It’s always harder to forget the book that rips your heart from your chest. Irene Némirovsky’s, Suite Francaise is that book for me. It’s the story of a group of Parisians, thrown together during the Nazi occupation of their city in 1942. A heady mix of persecution, brutality, missed opportunity, sacrifice and broken families – it’s the most depressing book that I have ever read.

At least one book a day keeps the blues at bay

So, there’s very little doubt that Suite Francaise will not be included on the approved reading list for the UK’s new “Books on Prescription Scheme”.

That’s a health iniative, funded by the British Arts Council, for people suffering from depression and anxiety. From now on GPs will also prescribe a reading list of approximately 30 “happy” books to boost their patient’s mood as an adjunct or replacement to more traditional psychological treatment.

Frankly there are so many good things to say about this scheme, it’s impossible to know where to start. A triumphant punch in the air for the health benefits of reading, seems appropriate. Ditto a round of applause for emphasis on bringing life back to the community library.

Then there’s a hat tip for the creative approach the scheme takes to the treatment of depression and anxiety. As Melbourne clinical psychologist, Dr Melissa Keogh explained to The Punch people suffering from these kinds of disorders find it almost impossible to change emotional gears without assistance. It’s not as easy for them to get themselves out of the dark moods that can often leave many sufferers isolated and sitting at home for days on end. 

Kind of makes you wonder what “good” the rest of us get from the books that rattle our souls. Like the heart gripping ending of Suite Francaise, or the eerie silences that creep around the edges of Cormack McCarthy’s, The Road.

Dr Keogh said for some of us, these books that delve into the more depressing side of life can be a validation of our worst fears and perceptions of the world. And while this is less of a problem for people who do not suffer from depression, they’re probably not doing much for our long term sense of happiness or wellbeing.

Granted, we don’t always want to feel happy and some of the best stories about life are often the ones riddled with loss and danger. And other people’s accomplishments can be easier to accept when you have some insight into how hard they worked to get them.

But it’s definitely something to keep in mind the next time a friend asks for a book recommendation and the one that had you bawling your eyes out springs to mind. 

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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    • acotrel says:

      06:16am | 08/02/13

      The trouble is that people with depression pull others down with their actions and general negativity. High and low moods and emotions are normal, the shift away from reality towards delusion is the real problem.

    • SAm says:

      06:27am | 08/02/13

      Depression has nothing to do with ‘Delusion’ mate

    • Al says:

      06:38am | 08/02/13

      While I tend to agree with what you say, I don’t see what it has to do with the article?
      Are you trying to say that people suffering depression shouldn’t read fiction books that have the main character dealing with depressive issues or hardships and actualy coming out on top, or fiction books with happy endings?
      I personaly think as long as they are not reading the ‘dark’ fiction dealing with things such as mass killers escaping justice etc or those pathetic self help books then reading, at the least will do no harm, and at best will actulaly provide them with some inspiration or motivation to get out of their low moods.
      Delusion tends to be when a person can’t seperate reality from fantasy/fiction rather than actualy depression.

    • stephen says:

      07:24am | 08/02/13

      People with depression are most likely isolated in the first place, and remain isolated ; ‘pulling others down’ is something that is done by people who are consistently negative in the social sphere.
      Get it ?

    • jg says:

      08:43am | 08/02/13

      The trouble is that people with depression pull others down with their actions and general negativity. High and low moods and emotions are normal, the shift away from reality towards delusion is the real problem.

      Absolute crap. You’re equating depression to a bad or low mood, which couldn’t be further from thruth.

      But then again, what more would you expect from acronob who also thinks that women are useless as engineers and in the workforce in general.?

    • saddlebags says:

      08:53am | 08/02/13

      I wouldn’t phrase it that way, Acotrel. One of the most dangerous aspects of depression is that sufferers feel as though they cannot turn to those around them; they fear belittlement and exclusion, and unfortunately those fears are not unjustified. Depression as an illness – not simply a brief moment of the blues – is persistent, pervasive, and lonely. Telling a depressed individual that they are “pull[ing] others down” won’t inspire them, and it runs the risk of further drilling in the thought that they are a burden and no one really wants them around.

      Being an ally to someone with depression is difficult and those in such a position can often benefit from support of their own; I have no intentions of denying that. However, shifting the discussion away from the people who are actually suffering from the illness isn’t helpful, since society still bears enough ignorance and prejudice towards mental illness that it doesn’t need encouragement to sideline them.

