What I’ve Read / Furiously Happy, Mad Girl & It’s All Absolutely Fine


Who’s this girl, you might think, reading non-fiction? Well, I made it my mission to read (and talk about) mental health more this year and what better way to start than to read some funny books?

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

As a memoir, Furiously Happy is a concoction of anecdotes from Jenny’s life (think Hyperbole and a Half without the drawings). Jenny’s thoughts and stories about her experience of living with depression and anxiety were really interesting to read. I also found the chapters on how her husband copes with living with someone who is struggling with mental health incredibly insightful and sometimes really lovely – the quote below stayed with me long after putting the book down. Although the more random anecdotes about her life didn’t grab me as much (but you do find out the story behind the cover!), I did appreciate the advice she gives: say yes to more opportunities (even the most ridiculously absurd ones), self-sabotage is a no-no, pretend you’re good at it, and be furiously happy about the good moments as best you can.

“Last month, as Victor drove me home so I could rest, I told him that sometimes I felt like his life would be easier without me. He paused a moment in thought and then said, “It might be easier. But it wouldn’t be better.”

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

I sort of love Bryony Gordon. We couldn’t be more different, really, except for the small matter of our mental heath. That is to say, it’s a bit crap. Bryony has had OCD ever since she was a young girl and, as she got older, it caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. In her memoir, she explores the roots of her OCD and how it – and not treating it – affected her teen years and her 20s. She talks about how mental health doesn’t care about who you are (Bryony herself was a privileged child and now is a successful journalist) nor does it manifest itself in the same way in everyone – it’s a tricky thing to pin down.

Mad Girl is super accessible, just like reading a magazine article or having a chat with Bryony over coffee, which is how it should be, and it was really enjoyable and funny to read. 1 in 4 people suffer from poor mental health and Mad Girl does what I think we all should do: talk about mental health as if we were talking about the flu, honestly and without fear of judgement.

Bryony’s also started Mad World – a new podcast dedicated to talking about mental health – and I suggest you check it out (the first guest is Prince Harry!).

It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot

I’ve been following Ruby on Instagram for a little while. I love her hilarious yet totally relatable illustrations about mental health and the struggle of everyday life. As soon as I saw It’s All Absolutely Fine, I knew I had to have it. For many of us, it’s not absolutely fine and so yeah, it can be really comforting when someone else says “this is bullshit” about something others would not blink an eye at.

Ruby’s illustrations depict what it’s like to suffer from all kinds of mental health issues: anxiety, bipolar disorder, self-harm, eating disorders, and depression. Her drawings accompany her thoughts on mental illness and stories about what she’s gone through herself.

We all know that mental health needs to be talked about more, and I really do think that humour – visual humour especially – can be a great way to do it. A funny image that someone wants to share can reach more people than other kinds of media. Ruby herself has nearly 100,000 followers looking out for something that they’ll be able to see themselves in. It’s All Absolutely Fine is ideal for fans Hyberbole and a Half and illustrators like Veronica Dearly.

As all three of these books show, humour can be a powerful tool when talking about mental health. Even if you haven’t ‘officially’ (and I use this word loosely) been diagnosed with a mental illness, you’re sure you see or read something in these books and think “that’s me”. Because we all have mental health.

Added to My Shelves: March & April


Here are the books I’ve added to my shelves recently!

In March, I was lucky to attend Andersen Press’ first ever blogger brunch. We got to hear all about their lovely upcoming books, eat lots of pastries and discover whether we were an optimist, realist or pessimist to celebrate Susin Nielsen’s Optimists Die First (I’m most definitely a pessimist). In our goody bags, we were given Troublemakers, Goodbye Days, The Way Back Home, and Encounters. I was intrigued to hear that Encounters was based on a true story – in 1994, students from a Zimbabwe school claimed to see a UFO land on the school grounds. The Way Back Home and Goodbye Days are both emotional reads, so they’re right up my street.

I was also extremely lucky to receive a whole bunch of surprise review copies from publishers. In my contemporary pile, you’ll find Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, Stargazing for Beginners, Everything Beautiful is Not RuinedNoah Can’t Even, Release and I Have No Secrets. I’m excited to delve into all of these, but Release (it’s Patrick Ness, obv.) and Stargazing for Beginners (I’ve heard such amazing things about Jenny McLachlan’s latest) are high up on my TBR.

I also received copies of Doing It!, The Bookshop Girl and Things a Bright Girl Can Do. I’ve already read The Bookshop Girl and absolutely adored it, so check back for a review very soon. I even match the cover! I was also happy to receive Hannah Witton’s debut book and a copy of Things a Bright Girl Can Do – one I heard all about at Andersen Press – about three suffragettes, Evelyn, May and Nell.

And lastly, I took a trip to Foyles and bought It’s All Absolutely Fine – which I’ve wanted for ages, and I follow Ruby on Instagram – and I received All My Friends Are Superheroes for my birthday from my lovely friend Louise, which sounds like an incredibly unique short story!

