and children. (You’ll just have to trust me that this book is also very funny!)
If you like your books with a huge dollop of strange, The Hike could well be the one for you. I genuinely didn’t know or couldn’t guess what was coming up on the next page. It was this and the very relatable personality of our intrepid hero that kept me reading well after I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep.
Reviewer: John, Membership and Participation Manager
“To tell the story of my body is to tell you about shame – being ashamed of how I look, ashamed of my weakness, the shame of knowing it is in my power to change my body and yet, year after year, not changing it.”
Hunger by Roxanne Gay is a searing and intimate memoir about her life, her body and her hunger. She starts by explaining that this is not a story of triumph over her body, finding a way to fit into the patriarchal ideal of what a woman should look like, where thinness is prized above all else. Rather, she names it as a confession, showing the reader what she considers the ugliest and weakest parts of herself, to find a way to accept her body despite not fulfilling others’ dreams of how she should be.
Gay describes her childhood, one of mostly love and support from her family, but she often relies on their memories if those early years in order to make sense of the world around her. This is due to a devastating and traumatic experience when she was 12 years old, muddying her memories and forever changing her relationship with food and her body.
She speaks at length about the impact shame has on people and how they view themselves and move through the world, how misogyny and racism intersect, and her own journey with her sexuality.
Gay leaves the reader with the sense that despite all she’s been through, she has worked hard to heal from her trauma, and find ways to move and exist in a world that wants her to be anything but herself. A riveting and emotional read, and one that is pertinent to help fight against sexist body ideals and the ever-present sense of shame many of us feel throughout our lives.
*Content warning* - themes of sexual assault, discrimination and disordered eating
Reviewer: Emily, Membership Officer
This Family by Kate Sawyer
This Family is a novel where it’s probably best to go in spoiler-free. So, let’s just give you the merest thread of the narrative. Emma, Phoebe and Rosie return home for their mother’s wedding, the last event in the family home before it is sold.
Now, if you’re erudite enough; you’ll probably have sussed the nod to at least one Chekhov play. Well done, three points. But let’s be blunt here: tributes to Chekhov tend to be dry, tedious and an attempt by a writer to appear clever. The only one who’s done it recently with any sort of grace or wit is Gary Shteyngart in Our Country Friends. And he has a very strong track record of parodying Russian literature, tovarisch.
But this is a different, more graceful kind of dance. Sawyer shows a family in its true Larkinian state - and you can say that of most families. She pulls and twists the narrative back and forward, with each character’s narrative being revealed through reveries, filtered through the last forty years of history.
There is also the confidence to misdirect the reader and make them gasp - for example, the daughter’s mother is not marrying whom you think she is.
Sawyer is also excellent on the small cruelties of family life as much as she is on what German’s call Weltschmerz.
And let’s return to those literary nods. This novel includes the use of a pond as Chekhov’s gun. I’ll say no more.
But this is where the admiration ends, and the recommendation begins. This Family is a gorgeous, slow-burning firework as much as a bittersweet study of family life. I’m probably going to spend the next eighteen months recommending this as much as I did Sawyer’s first novel, The Stranding.
**Content warning: terminal illness, suicide, baby loss**
Kev, Mind Member
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
First to say, I fell in love with The Night Circus within a few pages. It is a thing of beauty and its prose is rich and luxurious. The author takes time to create scenes that are vivid in their description of enchantments and magical happenings. But Erin Morgenstern’s Victorian fantasy novel is also a book that is going to divide readers. The story follows the lives of two magicians who have been trained from childhood to eventually meet and compete with one another in a challenge that will leave one of them as a winner and the other one dead. But this is not a duel as we might know it where challengers face off in the heat of battle. Rather, it’s a series of magical acts taking place over a good many years that will eventually show who is the superior sorcerer. The setting for this competition is a travelling circus that can only be visited after midnight, and appears without warning and disappears again without a trace. What their sociopathic mentors who set the rules of the challenge could never have predicted was that our competitors would fall deeply in love.
The Night Circus is slow-paced. The story builds with extreme subtlety, seen through the eyes of the many characters who weave in and out of it. But it builds to a crescendo that is a delight to experience. If your preference is for action-packed thrillers, this is not the book for you. But if you relish a novel that builds fantastical worlds and tantalizes the senses, then I thoroughly recommend you visit the night circus and let the magic take you to a place where dreams and reality are often one and the same thing.
Reviewer: John, Membership and Participation Manager
The King Must Die by Mary Renault
This is an ancient tale retold by Mary Renault, in 1958, It is the first historical novel I read at the age of 10.
The original tale is from Plato’s Dialogues, and is set in various locations in Ancient Greece, Knossos, Corinth, Troizen, Crete, and Corinth. At the age of 17, Theseus finds out that his father is King Aigeus of Athens and he takes a ship to go and find his father.
Theseus arrives at Eleusis on the same day that the King must die, the King is killed each year and Theseus is told that he must carry out the sentence. Afterwards he becomes the new king but knows he will suffer the same fate the following year. After further adventures, he finally arrives in Athens and meets his father, who tries to save him from the Cretan Lottery. This involves bull dancing, Athens has to send seven young girls and six youths to Crete, Theseus volunteers to go with them.
Upon arrival, he meets the king and begins to train with the Bull Dancers, he becomes the best Bull leaper a prestigious title.
Later, the kings daughter Ariadne, becomes infatuated with him and she helps him plan his escape. Because the king has tried to have Theseus killed during the dance, Poseidon is angry and sends a great earthquake, Theseus rescues Ariadne just in time and everyone sales home via the island of Naxos. Theseus leaves Ariadne there. Upon reaching Athens he learns that his father is dead and after many other trials and hardships, he reaches the conclusion that the fate of man is beyond his ability to understand, The sequel is called The Bull From the Sea, by the same author and is just as riveting as The King Must Die.
Reviewer: Pat, Mind Member
I read this book after studying a brief history of Mental Health in the UK.
The Mad Women’s Ball is set in Paris, in 1885. The setting is the Salpetriere asylum where women from all walks of life are hidden from existence thanks to an oppressive patriarchal society. The novel explores a grim era of medical history that left me feeling sad, frustrated, and angry. It is horrifying to discover how female patients were abused by the people who should have been caring for them both inside and outside of the asylum.
The book takes its name from the annual ball (Lenden ball) that is held at the asylum. It’s an invitation-only event where the Parisian elite gathers to gawp at and mingle with the patients who have gone to great lengths to prepare for the ball. It is here that the two societies collide, giving the patients a rare glimpse of hope.
There are many trigger warnings throughout this novel so it's not for everyone. My heart ached for some of the women in the Salpetriere but I believe we have the opportunity nowadays to voice our rights and stand up to the injustice and oppression of women worldwide.
**Content warning: themes of sexual assault, mental and physical abuse, misogyny**
Mona, Mind member
Malibu Rising is (perhaps unsurprisingly) set in Malibu, California. The story runs between the 1960s and the 1980s, and follows the Riva family from their mother’s humble beginnings running a seafood restaurant to their annual lavish summer party held in the eldest sister’s mansion, surrounded by Hollywood’s elite. The Rivas comprise of four siblings, Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit, their father Mick, a famous singer and a ladies’ man, and their mother June, who despite all the hardship she’s been through at the hands of Mick, tries her best to keep the family together.
The story follows the blossoming relationship between Mick and June, where Mick sweeps her off her feet and promises her the world – once he gets famous of course. But money and success bring cheating and lies, and after having three of their children, Mick disappears. The eldest daughter, Nina, has to step in and grow up fast to help take care of her family. Surfing is a common theme throughout the book, with all the siblings having real talent in this sport.