    • subotic says:

      08:56am | 08/02/13

      the shift away from reality towards delusion is the real problem

      See, hands-on, expert advice from a local, right here….

    • K^2 says:

      09:42am | 08/02/13

      “the shift away from reality towards delusion is the real problem”
      I subscribe two readings which back this - Plato “The Allegory of the Cave” and “Simulacra and Simulation” by Jean Baudrillard

    • K^2 says:

      09:51am | 08/02/13

      bah i keep saying subscribe and I mean prescribe!

    • Dr. subotic PHD says:

      10:28am | 08/02/13

      I prescribe less reading and subscribe to more drinking on Fridays….

    • Bear says:

      11:47am | 08/02/13

      You should know as well as anyone, it’s Tory twits who pull people down.

    • K^2 says:

      11:53am | 08/02/13

      Subotic PHD stand for (on) Permanent Holiday?

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      12:12pm | 08/02/13

      There is a huge difference between basic depressive illness what you are referring to.  Delusions come under the category of ‘psychosis’; worlds apart and different diseases altogether. And one does not lead to the other.

      Of course seriously depressed people can be very ‘heavy’ to have around.

      Overall I expect that depressive illness and other symptoms and diseases related to severe stress will decline steeply after 14 September.

    • subotic says:

      12:39pm | 08/02/13

      Prefers Hard Drugs….

    • Nostromo says:

      01:34pm | 08/02/13

      acotrel giving lessons on delusions. Just another mastercard moment at TP ROFLMFAO!!! >8^D

    • andye says:

      06:41pm | 08/02/13

      @acotrel - Ugh.

      @saddlebags: “One of the most dangerous aspects of depression is that sufferers feel as though they cannot turn to those around them; they fear belittlement and exclusion, and unfortunately those fears are not unjustified.”

      Its also very difficult to love someone with depression, or bipolar.

      “Being an ally to someone with depression is difficult and those in such a position can often benefit from support of their own; I have no intentions of denying that. “

      The real knife-in-the-guts irony of someone in that position is that the person they are supporting can occasionally be the worst enemy. You are defending them (and yourself) against a facet (or facets) of themselves. It can be utterly disheartening to look into eyes that are familiar, and yet… not.

      Anyway, I like you saddlebags. Thoughtful balanced comments are few and far between here.

    • acotrel says:

      06:24am | 08/02/13

      If reading helps people get more in touch with reality, and offers options in the way we handle life’s problems, I can believe it might help.  I wonder whether offering mainly a diet of happiness will help.  I find that music preferences are a bit of a give away about people’s mental state . Take note of what your kids are listening to, and what is fed to all of us by commercial radio and TV. What comes first - listener’s preferences or widespread depression fed by the staff of radio and TV stations ?

    • Elphaba says:

      08:16am | 08/02/13


      I’ve listened to a whopping share of bleak, depressing music (go 90s grunge) and the last thing I was, was depressed.

      An overly simplified explanation that as usual, is wrong.  Par for the course, acotrel.

    • SydneyGirl says:

      09:40am | 08/02/13

      Simplistic as usual.

      I saw The Hours - not at all a happy, happy movie - when I was in a deep fog of depression that had lasted six months and for some reason it helped me see things clearly (the movie and my problems were not entirely related) than any cheerful book (actually banally cheerful books are depressing).

      Probably the only time I liked Our Nic.  Or anything Michael Cunningham.  Though bloke playing Mr Woolf will always be perfect.

    • egg says:

      10:21am | 08/02/13

      acotrel, based on the two comments you’ve made relating to depression, I can honestly say that you need to shut up, as you have no idea. I have depression, and whether I’m listening to the most depressing shit, or the most upbeat, cheery melodies, makes absolutely no difference to the chemical imbalance in my brain.

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      01:26pm | 08/02/13

      Well.. weren’t there incidents of people overdosing or worse after listening to, say The Doors (showing my age now). They certainly depressed me! But there have been other bands which led to suicide or other crimes. Nobody I’d listen to in a fit, as they say. However, there were also those bands whose lyrics were listened to backwards???? Very unfamiliar territory here, musically speaking. But true, no?

      What are the ingredients of ‘diet of happiness’? Isn’t that what we’re all looking for, at least when we’re not reading The Punch!?

