Who needs a doctor when you could read a book?
I have always loved reading, as a child, I was always found huddled on the sofa book in hand. I had finished every book in my primary school by the time I was 9 years old, and then I moved onto the classics. I then went onto study English Literature at University which opened my mind to yet more endless possibilities and genres to devour.
I would say I had a somewhat tumultuous childhood and reading was my escape. I could be in a new land, with new friends, and new experiences just by picking up a book. I revered in the smell and the feel of books. Libraries and book shops are still my favourite places in the world, they take me to another place and another time, they make me feel relaxed at the same time excited for what I might discover within the pages. So, when I heard about Bibliotherapy it really spoke to me. I want to help people and if that can be through books then it sounds bloody perfect to me!
So what is Bibliotherapy?
Bibliotherapy defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary says:
The use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems or for psychiatric therapy
Although the term “bibliotherapy” was first mentioned by Samuel Crothers in 1916, the use of books/reading to change behaviour and to reduce distress has a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages. Bibliotherapy could be individual reading, group reading groups, classroom groups, reading aloud to an individual, book clubs, kids sessions — it can include fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
How can Bibliotherapy help you?
Bibliotherapy can be used for so many ailments. Whether that it is stress, anxiety, self-awareness, procrastination, relationship issues, parenting issues, bereavement, …the list is endless, there is a book to help with everything.* You can visit a Bibliotherapist and they can make specific recommendations based on your own individual circumstances. You will receive your own “prescription” of books.
Reading fiction has been shown to improve your empathy to others as well as putting our brains into a pleasurable state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm.
“Bibliotherapy is…a new science,” Bagster explains. “A book may be a stimulant or a sedative or an irritant or a soporific. The point is that it must do something to you, and you ought to know what it is. A book may be of the nature of a soothing syrup or it may be of the nature of a mustard plaster.” **
Books that you can start to explore now
A great resource I found was a booked called — The Novel Cure: An A-Z of literary remedies. This has a huge list of ailments that you can look up and book recommendations that will help. Some of the ailments are amusing enough to buy the book but it really is a fascinating read. Want to know what to read to help with flatulence, hating your nose, lack of seduction skills or you cannot find a decent cup of coffee, well there are recommendations for all of them and so much more!
Here is a quick list of ailments and books you could give a go now (taken from ‘The Novel Cure’, however, all below books I have personally read, would recommend and have on my bookshelf as keepers):
Procrastination: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Too much ambition: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Alcoholism: The Shining by Stephen King
Too much sex: The life and loves of a she-devil by Fay Weldon
Vanity: The Picture of Dorina Gray by Oscar Wilde
Gambling: The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart
Rage: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Being a hopeless romantic: The Go-Between by LP Hartley
Failure to seize the day: The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Unrequited Love: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
A broken heart: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I hope one of the recommendations speaks to you and you enjoy a new-found love of reading. Please comment and let me know any recommendations you have of your own that elevate your mood, have improved your well-being, have improved relationships or have given you a new sense of purpose.
*If you are having mental health issues, feeling depressed, or are physically sick please see medical help as soon as possible. Bibliotherapy is a complementary therapy and is not to be used as a cure for any physical or mental ailments alone.
For further reading check out:
The Novel Cure: An A-Z of literary remedies