The reader is taken through the lives of all 6 Rivas, starting with Nina getting ready for the party. We get to understand the inner workings of each siblings’ mind from childhood to adulthood, and the final summer party in 1983 that gets completely out of control, leading to disaster. A heart-warming story of family – both blood and found – that leaves the reader satisfied that the Riva children all get what they deserve.
**Content warning: substance abuse, death**
Reviewer: Emily, Membership Officer
Harry August was born into an underwhelming life of servitude in rural England in the year 1919. He lives a life of very little note and then dies not long before the end of the 20th Century. And that’s when things become interesting… Harry is born again in the exact same circumstances and discovers he is destined to relive his life over and over again, each time retaining all of the memories from the many lives that came before. He lives each life differently, training as a soldier or a doctor or a scientist. He discovers there are others out there like him and they control the destiny of our world, passing messages to each other back and forward across time, changing the outcomes of wars and conflicts. On his deathbed, at the end of his 11th life a mysterious young girl passes him a message from the future and charges him with a mission to stop the end of the world.
I loved this book (and most writings from the pen of Claire North) but I don’t think it will be for everybody. For a start it leans heavily into sci-fi tropes that are presented with much more tongue-in-cheek in the film Groundhog Day and the TV series Quantum Leap. Harry August makes no attempt to rush towards the end of the plot or the next big reveal. It’s written with a kind of dream-like quality where the narrator’s voice seems slightly detached from his own story. But, to me, the characters feel real and raw, and the book is a tale of apocalyptic prophecy about what might happen if humankind was to get everything they wished for.
Reviewer: John, Membership and Participation Manager
After 75 years and 64 novels, Stephen King shows no sign of losing his talent for telling a compelling story. In line with his recent books, Billy Summers veers from horror and into crime thriller territory.
The titular character is a former army man now working as a hitman performing that crucial one last job, catching the writing bug in the process, and landing in a heap of trouble after a double cross.
At first, it might seem somewhat familiar and perhaps even contrived, but the book has much more on its mind than mere thrills. Early sections find Billy making a home for himself in a small town of Trump voters and feels like King reconciling with the country who voted for the man.
It’s refreshingly free of judgement and empathetic to both sides of a political world which is increasingly at odds with itself.
Then King gets more personal by having Billy catch the writing bug as he poses as a novelist writing about his tragic childhood and where it led him. To say much more about this plot would do the reader a disservice from discovering it for themselves, but Billy Summers becomes very much its own beast that I found hard to put down.
Moving and compelling, Billy Summers is about trauma and how we connect via our means of expressing our own pain to both ourselves and others. It may well be Stephen King’s best work of the last twenty years.
Reviewer: Chris, Mind member
Set in both East London and Antigua, Mr Loverman explores the life of Barrington Jedidiah Walker, Barry to his friends, who has been having an affair with his childhood friend and soulmate, Morris for the past 60 years. His wife, Carmel, knows he’s cheating on her, but has no idea what is really going on.
We’re taken on a journey back and forth from Barry’s childhood and teenage years in Antigua where his love for Morris blossoms, to the 2010s in Hackney where Barry is now 74, his marriage is slowly falling apart and he desperately wants to tell the truth about who he is and who he has really loved all this time.
The reader also gets an insight into Carmel’s life; her anger at knowing her husband is cheating on her but not being able to do anything about it, her loneliness and sorrow that her life in the UK isn’t what she thought it would be, and the secrets she keeps from Barry.
When Carmel’s father dies and she goes back to Antigua to see her family, Barry has some big decisions to make.
From the Booker Prize-winning author Bernadine Evaristo, Mr Loverman is a brilliant, funny and poignant exploration of the British older Caribbean community, masculinity, prejudice and fear.
Evaristo approaches the topics of family, race and sexuality with sensitivity and warmth, creating a sharp and witty story that shouldn’t be missed.
**Content warning** themes of prejudice and discrimination
Reviewer: Emily, Membership Officer
Adam Kay is a former NHS obstetrician turned comedian and writer. This book is about his life after he left the medical profession to carve a new direction for himself. Undoctored includes many comedic moments, but overwhelmingly, it reminds me of a therapy session, as Adam unpicks the highs and lows of his life with brutal honesty.
He tells us that, coming from a medical family, it was just expected that he would become a doctor. And despite knowing he was gay, he married a woman and tried to live the life he thought society expected of him.
Both of these situations were destined to unravel, hurried along when a caesarean Adam was performing ended in tragedy – a moment that continues to haunt his nightmares – and when the couple lost their own child during pregnancy and Adam was expected to just ‘get on with the job’.
He also describes how he felt body-shamed and developed an eating disorder, and horrific circumstances of being raped and the impact keeping silent about the assault for a decade had on his mental health.
The book is peppered with flashbacks to his childhood and medical days. He has lots of advice for providing better support for doctors and we feel his seething anger in personal interactions with the Health Secretary during the Covid pandemic.
Despite the chronological jumping around, Undoctored is well-written, and in that sense, any easy read – I’d recommend it to autobiography fans or readers interested in the themes I’ve mentioned. But the subject matter is often extremely raw and I found myself stepping away at times before coming back to read some more.
**Content warning** references to sexual assault, grief and bereavement, and eating disorder
Reviewer: John, Membership and Participation Manager
The Miracle Morning is the wake-up call everyone should introduce to their life.
Self-care is extremely important. In this day and age it can make the world of difference when we give some time back to ourselves.
You don’t have to wake up at 5am, but you need to commit to making a change and waking up at least 30 minutes earlier than normal. You focus on 6 main aspects called S-A-V-E-R-S. This is an acronym for Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing which have all been proven to enhance wellbeing.
I have always tried to fit mediation, journaling and yoga into my life. But, by the end of each day I was finding there was rarely any time left. I was exhausted. But now, I do all 6 SAVERS in the morning, most days of the week, and I can see the change in myself.
My head can be forever busy, so mediation helps calm the chatter. I have real moments of relaxation in a tranquil space and affirmations help me think positively when self-doubt creeps up.
I have more energy, have gained clarity and am therefore more productive in my day to day life. I feel like I'm taking care of myself properly at last.
I've had a massive realisation. A wow moment. My mindset and health have never been better. There's also a Miracle Morning App to encourage you to try the SAVERS for 30 days. There's also an online community that will help you stay accountable. I recommend this book and way of life to everyone.
Reviewer: Sarah, Mind member
Manic Mosaic is a book by Alexis Bear (I will refer to Alexis as Alex as he has since gone through transition).
The book tells you the story to “explain the mosaic of behaviour for friends and loved ones of people who live with depression”.
Reading this book, I already knew I had depression. However, once I had read the book, I found I understood my own mental health. The way Alex has used real life stories throughout helps the reader understand their own depression, or a family member’s depression.
As Alex has been suffering with his own mental health issues, he has been able to create a 138-page book for those around the sufferer. He has made sure to explain every little detail of depression that will help others understand their loved one who may be suffering.
There is a trigger warning of self-harm and suicide. However, Alex has made sure to not only put this content right at the end of his book, but also put a page with a trigger warning before it. This is so those who may get triggered can stop reading there.
The way Manic Mosaic is written is probably the best 'self-help' book I could've read. For anyone suffering, or knows a loved one suffering with depression, I'd heavily give a recommendation of this book.
