The act of reading a book to nourish the soul, especially in times of emotional turmoil, is something many of us might do unconsciously. Certainly, Brenda Walker’s book, Reading by Moonlight, a meditation on the link between reading and healing, made me think about why I had chosen to read particular books at certain times in my life – Pride and Prejudice as a teenager because what 17 year old didn’t want to imagine that someone like Mr Darcy must surely exist somewhere beyond the limits of 17 year old boys; The Blind Assassin at a time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life because it made me see that writing was the only possible thing to do, and Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett when I was pregnant with my first child because it made me understand that one’s child is the most precious thing that one can ever be priveleged to know.
So when an email landed in my inbox from UWA Extension, with whom I often teach writing courses, asking me if I would be interested in running a session on Bibliotherapy, I was immediatley quite struck with the notion, although I had no real idea what Bibliotherapy was. But Google soon fixed that.
Essentially, bibliotherapy is about giving someone a reading prescription – a prescription to suit whatever is happening in their life at that point in time. I came across this article from The Guardian which outlined one possible process but for the session at UWA Extension, we have decided upon group bibliotherapy – I like the idea of all of us hearing one another’s book prescription because hearing about how a book might be meaningful in someone else’s life might have its own special resonance.
So what exactly am I going to do in a Bibliotherapy session? Good question. I’m thinking it will go something like this. Firstly, I’ll talk to people. Find out what books have moved or haunted them in the past. I’ll find out a bit about each person’ life. And then when delivering my prescription, I’ll think about all the books I’ve read and make a few suggestions of books that might shift them or change them or make them think or, hopefully, make them feel.
Of course I don’t pretend to be any real kind of therapist; I’m nothing other than a person who loves to read, to talk about books and to share books that I’ve loved with other people. I think the idea of getting some book recommendations based on what’s going on in your life is just as likely to hit the mark as using the review pages of the newspaper to decide what books you might read – in fact I hope it’s more likely.
So, what do you think? Would you do bibliotherapy? And have certain books come to you at particular points in your life, almost as if you were meant to read them at that time?
I’ll be running the Bibliotherapy session in UWA Extension’s Summer School. The program isn’t out yet, but here’s the link to their website and you can keep an eye out for details of when the course will be held as they become available.