Thursday, 28 April 2016


My friend the Upstartwren has got me thinking again as she blogged recently about books and mental health. I found myself nodding along to a lot of the points that she made, especially about self-help books being big business. From my former life in retail I can say that it isn’t just mental health that is big business however – it is all forms of health and diet.  All you have to do is look in a book shop each and every January with the plethora of “New Year, New You” displays.

Mindfulness is the buzz word at the moment, along with colouring for grownups.  I can’t really comment on either of these as I’ve not tried them therapeutically, I will confess to being quite happy siting down and stealing borrowing my nephew’s colouring pens!

I very much like the idea of the teen “Shelf-Help” promotion that I think the Upstartwren was referring to.  My first port of call for information about anything is generally a book, and I like the mix of fiction and non-fiction books that are recommended for all manner of issues that might be bothering a person – and I don’t think that this list should be limited to just young people, the titles are relevant for all ages. 

I do hope that the books are discretely marked rather than in-your-face-front-and-centre. If you are feeling delicate in anyway then announcing this as you browse the books might not be ideal.
(The library where I work has had the adult books on prescription scheme running for a while and with these people can come in and ask for the book or just come across them on the shelf, they also have a longer loan period than other books.)

Think about these promotions then lead me, like the Upstartwren, to think about how I use books as a form of personal self-help…

When I feel poorly I tend to turn to books I know well, old friends, they are often books from the Girls Own genre published before 1960, they are very much of their time, and pure escapism but I find them comforting.

When I am on holiday, and relaxed, I am far more experimental with my reading. I’ll try lots of new things, and from all sorts of genres.

However there are books that I know however many times I read them they will make me cry and there are always times when this is cathartic. There are other books that will cheer me up regardless of how many times I read them. Unlike the Upstartwren I haven’t yet found a poetry book that has spoken to me on the same level as prose.

However the main way that I use books as self-help is by always having one to hand.

The times I am most miserable are when I am trapped with nothing to read. The worst punishment as a child was not being sent to my room but having to sit in a quiet room with all my books taken away from me. Without a book to read I become quite twitchy:  when we travel I always have an eBook, a physical book, and eBook apps on my phone/iPod to hand. Anyone who travels with me trembles when I announce I’ve finished my book.

Hmm reading this, and looking at self-help books, I think I diagnose myself as an addict – I’ll just go and find a book to help me!

I didn’t mean to end this on a flippant note, I know I am very lucky that I haven’t needed any of the books prescribed for anything more than curiosity but knowing that should I need them there are titles out there is very comforting to me.

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