Once again Twitter has brought me to an interesting read and a nice and relevant blog topic: bibliotherapy. I had heard of this before – I even have Berthoud and Elderkin’s The Novel Cure lying around in my reading nook for some ‘DIY bibliotherapy’ – but never realised that there actually are bibliotherapists that you can go and have a session with in the real ‘therapy’ sense of the word.

Ceredwin Dovey was given just such a session and wrote about it in The New Yorker last summer. She tells of the initial back and forth over email after answering a reading habits questionnaire, the list of recommendations she received based on her ‘ailments’ (questions she was dealing with, emotions she had a hard time dealing with), and her experience of reading these novels and how they benefited her. Apart from the fact that the notion of such a bibliotherapy session greatly attracts me, I appreciated Dovey’s article for its venture into scholarly research on the benefits of reading. A field that I am very familiar with (see my post on IGEL’s empathy symposium of last summer).

“So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction makes us treat others better, it is a way of treating ourselves better. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.”

With that in mind and the Christmas holidays around the corner, for this last post of the year, I wanted to let you know what my most absorbing reads of 2015 were, in the hope that they will get you through the dark days ahead (or just to help you relax).

  1. The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
  2. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  3. The map and the territory – Michel Houellebecq
  4. The Master & Margarita – Mikhael Bulgakov
  5. The big over easy – Jasper Fforde
  6. The Seed collectors – Scarlett Thomas
  7. What I talk about when I talk about running –Haruki Murakami
  8. Operation Shylock -Philip Roth

If this list does not appeal to you, I would recommend flipping through The Novel Cure which incidentally includes a list of engaging reads. Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to announce an addition to this website: the Absorbing Stories Inventory. I recently conducted a survey study with my colleagues Don Kuiken and Shawn Douglas from the University of Alberta, Canada. Part of the survey asked about readers most memorable and absorbing reads of the last year. I plan to publish this list of books, short stories and poetry collections on this website in the new year. For now: happy holidays!




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