Stress cures range from strictly physical (tea, massages, sleep) to mental (counseling, meditations, long phone calls with friends), but books can arguably release both types of tension.
Setting aside time to curl up in a chair or stretch out on your bed with a good, slow, smart novel is a comfier way to reflect than, say, Zumba class.
At least that is the thinking behind the age-old practice of bibliotherapy, which has been performed since the ancient Greeks began describing libraries as "healing places for the soul."
Recently, psychologists in London have capitalized on this idea by offering therapy sessions in which books are assigned for specific situations, such as a move across the country or a preoccupation with wealth.
Of course, certain writing styles or character quirks won't always resonate with a reader, and there's nothing quite like serendipitously stumbling upon a story that is in perfect harmony with your life, but sometimes suggestions are necessary.
The thing is, not just any novel will do. Fast-paced genre books can certainly distract you from your woes -- and that might not be such a bad thing. But the purpose of bibliotherapy is to peek into the lives of characters whose concerns match yours. By all means, read The Hunger Games (I did, and loved it) but unless you or someone you love has been unwillingly committed to a deadly battle, it doesn't quite work for this purpose.
As Maura Kelly wrote in her controversial article "A Slow-Books Manifesto," "whenever we have down time, we should turn to literature--to works that took some time to write and will take some time to read, but will also stay with us longer than anything else. They'll help us unwind better than any electronic device--and they'll pleasurably sharpen our minds and identities, too. To borrow a cadence from Michael Pollan: Read books. As often as you can. Mostly classics."
The dilemma that most commonly leads to literary soul-searching is probably a romantic breakup. Losing a significant other can be stressful, and there's an abundance of books, classic and not, that address unrequited love. So if you've recently been dumped and are ready to trade in chocolates and tissues for something a little more constructive, check out these seven novels that can help you out:
Reflecting on the narrator's childhood may help you recall pleasant instances that happened long before you were dumped. A little context and peaceful recollection never hurt anyone.
This book has therapeutic potential for the same reasons as Proust's: The reader is able to remember that no matter how much people change, certain passions, such as music, can remain.
Nerval's tale of lost and unrequited love may not lift your spirits plot-wise, but it features beautiful descriptions of gardens, architecture and the theatre. If the narrator can appreciate beauty amidst pain, so can you!
Bridget may well exemplify the worst ways to go about a breakup, which can be entertaining yet also informative.
Whether you're recuperating from a short-term fling that involved frustrating texting woes or a long-term companion who was simply incompatible, Lenny's heartache will probably underscore yours.
Rob Godron's self-deprecating humor will help you laugh your way through a break up. This book can also serve as an anthology of songs, books and movies about love and loss.
Green's YA breakup tale follows Colin, a child prodigy, on a road trip after being dumped. He's able to heal once he lets go of his extreme desire for structure.
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