Curing yourself through reading

DSC02114 I am a sucker for simple covers. Old books were good at that: no pictures adorning the cover, a fancy typeface for the title, perhaps with a dash of golden glitz to sparkle against the dour blue, red, brown or black background. No cover shouts, no blurbs. Just the thing – the paper and the words. A good story, a marvel of poems, can be so gaudy inside your head, no accessories are needed.

It’s quite fashionable nowadays to make novelty books like this, a tendency that leans towards the pretentious. Yet still I am drawn to plainness.

So here’s one that’s a dish: fat, but light, grey cover with a darker grey spine, and the title in a no nonsense type in orange: The Novel Cure.

This is what I thought of the inside:

The Novel CureDSC02118

The A – Z of Literary Remedies

Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

This is the oddest book, which no amount of lucid description can really explain, but let that not put you off.

The authors have, it seems, been “prescribing” books to one another for a variety of ailments for decades. Their combined efforts at “diagnosing” what ails someone and elucidating why a particular novel could aid in their recovery, have resulted in The Novel Cure.

For the problem of “children, pressure to have”, they recommend We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. For racism they suggest, predictably, but accurately, The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. For “cancer, caring for someone with”, they’ve recommended A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

There are “cures” for physical afflictions like sweating and toothache, and “life” afflictions like road rage and “fatherhood, avoiding it”.

In between are crazy wonderful lists, like “The Ten Best Big Fat Tomes” and “The Ten Best Novels For After A Nightmare”.

With all its bright ideas for what to read and re-read, the book itself is a sure cure for any reading slump. – Karin Schimke

  • This review first appeared in the Cape Times in September 2013
  • The book has a great website too. Check it out here.

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