BB tries Bibliotherapy

For a short period of time, I couldn’t decide what to read. More than that, I couldn’t settle to anything; I had lost my reading ‘mojo’. This hadn’t really happened before, I was a ‘finish one book, start another’ kind of girl. So I told my boyfriend who suggested that I try bibliotherapy. I had read about bibliotherapy at the School of Life in various magazines and had always thought it would be an interesting thing to try. I asked for a session for my birthday and, as if by magic, through the post came a voucher.

Just before Easter I went along to the School of Life in BB’s heartland of Bloomsbury for what turned out to be a fascinating 50 minutes with one of the resident bibliotherapists. Prior to turning up I had submitted a questionnaire which had been emailed by the bibliotherapist, so I had an inkling of what to expect. Nevertheless, I wasn’t really sure how far she would delve into the depths of my psyche and I did wonder, if she went too deep, whether she would ever find her way out.

Thankfully, she didn’t go too far. This, I admit, was probably in part to my consciousness of  being in the company of a literary therapist and therefore that I should deliver. I found myself spewing forth details about myself, my life, my hopes, my dreams within the first 2 minutes. We talked at length about my reading habits which I admitted had altered slightly over the past year or so. She mentioned that it was interesting that I prefer to read in the company of strangers – you can easily find me alone in various cafes/bars in Oxford with a book – at which point I did glance over my shoulder for the men in white coats.

Aside from a lovely chat about books and my life over a cup of tea, it was also a reminder of the transformative power of literature. Through talking about my reading history I remembered the impact that literature has had on me at different times in my life. Ok, so I didn’t necessarily need an hour with a bibliotherapist to remember that but it was a good experience all the same. And put me in mind to start a little bibliotherapy project of my own… more on this anon.

I think that the most beneficial thing to arise from the session is to be steered onto new reading paths. I tend to stick to the same sort of literature, mostly early twentieth century and mostly written by women. I have long been aware of ambling into a reading rut and had at times tried something random and new. Of course, friends and family recommend books and sometimes I take them up on their suggestions. But more often than not, I find myself sticking to the same authors, genres and even publishers. In fact, as soon as I left the School of Life I hotfooted it over to dear old Persephone Books for a cheeky browse before heading over to the National Portrait Gallery to look at the Lucian Freud exhibition.

I am currently waiting for my ‘bibliotherapy prescription’ to arrive. Eight books are recommended on the basis of what was uncovered from both the questionnaire and the session. The fact that it is taking a while to arrive is starting to concern me a little, perhaps I am just too complex?! As soon as I receive it, I will share it.

I am looking forward to a summer of trying new books and seeing where this next reading phase takes me…


18 thoughts on “BB tries Bibliotherapy

  1. I will make the proper adjustments to be sure I am still following your blog. This is a fascinating post. I lost my will to read a few years back and it was a sad and scary place to be but I was there alone. I don’t even remember discussing it with those close to me. I found my way out by discovering Wodehouse. But I had no idea that bibliotherapy also addressed this. I am very interested to see where this takes you. I did have to read something completely different to fall back in love with reading, so I think your insight into possibly being in a reading rut will be very helpful. Although very difficult, ultimately that time was a gift. It led me back to fiction, which I had almost completely abandoned, and my joy in reading was restored. I hope the same for you:)

    • Hi Stacy,
      thanks for your comment. It is great that your joy in reading has been restored, as you say, sometimes we just need to read something totally different to get us back into it. I am looking forward to the challenge of trying new things. I will keep you posted!
      BB X

  2. Ooh, I’ve been curious about The School of Life for ages and even once ventured there but unfortunately it was closed. But I haven’t met anyone who’s been to one of their bibliotherapy sessions – it sounds wonderful. And you get a prescription too. Bet you can’t wait!

    • Hi,
      I am really looking forward to seeing what she will recommend. Fingers crossed it will arrive soon so that I can share it with everyone.
      BB x

  3. This is such a wonderful idea, and if I lived in London it is something that I would love to try and do. Although what would worry me is the amount of books that I have and whether they would be considered no good for reading now!

    We all go through reading stumbling blocks, where nothing you read does anything for you, and sometimes you just have to give yourself a break. Easier said then done, when books are an extension of ourselves sometimes. Blogging has certainly pushed me in different directions which is good, and I have discovered on my own, that what I had been missing for a while was historical fiction, I had some just not been reading it. I have rediscovered it and thinking about what I have been missing, silly me!

    I look forward to seeing what they come up with, and have bookmarked your blog to come back to.

  4. Hello there! This is fascinating stuff. I’ve never heard of bibliotherapy but it makes so much sense. I found after having children that my reading tastes totally changed (lack of sleep/limited attention span/nothing too “upsetting” or challenging) and it took me ages to get my head around that and find a new passion for reading again.

    It will be interesting to see what you are prescribed – I look forward to reading about it.

    Gillian x

  5. I’m interested to see what you get back in your prescription. One of my goals over the next couple of years is to have a bibliotherapy consultation at a bookshop somewhere in the UK. I actually had a consultation done by email (I didn’t ask but it was an interesting offer so I accepted) and it really didn’t work for me – I have much better hopes for an in-bookshop experience!

  6. This is fascinating & I can’t wait to see what books are recommended for you. I sometimes become paralysed by too much choice but I’ve never stopped reading – not yet, anyway. At the moment I’m in the process of cataloguing my tbr shelves on Library Thing & I just want to read every one of the books immediately. I feel the paralysis coming on again!

  7. What an interesting concept. I have never heard of it, but I guess it can not be wrong to try out new paths once in a while. And having a therapist to look into once’s preferences might open a whole new way of reading! Like you, I tend to comfort read particular authors, types of books and feel sometimes I cannot find anything new to read. At such points I pull myself by the neck and dive into different books, mostly through my book club, where, among ten women, we always find something, I would have never chosen. And I often feel wonderful about the challenges. I am curious, what will be send to you!
    Love the new layout and blog!

  8. I never knew there was something called a bibliotherapist, but it sounds very interesting. I’d love to visit one someday. I’m curious what you’ll receive 🙂

  9. Looking forward to seeing the book suggestions as I too often get into a reading rut (women in the first half of the twentieth century too!) and yet get frustrated sometimes with contemporary literature that feels rushed and sloppy and written to try and capture whatever the latest trends are. So I go back to the classics, yet I do know there are some great writers out there writing now that I haven’t yet discovered. I’ll be curious to see if any of the suggestions fall into genres that you may not read heavily in and whether it’ll be a mix of fiction/non-fiction. Thanks for sharing this very interesting experience.

  10. I stumbled here from the booksnob’s site…so glad I did! Love your writing style and had so much fun reading your old blog post…I’ve bookmarked your site and will definitely be back for more! You’ve earned yourself a new “regular.”

  11. I have never heard of this either. Are they paid bibliotherapists or volunteers? What a great job! I’ll be interested to see what they suggest for you. In my reading group I am always pleased when a book I wouldn’t normally read is suggested and occasionally it has re-routed me to a different genre or reading habit. I have tagged you to do a book quiz if you are interested..

  12. What a great idea. I can’t wait to hear what books you receive. We all get into ruts and I would love to have someone give me a list of books they think I would like. Happy reading!

  13. So there you are! I must update my blog list. Hope you are having a great summer.

    A Bibliotherapist? This sounds such a fascinating idea. Look forward to hearing about your new reading list. The School of Life has been on my to do list for a while now. May combine it with a trip later in the month to The British Library for the Wonderland to Wastelands exhibition later in the month.

    Great to have found you again.


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