Mental Health: Be kind to yourself with a book

Be kind to yourself and look after your mind.

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week from 18-24 May.

Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time. We believe that everyone can reap the benefits of being more aware and practising self-care.

This year’s theme is kindness and we all see this prevailing in uncertain times. We have learnt over the past few weeks particularly that amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope. The added benefit of helping others is that it is good for our own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress and improve emotional wellbeing. Studies have found that being kind is linked to increased feelings of happiness, wellbeing, and life satisfaction for people of all ages. We need to be kind to each other and kind to ourselves.

Covid-19 has affected each and every one of us in different ways, each struggling with new ways of working, juggling homeschooling, becoming teachers as well as full time carers. Even the most upbeat of us are finding it hard to dig deep and stay positive. Without my daily run and being able to dive into a great book as a way of escapaism, I wouldn't be coping well.

In the following feature we have selected a mélange of books to satisfy your every need.

From moving memoirs like the inspirational Educated, and Mother:A Memoir , right through to feel-good fiction to lift your mood and give you a big virtual hug, there's something for everyone.

For some of us having a good cry is a way of releasing your pent up frustrations, if this is your preference then we just have to recommend the emotional After The End or the beautiful Saving Missy

If you love reading a book that can transport you to another world, take a look at our recent feature.

Below is a great selection of books we think you'll enjoy, ensuring you carve out time for yourself.

These reads will support, educate, help and inspire you throughout lockdown and beyond. Enjoy!

You Are Positively Awesome

You Are Positively Awesome

Author: Stacie Swift Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/07/2020

You are Positively Awesome is a book that’s designed to be noticed, from the bright colourful illustrations that cheered me up instantly, the short snappy wording that made me think about my own needs and the self-empowering messages that left me glowing inside. This book could have been written just for me as, like many, I struggle with self-confidence and self-belief at times. It’s important to remember that so many other people – often people we least expect – do feel the same way too. Stacie Swift has written a clear, concise guide to taking care of the number one person in our life – ourselves. Because if we don’t do that properly, we may find it harder to take care of anyone else. It’s easy to forget the positives in our lives if we focus on the negatives, and easy to ignore the giant leaps forward when we dwell on each little step back. This is a perfect book to dip into when you need a boost of self-care; a book that you may want to add to over time, reminding yourself of what you’ve achieved and what you’ve overcome to achieve it. It’s also a lovely gift if you know someone is struggling to cope with life’s ups and downs. You are Positively Awesome made me reflect on the past, think about the present and dream of the future – that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed at times and focus on my own needs for a while. It made me smile, reminded me of my own strengths and achievements, gave me some valuable ‘me’ time and made me realise just how ‘positively awesome’ I really am!

Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise

Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise

Author: Katherine Rundell Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/08/2019

Award winning author Katherine Rundell is as passionate about reading children’s books as she is about writing them. In this brief but and perfectly structured handbook she encourages all readers to think about the particular qualities of children’s books and about the special experience of reading as a child – which she remembers clearly. Drawing on her deep knowledge of children’s stories and supporting her arguments with endorsing quotes from writers of all kinds she sets out her defence of the book’s title in brief sections.  She is as much at home in the factual – ‘On how children’s fiction came to be’ and ‘On children’s fiction today’ as the more personal which reflect her own views including ‘On wild hunger and heroic optimism’ and ‘The galvanic kick of children’s books’.

Making Sense

Making Sense

Author: Martin Stanton Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/11/2019

“Curiouser and curiouser”, as Alice remarked during her Wonderland sojourn, a description that might also be applied to this genre-melding book. It’s a creative collision of genre and style (fiction, travel writing, self-help thinking and script), steeped in R.D. Laing’s theories, and underpinned by the view that life cannot be understood or explained in a linear fashion. It opens by drawing an analogy between a rollercoaster ride and “the way we use technology to make sense of the open-endedness, instability, and unpredictability of our life”. The author seeks to “provide whatever helps us make sense on every section of the ride,” doing what he can “to provoke us to (re)think and (re)locate exactly where we stand when faced with such uncontrollable rollercoaster feelings.” Referencing art, theatre, history and poetry, and (for one example) describing how physical interactions with nature intersect with digital counterparts (such as checking Trip Advisor and maps), this passionately descriptive, personal work organically leaps, jolts and careers in a manner somewhat reminiscent of a surrealist manifesto. There’s a strong thread on the dissonance between one’s real and constructed digital self: “All my waking hours, I wander around the Internet. I am constantly online on every social network. I never reveal a social status, and I never tick a ‘like’ box, unless someone says something flattering about me...My photos are always carefully posed.” And yet, “I am totally terrified. I do not know who I am behind this carefully lacquered artifice.” Like the human mind and the modern world, this book has its own curious logic and will be an exhilarating experience for readers interested in psychoanalysis, especially those seeking insight into navigating the jungle of contemporary communications.