**Content Warning** reference to self-harm and suicide
Reviewer: Zara, Mind member
I must be honest and say that I was apprehensive about reading this book. Not because there's anything wrong with it, but because of the difficult and emotional themes it deals with.
The author is very honest and deals with the themes of grief, loss, and love in a straightforward and no-nonsense way. I quickly found my own triggers and you'll probably discover some of your own.
That said, please don’t let that put you off reading this book. It's reflective of our own experiences in many ways and for that reason, it’s well worth reading. Just maybe stock up on the Kleenex first!
Although the author experiences the distress and sadness that losing a loved one brings, the book is not maudlin. And, as she progresses through the grief process and the year, she finds solace in her garden and in cooking, hence the mouth-watering recipes and the autobiographical nature.
Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the author finds a new love. Not only does she find a new love, but also begins to appreciate the other loves that were there all the time – her family and friends. Sometimes it takes tragedy to open our eyes to what and who was always there.
I’m glad I read this book. Not just because of the mouth-watering recipes, but to experience in some way the emotions it brought to me and will surely bring to those who read it.
**Content Warning** reference to grief and bereavement
Reviewer: Pat, Mind member
I’ve been a fan of comedian Bill Bailey for a while – his Strictly Come Dancing routine to Rapper’s Delight was legendary! So, I was very pleased to receive his ‘guide to happiness’ as a present.
Bailey explains in the foreword that he wrote the book mainly during the lockdown. He wrote it as he reflected that ‘happiness’ was a common theme in his stand-up shows over the years.
He warns us from the start that 'there will be no tips on yoga', or ‘harnessing the power within'. There will be no ten steps to personal mastery. Instead, he promises to share 'a few accounts of fortuitous moments and remarkable times' when he experienced happiness which ‘might just make you smile’.
The comedian delivers on this promise with this perfect bedtime companion. It’s a very accessible and easy to read book that you can dip into for 5 to 10 minutes before you nod off.
Bailey covers an eclectic mix of topics. From wild swimming in Iceland to playing dinosaur crazy golf. From paddleboarding down the River Thames to skydiving on the Gold Coast of Australia. He even makes a convincing case for the mental health benefits of swearing!
I found myself chuckling to Bailey’s many amusing anecdotes from his far-flung travels. Such as desperately singing 'You Are My Sunshine' to a Maori tribe in New Zealand, or dancing ‘a jig of pure joy in a tidy Swedish car park’ after listening to England cricketer Ben Stokes crash the winning runs against Australia.
The comedian includes his own illustrations throughout the book. He’s no Picasso, but it definitely adds to the charm of the book.
If you’re looking for a light-hearted, interesting, sometimes quirky and genuinely funny book, I’d highly recommend this one.
Reviewer: Fabian, Membership officer at Mind
Whether you classify this as a murder mystery, love story, or evocative historical novel, there's no denying it will transport you to post-war rural north Wales. Here, you'll be immersed headlong into the saga that unravels following Gwyn Parry's enigmatic death.
The novel's structure lends itself to being a page-turner. Each catenated chapter, delightfully named after the Romany months, seamlessly follows the seasons and farming and chapel calendars in a way that incites uninterrupted reading to find out what happened to Gwyn Parry.
The interwoven sub-plots (relating to the central family of the novel) running alongside that of the main plot are equally significant. Not only are they replete with red herrings surrounding the mysterious death we so long to fathom, they are also salient stories in their own right, offering heartbreak, heroism and humour.
Helen Payton's sublimely eloquent and perspicacious writing is the antithesis of the horrors of the First World War. She effortlessly masters painting with words the image of rural north Wales. She encompasses its seasonally changing natural beauty, enabling readers to feel as if they were engulfed and present in that very world at that very time.
The characters she pens are nothing short of phenomenal. Each protagonist has their own distinct personality, voice, locution, mannerisms, hopes, dreams, fears, talents, agendas, bias and more that makes them uniquely lovable or detestable.
What's more, the impressive amount of research carried out by the author shines through. From gritty details of the First World War, to manual farming tasks from the 20th Century. From Chapel hymns, scripture and dogmatism, to Welsh traditions and customs. From Romany culture and superstitions, to precise medical procedures - she clearly left no leaf unturned!
Bread and Buttermilk is a visceral reflection on love and loss. On resilience in the face of unimaginable hardship, on parting ways with bias and injustice and moving forward in pursuit of dreams. It's been a long time since I was so captivated by a book, so invested in characters and able to sit still for hours at a time!
Reviewer: Angharad, Mind member
This is a book for everyone in any situation. An easy read that would not intimidate anyone who is new to poetry and can be taken anywhere.
The editors of this book had thoroughly researched and organised the poems with the topics they are most appropriately suited to. It's kept fresh by using poems in multiple kinds of structures and rhythms.
Before reading the list of poems in their specific topics, there's an introduction of each subject. This helps gain your interest in learning about the meaning behind them and the poems. How they came to be and what influence they have upon readers in both academic and personal cultures.
Although these series of introductions are informative, they made good use of analogies and metaphors. These pieces of information are written in a way that you never tire of - you only continue to be fascinated by.
The book is a guide to finding things/tools that can be helpful for you mentally. But it also gives you the freedom to choose what is suitable for you and how you want to use them.
They can be utilised by you as chants, prayers, reminders, phrases, and ways to express what you're thinking or feeling if you can't find words of your own yet. Finally, they can even be seen as lessons that could help you understand yourself further.
**Content warning** loss, grief, stress, mental breakdown
Reviewer: Beth, Mind member
This is an honest, emotional, chaotic yet funny and warm account of Bryony’s mental health struggles, specifically with OCD, addiction and depression.
She reminds us from the outset that mental illness doesn’t discriminate. That it’s often invisible to the onlooker. And that, it’s ok not to have your stuff together because no one has, whatever it may look like to others.
Reading this also reminded me that I shouldn’t feel guilty for laughing and seeing the funny side to the darker moments when I can because it’s often a very helpful way of coping.
While I’ve never suffered from OCD or an addiction myself, I appreciated Bryony’s insights into what it’s really like living with illnesses such as these. But I saw many parallels with my own ongoing battle with depression and anxiety which was comforting in many ways. Not least, as a reminder that I’m not alone and that it’s not a failure in any way to need medication to get by. That goes for anyone reading this too - we all need help from time to time, whatever form that takes!
Nothing new maybe but it was just so reassuring to hear it from someone who's also been there, done that and found some light at the end of the tunnel. I would liken reading this book to receiving a big hug from an older, more knowledgeable friend as if to say “It’s ok. I’ve been there and you will get through this”.
This is an emotional yet very enjoyable read and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone. Whether you’re suffering from mental illness yourself or are looking to help someone in your life with their mental health struggles. I just wish I’d picked this up sooner!
**Content warning** OCD, drug addiction and depression.
Reviewer: Helen, Mind member
This is an inspirational story of how baking changed the lives of Al Tait and his then 14-year-old daughter Kitty Tait.
The book begins by outlining the circumstances in which they find themselves, and how baking came to play such a crucial role in the recovery of Kitty from mental distress.
At first, Kitty was like any other 14 year old however, she gradually began to display symptoms of depression. By the time her family noticed it, she was unable to remain in school and had lost interest in almost everything.
After some time, her parents decided that Kitty needed more support. And so, her father, Al, gave up his lucrative post at Oxford University to care for his daughter full time. Al had previously learned to bake bread by his father, but his early attempts left something to be desired. The flavour and consistency of his baking wasn’t always popular with his family.
Various attempts to engage Kitty in crafts and writing fell flat. One day he began to make the dough for bread and she asked if she could help.
