A TED Talk on Books and Bibliotherapy: How Books Can Open Your Mind by Lisa Bu

Lisa Bu and bibliotherapy. Image from blog.ted.com

In her February 2013 TED Talk, Lisa Bu begins by discussing her childhood dreams and ambitions. Lisa trained to be a gymnast, her parents wanted to be an engineer, and she wanted to be a Chinese opera singer. She sent letters to an opera school principal and a radio show, but nothing brought her closer to her personal goal, and she feared a life of second-class happiness.

However, Lisa discusses in this TED talk what helped her to find another calling: books. “I satisfied my hunger for parental advice from this book by a family of writers and musicians” says Lisa about Correspondence in the Family of Fou Lei.

About Jane Eyre, she adds “I found my role model of an independent woman when Confucian tradition requires obedience.”

“And I learnt to be efficient from this book” Lisa says about Cheaper by the Dozen.

Lisa goes on to discuss the benefits of reading books in pairs in order to achieve a better understanding of a topic. I’ve never considered doing this before, but the process certainly makes sense. Lisa explains in the TED talk that the pair of books can be about people who are involved in the same event (for instance Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson and John Adams by David McCullough) or friends with shared experiences. You can also compare the same stories in different genres, or try similar stories from different cultures. There is also the more obvious decision to read your favourite books in two languages if you’re bilingual.
For Lisa Bu, literature has allowed her to connect with people both of the past and present, and as a result avoid the possibility of loneliness. It has also led her to realise that having a dream shattered is nothing compared to what many others have suffered. According to Lisa, the main purpose of a dream is not for it to necessarily come true, but for it to show us where passion and happiness come from. Even a shattered dream can achieve this.
Lisa ends her talk on the following note,

“So because of books, I’m here today, happy, living again with a purpose and a clarity, most of the time. So may books be always with you.”

This does much to remind me of why books are central to my own life. Reading allows me to realise what decisions I want to make and what goals I wish to follow, but it also enables me to acknowledge my past and the impact it has had on my present. 
A library is a necessity, not a luxury
A lovely library quote! Image from Pinterest
I believe that books have helped my PTSD far more than any therapy could have, and for this reason I’ve decided to spend this summer investigating the concept of “Reading for Wellbeing” a little more. I’ll be sure to post about any projects I undergo, and I may well enlist your help and advice!
To end this post, I’d like to thank all the lovely readers that have shared the books that have helped them or improved their sense of wellbeing.

Their suggestions have been added to my A-Z bibliotherapy recommendations page, and I have linked back to their respective blogs. Suggestions are still welcome, however! I hope that the page will prove useful for your book searches and those of new readers.


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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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