Proof that reading really is good for your health
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.
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.
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