Will Reading Cure What Ails You?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Obviously, I love reading. But before reading this article in the New Yorker entitled "Can Reading Make You Happier?" I never really thought about if it made me necessarily feel better. 

But! It turns out there is such thing as a bibliotherapist who—get this—prescribes books for you based on how your feeling.

And it's not just "Are you lonely? Read this book about friendship." or "Are you sad? Read this funny memoir." —it gets incredibly specific. Are you going through a divorce? Are you unsure what to do with your life? Are you expecting your first child? Are you grieving from a death in the family? There's a book for that. And this book can tell you which book that is:

And, don't be misled, this is not a book of self-help books. Author Ella Berthoud talks about becoming a bibliotherapist in a time when the idea was new and says, "Bibliotherapy, if it existed at all, tended to be based within a more medical context, with an emphasis on self-help books. But we were dedicated to fiction as the ultimate cure because it gives readers a transformational experience."

Don't you just love that line? Fiction as the ultimate cure. Like music to my ears.

If you've found yourself in a reading slump, here's another inspiring excerpt to get back on the book wagon:

"Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. "Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines," the author Jeanette Winterson has written. "What they heal is the rupture reality makes on imagination."

[Aside: One thing I love about reading is that book seem to focus on the character of the characters, rather than the accomplishments of the characters. For example, Jane Austen's women are always prattling on about "the dispositions" of their male suitors and I LOVE that. I mean, when do we talk about, or even consider, dispositions these days? The next time a friend gets a new boyfriend who I don't know rather than say, "What does he do?" I'm determined to say, "What's his disposition like?"]

Anyway, I'm eager to check out this book from the library and see what it recommends for the quarter-life crisis years! I will report back if I find it helpful. Well, I must go Google how to become a bibliotherapist. I think I just found my long-lost career path ;)

p.s. On a slightly related note: My new favorite quote on writing.

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