Books are good company, in sad times and in happy times, for books are people . . . people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.e.b. white
Talk therapy, massage therapy, hydrotherapy, retail therapy… With the rise of self-care, we are no strangers to the variety of “therapies” we have at our disposal to help us feel more at ease.
However, you don’t always have to seek the help of an expert to work through your troubles. In fact, you can find some peace of mind right in your own home, sitting quietly on your bookshelf.
Book therapy, or bibliotherapy, is the use of books to help us conquer emotional struggles, get through a difficult situation, or even cure boredom. Here, we’ll celebrate National Book Lover’s Day (August 9th) with a few books to cure what ails you!
First, How Does Bibliotherapy Work?
If you are a book lover, you already know how powerful a book can be. They have been an essential mode of communication and have kept us connected through time and space. Books transport us to other worlds, make us laugh and cry, inspire us, and educate us. Now, we know that books can also help us heal.
Bibliotherapy is the simple process of using books strategically to help us move through issues like anxiety, depression, grief, or other emotions. Through story, information, and guidance, books offer a supportive path as we cope and grow.
A Book Lover’s Guide to Bibliotherapy
Many people think bibliotherapy is reserved for self-help or medical books, though that couldn’t be further from the truth! We can learn much through the stories of fictional characters and their situations, development, and even the environment. Let’s highlight a few common issues we face and some fabulous books to help us feel empowered.
When Stress Takes Over…
The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono
Who doesn’t have some form of stress these days? Stress is a common, even daily occurrence for most of us. While stress is a biological feature that is meant to help us in times of need, the chronic stress response to non-threatening issues in our modern lives is damaging.
Thankfully, reading a book – any book! – is a great way to relieve stress. Dig into anything that sparks your interest and your eyes will thank you for some time off from the screen.
And for those of us who need a quick read that will transport us to a place where life is simpler, pick up The Man Who Planted Trees. You’ll drift off to rural France and join a man with nothing to do but ponder. When he decides that his countryside could use more trees, he spends his days fully immersed in nature laying the foundation for a more fruitful land. It’s not the promise of his future forests that gives him peace, it is the time spent walking, planting, and simply waiting. This relaxing story is perfect for the overstressed among us who need a quiet escape.
When Life is Painful…
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Pain is one of the few things we can expect in life. Whether due to physical injury, illness, or emotional upheaval, pain exists for all of us at some point. Thankfully many books can dull the pain through good storytelling.
To quiet that nagging pain in your head or twinging heartache, consider picking up Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte or The Death of a Beekeeper by Lars Gustafsson.
A powerful book to put life into perspective is When Breath Becomes Air. Published posthumously by a young neurosurgeon on his journey with cancer, it explores the ins and outs of what makes life meaningful. I read this several years ago and was hit over the head with the beauty of his words; they practically leapt off the page with poignancy. It’s an emotional investment worth making. My book club is reading this in the coming months.
When Boredom Strikes…
Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
If the past few months of quarantine and canceled plans have had you feeling bored, it’s time to get your nose in a book. Boredom is an uncomfortable sensation for our active minds. We like to be busy – we even pack our leisure time with social outings, adventurous travel, classes, or thrilling movies.
But boredom isn’t such a bad thing. In Desperate Characters, we follow a desperately bored Brooklyn couple who, despite their frequent parties, new neighborhood, and the raucous events of the late 1960s, still find their lives to be boring. A strange, yet fateful event shakes the couple’s “boring” life and they seek refuge in the countryside where they learn that quiet boredom is not something to be abhorred, but celebrated and enjoyed.
For Navigating a Midlife Crisis…
The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna
Are you reaching that certain age where everything you’ve built seems to be falling apart? Or maybe everything is going along smoothly but you dream of disrupting it all and moving to a foreign country? It’s time to put your crisis on pause and crack open a good book.
The Year of the Hare is the perfect book to help you glide through a midlife crisis with a little adventure and humor. When a Finnish journalist decides to leave his tired life and wife in Helsinki, he sets off on a road trip that leads him to a rustic cabin in picturesque Lapland with a few interesting adventures along the way.
For Unfulfilled Wanderlust…
Wanderlust is an aching desire to travel and see the world, and for a lot of use, we’re probably straining at the seams in desire for a far-flung trip to anywhere. A book may not give quite the thrill of an African safari, though it can feed your wanderlust and transport you to new destinations.
There are as many books to cure wanderlust as there are amazing places on this planet to visit, so we’ll cover a few great destination picks:
WANDERING THE GLOBE: The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner
FINDING YOURSELF THROUGH TRAVEL: The Alchemist, Paul Coelho
SOUTH PACIFIC: Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
INDIA: Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts
HAWAII: Waking Up in Eden by Lucinda Fleeson
AUSTRALIA: In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
PARIS: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
For the Love of Books
Books offer us so much more than entertainment. They help us understand, connect us to others, and help us navigate the throws of life a little better. Whether you pick up a book for fun, for learning, or for healing, enjoy the power of books to the fullest this Book Lover’s Day!