Wednesday, 17 July 2013

My Bibliotherapy Book Project! Would You Like to Get Involved?

Have books helped your happiness?
Image from Pinterest
Since the start of my university summer holidays, roughly two months ago, I've been working on a book draft. I've always wanted to do this, but I've only recently thought that the basis of my blog could be a viable topic for a book.

I'm currently working on a draft that is based on my own experience of using literature as a healing tool, but it is largely aimed at helping others though certain situations and feelings. The process has been very enjoyable so far!

I've sent a proposal to a few literary agents, although I know how incredibly difficult it can be to find representation. Therefore, I'm staying open to the idea of publishing it as an ebook.

I'd like the book to be an accessible guide to bibliotherapy, and it will start with chapters for various situations and feelings. For instance, "Be Not Afeard, or Anxiety" and "Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood, or Choices" (literary titles were inevitable).

Each chapter will contain various literary prescriptions, complete with elaborations on certain texts and my own opinions on them. I'll also include my experience of therapy and other ways of assisting bibliotherapy for more serious issues.

I'll also include a "Literary Toolkit" in which I'll discuss the positive impact of various literary techniques and habits on a reader's wellbeing. Various charts, lists and guides will also be included to help a reader find themselves the perfect book for their feelings.

I'd really like to include some of your own experiences in the project, and it would mean so much if any of you got in touch. This can certainly be done anonymously (my contact form is best for this), or I can reference you and your blog (if you have one). See below for more ways to get in touch.

What I'd really like to hear from you about your experience of bibliotherapy is:

  • What difficult situation you were in, or what feelings you were facing 
  • How you came across the book (ideally fictional) that helped you
  • How the book helped you (i.e. mood, feelings towards the future or your situation, acceptance). I'm especially interested in fiction that helped you with finding meaning, anxiety, depression, trauma, knowing yourself, fearing death, choices, knowing right from wrong, solitude and growing up. By all means get in touch if your experience doesn't fit a category, however. 
  • How you feel about your reading experience in hindsight.

If you think you have something to share, please get in touch! This can be done via the contact form (entries go straight to my email), a comment below this post (you can choose not to give your name), or by email (lucy[at] I promise not to discriminate, judge, or give away your identity if you don't want me to. I will always ask before using a reader's story, and I'll certainly let you know if I choose to publish anything. 

Best wishes, and thank you all for helping me get to this exciting stage of my blog!


Fionaing said...

I think your book idea is fantastic and I hope that someone takes you up. I've suffered from anxiety (social) although actually it seems ironically that the more I've got over it, the less I read. Probably not what you want to put in your book. I took up running instead.

But reading for me has always been part of an escape and it has taken my mind off continuous worries. I'm not sure it's that I'm not worrying as much as I did before, just that as I've felt better my time for reading has been taken up by other things.

I can't think of specific books. I think Haruki Murakami has always helped me look at things from different perspectives - a side ways view and I think has helped me engage more with the world. It kinda feels like he resets me sometimes. Like his sideways way of thinking sets my thinking on straight because he forces me to consider things or to try to work out meaning.

I'm not really sure that any one book has had a massive effect on my life. No life changing moments or big realisations. It is reading as a whole. Finding books that I love and being lost in them, feeling passionate about something. I've always found it hard to feel passionate because part of me has kinda warded off emotions for so long that books became my outlet.

Haruki Murakami is one author though who I feel a kind of connection with. As if he gets me, or I get him or something or other. Even though I don't get half the things he writes, but I kinda like that because it makes you become actively involved in accessing how this makes you think, or feel.

Music is also linked into books for me - listening to the music I played whilst reading some favourite books brings back positive memories for me. I listened to the soundtracks to The Last Samurai or Memoirs of a Geisha whilst reading Shogun (fantastic escapist book!!) and still now I feel that book and it brings a kind of peace to me. And a deep longing to be back in that world. Sometimes just to get those positive feelings I would listen to that music - to get the feeling of the book back.

I'm rambling - but I think for me, the books that have helped me most are the ones I lost myself too and I don't think those are easy to prescribe because they're all personal. For me it's been Shogun by James Clavell, We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas. Obviously this is subjective. I can't say reading one helped me with this etc. I would say they're all pretty immersive, perhaps due to their size (Apart from I Capture the Castle and North and South which are pure girly feel good. I Capture the Castle very nostalgic feeling, green and romantic - not in the romance way though.)

Also, most of these books I've come across by pure chance. I just browsed a bookshop and that to me... has been my thing. Whenever I got anxious or upset, or stressed I buy a book or pop to Waterstones bookshop. (My large book collection is largely due to comfort buying!!) So I can't name actual books that helped me, in hindsight it is the being amongst books that helps me. I find being surrounded by them is very... comforting. So many possibilities.

Sorry this is probably no use whatsoever.

Brian Joseph said...

This is a great idea Lucy.

I would like a day or so to think about some situations and I will email you some of my thoughts.

Riv said...

What a wonderful idea. I'll be looking forward to further developments :) Good luck with the project!

Jennifer Hartling said...

Wonderful idea, absolutely wonderful :)

tolstoytherapy said...

Thanks, Jennifer! I'm glad you like the idea :)

tolstoytherapy said...

Thank you, Riv! I'll be sure to update my blog/Twitter with any progress I make. So far I'm really enjoying the process.

I hope you're well :)

tolstoytherapy said...

Thanks, Brian. If you think of anything, I'd love it if you did get in touch!

tolstoytherapy said...