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

Author: Matt Haig Format: Ebook Release Date: 05/07/2018

The world is messing with our minds. Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.  How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad?  How do we stay human in a technological world?  How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious? After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.  Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century. 

eBooks of the Month
Reasons to Stay Alive

Reasons to Stay Alive

Author: Matt Haig Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/12/2015

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE? Aged 24, Matt Haig's world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth. I wrote this book because the oldest cliches remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven't been able to see it ...Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.

eBooks of the Month
How to Be Human The Manual

How to Be Human The Manual

Author: Ruby Wax Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/12/2018

It took us 4 billion years to evolve to where we are now - completely brilliant and yet, some might say, emotionally dwarfed. The question is: can our more empathetic side catch up in time to save us and the world? I've got nothing against smarts, but it's smarts without emotional awareness that got us into this position of being able to nuke each other into oblivion and rape the earth for oil. With a little help from a monk (who tells us how our mind works) and a neuroscientist (who tells us how our brain works), Ruby Wax answers every question you've ever had about: evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, sex, kids, the future and compassion. Filled with witty anecdotes from Ruby's own life, and backed up by smart science and practical mindfulness exercises, How to be Human is the only manual you need to help you upgrade your mind as much as you've upgraded your iphone.

The Art of Not Falling Apart

The Art of Not Falling Apart

Author: Christina Patterson Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/01/2019

How to describe this beautifully engaging and fascinating book… it is certainly a memoir, it is also a series of small interviews and chats with people coping with the different shocks and traumatic events that life can throw at you, and it’s a riveting foray into the literary and artistic world. Christina Patterson is a journalist and broadcaster, working for The Sunday Times and the Guardian and regularly commenting on radio and TV. I started reading and just soaked up the words, I felt as though Christina Patterson was sitting beside me, speaking directly to me, connecting with my own thoughts and feelings. I slowly began to discover her life (she reveals her own life events with a composed yet gentle thoughtfulness), I also found her humour, friendships, frustrations, fears, and love for bubbles and crisps. She offers the very opposite of a self-help book, yet I feel there is much to be found within these pages by those in need of a little comfort. As I finished reading, I wanted to applaud and also hug her with thanks for writing this compelling and fabulous read. Incredibly moving, The Art of Not Falling Apart touched me deeply, a huge surge of hope and optimism also lies within, just waiting to be discovered.

Audiobooks of the Month
Stress Less Accomplish More

Stress Less Accomplish More

Author: Emily Fletcher Format: Audiobook Release Date: 21/02/2019

Stress Less, Accomplish More is more than just a book (or audiobook) about meditation and mindfulness. It contains practical, common-sense advice on dealing with stress, sleeping well, boosting your brainpower and changing your lifestyle for the better. Emily Fletcher discusses how to ‘up-level’ yourself by raising your priorities and goals in life; making small, but purposeful adaptations to your daily schedule can change how you think and also how you perceive the world. The book concentrates on a particular technique called Ziva meditation, which involves just 15 minutes of meditation twice a day. The science behind the technique is explained well, along with real-life case studies to highlight its benefits. The narration is very clear, in a relaxing, chatty style, and it felt as though I was listening to a knowledgeable friend or professional counsellor. A big advantage of listening to an audiobook about meditation and mindfulness, rather than simply reading a print version, is that I could practise the exercises at the same time. I found myself listening with my eyes shut, which enabled me to concentrate more easily. Stress Less, Accomplish More provides an interesting way to think more positively and reduce your stress levels, particularly if (or when) you’re feeling overwhelmed by your hectic lifestyle. I’ll definitely be listening to audiobook again, several times, to practise the techniques.