This was a turning point in not just her recovery process, but also in their relationship. Kitty quickly became absorbed in the whole process of making the dough and baking bread.
Soon, she was making and selling bread to friends and neighbours. Eventually, the business grew to the point where they needed help and a bigger premises, because they'd outgrown both their own kitchen and the neighbours’ kitchens.
Today, they have a thriving business called ‘Orange Bakery’ and Kitty acknowledges the role breadmaking has had in her recovery. The book also includes recipes for different types of bread, pastries, and cakes. As a keen baker myself, I can verify the therapeutic value of baking in relation to recovery from mental distress.
The book is a real gem and I can certainly recommend it to everyone looking for an insight into the role of baking as a means of therapy. I will definitely be giving some of the recipes a try myself.
Reviewer: Pat, Mind member
Tiffy needs a place to stay. Leon works nights and needs to make some extra money. The solution, Leon rents his one bed flat so he occupies it while Tiffy is at work and she has run of the place the rest of the time.
This book has shot straight up to one of my favourites. The concept is simple yet so different to anything I’ve previously read, the characters are complex with their own motives for wanting to share Leon’s flat and their separate lives and yet they are unquestionably connected from the start.
The chapters switch between Leon and Tiffy, written in their own styles as they share this small space without ever meeting. I love how the author communicates between the characters, using little notes that makes the writing style quite different from other fiction books. This leads to Tiffy and Leon’s lives slowly intertwining without the characters realising.
I didn’t know what to expect from this book when I started. The Flat Share is Beth O’Leary’s debut novel and I usually go for thrillers. However, when I was experiencing high anxiety, this was recommended to me. I’m so glad it was as the format, the characters and the world the author creates is so comforting!
Though don’t go mistaking this for a fluffy romcom as the overtone of the book is much more serious with each character dealing with their own struggles and are trying to live on ‘survival mode’. Maybe that’s why I empathised so much.
I would recommend The Flat Share wholeheartedly. I love the characters and the unique writing style, the only bad thing I can say is that it ends. We’ll never know what Tiffy had for dinner today or learn anymore about Leon’s patients. These characters will stay with me and I think they’ll stay with you too.
Reviewer: Kate, Senior Fundraising Officer at Mind
Every once in a while, a book comes along that transforms its readers. A few chapters are all that stands between feeling alone or unseen to finding solace, recognition and hope.
Francesca Martinez, self-titled ‘the wobbly comedian’, has cerebral palsy. In theory, her book is an autobiography about the challenges and struggles to appear ‘normal’ when visibly and audibly disabled. But this is not a pity party – nor is this another inspirational monologue forged behind the PR assistant’s desk. ‘What the **** is normal’ is brutally honest, incredibly funny and forms an unapologetic challenge against unhelpful priorities and values.
“It may be [very] difficult, but creating a society and an environment that is better for everyone is always possible and far worthier of our sustained attention than the thigh gap.”
Gifted to aid my recovery from disordered eating and body dysmorphia, Francesca’s stirring words catapulted me into a new way of thinking. She asks the questions multiple therapists danced around, challenging my intrinsic beliefs about what looked ‘right’ and reflecting on how our lives can become plagued by the ‘shame’ of not fulfilling this warped idea of normal.
Francesca pushes the boundaries of ableist expectations, provokes prejudiced mindsets and stands (albeit with a wobble) strong in the face of discrimination. Her unflinching account of negotiating physical, mental and societal struggles will make you laugh, make you cry and, crucially, ensure you question everything your mind, and society ever told you.
Reviewer: Elizabeth, Mind member
In this unique book, part travelogue, part fairytale-reimagining, Sara Maitland travels around Britain’s Forests. Through a series of short diary-form essays, she explores the histories of each place and the role of forests in one of our most ancient forms of stories – the fairytale.
She explores how the places we inhabit consequently influence the tales we tell. She does so by exploring fairytales’ social and cultural development alongside humankind’s past and present relationship to, and influence upon, forests. The book unfolds across a calendar year - with Maitland visiting one forest per month, taking us viscerally through the changing seasons. She follows each forest essay by her own version of a well-known fairytale, influenced by the themes and setting of that particular forest.
This book manages to do something usually reserved to the confines of fiction – to transport the reader to a rich world far away. The descriptions of the forests and the beautifully crafted short fairytale retellings for a contemporary adult audience, conjure a tangible world for the reader to luxuriate in.
Gossip from the Forest is the perfect book to curl up with on a bleak winter’s day when you wish the weather (or your location) would allow you to go wandering through a forest. I particularly recommend it to those interested in forests, folklore and our relationship to the natural world.
Reviewer: Imogen, Policy and Campaigns Officer at Mind
Starting school for the first time is challenging for any child, but imagine doing it having a severe facial deformity? This is what the central character, 10-year-old August “Auggie” Pulman, has to grapple with as he enters the fifth grade (equivalent to Year 6) of a New York public school.
Auggie was born with a rare genetic condition that has left his face disfigured. His favourite possession is an astronaut’s helmet, which he constantly wore to hide away from the world. But there’s nowhere to hide at school, and Auggie has to learn to deal with the looks, the stares, the whispered comments and the inevitable bullies.
‘Wonder’ is split into eight parts and told from the perspective of six different characters. It starts and ends with Auggie, but we also get a chance to look through the eyes of his sister, Via, and his best friends Summer and Jack, among others. It’s an effective device and helps us empathise with each character’s challenges.
I found the book both moving and uplifting at the same time. It’s a feel-good story with messages of friendship, self-acceptance and hope.
Kindness is another central theme running throughout ‘Wonder’. On his first day at school, Auggie’s English teacher, Mr Brown, writes on the blackboard the quote: “When given a choice between being right or being kind, choose kind”. Towards the end of the book, the headteacher Mr Tushman quotes from JM Barrie’s ‘Little White Bird’; at the end of year assembly. In doing so, he encouraged his students 'always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary'.
It’s a message that resonated with me – at a time when many of us have faced another testing year, who wouldn’t say ‘yes’ to a little bit of kindness?
**Content Warning** reference to suicide
Reviewer: Fabian, Membership Officer at Mind and Member
The story of Shuggie Bain is one that I won’t easily forget. It clawed at my heart while playing with my own demons. Set in Glasgow in the 1980s, the protagonist, Shuggie Bain is a gentle, loving wee soul who along with his parents and step-brother Leake leave their grandmother’s flat for a new life in Pithead. His sister has already left home and Leake isn’t too far behind her.
Shuggie’s father, a womanising taxi driver doesn’t stick around either, he abandons them to a life of hardship and poverty in a run-down housing scheme. His mother Agnes’s increasingly destructive drinking habit renders her ineffective as a mother. Shuggie is left neglected having to not only fend for himself but is compelled to look after Agnes too. The absolute warmth that I felt in my heart when Agnes spent an entire year observing sobriety must ring true with so many readers, it definitely did with me.
Shuggie’s story spans over a decade during which time we see him grapple with his own sexuality, something that Agnes uses to manipulate him. We see him being bullied by not only his peers but by adults too. Shuggie Bain is a heart-breaking and brutally honest story of love, addiction, betrayal and most of all resilience.
**Content warnings** addiction, violence, neglect
Reviewer: Mona, Mind member
Beth Crowe has just started at Trinity College, shadowed by the weight of her potential as a competitive swimmer. In a space where she can craft a new identity, she is surrounded by fans of her grandfather’s poetry. He took his own life before she was born, and her mother and grandmother are still navigating the impact of his loss. Digging deeper into her family’s past, she finds herself in a secret relationship, and uncovers a new side to her personal history.
