The Novel Cure’s apothecary covers a broad spectrum of maladies. Its 444 (minus the index) pages can only reach so far though. Beyond self-medicating, there’s Simona.
Her path to bibliotherapy follows what looks - from the outside - to be a natural trajectory. She ran an independent bookshop in North London for over a decade. ‘I would recommend books to people on a daily basis. Customers would come in with all sorts of requests and needs and the challenge - and thrill - would be to find the right book each time.
‘I read constantly - it’s a passion and a necessity. I’m always reading with the thought of what I could recommend, and I tend to read under the radar in the hope of finding undiscovered gems.’
This is a risky endeavour and alongside running a bookshop (‘there’s so much choice, it’s like being a kid in a sweet shop! Simona admits that it’s the reason why she abandons books so easily. She give up on a huge number of those she picks up. ‘It could be ten pages in, it could be 150... I trust my instinct.’
Her sessions begin with ‘the here and now’, discussing the books that clients are reading, ‘how they choose what they read and something that they’ve really loved and also really not liked’. Then Simona’s instinct, backed up by a wealth of experience, kicks in and by the end of the chat she offers an instant prescription. ‘It’s the book that I’ve been mulling over during the course of our conversation, and one that I think would be a good starting point.’ Later, you receive your full prescription of five more.
The six books each client receives are antidotes. They are antidotes to the ailments they may have arrived with. They are also antidotes to the overwhelming experience of entering a bookshop. A place where being spoilt for choice can sometimes mean being paralysed by it, shaped by an industry within which UK publishers released 20 new titles each hour of 2014. This is more books per inhabitant than any other country in the world
Bibliotherapy answers the dilemma of what to read next in just 45 minutes.
After the six-part course of literary pills has been consumed, readers often find themselves surprised. Without realising, what they have actually received is a panacea: like relearning to walk, they look at their bookshelves in a different way, with a better understanding of not just what to read, but how to read too.