    • Carz says:

      06:48am | 08/02/13

      The fact that they are using reading as part of the treatment for depression doesn’t prove any health benefits are derived from reading. One would expect that if you are going to use the word ‘proof’ in the headline you might actually supply some, or at least links to some.

    • Geronimo says:

      06:59am | 08/02/13

      Posting an article in the semi-literate Troppo Blogosphere under such a profound title, is proof quackery has no friend like gullibility.

    • Ken Oath says:

      07:00am | 08/02/13

      “.... the shift away from reality towards delusion is the real problem.” Is that why you vote ALP? Sorry Acotroll I couldn’t resist.

      Jokes aside depression is more widespread and real than many realise. Half the unemployed I saw were not suffering from lack of employable skills or job opportunities but simply from depression.

    • acotrel says:

      08:58am | 08/02/13

      Being depressed when unemployed is understandable, but it places people behind the eight ball. There is plenty on this planet to be happy about, but if you choose to always take the ‘glass half empty’ attitude, it shows and affects others.

    • Iggy Crash says:

      09:24am | 08/02/13

      Acotrel: I disagree. I am a glass half-full type but I spent a number of years battling depression and anxiety. My experience was the opposite, I was depressed and anxious mostly because I spent all of my time doing things for other people and being concerned that if I didn’t do enough to help I would bring people down. The only person effected was me. The people around me were nothing but emotional sinks who took advantage of me. Having some strong to show me this was the way out. While I’m not a researcher of any kind anecdotes from other people point the same way. Yes, depression is an ill was but it is often exacerbated by the things other people have done. The idea that depressed people are all pessimists is just wrong.

    • acotrel says:

      09:34am | 08/02/13

      Perhaps all the depressed people in my life are sane? It is just their expectation that I should be their benefactor and tolerate their headf*ck which is unusual ?

    • K^2 says:

      09:38am | 08/02/13

      @Acotrel - the Pessimist and the Optimist were arguing over the philosophy of the glass being either half empty, or half full.  They returned to the table to find an empty glass and a note that read “Dear Optimist and Pessimist, I drank your beverage. Signed - The Opportunist”

    • James1 says:

      02:08pm | 08/02/13

      It doesn’t matter if it is half full or half empty.  Either way, there is room for more beer.

    • gof says:

      07:18am | 08/02/13

      Is that small gap big just enough for a “post it note” between the twelfth and thirteenth books from the left, top shelf, the Liberal Party policies manuscript?

    • jg says:

      08:47am | 08/02/13

      Stay up all night thinking of that did we?

    • gof says:

      09:31am | 08/02/13

      #jg ,
      “Stay up all night thinking of that did we?”
      Stayed up all night looking for a coalition policy between all the book covers. Still looking.

    • Roxanne says:

      07:52am | 08/02/13

      I remember when I suffered from morbid depression (later hospitalised for 9 months) I was homeless.  I had some books with me, Dante’s infernal comdedy, Anthony Burgess MF and Milton’s Paradise Lost.  Not sure if it was the material that helped, but the fact that I could get lost in words and escape my reality helped.  Maybe that is what reading does, and no matter the subject.  Anyway, it’s a novel idea and can’t hurt.  PS, 3 weeks off the drining now, feeling better!!

    • subotic says:

      08:53am | 08/02/13

      3 weeks off the drining now, feeling better!!

      Imma take up drining myself…. *hic*

    • Wakey Wakey says:

      08:07am | 08/02/13

      Happy books? Great idea, anything that helps the wellbeing of people suffering depression is laudable where did i put my donald duck and unca scrooge comics…

    • marley says:

      08:38am | 08/02/13

      Actually, I find reading some of these comments is rather depressing.

      Here we have Lucy musing over the fact that the Brits have developed a list of “happy books” for patients suffering from depression and anxiety.  She’s added some insights from a local psychologist as to the benefits.  It’s an interesting little article which we could be discussing, and instead we get attacks on it because it isn’t “proof” of anything (for god’s sakes, she’s writing for The Punch, not the British Journal of Psychology);  we get the usual mindless attempts to link any subject under the sun to politics;  we get uneducated views on what depression is (I mean, a product of music played on radio stations - really?)

      Geez, lighten up guys.  Get a sense of perspective.  Read a book:  it might help divert your focus for an hour or two from the failings of the political enemy of your choice.

