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…