Matt’s title was “Books Can Save Us” and he told a packed Garden Theatre in Charlotte Square a personal story about his experience his 20’s when re-reading his teenage books helped him focus and get a handle on his depression: “I wasn’t able to socialise and found going outside difficult. I was very much at risk of drowning in my own mind. So books became my life-rafts.”
He spoke about how mental health issues are rising in all age groups, but most markedly for those under 18: “The increasing personal, social, economic and technological challenges facing young people right now are immense.”
Matt said that in meeting people while talking about his book Reasons to Stay Alive, many told him how reading and writing had helped them. He outlined how books can change society, be the basis for religions and change the way we think: and what books can do for society, they can also do for individuals. “Books are one of the fundamental things that make us feel human. They are maps, helping us locate who we really are. We must never side line books, or trivialise them, or see them as a nice little middle class luxury, or GCSE the life out of them. We should not let this or any other government put any barriers between a human being and a book.”
He concluded “Books are for all of us, and for every stage of our life. We should be faithful to them. In sickness and in health, because they will always be there when we really need them. They are the still centre in the whirlwind of modern existence. They can help us and they can change us and make us better people.
They help raise us.
They sort us out.
They can become our friends.
They can be our medicine.
They might, one day, even save our lives.”
A sold out event, the speech will be available soon in full on the Edinburgh Book Festival website and as a short edit (we’re working on it now!)