Eat Well, Exercise … and Read

A recent article in an Australian newspaper outlines a new prescription program fueled by government funding.  The drug they are prescribing?  BOOKS.

Bibliotherapy, they are calling it.

And I’m not making this up.

According to the article:

UK research has found that reading is more relaxing than listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent. Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis from the consultancy Mindlab International found that reading silently for just six minutes, slowed the heart rate and eased muscle tension in research volunteers.

Now, I don’t claim to be a neurological expert, and I won’t make the astonishing assertion that Balzac could possibly be a good replacement for Prozac.  But have you ever read Balzac?

And let’s be honest; no one with depression should ever read Sylvia Plath.  Ever.

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve...

He doesn’t look funny.  But he is.

But what about a good comedy?  A light-hearted tale that makes you laugh and shake your head and roll your eyes at the wicked crazy prose?  Vonnegut, anyone?

What about an adventure in which you can get behind the hero and watch him/her fight for the lives of others?  I imagine slaying the dragon, winning the battle and getting the girl are all things that could contribute to happiness.

To this day, my bookshelves are filled with the well-worn paperbacks of my youth, treasures I saved up my allowance to purchase at the Walden Books store at the mall.  I can still remember the smell of that store, the way I felt glancing over the back wall – the young adult section – and the adventures awaiting within.

I kept those books because they made me happy.  And glancing over at them now washes me with warmth, allows me the pleasure of remembering those days spent sprawled across my bed, devouring the words, feeding my soul.

The reason we all write is to make people feel something, right?  To make them think, to take them out of their world for a moment and into ours.

And for most of us, that love of writing started in a book that filled us with so much emotion, we thought we’d never want to feel anything else again.

The drug aisle.

The drug aisle.

So, yeah, why not prescribe books to those who need to feel something different, who need to be happy?  If my doctor suggested I lie on a beach, wrapped up in a margarita and a good book, I think I’d take him up on that.

Sign me up.  Pump that juice through my veins.

Just don’t prescribe the Plath.  Trust me on that.

Leave a comment


  1. I enjoyed this, Kim. And I would agree that ‘The Bell Jar’ might not be the most calming of books. Though, sometimes it is reassuring to read something where the character is just that little bit more insane than you are 😉

    • Kim

       /  March 5, 2013

      Ha! Yes, that’s true. “I’m not so crazy after all,” is something you could come away with. Which might be helpful in it’s own way. Thanks for reading Gabriela!

  2. excellent! i remember reading some vonnegut when i was younger. that would perk one up. i could use some book therapy right now, actually.

  3. Amen sister! And wow, when you described saving your money for the newest book and walking to the back wall in Walden Books…it was uncanny! I can still remember handing over the $5 to buy the latest SVT book or Babysitter’s Club book. And how the month seemed to drag on while I waited for the next one to come out!


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