A completely absorbing book - if I could have read this in one go, I would have. I felt Ryan tackled bereavement by suicide with sensitivity and compassion, and depicted the push and pull in different relationships with so much skill. This is a novel full of different kinds of tension and chemistry. The snatches of poetry help reinforce the sense of self-discovery.
Holding Her Breath poses powerful questions about how we decide who we are on our own terms, and how we come to terms with ourselves.
**Content warnings** suicide inc. discussion of suicide method, bereavement, cancer
Reviewer: Rachel, Trust and Statutory Assistant at Mind
Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other tells the story of modern Britain that is very rarely told. It opened my eyes and my heart; painting a vivid picture that stays with you long after you’ve put it down.
It follows the lives, loves and struggles of 12 characters, most of them black British women and whose lives are all interconnected. From fearless student Yazz to lesbian playwright Amma; high-flying investment banker Carole to non-binary social media influencer Morgan. In each chapter we step into a different body, discovering the character’s darkest secrets and biggest fears, riding the highs and the lows as they navigate the world around them.
In the wrong hands, moving between so many different stories could have left you feeling disconnected; always longing for more, but I never felt this way. I think this was because of the characters themselves, who are all brilliantly drawn by Evaristo, each with their own distinct voice.
Witty, moving and bursting with life; Evaristo takes some of the most mundane situations and makes them sparkle. It’s written in an innovative way, taking inspiration from poetry in how it is structured. It can take a little while to get used to this, but once you’ve acclimatised the novel feels all the richer for it, providing a pace and rhythm that is rare in fiction.
If you’re looking for a novel that will leave you give you a different perspective on modern Britain, that will challenge, enlighten, and inspire you, I’d urge you to give this wonderful novel a read.
Reviewer: Lydia, Membership Officer at Mind
**Content warnings** Racism, sexual assault, transphobia, homophobia, miscarriage
Not a single one of Open Water’s 145 pages is wasted. Don’t be deceived by this book’s short length – it carries serious emotional and artistic weight.
At its core, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut novel is a love story between a young photographer and a dancer, brought closer through the use of the second person. On a line level, the writing is stunning – the phrases flow with their own poetry, snatches of repetition reinforcing the lyrical quality and mirroring the many references to music and rhythm. This is a novel about vulnerability, masculinity and fear. It’s about Black joy, exuberance and artistry. It’s about moving through different layers of London and navigating trauma.
Open Water makes readers consider the personal through a political lens, pulling us into the protagonist’s lived experiences of structural racism and the impact of this on his mental health. The most magical writing shows you something you recognise through words you’d never have pulled together, or shows you a view of the world you might not have access to, opening your eyes to different experiences. Caleb Azumah Nelson does all of this to dazzling effect.
**Content warnings** police violence, general violence, racism, bereavement, trauma.
Reviewer: Rachel, Trust and Statutory Assistant at Mind
Thud! is the 34th novel in Terry Pratchett’s famous Discworld series and, for my money, it encapsulates everything that is great about the author’s work.
Where some books are hard to place into a category, Thud! fits easily into many categories all at once. At its most basic level it is a comic fantasy set in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence and dragons are raised in stables by wealthy aristocrats. On another level it is a ‘whodunnit?’ murder mystery as the lead character, Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch tries to solve the murder of a prominent leader of the local dwarf community. Beyond that, it is a clever satire that examines what it means to live in a multi-cultural society where the races of our world are replaced by trolls, dwarves, vampires and more. Pratchett shines an unforgiving light on how we respond to immigrants who come to our cities and towns to make a new life for themselves while holding onto their treasured heritage and traditions. And on another level again, it is a book about family values and what is most important to us as Vimes moves heaven and earth to make sure he is at his young son’s side at 6 o’clock every night to read him his bedtime story.
I suggest you mightn’t want to make Thud! your first Pratchett novel (although you will come to no harm if you do) - Vimes and his Watchmen are originally introduced with great effect in Guards, Guards! But for anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the Discworld books, Thud! is up there with the best of them and I heartily encourage you to add it to your reading list today!
Reviewer: John, Mind member
There are some books that should be on everyone’s book shelf. And Matt Haig’s wonderful novel The Midnight Library is one of them. A poignant, life-affirming read, it’s the kind of book you’ll want to return to time and again and on each occasion it will lift your spirits.
The premise has shades of Sliding Doors and It’s a Wonderful Life, but with a modern twist. Every second of every day we make choices. Big choices, small choices. An infinite amount of choices. For Nora Seed, every choice she makes feels like the wrong one. She has hit rock bottom and can’t shake off the regrets that consume her.
One night Nora feels like she can’t go on and attempts to take her own life. But rather than death, she finds herself transported to a library: The Midnight Library. Every book on the shelf is an alternative life she could have lived if she had done things differently: Olympic swimmer, rock star, pub landlady, mother, wife, arctic research scientist… the list goes on. But does the perfect life really exist? Faced with so many different paths, Nora finds herself on a journey to work out what makes her truly happy.
The Midnight Library is a beautifully written book, full of quotable prose you’ll want to read out loud to anyone who will listen. It touches on some big themes – mental health, bereavement, suicide, philosophy – and in the wrong hands could have felt like a dark, joyless read. In fact it’s anything but. Full of warmth and hope, I found it to be a ray of light at a time when it is very much needed.
**Content warnings** suicide, bereavement
Reviewer: Lydia, Membership Officer at Mind
The titular character of The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta is not born until the end of the book, their birth being the climax of this gorgeous and vibrant coming-of-age tale. The Black Flamingo is about Michael, a half Jamaican, half Greek-Cypriot boy growing up in London and follows his life from childhood to early adulthood.
From early on, Michael doesn’t feel like he quite fits in; like he’s got his right shoe on his left, like he’s too big for his skin. Even though his mum accepts who he is without question, outside his home, he doesn’t feel Black enough or Greek enough, is a little too into singing and dancing than is ‘acceptable’ for a boy, and, as he grows into his teens, more interested in kissing boys than girls. Solace comes in befriending fellow misfit Daisy and coming out, but it’s not until university, when he finds the Drag Society, that Michael really starts to learn about embracing every single part of himself, celebrating his history and truly being free.
This book has all the fun and familiarity of a British coming-of-age novel, but from a different lens than you would normally look through. Michael is funny, fun, sometimes a little prickly, but he always remains the one you want to root for. He is very much the star of the show, but the book is populated with nuanced and flawed characters. Dean Atta touches on themes such as masculinity, homophobia, racism, colourism and absent parents, but Atta deftly tackles them with a light touch.
It’s a physically gorgeous book as well - told in verse primarily, but also texts, notes, illustrations, with a clever emphasis sometimes on the things left unsaid between loved-ones. I finished it with a huge smile on my face and have gifted it many times since.
**Content warning: Racism, sexism, homophobia, parental abuse and abandonment**
Reviewer: Candy, Digital Marketing Officer at Mind
This beautiful book is the story of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse - four friends who go on a journey together.
The boy is an ordinary boy – or is he? Because when he is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He replies, “I want to be kind.”
The mole is worried that he is so small, but the boy reassures him, “Yes, but you make a huge difference.” The mole is really only interested in cake, but he says some really profound things. “What do you think success is?” asks the boy. “To love,” replied the mole. And “What do you think is the biggest waste of time?” “Comparing yourself to others,” says the mole.