      In response, we get comments

    • Sonya says:

      08:49am | 08/02/13

      well said marley

    • acotrel says:

      08:52am | 08/02/13

      I currently have some very depressed people in my life for whom I am picking up the pieces.  I’m sick of their self-indulgent crap, and what they believe are their rights. I wish they would just go away,

    • subotic says:

      08:54am | 08/02/13

      All my books are glossy.

      And sticky….

    • Carz says:

      09:03am | 08/02/13

      marley I don’t expect The Punch to be held to the same standards as an academic journal. I do however expect proof if we are being told there is some, and that is what the headline says. Would you have us blindly believe everything the MSM tells us?

    • K^2 says:

      09:31am | 08/02/13

      +1 Marley, although I do question the motive behind subscribing “happy” books.  Reading shouldn’t be about just reading feel good fluffy topics, and why does the state or some state sanctioned body get to tell me (or anyone) what they should read?  Just like the saying goes “you are what you eat” similar with books - what you take in becomes part of you so “you are what you read” also. I think there is danger in having such a narrow focused “feel good” prescription - you should be free to read anything and not just “happy books” whatever that is supposed to mean.

    • marley says:

      10:05am | 08/02/13

      @Carz - the “proof” in this case isn’t the scientific proof you might find if you delved into the scientific periodicals; it’s the fact that the Brits are prescribing happy book lists.  Take it from there.  If you think you need more evidence, go to the journals, but this isn’t about whether books work or not, it’s about discussing how the British practice might be interpreted.

    • MattyC says:

      12:06pm | 08/02/13

      +1 Marley - i thought i would have a look and get some ideas for books to read. All I have seen in the comments is politics. Enough to depress, then I would need a happy book.

      Anyway, the book that made an impact on me recently “The Book Thief”. Beautifully written but an emotional rollercoaster non the less

    • Lails says:

      12:29pm | 08/02/13

      @MattyC, I thought of the book thief straight away when reading this article. A beautiful book that takes you on a real emotional journey!

    • Mik says:

      12:43pm | 08/02/13

      @acotrel, get “I am Back from the Brink, Too”, a book by Graeme Cowan for carers of people with depression and have a look at the Black Dog Institute website as well. It is tough caring for somone with depression and so easy to fall into the well yourself if you cannot get some time out..Depressed people need the support of their loved ones but their loved ones need support as well - burnout is very real.

    • cornbread stuffing says:

      03:04pm | 08/02/13

      The best book to read if you are suffering from depression is “a fine balance”

      that is all !!!

    • K^2 says:

      09:22am | 08/02/13

      Lucy, the word for book in French is Livre, and the english word Library - both come from the latin root Liber, which by the way is the same root word for freedom.

    • subotic reads 'em and weeps says:

      09:52am | 08/02/13

      Alrite, alrite….

      On my desk are Huxley’s “Brave New World Revisited” (Huxley’s own 2nd opinion on Huxley) and a brand spanking new copy of Muhammad Knight’s “The Five Percenters - Islam, Hip Hop and the Gods of New York”.

      Happy books? No.

      Interesting books? Hell yeah!

    • K^2 says:

      10:01am | 08/02/13

      Hey Sub - Huxley along with HG Wells, J.M. Keynes and Papa Huxley are all….fabians…at least you’ll be seeing the ALP agendas in there.

    • subotic says:

      11:05am | 08/02/13

      Fabians have about as much power over your daily life & choice of reality TV cooking shows as Annette Funicello does…

    • K^2 says:

      12:21pm | 08/02/13

      yeh thats a good theory, except Huxleys “Brave new world” is pretty much the ALP playbook

    • Kika says:

      09:53am | 08/02/13

      It’s called ‘Catharsis’ Lucy.

      Sometimes the expression of feelings through watching something or reading something is good for the soul because it touches feeling and emotions we have deep down which we can express while experiencing what’s being portayed in and by others.

    • Pattem says:

      10:21am | 08/02/13

      Watership Down by Richard Adams would be off the list.

      I remember my primary school showing the movie in the late 70s and so many kids leaving balling their eyes out because Hazel died at the end.  Having said that, the book is one of my favourites for a bit of escapism.  I used to read it once a year.