Fiona, your comment is very useful! Thanks for the well-wishes too :)

I suffered from severe social anxiety for many years, interestingly after I stopped running. It still affects me occasionally, although nowhere near as badly. Exercise seems to be a great antidote to anxiety, and I wish I hadn't messed up my knees with too much running as a child! I found it to be such a great way to clear my mind.

I do agree that as anxiety, particularly social anxiety, becomes less debilitating, finding time for reading becomes more difficult. As you've said, however, reading provides a great escape.

I love that you've mentioned Murakami! Yesterday I ordered another of his books, and I can't wait to read it. Lately I've been reading a lot of Asian literature, largely because I love the effect that it has on me. I'm currently reading "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki, and I'm so far loving it. Like Murakami's novels, it's making me feel calmer because of it's zen-inspired style, while the search for meaning and understanding inherent in the plot is helping me to interpret my own life in a calmer and more rational way. Considering how much I'm enjoying it, I'll probably write a post on this novel in the next week or so!

The fact that reading as a whole has helped you really interests me, and I'd love to include this in the book draft. I can really relate to what you say about struggling to feel passionate about things. Until the last few years my emotions have felt very closed-off, but reading has always seemed to me a safe, "allowed" activity. I should definitely mention Murakami in the book too, considering how much I have also enjoyed reading his novels over the years!

I like what you've said about listening to music while reading. Generally I read in silence, although I'd like to try listening to something classical or without distractions (as you've said, I find film soundtracks good for this) while reading. I'd love to be able to listen to a piece of music and recall all the happy memories of reading I've had with it before.

I've never read Shogun! Perhaps I'll but it on my reading list. Like you, however, I pick up a lot of my favourite books by chance. I work in a local bookshop, which means frequent hours of temptation! I too suffer from comfort book buying, I'm sure. I've written a little so far about the positive effects of visiting a bookshop and library, but you've made me want to elaborate on this. Simply paying a trip to Waterstones makes me feel like I'm surrounded by so much peace, wisdom and excitement in equal measures. This is probably a leading reason why I love reading so much.

Thanks again for such a great comment, Fiona! I appreciate how much time and thought you've put into it, and I'd love to make use of all the ideas you've shared.

Best wishes,


Fionaing said...

You mentioning your liking of Asian books suddenly reminded me of a book that possibly did inspire me - or at least make me think. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. It's about an old mathematician who had a head injury long ago and now has only a limited memory span. When a new housekeeper comes to look after him with her son, a very beautiful friendship is born with the help of math riddles and equations. I think it says a lot about how people can create relationships and bonds with others through the simplest means.

I've never liked maths, but this book made it seem magical, mysterious and full of beauty. You don't associate maths with friendship but this unlikely pair found a bond with each other.

I'm glad that anything I rambled about might be able to help you with your book. :)

tolstoytherapy said...

Fiona, thanks for the recommendation - that book sounds great! I've never liked maths either, but it definitely sounds like a novel I'd enjoy :) It seems really thought-provoking, and I'm sure it would get me thinking about my own life and relationships.

Beautiful books, both in their writing and plot (and often their cover!), always seem to win me over.

After you'd written about finding the act of reading as a whole so beneficial, I coincidentally came across a passage in the Ruth Ozeki I mentioned to you before that seemed so similar to your own thoughts.

One character writes,

"I find myself drawn to literature more now than in the past; not the individual works as much as the idea of literature - the heroic effort and nobility of our human desire to make beauty of our minds - which moves me to tears, and I have to brush them away, quickly, before anyone notices"


bellezza said...

The most immediate thought that comes to mind is how Madeleine L'Engle's book The Love Letters had an enormous impact on my after my first really serious love. She reminded me of a very simple, but sometimes hard to understand concept, that true love accepts the other person rather than trying to change them.

tolstoytherapy said...

Thanks for the comment! I remember you mentioning the book before - it sounds great :) I'd love to read it and make space for it in my book draft.

It certainly sounds like a novel that teaches very important lessons, and seems like a perfect choice to recommend to others. It would probably be good holiday reading for me too!

I hope you're doing well,

bellezza said...

How silly of me for repeating myself! Thank you for being patient, and I'll try to think of other influential books in my life (besides the Bible) :).

tolstoytherapy said...

It's a very welcome repetition! You've not only reminded me of your very fitting recommendation, but you've elaborated on it slightly, so thanks!

Lee-Anne Penny said...

Hello Lucy! I am very excited to hear your book plans. When I read Elizabeth's Gaskell's "North and South" for the first time I immediately connected with the character of Margaret. We share so many surface similarities (daughters of clergymen who left the church, isolated from family and friends...) But it was in her persistence - her ability to carry on when her struggles seemed too much to bear - that she spoke to me. At a time when I was depressed and apathetic she showed me a more noble way to live.

tolstoytherapy said...

Hi Lee-Anne,

Somehow I've only just noticed your comment! At least I've seen it now though - it's so great to hear from you :)

I read North and South a few years ago, but I don't think I chose the right stage of my life to give it a go. I do remember liking Margaret a lot though. I think I'll end up re-reading the novel just for her character!

That's interesting that you have a lot of things in common with Margaret, even if just on the surface. I find that I seem to have something in common with characters in all of my favourite novels... for me it really adds to what I can gain from the book.

I'd love to re-read North and South with Margaret's persistence in mind. It sounds like the perfect choice of novel to read during a difficult time because of this. I know that if my PTSD symptoms flare up it would be a good choice!

My book is going well, and I'm going to see if I can add North and South to my recommendations in it now! I think it would fit well in a section I have on courage and perseverance.

I'll also add your recommendation to the A-Z list here on the blog.

Thank you so much!