The Humans – Matt Haig (Sept 2019)

This has to be one of my favourite books I’ve read in the past few years. It was a new premise. It was refreshing. It was clever. It also had a dog called Newton in it and that’s always a plus for me. Despite how much I adored this book. And I really did adore it. I’ve found it really hard to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be and explain why. What exactly was it that I enjoyed so much? What kept me reading? What made me never want to put it down?

There’s so much to say about this book but I think less is more. I want you to read the book for yourself. With no preconceived ideas. Or pre-knowledge of the content. So I’ve left the main part of the story line out. But here are my thoughts, spoilers minimized.

Firstly the idea. It felt new. Too often I pick up books and find the ideas tired and cliched. The Humans couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite the language around mathematics -a fear inducing subject in my teenage days- it was completely accessible. From the seamless flow of the narrative, the lifelike characters and the book format. It read like a novel and a guide to humans, morphing the two into one stunning story.

I think what I loved best is how much Matt Haig tells us about humans. Ironically told from the perspective of an alien. But who better placed to observe than an outsider. As our alien friend navigates human life he sees us in our imperfections. And loves the world anyway. He understands that humans are infallible. And appreciates that that is what makes us a beautiful. A key point that many of us forget as the tides of life pull us in each and every direction. The Humans is an excellent reminder of what it truly means to be human and a wonderful observation on mankind.

The novel ends with some advice for humans (you can read the full list here). This was undoubtedly my favourite part of the book and the most perfect end I could imagine. When reviewers said the book was ‘soulful’ they couldn’t have been more right. This was why the book had such a profound impact on me. As I read it I smiled at the silly observations and nodded wisely acknowledging them as correct. It made me question and think about the human condition. It made me appreciate being human.

Below are some of my favourite pieces of advice for humans. I think we could do a lot worse than really think about these ideas. We are all so worried about so many things. But are they the right things? Do we worry about what really matters? Or what we can control? Where do we place value? How do we show we value something? How do we love? More importantly, who do we love? Our life is short. So short when you truly think about it. We can’t make everyday matter. But we can have moments. We must choose them wisely. Be discriminate in what we do. Make an intentional choice. To live. To laugh. To love. And to care. As we learn from this book. Caring is what makes us human.

  1. Don’t worry about your abilities. You have the ability to love. That is enough.
  2. Technology won’t save humankind. Humans will.
  3. Be curious. Question everything. A present fact is just a future fiction.
  4. You shouldn’t have been born. Your existence is as close to impossible as can be. To dismiss the impossible is to dismiss yourself.
  5. Your life will have 25,000 days in it. Make sure you remember some of them.
  6. Tragedy is just comedy that hasn’t come to fruition. One day we will laugh at this. We will laugh at everything.
  7. Happiness is not out here. It is in there.
  8. New technology, on Earth, just means something you will laugh at in five years. Value the stuff you won’t laugh at in five years. Like love. Or a good poem. Or the sky.
  9. If there is a sunset, stop and look at it. Knowledge is finite. Wonder is infinite.
  10. Don’t aim for perfection. Evolution, and life, only happens through mistakes.
  11. You have the power to stop time. You do it by kissing. Or listening to music. Music, by the way, is how you see things you can’t otherwise see. It is the most advanced thing you have. It is a super-power.
  12. At some point, bad things are going to happen. Have someone to hold onto.
  13. Don’t ever be afraid of telling someone you love them. There are things wrong with your world, but an excess of love is not one.
  14. No-one will understand you. That is not, ultimately, that important. What is important is that you understand you.
  15. Politeness is often fear. Kindness is always courage. But caring is what makes you human. Care more, become more human

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