Recently, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Mano Bouzamour sat himself down at a table with a white coat, a stethoscope, and a pile of fiction. A novelist himself, Mr. Bouzamour is also a part-time ‘bibliotherapist’. He spent the day vigorously writing book recommendations. The man has got the prescription for fiction, and he’s not alone.
He’s part of the growing movement of bibliotherapy: the practice of prescribing patients with books instead of pills. Around the world, clinicians are recommending books in favor of traditional psychotherapy.
Various organizations are committed to healing through reading. The School of Life, in London, is a powerful proponent. Their instruction to patients is:
Explore your relationship with books so far and be asked to explore new literary directions. Perhaps you’re looking for an author whose style you love so much you will want to devour every word they’ve ever written. Perhaps you’re about to trek across China and need to find ideal travel companions to download onto your kindle. Maybe you’re feeling disconnected from the world and want to listen to the classics of your childhood during your daily commute. Or you’re seeking a change in your life and want to hold the hand of people who’ve been there and done that already.
Talk therapy and psychiatry may be necessary for severe psychological conditions, but for patients with more subtle issues, a book may hold the key to their problems.
There are various organizations and establishments in London and Germany that are catching on to the benefits of the practice. The Book Pharmacy, in Berlin, The Reading Agency and The Reader, both in London, are waking up to the mental health perks of a good book. Some offer group reading sessions, as an alternative to group therapy.
Do you know anyone who has used bibliotherapy? What do you think of the trend? Should medicine stay outta fiction? Would you want someone telling you what to read? Anything to advance the cause of literature? Let us know!
Featured image courtesy of New Yorker