    • NSS says:

      10:50am | 08/02/13

      Having suffered a profound depression myself, I suggest that there may be a problem in getting the depressed persons this initiative is aimed at to read them in the first place. I recall being so lacking in energy, so deeply down in my own dark and lonely hole that my concentration span was as long as a gnat’s. Neither did I want to read. I mostly wanted to sleep and self-medicate to escape my gloom.

      That being said, when the depression sufferer has started to turn the corner, and has glimpsed the fabled “light at the end of the tunnel”, then positive stories are probably a good idea. to help them see the brighter side of life a little more clearly. However,that means having taken the first steps to recovery already, often with the help of a friend or relative who insists they seek treatment, as thankfully happened to me.

      I also see the point of confronting, difficult, dark reading as well. It can strengthen the spirit. By exploring the darker side of humanity we are able to be more aware of the light, if we are balanced individuals.

    • Ally says:

      11:11am | 08/02/13

      It looks like there are actually two parts to this. The first is the books on prescription, whereby doctors can prescribe patients read certain self-help books relating to their conditions.

      The second seems to be what you’re talking about, Lucy, mood boosting books.

    • there_it_is says:

      11:41am | 08/02/13

      I didn’t know the Brits could read….

    • gilleebee says:

      11:56am | 08/02/13

      Any reading is good for the brain. It may not affect chemical imbalances, but I know it affects how you sleep. How many people read before going to sleep? In this age, reading is neglected for playing silly games on phones or ipads, what a shame. In depressed people, I would imagine that having nothing to occupy yourself would encourage you to feel more depressed, or more bored etc. Reading is a passive activity that lifts you out of your reality for a little while. Go ahead and read…depressed or not.

    • Chris L says:

      02:01pm | 08/02/13

      Games are not silly! You take that back! you take that back now!!!!!

      But I agree,  reading at bedtime is definately a good way to wind down.

    • St. Michael says:

      12:34pm | 08/02/13

      Probably the most depressing thing for me is that damn article image.  Whoever that poor bugger is, he has three shelves worth of different editions of The Lord of the Rings.  And to make matters worse, he’s even got a lonely copy of The Silmarillion stuffed in there.

      Not that I dislike Tolkien’s stuff; it hooked me on fantasy when I was in my teens and probably got me into Dungeons and Dragons, but Christopher Tolkien’s been publishing his father’s wastebasket for decades.  Owning different editions of the same three books with no substantial change is just plain sad.

      You have to widen your range sometime.  Fantasy readers have to come out of the ghetto and traverse some well-manicured English streets, at least for a while.  Admittedly I didn’t get serious about reading into the “classics” until late last year, but it’s been a revelation thus far.  Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” was like reading someone retelling a dream and sounds fresher than stuff published 30 years later; E.M. Forster’s “Where Angels Fear To Tread” has been by turns contemptible, funny, wrenching, and surprising all in one.  Not stuffy at all—particularly if you try and ignore the precious literati who can’t resist adding massive prologues or “introductions” to the texts.  I queried why I was reading Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” at one or two points through the book, but the one-two punch at the end eventually explained my perserverance.

      Later on my lists: “Antarctica” by Kim Stanley Robinson, “Wizard’s First Rule” by Terry Goodkind; (shudder) “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen; “The Forever War” by John Haldeman (?).  Looking down the road, I’d love to pick up “Brothers Karamazov”, “Blood Meridian”, “A Farewell to Arms” and maybe “Crime and Punishment” just on their reputations, but book prices being pretty criminal in this country, I might have to wait.

    • K^2 says:

      01:37pm | 08/02/13

      Good new australian writer called TLS CLarke, u can find his stuff on the web as it is digital only, also try any of Chuck Palahniuk’s stuff (The Survivor is a good start) also any Brett Easton Ellis stuff is good Glamaroma is a good light hearted read…I used to like Paulo Coelho but now Im not sure if I just read it to impress the girl that recommended it to me…The Alchemist was actually nicely written but an average story…some of his other stories are more read-worthy. 
      Im also heading towards ‘classics’ now Dante and The Illiad and Odyssey are on my list, but also fairly recently ploughed through Moby Dick which wasn’t a terrible read…Pride and Prejudice make me shudder tho, I’d be more inclined to read Asimov before Jane Austin, but thats just me!

