What makes 'How to Be Human' rise above the average self-help book is the wonderful conversations between Ruby Wax, a monk and a neuroscientist. While other such books may offer more robust scientific research, Ruby Wax is able to set out arguments about caring for our mental health (mind, emotions, body...) with clarity and friendliness. The monk and neuroscientist mostly agree on what is good for mental health but offer opinions from two ends of the spectrum: scientific and spiritual. This is what sets this book apart; it's simple ability to strip the complexity of mental health to a very human level.

A slight problem I had was, in parts, that Ruby Wax seemed to be writing for a female audience. It might not have been the intention, but as a man it certainly felt that way. I had trouble reading a chapter where Ruby Wax details, based on her own views, what happens as you get older. While women contend with birth and childcare and the menopause, men simply get on working and doing the same thing. I found this grating and untrue. As a recent father myself, I found this one-dimensional viewpoint of the male insulting. Perhaps I misunderstood. It is a shame, though, when the rest of the book is full of wisdom, wit and genuinely useful advice.

Probably the most useful aspect of the book is Ruby Wax's explanations and guidance around mindfulness. She gained an MA in the subject so she writes most assuredly about the use and benefits of the practice.

A great and funny book about mental health; one that could have done with more research. But nonetheless a useful guide to being a human, mostly. 

© 2020 by Chris Soul. 

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