Matt Haig recommends 6 books that offer comfort
Matt Haig is the novel’s best-selling author The midnight library and this summer The Comfort Book, a collection of aphorisms, lists, quotes and stories. Below, he recommends other books that offer wisdom or comfort in difficult times.
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1929).
It’s the ultimate comfort reading. The book is what the title suggests: letters from an older poet to a younger one. The great thing about Rilke’s advice is that he acknowledges the darkness and suffering of existence, but manages despite it – or maybe even because of it – to inspire. Buy it here.
When Things Collapse by Pema Chödrön (1996).
I read this book during the first lockdown, and it was the perfect read for uncertain times. Chödrön is a Buddhist, but the advice and philosophy contained in these few pages are universal. It is a great book about embracing life as a whole, about seeing hope and suffering as part of a whole. Buy it here.
The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne (1928).
Winnie-the-Pooh stories really speak to people going through tough times. In many ways, each of the characters reflects a different mental state: Eeyore is depressed, Tigger is hyperactive, Piglet is anxious, and Ourson reflects a hope and optimism that are essential to his recovery. I reread this book when I was sick with panic disorder, and it calmed me down. Buy it here.
Bird by Oiseau by Anne Lamott (1994).
In my opinion, this is the greatest book on writing ever written (along with that of Stephen King On writing). But like Rilke, Lamott offers more than just written advice. She offers wisdom about life and how to embrace its imperfect nature. Buy it here.
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (circa 180 AD).
This may be the ultimate self-help book in the world. Marcus Aurelius was the most powerful man in the world when he wrote these notes to himself two millennia ago; he had a literal empire at his disposal. Yet the philosophy presented here is a humble one that eschews material rewards in favor of silent stoicism that helps build resilience. Buy it here.
On the brevity of life by Seneca (c. 49 AD).
It’s such a readable book for something that was written by a Roman philosopher 2000 years ago. The writing is almost conversational, but the stoic wisdom is timeless. Buy it here.
This article first appeared in the latest issue of The week magazine. If you want to read more, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine. here.