Have you read any of these books?

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Shelf Swap with Lucy Powrie

Shelf Swap with Lucy Powrie
I love swapping book recs, so I’m asking one person each month to pick five books from my Goodreads shelves that they would like to read and five books from their own shelves that they think I might enjoy.

I’m happy to welcome Lucy Powrie, UKYA blogger, booktuber, Brontë-lover and host of #ukyachat, to Pretty Books for Shelf Swap!

5 BOOKS FROM STACEY’S SHELVES THAT LUCY WANTS TO READ

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
I’ve read and loved all of Sarah’s previous books, so I was extremely excited when I heard she had another verse book out and this time written alongside Brian Conaghan. I know that this one is going to rip my heart into tiny pieces, which is why I’ve been putting off reading it for a while – I don’t know if I can bear the heartache!

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
I’ve got to be honest here: the main reason I want to read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is because of the unusual but very gorgeous cover. I own the hardback and I love it – when was the last time you saw a sheep on the cover of a book?! I don’t read a lot of adult fiction, so it’s always a nice treat when I do. I like mixing up my reading; I don’t think I could read YA all the time!

The Diviners by Libba Bray
I can remember when The Diviners was first published and how excited I was to read it. I left comments on every blog post it was mentioned in, talking about how amazing it sounded and how I was going to read it immediately. Guess what? It never happened. I still haven’t read The Diviners and it is one of my biggest reading regrets. I think it is finally time that I read it, don’t you? I just wish I had the beautiful hardback from when it was first released!

Blankets by Craig Thompson
I find picking up graphic novel recommendations really difficult; I’m very particular with my style, so I have trouble with reading just anything. Blankets, though, sounds brilliant and I’ve heard enough people talk about it that I know it must be good. It’s a coming-of-age story, which I love, so I really must read this soon!

The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian is probably a strange choice for somebody who has a blog called ‘Queen of Contemporary’ but really I just want to read it so that I understand the potato jokes people make when they talk about it. Is that so bad of me? I don’t know if I’ll enjoy it, but I’d like to give it a try anyway.

5 BOOKS FROM LUCY’S SHELVES THAT STACEY SHOULD READ

Counting Stars by Keris Stainton
Recently I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with a Norwegian TV show called Skam and it was my greatest pleasure to pass on that love to Stacey. Counting Stars reminds me of Skam in many ways because the characters are slightly older teens and are living in a flat share, and the way that Keris writes them is so true to real life. Counting Stars is one of my favourite books and one that I insist everyone reads. Keris is one of the best UKYA authors out there!

Stacey says: I LOVE LOVE LOVE Skam. You had me at Skam (thankfully, I already own a copy of this!).

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson
I know how much Stacey loved The Art of Being Normal, Lisa Williamson’s debut novel, and I read All About Mia in February and loved it from the first page. The best thing about it is Mia’s unique voice – she’s not your typical, goody-two-shoes YA character; she’s rebellious and loud, and I’m so glad that characters like her are emerging in YA. At the heart of the novel is an interesting sibling relationship that explores the intricacies of family life, and I think Stacey will love it just as much as I did.

Stacey says: I read this recently (sorry Lucy, you were ahead of the curve!) and Lucy was spot on. Mia’s a complicated and frustrating character, but quite unique in YA and therefore fun to read.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
As I mentioned before, I am very fussy when it comes to graphic novels. That’s how I knew that The Encyclopedia of Early Earth was so special: it immediately hooked me and I was drawn into the beautiful myths and legends that Isabel Greenberg weaves. Her illustration style is breathtaking and she’s just as good at writing too – sometimes I find that one is better than the other with graphic novels, but Isabel Greenberg is an all-round talent.

Stacey says: I’ve heard such lovely things about this graphic novel. I own a copy of The Hundred Nights of Hero, but I really ought to read this first.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Reasons to Stay Alive is a beautiful book about mental health that simultaneously takes on the role of being a self-help guide and a memoir. It’s one of those books that I think everybody should read at some point in their lives because it allows you to deeply understand the themes discussed within it. It’s also pretty short, so it’s possible to read in a day if you set your mind to it!

Stacey says: It’s my aim to read more books about mental health this year, and this will definitely be one of them!

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Nimona was the first graphic novel I ever read, but I knew it wouldn’t be the last. It solidified Noelle Stevenson as my favourite graphic novelist and I haven’t forgotten it even though it’s been a while since I last read it. The main character, Nimona, is hilarious and her relationship with evil villain Lord Blackheart offers a twist on the usual superhero story. It’s impossible not to smile as you’re reading it!

Stacey says: I have a copy of Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy, so if I love that, I’ll definitely check this out. I know it’s many people’s favourite by Noelle.

Thank you, Lucy, for swapping shelves with me!

Which of these books do you want to read?