Audiobooks of the Month
Happy Finding Joy in Every Day and Letting Go of Perfect

Happy Finding Joy in Every Day and Letting Go of Perfect

Author: Fearne Cotton Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/02/2017

This book is a way to release what's going on inside your head and to keep heading towards the good stuff. The simple stuff. The stuff that's going to really hit up that happiness on a deep and nourishing level. Whether you dip into these pages every now and then when you feel you need it, or use it daily as a positive exercise, I hope it brings you much relief, joy and calm. Amen to the pen. - Fearne Cotton For many of us, life can feel like it's moving too fast with pressure bearing down on us from all sides - whether that's from school or work, family or social media. As a result, we find ourselves frazzled, lost and - too often - feeling blue. It's a subject close to Fearne's heart. Drawing on her own experiences and including expert advice, HAPPY offers practical ways of finding joy each and every day. Happiness isn't a mountain to climb, it's just one foot in front of the other on the path of life, and here you'll find little steps that will help make the differences that count. With workbook elements to help you start and end the day well; get in touch with your creative side; and find peace through written exercises, simple practical ideas and visualisations, these are daily tricks and reminders to help you unlock that inner happiness.

It's Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies)

It's Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies)

Author: Scarlett Curtis Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/10/2019

*The Sunday Times bestseller* 'Reading this book made me feel more normal about the things I feel sometimes... It's a great book; however you're feeling, it'll help' - Ed Sheeran It's OK if everything might feel a bit overwhelming. It's OK to talk about it. It's OK to not want to talk about it. It's OK to find it funny. It's OK to be human. Over 70 people have shared their powerful, funny and moving stories exploring their own mental health, including Sam Smith, Emilia Clarke, Candice Carty-Williams and Adam Kay. One in four of us will experience a mental health issue. This book is here to tell you, or someone you care about, it's OK. With writing from: Adam Kay - Alastair Campbell - Alexis Caught - Ben Platt - Bryony Gordon - Candice Carty-Williams - Charlie Mackesy - Charly Cox - Chidera Eggerue - Claire Stancliffe - Davina McCall - Dawn O'Porter - Elizabeth Day - Elizabeth Uviebinene - Ella Purnell - Emilia Clarke - Emma Thompson - Eve Delaney - Fearne Cotton - Gabby Edlin - Gemma Styles - GIRLI (Milly Toomey) - Grace Beverley - Hannah Witton - Honey Ross - Hussain Manawer - Jack Rooke - James Blake - Jamie Flook - Jamie Windust - Jessie Cave - Jo Irwin - Jonah Freud - Jonny Benjamin - Jordan Stephens - Kai-Isaiah Jamal - Kate Weinberg - Kelechi Okafor - Khalil Aldabbas - KUCHENGA - Lauren Mahon - Lena Dunham - Maggie Matic - Martha Lane Fox - Mathew Kollamkulam - Matt Haig - Megan Crabbe - Michael Kitching - Michelle Elman - Miranda Hart - Mitch Price - Mona Chalabi - Montana Brown - Nadia Craddock - Naomi Campbell - Poorna Bell - Poppy Jamie - Reggie Yates - Ripley Parker - Robert Kazandjian - Rosa Mercuriadis - Saba Asif - Sam Smith - Scarlett Curtis - Scarlett Moffatt - Scottee - Sharon Chalkin Feldstein - Shonagh Marie - Simon Amstell - Steve Ali - Tanya Byron - Travon Free - Yomi Adegoke - Yusuf Al Majarhi

The Body

The Body

Author: Bill Bryson Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/10/2019

`We spend our whole lives in one body and yet most of us have practically no idea how it works and what goes on inside it. The idea of the book is simply to try to understand the extraordinary contraption that is us.' Bill Bryson sets off to explore the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories The Body: A Guide for Occupants is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up. A wonderful successor to A Short History of Nearly Everything, this new book is an instant classic. It will have you marvelling at the form you occupy, and celebrating the genius of your existence, time and time again. `What I learned is that we are infinitely more complex and wondrous, and often more mysterious, than I had ever suspected. There really is no story more amazing than the story of us.' Bill Bryson

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse

Author: Charlie Mackesy Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/10/2019

Four very different characters take centre stage in this unusual and beautifully illustrated book. There’s a horse, wise and reliable; a boy, Christopher Robin-like in his curiosity and kindness; a mole, driven by an optimism, and love of cake; and a fox, vulnerable and in need of love and understanding. The story of their friendship is told through Charlie Mackesy’s evocative pen and ink sketches. Most but not all are accompanied by three or four lines of text, not so much a narrative but rather meditations, little flashes of insight into the human condition: “We have such a long way to go,” sighed the boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come,” said the horse.  It’s a book full of tenderness and compassion, with much to make readers smile and more yet to prompt a sense of forgiveness, even of ourselves. Though simple enough for the youngest children, words and pictures will resonate just as much with adult readers. A very special book.