It may all sound a little strange, but this book is so full of wisdom and beautifully illustrated by the author Charlie Mackesy. I will never forget the drawing of the three little ones sitting on the horse looking out over the countryside.
I’d urge everyone to get this book, read it through a couple of times, and then keep it beside you. When you have a few minutes to spare, or are feeling particularly anxious or confused, dip into it, read a page and play with it in your mind.
“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy. “Help,” said the horse. “Asking for help isn’t giving up. It’s refusing to give up.”
Reviewer: Peter, Mind Member
Richard Osman’s debut novel The Thursday Murder Club has been a colossal success since it was published last year, becoming the fastest selling adult crime debut since records began. So does it live up to the hype? Absolutely. In homage to Osman’s gameshow roots, I’ll go as far to say he’s hit the jackpot.
A cosier crime novel to what I would normally read, but what it lacks in grit, it more than makes up for in wit, warmth and charm, which it has in bucket loads.
It centres on a peaceful retirement village called Coopers Chase, and four unlikely friends: Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron. Every Thursday the wannabe sleuths meet up to investigate unsolved murders, but when a brutal murder takes place right on their doorstep, they suddenly find themselves attempting to solve their first live case.
I loved how it was a different take on the crime genre. You won’t find brooding cops and dark and dreary landscapes, but you will find some brilliant one-liners, twists and turns and characters that you will love spending time with. I particularly felt a soft spot for the kind and unassuming Joyce, baker of vodka-laced lemon drizzle cakes and the main narrator through her diary extracts.
Anyone who is familiar with Richard Osman’s work will recognise his personality and sense of humour weaved through so much of the story. It’s a joyful read, by turns laugh-out-loud funny and deeply moving. It put a big smile on my face, and I’m very much looking forward to enjoying more adventures with the Thursday Murder Club soon (the next one is out in September!).
**Content warnings: themes of death and bereavement**
Reviewer: Lydia, Membership Officer at Mind
Radio 1 presenter and Membership News magazine cover star Vick Hope shares her must-read book.
“My mum grew up during the Biafran War (the Nigerian Civil War) and she would tell me stories about it when I was younger. She grew up running from bombs and housing soldiers. But she left Nigeria when she was 11, so although she could see what was happening around her, she didn’t know the historical, political and social context. I had a lot of gaps in my understanding of what she lived through.
Through her novel Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie filled the gaps and educated me. The book was so enlightening and basically tells my mum’s story in so many ways. Reading it, everything started to fall into place and I could make sense of what happened.
I think it’s also an incredibly interesting book. It was the first televised war in this country and it was a war that Britain had an involvement in, so I think it’s important for us all to know that and to know the impact of it. What Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does so well is she so perfectly writes about the macro and micro. She ‘gets’ people: our feelings, our emotions, the way we think, the way we act – down to the tiniest detail. But yet she is writing about an historical event with such accuracy. She is a philosopher without ever philosophising. I am constantly in awe of the way she writes about race, what it means to be Black and what it means to be a Black African.
There are so many things that you will find in her books that will make us all more mindful of those around us.”
**Content warnings: graphic violence, rape and sexual assault**
Shortly after I’d finished reading this book, the news came through that Captain Sir Tom Moore had sadly passed away with coronavirus, aged 100. This autobiography serves as a fitting tribute to an incredible man, who was a beacon of light in the darkest of times. RIP Captain Tom.
It was back in early April 2020, just weeks after the first UK lockdown was announced, that a 99-year-old Second World War veteran decided to walk laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS. His family set up a fundraising page with a target of raising £1,000 by his 100th birthday on 30 April. The rest, as they say, is history. By the time his birthday arrived, Captain Sir Tom Moore had raised over £30 million and was a certified lockdown legend; inspiring people all over the world with his determination, courage and kindness.
Captain Tom lifted all our spirits, becoming a symbol of hope with his catchphrase ‘Tomorrow will be a good day’. His autobiography, which was announced in support of the creation of the Captain Tom Foundation, is just as uplifting. The book charts his incredible life, from his childhood growing up in the Yorkshire Dales and his time serving in Burma during the Second World War, right through to his incredible record-breaking challenge and being knighted by the Queen. It’s an inspirational read; full of sage life advice that we could all learn something from. I particularly enjoyed reading Tom’s unassuming account of the walk and his shock at the reaction to it, it reminded me what a tonic this positive news story was at a time when we needed it most.
Spanning a century, I also found it a fascinating account of Britain’s history. Tom lived through the Spanish flu pandemic, VE Day, the moon landing and so much more, and it’s all brought to life with his wit and warmth.
It’s a far cry from your usual celebrity autobiography (showbiz gossip is in short supply!) and it’s all the better for it. It’s a tale of an ordinary man who’s led a quite extraordinary life, inspiring a nation in the process.
Reviewer: Lydia, Membership Officer at Mind
**Content warnings: bullying, alcoholism, violence against women**
Lauren is ten and a half years old, and the bullying at school is getting worse. She’s dabbling in the occult; apple pips and birch bark in the fire, candles and incantations, tarot cards. Reaching towards the interests of her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby.
Niall, her father, with his long hair and band t-shirts, hip flasks and erratic moods, isn’t forthcoming as he struggles with the loss. They live a mostly self-contained life in their little house on the edge of the pines. But people talk.
The remote northern Scottish setting is so immersive right from the opening Halloween pages. Toon is brilliant at conjuring that magic and fear inherent in childhood, where the lines between reality and the imagined are often blurred... making dens in the woods and glimpsing things through the trees.
Talk travels fast in the tight-knit community, especially when a teenage girl suddenly goes missing. What does it mean to be different somewhere so isolated? How are we haunted by loss and lack of closure?
I loved that so much of Pine was through the eyes of a child. Toon is very skilled at the switchback between “old thirty five” Niall and his curious, troubled daughter. I loved that there were plenty of Scots phrases and folklore references in here, too. An unsettling and moving thriller with a touch of the supernatural.
Reviewer: Rachel, Trusts and Statutory Assistant at Mind
**Content warning: Discriminatory language, violence, sexual assault**
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a gem of a book. Devouring it over the Christmas break, I was engrossed from the first page to the last, desperate to keep reading but also dreading the moment I had to put it down. I didn’t want the story to end; it was so beautifully written, so heart-wrenching and so utterly mesmerising.
Part murder mystery, part coming-of-age novel and part love story, it centres on the character Kya, the mysterious ‘Marsh Girl’ who lives in the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast. When the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya of the crime. But Kya is misunderstood. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the creatures that surround her and solace in nature. But there comes a time when she yearns for more… to be loved.
All the characters in this novel are so well imagined, but Kya in particular is a captivating heroine and a character you can’t help but root for. The murder mystery strand to the story keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, but for me it was the coming-of-age narrative – a story of love and survival - that made this book truly special.
The author Delia Owens has previously written three non-fiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa, and her passion for nature is clear from every beautiful description of the marsh landscape. The sense of place is immense and I found myself instantly transported to the marshlands that Kya calls home – the smells, the sounds and the sights leaping off the page.
Where The Crawdads Sing is a brilliant read, and if you’re looking for something to keep you captivated during those long lockdown days, I would urge you to pick up a copy.
Reviewer: Lydia, Membership Officer
**Content warning: Eating disorders, self-harm, descriptions of life in an asylum**
While there's still so much work to be done, we live in a world where mental health is finally beginning to be understood by so many people. But this wasn't always the case - just a few short decades ago, many people experiencing a mental health problem could expect to be completely ostracised by society. And mental health hospitals were not always designed to help people get better. For many, they were sadly no better than prisons.
