As this week is Depression Awareness Week I decided to add this weeks book review into the theme and have picked Ruby Wax’s first book about Mental Health and Mindfulness. The choice behind this was because Ruby was coming to visit my university and I wanted to know more about her views on Mental Health. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to the talk because I just had too much work to get on with and finish BUT I did manage to work my way through Ruby’s first book.I will say before I start this is not what I would class as a memoir, although there are snippets into Wax’s life it more of a big jumble of personal opinion, science and illustrations . Not what I expected, but not bad either.
Although Ruby Wax is a known entertainer she also studied the brain at Oxford University in an attempt to better understand her own mind and the problems she has. Through the book wax tries to simplify the complex nature of the brain into something that anyone with an interest can understand. Apart from the diagrams and scientific names for all parts of the brain, Wax also tries to engage with the practice of Mindfulness and how it can be used in our busy everyday lives. It is because of this that the four sections of the book don’t seem to fit as well as they possibly could have, while I admire Wax for trying to speak about these incredibly complex scientific matters, it does at time feel like too much information that isn’t resolved. For example the second half of the book is focused on Mindfulness and techniques, exercises and stories of the use, leaving the science pretty much forgotten (in my case at least). It almost felt as if this would have worked much better as two books, or even one much bigger book because both seem like they need more time and space to be fully understood.
I think the way to describe her opinion and how it is portrayed is very marmite, you either love it or hate it. Unfortunately I was not a fan of some of Wax’s opinions, I feel like she could come across as slightly rude or even ignorant of other people. There is a heavy presence of wanting to prove herself to people in her past, and while there is nothing wrong with that the sections about her mother in particular seem to be misplaced in the book, almost as if it was a haha look at how far I’ve come. While Wax is incredibly honest about her experiences, it can leave people feeling slightly negative, there are some instances where Wax has tried to make jokes and in the process can come across as quite mean or rude to whole scores of people. This is one of the main problems with the book, it appears that Wax still has a great deal to learn about the people behind the statistics and the lives of others. She may be incredibly open about her own experiences but it comes across that she only see’s others as the numbers and reports she saw at Oxford, rather than the people behind them.
I will say though that the exercises that are in the book are great and a good way to start looking into Mindfulness. It’s definitely something that I want to look into further after reading Wax’s suggestions, thoughts and experiences. That said, I did find her very dismissive of the practice of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), something I myself use. Again Wax quotes statistics to back up her point, but this was another instance where I felt that she didn’t see it through the eyes of someone who does get a great deal of help from CBT.
Overall I gave Wax’s first book 3 stars (***), while I appreciate the topic and the fact that it opened conversations it felt really all over the place as a book. It was almost as if Wax couldn’t decide whether she wanted the book to be science based, opinion based or technique based and so all three have been kind of thrown together in a few hundred pages. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading, I did, but I found the narrative and some of the comments to really put me off of reading and so it took me a long time to sit and get myself through it.
As always I’d love to hear your comments, what do you think of this book, of CBT? Leave me a message down below!