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Bibliotherapy is the practice of encouraging reading for its therapeutic effect.
This first use of this term dates back to 1916 from an article named A Literary Clinic. In the article, the author describes a "bibliopathic institute" where reading recommendations are dispensed. The books must do something to you. They may be a stimulant, sedative, an irritant or a soporific.
It is a book written in the style of a medical dictionary that matches ailments with suggested reading cures. But the book has a twist: each local editor can adapt up to twenty-five per cent of the ailments and reading recommendations to fit each particular country's readership.
The ailments are culturally revealing. The Indian edition includes "public urination" and "cricket, obsession with"; the Italians introduced "impotence", "desire to embalm", and the Germans added "hating the world."
It is no surprise that reading books can be good for your mental health.
A study showed that, when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as when they go through the experience themselves. Other studies confirm that people who read a lot of fiction tend to be better at empathizing with others. People who read regularly sleep better and have lower stress levels.
Bibliotherapy takes on many forms, from literature courses run for prison inmates to reading circles for elderly people. At first, bibliotherapy has been based within the medical context, with an emphasis on self-help books.
However, affective bibliotherapy is using fiction as the ultimate cure as it gives readers a transformational experience. It is prescribed for curing ailments such as feeling depressed, broken heart or career uncertainty.
Books mean different things to people. Or different things to the same people at different times in their lives.
Reading allows an escape from ordinary, everyday pressures. It makes us lose all sense of self, while also putting us in perpetual union with another mind.
One major woe of modern readers is that they are overwhelmed by the number of books in the world.
But although more books are published than ever before, people are selecting from a smaller and smaller pool. Considering how many books you're likely to read before you die, you realise that you need to be highly selective to make the most of your reading time. The best way to do that is to see a bibliotherapist.
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"Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
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