    • Pattem says:

      01:40pm | 08/02/13

      @St. Michael

      Actually, there are at least 4 copies of The Silmarillion on the top shelf. smile

      The best edition of The Lord of the Rings is the single volume, hardback illustrated edition, with artwork by Alan Lee.

      Hemingway I find awkward.  A Farewell to Arms in particular, has a very stilted, yet repetitive style.  It is an interesting story, and fascinating setting, but his writing style I find gets in way of proper immersion into the story.  I think Hemingway’s favourite word was “AND”.  He had a very matter-of-fact or dry style.

      I prefer Cormac McCarthy, who is popular with film-makers at the moment: The Road, No Country for Old Men.

      If you want classic authors, whose works have expired copyright, then is the place to go, with all the ebooks free.  Austen’s works are there!

      BTW I left some Word of the Week suggestions back in yesterday’s article.  wink

    • marley says:

      01:46pm | 08/02/13

      @St Michael - you could probably get some of the latter list free as e-books, because they’d be out of copyright.  Well, Dostoyevsky would be, for sure.  And the others would be cheaper, I suspect, than hard copy books.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:05pm | 08/02/13

      In truth, probably the main reason I’m not buying more is because I’ve got a list half a mile long to get through.  I went a little bit mad buying books recently, and the ambit (PATTEM!) of my purchasing was mostly what I’d been recommended as the “good stuff”.

      Moby Dick is sitting waiting, as is Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury”.  So’s “Sense and Sensibility”, a couple of Bronte novels, a couple of Wilbur Smiths, and “First Among Equals”.  It’s gotten so my wooden bookshelves are bowing under the weight.  Perhaps if I’d had shelves made out of Afrormosia (PATTEM!) I wouldn’t be having this problem.

      No doubt you’ll feel some schadenfreude (PATTEM!) when you hear I couldn’t get through “The Plague” by Camus; but then I have to tell the truth lest I be accused of being a fanfaron (PATTEM!).

      Happy reading, guys!


    • Chris L says:

      02:07pm | 08/02/13

      I noticed a lot of classic literature was re-released for the Christmas shopping period in wonderful leatherbound volumes. The shop I go to still have plenty left and I’ve been updating the collection. Nothing like the smell of new books!

    • St. Michael says:

      02:09pm | 08/02/13

      @ K^2: In sci-fi, have you had the pleasure of an Iain M. Banks yet? I’ve only read “The Player of Games”, but it seems a nice introduction to the Culture series and in parts it packs a wallop.  I’ve had “Use of Weapons” recommended to me, too.

    • Pattem says:

      03:24pm | 08/02/13

      @St. Michael

      I nominate St. Michael for the Nosebleed Section, for managing to include: fanfaron, ambit, schadenfreude and afrormosia into a single post.

      Admittedly, your post was a little ‘strained’, but impressive none-the-less.

      Well done, chap!  I am suitably impressed smile smile smile

    • LJ Dots says:

      03:35pm | 08/02/13

      St Michael - I could also strongly suggest The Wasp Factory.

    • Pattem says:

      03:47pm | 08/02/13

      Since we are recommending, I actually found His Dark Materials trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), by Philip Pullman, to be dense and very eloquently written for what is essentially seen as a Young Adult work.

      How someone manages to weave such abstract philosophies into what is essentially ‘young’ reading is impressive.  It is not so much Anti-Christian (as some purport), as it is as much Anti-Establishment.

      And on that note, that leads into another potential Word of the Week:


    • St. Michael says:

      04:23pm | 08/02/13

      I did read Northern Lights, found it interesting enough, but never really worked up the enthusiasm for Subtle Knife.  Not sure exactly why that was.

      Now, if we head back down to the slightly-less-noble-stuff that still cooks as a story, I’ve got one to recommend: “First Blood”, by David Morell.  Yes, that First Blood, the Stallone movie.  This was the book that the film was based on.  If you can find it somewhere around, it’s a surprisingly taut, almost hysterical, read.  No overmuscled Rambo types here, Rambo’s described as a “kid”, and the ending is much, much more satisfying to say the least.  Col. Trautman is played as a symbol of antidisestablishmentarianism.

    • LJ Dots says:

      04:40pm | 08/02/13

      You know, it’s difficult to judge a book review from (for example) Booktopia or Book Depository since you have no way of knowing the reviewers interests or history and miss that insight into what they think makes a good book.

