Get off the red couch, bibliotherapy is here.

Bill_images2Words by Billie Jenkins

A literary prescription for your woes? That’s the service the strange folk at The School of Life are offering. ’Whatever your concerns, dreams or challenges, we’ll devote ourselves to creating an inspirational reading prescription that’s tailor-made for you.’ Fear not folks, bibliotherapists are here to open up the literary world for your own personal use. It’s not really an idea that has to be sold to an English Graduate, whose degree was essentially a very expensive version of this. Yet a lack of time, a change in social group or in ourselves can leave us feeling somewhat marooned from our literature. I have before found myself in a state of desperation, just wishing to find that same hunger for an author I had when I found J G Ballard, Ginsberg, or before I realised I had exhausted Bret Easton Ellis by both finishing all of it and by entering my twenties. I still hold a sadness that I will never again feel the physical blow given when I first encountered the opening lines of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man (the most devastating opening to a book I have ever read), or the closing lines of Camus’s The Outsider.

The service School of Life provides is to break through the bestsellers, and the ’I feel like I should be reading what I don’t really want to, and I can’t find what I do’ barriers. The Bibliotherapists talk to you about your life. They have a think. They prescribe books which fit your needs, and enter into debate with your ideas. It’s wonderful. The ratio of books which are bought and started in relation to those which are finished and enjoyed is probably a startling one. Mine’s about ten to one, but then perhaps I’m a bit of a floozy. If you’re busy why pretend War and Peace will reward you when a short story will provide that existential slap in the face and will leave time to finish the hoovering. I think we should all embrace the concept and talk about books suiting our own lives more, it would probably provide more therapy than any shrink. Anyway, how else are we going to find reading to replace Fifty Shades…

Bookings for bibliotherapy are available at theschooloflife.com, £80. If you’re a little strapped or its a medical emergency The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies by Susan Elderkin, £17.99 is an off the shelf remedy available from all good bookshops.

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