Audiobooks of the Month
Get Out of Your Head

Get Out of Your Head

Author: Jennie Allen Format: Audiobook Release Date: 28/01/2020

The visionary behind the million-strong IF: Gathering challenges Christian women to transform their outlook and their lives by interrupting their spiralling thoughts and realizing their God-given power to think differently. “A must-have resource for anyone looking to get control of their thoughts.”—Lysa TerKeurst, #1 New York Times best-selling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries  Are your thoughts holding you captive? I’ll never be good enough. Other people have better lives than I do. God couldn’t really love me. Jennie Allen knows what it’s like to swirl in a spiral of destructive thoughts, but she also knows we don’t have to stay stuck in toxic thinking patterns. As she discovered in her own life, God built a way for us to escape that downward spiral. Freedom comes when we refuse to be victims to our thoughts and realize we have already been equipped with power from God to fight and win the war for our minds. In Get Out of Your Head, Jennie inspires and equips us to transform our emotions, our outlook, and even our circumstances by taking control of our thoughts. Our enemy is determined to get in our heads to make us feel helpless, overwhelmed, and incapable of making a difference for the kingdom of God. But when we submit our minds to Christ, the promises and goodness of God flood our lives in remarkable ways. It starts in your head. And from there, the possibilities are endless.

Audiobooks of the Month
Rock Pool

Rock Pool

Author: Heather Buttivant Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/05/2019

The moment I held Rock Pool for the first time, I sensed I was in for a real treat. The book (hardback) feels like an item of quality. It has a beautifully designed and illustrated front cover, a sturdy jacket, and is printed on very good quality paper. Credit must also go to Myfanwy Vernon-Hunt for the design, which is first class.  The only remaining question, would the content match up? Rock Pool is a personal account of a life spent exploring our coastal rocks, our beaches, and the life therein. It’s not, as I first believed, a reference or identification book. To some extent, this relieved me as I am not – or I wasn’t – a beach or rock pool enthusiast. That said, I am a diver and I share the author’s love of nature, and of life at our coastal edge. There’s little I enjoy more than donning a wet suit and air tank to then spend an hour or so in shallow waters exploring the nooks and crannies of the rocks. So, did content match cover? Yes, very much. Heather Buttivant’s writing style is polished and engaging. With consummate ease, she leads you, her reader, into her world, shows it to you and helps you enjoy it and learn from it. Her infectious enthusiasm shines through every chapter, every page. Rock Pool is told, with considerable originality, through the medium of twenty-four creatures likely to be seen between the tides. It made me smile, many times.  If I had one, very small, comment, it is that a few of the many colour photographs were not high definition. That said, this in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of Rock Pool - and the illustrations are excellent!   Heather Buttivant maintains a blog called Cornish Rock Pools. I’ve signed up to it, and I’ve every intention of attending one of her guided tours. If it’s as good as her book, it will also prove to be a great experience.  

Friends: A Poem for Every Day of the Year

Friends: A Poem for Every Day of the Year

Author: Jane McMorland Hunter Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/09/2019

Here you can discover a truly lovely collection of poems celebrating friendship. With 365 on offer, you can read one a day for a year, or splurge out and just read until sated. Can I say how visually gorgeous this book is, both inside and out! Friends sits so well alongside its sister A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year, and here is where I admit to stroking the cover when I first picked it up (stroking beautiful books is absolutely, in fact more than fine in my opinion). Edited by Jane McMorland Hunter, each poem focuses on the special nature of friendship and each month is preceded by a lovely illustration by Tatiana Boyko. In her introduction she examines the different types of friendship, from marriage, to a connection with or between animals. Also contained within are some extracts from essays, novels, plays, and diaries. I found some of my favourite poets, including Christina Rossetti, William Blake, and Edward Lear, there really is the most huge variety on offer here! Friends A Poem For Every Day Of The Year called out to me, it made me smile, it is a book I will treasure, and dip into again and again. It really would make the most perfect present (alongside its sister) and I can highly recommend it.