      To my mind, this is why The Punch is a great source for book recommendations since you can gauge a persons views and get their ‘theme’ (for want of a better word) by first reading their previously posted comments.

      Well. It works for me anyway. Recommend away Punchers..

    • St. Michael says:

      05:33pm | 08/02/13

      @ LJ Dots: try, mainly because it has slightly less shills for publishers putting in fake reviews.  Most of the people there are members, so you can track down their previous reading interests.  I’ve done a bit of scouting books out over there—and the most prominent user review of Fifty Shades of Grey is side-splittingly funny, almost makes up for the book being written.

    • Pattem says:

      05:35pm | 08/02/13

      @St. Michael, you are a Wordsmith of prodigious mental prowess!

      I take my hat off to you…


      What can you do with:


    • marley says:

      05:48pm | 08/02/13

      @LJ Dots - well, given that comment, I suspect you won’t be amazed to know that I don’t read a lot of modern fiction, but do read history and science books (interspersed with mystery novels and PG Wodehouse).  Each to his own….

    • Pattem says:

      05:49pm | 08/02/13

      Probably my favourite Spy Thriller is Daddy by Loup Durand.  With the chess-like machinations that unwind between an 11 yo prodigy and his Nazi pursuer, it is tightly written and a tense read, with plenty of intrigue. It is set during WWII.  I always recommend this.

    • Chris L says:

      06:06pm | 08/02/13

      @St Michael - I found First Blood rather disturbing after being so used to the movie. Still a good read, especially since it’s not so obvious who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

    • kitteh says:

      06:43pm | 08/02/13

      Some of my newer discoveries:
      Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy - in spite of McCarthy’s resurgence, still overlooked and undervalued.
      Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones.
      A Fringe of Leaves, by Patrick White - ten thousand English Lit teachers still can’t drain its power.

      I read a lot of nonfiction crime - a genre overstuffed with hacks and sensationalism - but occasionally you find a gem. I recommend almost anything by Jack Olsen (sadly now deceased, his last book, I, being his worst), particularly Give A Boy A Gun and the stunning Salt of the Earth.

    • LJ Dots says:

      06:59pm | 08/02/13

      marley. I’m actually a bit of a fan of Wodehouse myself.

      Apologies for the brevity of this comment - 2 minutes to cut off *shakes fist at The Punch*

    • Nerm says:

      12:34pm | 08/02/13

      I was hoping to discover what fiction titles they suggested as a pathway to happiness - but looking at the list, they all appear to be self-help/non-fiction books about particular conditions. Useful they may be….but not quite what I was imagining when I thought of the concept of reading being good and therapeutic for the soul.

    • Tanya says:

      01:28pm | 08/02/13

      I wonder whether some people are more likely to derive comfort from sad stories in the sense that it allows them to identify with some of life’s realities.  I finished reading Dorothy Hewett’s ‘The Toucher,’ on the train this morning and found it hard not to cry. It is beautiful writing that is far from uplifiting but it leaves you with a sense of belonging to humanity.

    • Audra Blue says:

      04:31pm | 08/02/13

      I’ve been an avid reader since I was five years old.  From the very first book (about kittens) I was hooked.  If I didn’t have books to read, I would probably wither and die mentally, so whichever book I’m reading, sad or happy, it’s a mental lifeline.  Books have been my friends, my comfort, my sanctuary when life gets too much.  And whenever I find a book that’s moved me, I tell everyone about it whether they want to listen or not!

      The book that affected me the most is John Connolly’s “Book Of Lost Things”.  It made me weep in parts and I couldn’t put it down.  It was one of those happy/sad books and it stayed with me for months after I read it.

      I couldn’t read it on the bus because on more than one occasion it reduced me to tears.  Even thinking about now 4 years later, I still have that reaction.  It’s not the first book Connolly wrote but it was the first of his I read and it addicted me to his writing.

      His Charlie Parker novels are riveting and I find it hard to put them down.  I also like the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz.  I have a bit of a like/dislike relationship with Koonzt’s books.  Some of his stuff I can’t recommend highly enough and other stories I just think “meh”.  But I haven’t read anywhere near the sum total of his work, so I’m thinking it will balance out in the end.

      Any government (or otherwise) scheme that brings books into people’s lives is always a wonderful idea and should be keenly supported and encouraged.

    • TEZZA says:

      05:28pm | 08/02/13

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that “The Road” was a downer of a book.


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