This is the difficult world explored in Anna Hope's The Ballroom, a stunning book set in the early 1900s in the imposing grandeur of a Victorian asylum, based on the famous High Royds in the Yorkshire countryside. The asylum, one of the largest in the country, was home to thousands of people, many of whom never left once they were admitted.
The novel centres on John and Ella, two patients in the asylum who fall in love after meeting once a week in its beautiful ballroom, but it's so much more than just a love story. Through exploring the asylum through their eyes, we catch a glimpse of a devastating part of history. There are some incredibly difficult topics explored, including a shocking plotline where staff at the asylum debate and even attempt forced sterilization on patients, and it is certainly not an easy read. Yet there's so much hope in the book, and the writer creates two characters for whom their diagnosis and experience of mental health is simply part of who they are, not the whole of who they are. For anyone at all interested in the history of mental health treatment in this country, it's a must read.
Reviewer: Victoria, Senior Media Officer at Mind
Elif Shafak’s How To Stay Sane In An Age Of Division is 90 pages long - small enough to post to a loved one as a large letter. You won’t find short platitudes in here. Read this little book if you want sincere engagement with big ideas.
The title is directive, but the writing isn’t. I was a little wary of the “how to stay sane” angle; when it comes to mental health, placing responsibility to “stay sane” on individuals within systems is something we see a lot. Read beyond the title, because Shafak tackles this powerfully. “Negative” emotions including anger, despair and anxiety are given space as legitimate responses to the world we are living in. Shafak reminds us to allow ourselves to feel these emotions, but not to let ourselves fall into destructive patterns.
Above all else, she reminds us to fight apathy, and actually listen to one another.
Poetic turns of phrase and clear, incisive language come together as something deeply resonant and very readable. Shafak’s own memories are interwoven with broader reflections on the pandemic, social media, the news cycle, education, multiple identities, and much more besides... In this year of quarantine and isolation, it can be hard to remember other people feel the way we do. This book is both a comforting reminder, and a call to action – listen, and keep caring.
Reviewer: Rachel, Trust and Statutory Assistant at Mind
Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868. It is a classic novel written with girls in mind and graced my sister’s bookshelf in her teenage years.
The story follows the lives of Mrs March and her four daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy whose ages range from 16 to 12. Their absent father is chaplain to the Union army in the American Civil War which results in them living in reduced circumstances, or poverty as the girls put it, as Christmas is on the horizon but Santa Claus isn’t. They do have a live-in servant, Hannah, who is regarded as part of the family. Having a servant could be a sensitive issue given the time period and may be why Hannah’s status was emphasised.
Family, friendship, overcoming challenges and the transition from being a child to a young woman are familiar themes, and strongly represented in this tale.
There are some tensions in this page-turner of a story but these are appropriate to the target audience. The follow up book, Good Wives is a plot spoiler, but forms part of the highly acclaimed 2019 film directed by Greta Gerwig, which hopefully will encourage a new generation of readers.
Reviewer: Keith, Mind member
I regret that it has taken me so long to read this incredibly powerful and eye opening book. Although Malorie Blackman wrote Noughts and Crosses for a younger audience, I think this is a book which is accessible to all ages, and still so relevant today, twenty years later.
Noughts and Crosses challenges your thinking about race in an extraordinary way, providing insight into the fictional lives of Noughts (inferior white citizens in a society controlled by the black Crosses), and Crosses, which bear resemblance to society in a number of countries around the globe.
The book centres around two teenagers, Callum (a Nought) and Sephy (a Cross), and the developmental of their friendship into love, which is fraught with challenges belonging to different races.
What I most enjoyed about this book is that you are forced to see the world through different lenses, and truly understand some of the practices which occurred and still occur today in our society.
I would urge everyone to read this book, if you want to develop your knowledge about race, this is a perfect book to use as a starting point. You’ll want to keep reading as you realise things you never thought about before.
Reviewer: Kate, Equality Improvement Officer at Mind
** Content warning: This book contains descriptions of depression **
Fans of Denise Welch don’t just love the Mind ambassador for her acting on stage and screen, but for her honesty and willingness to share her very personal problems. Last year she shared a candid set of videos on her social media accounts detailing a bout of moderate depression, and now she’s written a self-help-cum-memoir about the mental health problems she’s lived with for over thirty years.
The Unwelcome Visitor begins with Denise’s extremely harrowing experience of post-natal depression, and goes on to recount a lifetime of living with what she calls “her unwelcome visitor,” bouts of poor mental health that seemingly come on without warning and which she describes as hormonal and endemic.
Of particular interest was the final chapter of the book which is full of contributions from Denise's family and friends on how they've learnt to support her over the years. Too many people caring for someone with a mental health problem are left to flounder, and the illuminating experiences and tips of her nearest-and-dearest could make an ideal conversation starter if you're struggling to talk to a loved one about your depression.
If you’re looking for a celebrity memoir peppered with showbiz titbits, you aren’t going to find it here. Instead, Denise presents comforting, no-nonsense practical advice, written with warmth that truly makes the reader feel they’re having a chat over a cup of tea with a friend.
Reviewer: Victoria, Senior Media Officer at Mind
**Content warning: This book contains descriptions of suicidal feelings, depression and PTSD **
Wildlife Photography - Saving my life one frame at a time was sent to the Membership team by the publishers, Hubble and Hattie, and after reading only a few pages I knew we had to include it in the book club.
The book depicts the author Paul Williams' experience of PTSD, brought on by a distressing incident while serving in the police force. He describes the unexpected effects this incident had on his life, resulting in multiple suicide attempts, and coming to the realisation that he was experiencing a mental health problem. Picking up his camera Paul started a long journey from rock bottom to rediscovering a life worth living, as well as a newfound sense of wellbeing.
As well as his experience, this unique book showcases Paul's beautiful wildlife photography and describes the power this activity had on improving his physical and mental wellbeing. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Paul's journey through his photographs, from the set of photographs the mouse in Paul's garden, to the Polar Bears on his Arctic expedition.
Paul's self-deprecating humour and honest words balanced with 201 of his stunning images, many captured in Dorset's wildlife locations, makes this a heartwarming book for everyone.
Reviewer: Kate, Senior Direct Marketing Officer at Mind
**Content warning: There are scenes that depict homophobic and discriminatory attitudes**
I am on my fifth or sixth version of this book, plus I have it on my Kindle. I’ve lost a couple of copies in house moves, and others through lending them to friends as I’ve recommended it as my favourite book ever. But I get antsy if I don’t have a copy I can just pick up and read at a whim whenever I want to.
Since the first time I read it as a teenager, it has been a book I return to time after time. Thirty odd years down the line I’ve just done my annual reading of it.
It is a book that never ceases to move me every time I read it, such is the affinity you feel with the characters. There are often tears, both of joy and sadness.
It is set in the United States in 1931, a time where the country was still suffering from the great depression. It follows the grand idea of Charles Flanagan to have a running race from Los Angeles to New York set over three months, and the trials and tribulations of the race, those running it, and those competing in it, weaving in their back stories as we progress across America.
The characters are a great mixed bag, coming from a range of backgrounds and countries. Different ages and sexes. They entice you into the story with them and then carry you along on a rollercoaster ride.
And what a ride it is. There are powers at work trying to stop the race. The FBI are investigating it, others are worried that the race will ruin the Olympic Games and Flanagan has to keep trying to overcome the obstacles set in his way.Towns and cities that have promised to pay for stage finishes refuse to pay, or refuse to let them enter the town, or make it so they can only enter after dark. There is a team of Nazi youth competitors entered into the race, they cross swords with Al Capone and Frank Nitti in Chicago and J. Edgar Hoover takes a personal interest.