A Cloud A Day

A Cloud A Day

Author: Gavin Pretor-Pinney Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2019

This really is the most gorgeously scrumptious book, showcasing some truly beautiful and awe-inspiring skies. 365 photographs and paintings, information, science, poetry and quotations all sit inside this rather lovely cover. The book is a great size, not too unwieldy, and after the introduction, which also gives some handy page numbers of some of the highlights, every single page is adorned with clouds. Did you know there was a Cloud Appreciation Society? I didn’t, but of course it makes complete sense! Gavin Pretor-Pinney started the society and says: “Having your head in the clouds, even for just a few moments each day, is good for your mind, good for you body and good for your soul. This book aims to show you why.” It certainly does show you why, you can open it at random, return again and again, and just soak up the images. The next time you head out, you can look up and know a little bit more about our beautiful skies. A Cloud A Day is a stunner, visually and mentally stimulating, it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
How to Teach Philosophy to Your Dog

How to Teach Philosophy to Your Dog

Author: Anthony Mcgowan Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/10/2019

A stimulating, fresh, and thoughtful read that ponders and wanders through some of the big questions in philosophy. When I initially picked this book up, I did wonder whether it was a quirky guide to training your dog, I very quickly realised that it is in fact an interesting introduction to philosophy (for humans). The author Anthony McGowan is an award winning writer for children and young adults, and has lectured widely on creative writing and philosophy (he has a BA, Mphil and PhD in philosophy). He has joined the two together to produce the most fabulous book for anyone who has questions about the way we humans think and act. The author and his dog Monty chat about philosophy on their daily walks. And so we join them as they take a humorous light stroll through some really pretty big subjects, including happiness and ethics. It made me consider and think about some of the things I take for granted, the discussion between the two helps stimulate thoughts. There is one part where I simultaneously wanted to berate and hug the pair, you’ll know what I mean when you get there! At the end there are suggestions for further reading, including on logic, and the meaning of life. If you’re at all curious about philosophy and want a fascinating introduction, then look no further than How To Teach Philosophy to Your Dog as it is a wonderfully inspiring read. 

Calm

Calm

Author: Fearne Cotton Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/12/2017

What a lovely, warm, kind and friendly book this is, Fearne Cotton writes about the state of calm, and how to find it in our modern, hectic lives. This isn’t just to read, it’s an interactive book too, encouraging you to make notes, to revisit thoughts and feelings. Fearne looks at everyday life, she also visits anxiety, trauma, and PTSD, she highlights breathing, living in the moment, and also introduces us to various friends and experts who have the ability to reach or teach a sense of calm. The book itself feels calm, the colours, font, and layout all help to soothe, to give you a hug as you read. While this could be read in order from beginning to end, I also feel you can dip in and out, take your time, visit when you have a moment. Calm is reassuring and revitalising, it’s the perfect helping hand for you to make some time for yourself, to reflect, and look for peace.  ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
The Light in the Dark

The Light in the Dark

Author: Horatio Clare Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/10/2019

Offering a deep and abiding connection with nature and our landscape around us, this winter journal really is the most poignant yet uplifting, and emotionally observant read. Horatio Clare explains in his prologue that he is embracing winter, in order to raise a torch against depression. Declaring that “I will not lose touch with nature”, he says he wants to stop turning inwards, and start looking outwards. What follows is a journal that starts on the 16 October and travels through winter into early Spring. With a gift for seeing what others may have missed, for expressing and painting with words, Horatio Clare is able to take the reader by the hand and share the memory with us too. As he battles the darkness to be found in winter, he sends out a blazing light. I adored the snippets of new-found (for me) information, including that in Welsh lore dragons thrive as green woodpeckers. I have since seen a green woodpecker in their low, darting, rolling flight with completely new eyes! The Light in the Dark is so eloquently descriptive and beautiful, emotional goosebumps kept me company as I read, and oh, that ending! Highly recommended, this just had to feature as one of our Star Books.

Star Books
Breaking & Mending

Breaking & Mending

Author: Joanna Cannon Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/09/2019

A thoughtful, sometimes emotionally painful, yet unforgettable medical memoir I feel everyone should read. Our expectations of our medical and emergency teams are high, we trust, we rely, we hope. When a best-selling novelist, with the most beautiful way with words, tells the story of her time as a junior doctor, you just have to sit up and listen. Each chapter begins with thoughts from different people and roles within the medical profession. Joanna Cannon opens her arms wide and lets you in to her story, her way with words ensures you can see a full and vivid picture. Heartbreakingly honest, we see how she is overstretched, twanging like elastic that is on the point of completely fraying. A number of times her words resonated so strongly, they gave me goose-bumps. She not only made me look with different eyes at our medical practitioners, she also made me think about my own thoughts and words. I don’t think I will ever forget her “we each measure words with different scales”. Breaking and Mending is one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book... I smiled, I cried, afterwards I sat and hugged it!

eBooks of the Month

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