Take One Book and Call Me in the Morning

March 18, 2013

Feeling down?

Take one book and call me in the morning.

I don’t know about you, but I self-medicate with books. When I’m enduring a difficult stretch, I often choose to read books that are funny, or I’ll reach for a familiar comfort read. I’ll choose the simple and clear over the more complex, simply because my mind is under strain already and I want any input I have control over to be positive and uplifting.

Well, it turns out that my instinct for bibliotherapy is a sound one: In several countries, including England, people with mild to moderate mental health issues, including anxiety, panic attacks and depression, can be prescribed high-quality self help books they can borrow from their local libraries. Miranda McKearney, chief executive of the Reading Agency, a group that helped develop the list of books, told Mark Brown of The Guardian, “There is a growing evidence base that shows that self help reading can help people with certain mental health conditions to get better.” The program is called Books on Prescription, and the topics the books cover include anger, anxiety, depression, binge eating and stress and worry, among others. (Please note that this program is not intended for those with serious mental illness.) Click here for a list of 30 of the most popular books used in Books on Prescription programs.

But what if you don’t have a mental health condition—can books still help you feel better? I certainly think so, and so does the Reading Agency, which has also compiled a list of “mood boosting books”—books they believe will generally provide uplifting reading. My favorite Barbara Kingsolver book, Prodigal Summer, is on this list, and a couple of books that are currently on my TBR list.  I’ll explore some of the other titles because I’m always looking for happy reads. Click here for the whole list. (If you have a book to suggest, they’re currently compiling a new list for 2013. Tweet your recommendation using #moodboosting or email them at moodboosting@readingagency.org.uk. Recommendations will be given to reading groups who will decide which books make the cut for the list to be released in May.)

If I were to make my own list of mood boosting books, in addition to Prodigal Summer, it would include:

Fifty Acres and a Poodle, Jeanne Marie Laskas

Cartoon collections like Baby Blues, Zits, or Calvin and Hobbes

Horse Heaven, Jane Smiley

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A book from the Anne of Green Gables series, probably Anne of the Island (I dont like the cover of this edition, but its the most recent), Anne of Windy Poplars or Anne’s House of Dreams. Or more likely, all three.

A cozy mystery by Agatha Christie or Patricia Wentworth.

A collection of Dave Barry’s newspaper columns, like Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up or Dave Barry Talks Back.

So what about you? I’m dying to know—what would your mood-boosting books list include?

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  1. I agree reading can lift us up and out of whatever doldrums we are in. When I am really down I enjoy books about women who don't let life keep them down. They start as a woman who's had it tough somehow but they beat it and have the last laugh (find happiness). Three of my favorites are:
    That Camden Summer by LaVyrle Spencer, Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank (it'll make you laugh too) and Prospect Street by Emilie Richards.

    I am going to take a look at those lists you mention. I'd love a book that could help me get hold of my panic attacks when I'm a passenger in a car.

  2. Thanks for your info. I've got lots of books stashed away here for a time when I can sit down and read more. At the moment, I've started "Your Personal Renaissance" because I'm sort of at that midlife - what's next stage...

  3. Nice post, Kathy. I recently read Jack London's Martin Eden and was completely taken in by it--such a beautifully written, insightful and compelling piece of storytelling. Completely uplifting and a wonderful diversion from everyday life. (And it's free to download on Kindle!)

    Also read the completely superficial but fun "Where'd You Go Bernadette?" A nice change from the political and economic news I'm so often compelled to read.


  4. Timaree--Thanks for the titles. I think I've read something by Dorthea Benton Frank before, but the others are unfamiliar to me. I'll have to take a peek.

    Good luck with the panic attacks! There are at least a couple of books on anxiety on one of those lists.

  5. Claire--I like the title of the book you mentioned. I read a similar one recently, called The Renaissance Soul, that I really liked.

  6. Sarah--Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I would imagine you would like something completely different to read in your spare time. Where'd You Go Bernadette is on my to-be-read list. It sounds like fun. (I haven't read much Jack London, but I don't think of him as being a particularly uplifting writer--I might have to check out Martin Eden.

  7. I agree with the Anne of Green Gables series, I think they do make for good mood-lifters! And I might probably add some Wodehouse into the list as well. :)

  8. Michelle--I love Wodehouse! He makes me laugh out loud. I haven't read anything by him in a long time--I think I need to remedy that.