They get involved in various sideshows along the way as a way to raise money, Highland Games, men vs horses racing and boxing matches. You are rooting for the characters to make it. Some find love along the way, and some their personal redemption.
It is a glorious read, and even after over thirty readings, I will be returning to it again next year, and the year after, and every year that I’m still alive. There are stacks of books that I have to make my way through all the time, but I will always make time to read this and experience the magnificent journey of those running machines across 1930s America.
Reviewer: Kev, Mind member
**Content Warning: The stories in this book cover a range of topics that some may consider triggering. It may not be suitable for everyone, reader discretion is advised**
As a lover of Greek mythology, this is an absolute win for me!
When I first saw Mythos advertised, I thought it would be another dry recounting of only the most famous myths, but Stephen Fry delivers the opposite. Injecting the infamous, unknown, weird and wonderful myths with his own voice and wit.
He chooses to explore the breadth of Greek mythology over depth but, personally I prefer this. Fry cherry-picks the best stories, starting with the creation of the world and creates a linear timeline of mythology and tells them with such natural charm and intelligence, it’s hard not to keep reading.
A few of my favourite stories were that of the battle between the Gods and the Titans, the story of Sisyphus who is forever destined to role a boulder up a hill, and the tale of Arachne, a weaver who grew so skilful she challenged the Goddess Athena.
Stephen Fry has created the perfect balance of learning about the Greek myths with his comical commentary running alongside. He also includes footnotes for more information. As a child I loved Greek mythology and it has been fantastic that, as an adult, there’s a book that reignites that curiosity!
Reviewer: Kate, Senior Direct Marketing Officer at Mind
**Content warning: This book contains scenes of sexual intimacy and descriptions of anxiety**
I’m guessing that a good number of us very much appreciated the four-page focus on Rainbow Mind that appeared in the Autumn 2019 Membership News.
It was a lovely coincidence that I was at about the same time asked to review a book called ‘Uprooting’ (published in March 2020) by the American author of lesbian literature, Suzie Carr.
I’ve now read six of her books and have always been impressed especially by the depth of the characters and the tenderness of the central relationships.
‘Uprooting’ is set against the background of a New Age style centre in America, so readers enter the world of flower essences and salt rooms. If that’s not your thing, there’s also another underlying theme, that of folk-based music.
There are times when ‘Uprooting’ strays into self-help, with exercises in awareness and healing that readers may well find useful.
I was hooked once the main characters had emerged, and I found I very much looked forward to hearing more of their lives and relationships. There’s a share of difficulties for them to overcome, and, as with all of Suzie’s books, life isn’t always straightforward for everyone. I’ll say no more, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.
Although it won’t replace ‘Inner Secrets’ as my favourite Suzie Carr book, I still enjoyed it very much. And as with all of her books I will miss the characters I‘d come to know so well. I’d be more than happy to jump into the story myself and spend an evening or two with them.
Reviewer: David, Mind member
I picked up Lucky Ghost at my local library purely off the sticker on the front cover that said "Perfect for fans of Black Mirror". I hadn't any expectations going in but I was gripped within a few pages. The author, Matthew Blakstad, has created a world just a few years further on from now and virtual reality has become the norm. Scenarios are mapped over real life so something like a walk to the bus stop becomes a mystery adventure with pedestrians playing alongside one another in a massive online game. The currency of this electronic world, Emoticoins – real life emotions paying out in digital credits – is the fastest growing economy on the planet.
The main character of the book is Alex, a former investigative journalist and vlogger, who has been experiencing severe anxiety attacks ever since she was attacked during one of her investigations. She has adopted the comfort of the virtual world as her therapy. But then she discovers someone is corrupting the game and manipulating Emoticoins for their own ends and suddenly her life is in danger all over again.
Lucky Ghost is a thriller for the modern world and speaks to lots of issues that are relevant today, including the harms of social media trolling, and the disruptive power of social movements and protest groups. Mental health themes are handled sensitively and I found the characters to be extremely relatable. The book is the second in a series of interconnected novels but there is no need to have read any of the others to understand what is going on. On the face of things, Lucky Ghost is a tale of fast-paced action and suspense. Along the way, however, it asks lots of intelligent questions about humanity and the role of modern society. Highly recommended!
John, Manager at Mind
Little Fires Everywhere begins with the end. The wealthy, popular and preppy Richardson family watch their beautiful house burn down from little fires started by their youngest daughter Izzy.
How did this happen? What could have caused it? And, most importantly, how could it have happened in somewhere as idyllic and progressive as Shaker Heights, where there are no troubles, and everyone, especially matriarch Elena Richardson, plays by the rules?
This is the overriding question asked by author Celeste Ng, as she weaves a tightly told, compelling tale of the Richardson family, whose lives are disrupted by lodger Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl.
This book is about many things – an adoption case that divides the town, the deepening relationships between Mia and Pearl, and all four Richardson children, and, perhaps most importantly, the growing silent battle between Elena and Mia, one that upends both women's secrets. I loved this book, and everything it said about race, privilege, and how imbalances of power seep into the everyday, both deliberately and all too often by accident, and how devastating sticking to the rules and letting that spark go out can be.
Candy, Digital Marketing Officer at Mind
When Frodo takes possession of the Ring, he is then destined to complete a task. To destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, foiling Sauron's plan to take over the whole of Middle-Earth. On his quest Frodo is assisted by more Hobbits, Men, Dwarves and Elves and encounters endless creatures and obstacles.
The first in Tolkien's trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring is a great first book to a spectacular series. I read this book when I was in High school and was completely enthralled by the world Tolkien had created. The language lends its hand to such beautiful imagery that you can almost see every step the Fellowship are taking.
Each character has their own strengths and faults and they grow and develop together and as individuals with each turn of the page. This is a story that will tug on all of your emotions, with the Fellowship forming, discovering new lands and battling enemies. In particular I was enthralled with the lands of Lothlorian and the Elves. The magic and beauty of their land and people still makes me want to go live in the forest!
The language can be a bit challenging at times and Tolkien does take pride in his imagery which can drag the chapters out now and again, but this is a story of the strength of friendships, trust, love and destiny. A must read for anyone who loves the classics, The Lord of the Rings films or fantasy novels.
Kate, Membership Officer at Mind
** Content warning: This story contains descriptions of murder and confused feelings of homosexuality which some readers may find upsetting.**
I enjoyed this book, so much more than I thought I would and I only noticed how much I enjoyed it when I realised I'd read nearly half the book in one sitting. When I picked up I We Were Villains, I was very sceptical as I'm not a Shakespeare fan and don't understand most of the prose, however the excerpts that are in the book only serve to enhance the story and the development of the characters.
I enjoyed the way the chapters went from present day, with Oliver talking to the Detective, to ten years previous when he and his friends were studying. This helped keep the pace of the story and reminded you why you were here, to find out if Oliver did commit the murder of his friend.
A story unlike one I've read before, M L Rio's storytelling is refreshing and digs deep in to the insecurities of teenagers, friendship, obsession and betrayal. It'll keep you riveted through to the final moments. This is a book I've recommended to numerous people and one I'll definitely be reading again.
Kate, Membership Officer at Mind
**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. While 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 while 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 favourites - "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 routine life. While 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 while 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 and 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 and 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 and Love and Rock and 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]