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Summary

Last Christmas I almost killed myself. Almost. I've had a lot of almosts. Never gone from almost to deed. Don't think I ever will. But it was a bad almost.

Living Better is Alastair Campbell's honest, moving and life-affirming account of his lifelong struggle with depression. It is an autobiographical, psychological and psychiatric study which explores his own childhood, family and other relationships and examines the impact of his professional and political life on himself and those around him. But it also lays bare his relentless quest to understand depression not just through his own life but through different treatments. Every bit as direct and driven, clever and candid as he is, this is a book filled with pain, but also hope - he examines how his successes have been in part because of rather than despite his mental health problems - and love. 

We all know someone with depression. There is barely a family untouched by it. We may be talking about it more than we did, back in the era of 'boys don't cry' - they did you know - and when a brave face or a stiff upper lip or a best foot forward was seen as the only way to go. But we still don't talk about it enough. There is still stigma, and shame, and taboo. There is still the feeling that admitting to being sad or anxious makes us weak. It took me years, decades even to get to this point, but I passionately believe that the reverse is true and that speaking honestly about our feelings and experiences (whether as a depressive or as the friend or relative of a depressive) is the first and best step on the road to recovery. So that is what I have tried to do here.

©2020 Alastair Campbell (P)2020 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

Critic reviews

"I thought I knew everything there was to know about Alastair but Living Better reveals so much more." (Tony Blair)

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Excellent Read.

Been fond of Alastair's writing style for quite some time. Our politics don't always match up, but I've always been fascinated in the part he played in the New Labour era and beyond. After reading his diaries, I was deeply interested to see that he had just written a book on struggling with depression. I must say, it's fantastic.

You might like this book for two reasons. First, if you have read the Campbell diaries as I have, this is an excellent companion piece. Not exactly a memoir, this book charts some of the most dramatic episodes in Campbell's life so far, including a few that you will already be familiar with. Excellent context to his extraordinary life in politics.

Secondly, if you have at all experienced any kind of mental health issue, this is as informative a listen as it is enjoyable. Having lived with depression for decades, Campbell's persuasive writing style perfectly conveys his unique insights into the illness as well as the results of the research project he undertook in the second half of the book.

An excellent read, to be sure. Fair warning, though - if you're a hardcore Brexiteer who can't stand 'remoaners', best give this one a miss. If you're a New Labour-hater, you won't like it much, either. And if you're an anti-Iraq War activist, I can confirm that the chapter on 'guilt' will firmly not be of interest to you. To everyone else - or any of the above who can put politics aside for an enlightening listen - I couldn't recommend Living Better more highly.

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Thank you!

I don't do God, or politics or self help books, but I loved this. Thanks

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Incredibly Insightful!

Beautifully written. For someone who does not suffer with depression or anxiety this book has provided me an insight of how crippling it is to people who do. People who may be closer than we think!

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important and accessible to all

Honest, open account from AC. Depression can affect people from all walks of life. This book will validate many people's experiences and offers helpful ways in which to feel better. Enjoyable listen.

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Relatable, dark and funny

I actually bought this book as I caught a clip of AC explaining his daily ratings which is something I used to do from a young age. But there’s so much more in this book that’s relatable, that glimpses into darkness, deep sadness, but also can make you laugh out loud over the ironing, especially for anyone who can relate and it might just assist in improving understanding for those who can’t. Some useful reflections on approaches to manage depression too. I would definitely recommend this to family and friends regardless of political tilt.

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Sad story indeed

I was glad and sorry to hear AC s story and his struggles. I didn’t find the book uplifting tho as I imagine that’s what he intended The jeremy hunt comment left me stone cold and that says it all about the current Tory party and their complete lack of empathy. Eeriness should be in therapy of course but it depends who the therapist is

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Pure. Honest. Insightful.

A must read book!
This book should be on everyone’s bookshelf as a go to reference for understanding people with mental health problems, as well as lots of useful advice to help people who are experiencing mental health issues. The ‘Jam Jar’ and ‘the 20 point self help list’ are two simple ideas that would benefit people with or without mental health problems.
Alistair’s life long experience of living with mental health problems adds dimension, humour and honesty, which makes this an enjoyable read.

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Highly recommended

Really engaging and informative. Unexpectedly warm, funny and moving in turn. I didn't expect to engage with Campbell as much as I did. I would recommend this audiobook very highly.

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Fascinating

This honest deep dive into serious depression was not the sad and heavy book you may imagine. It’s packed full of funny, searingly honest and often vulnerable stories. Also packed full of useful tips and practical suggestions. Everyone should read this book. Alastair and Fiona I salute you.

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Very good

Very interesting. it’s open your eyes it is give me a better understanding about mental health