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The Healing Power of Books

Books are magic. They inspire, entertain, enlighten, educate and ultimately, they heal. There is an undeniable power within the pages of a work of fiction, one that might not be instantly understood or easily explained, but happens with regularity, weaving a spell, restoring a shattered spirit or troubled mind.

Lest you think I am being dramatic, I stumbled across a form of counseling known as Bibliotherapy. Simply defined, it uses books to help people sort through their problems and issues. And it is nothing new: King Ramses II had the inscription over his great library which referred to it as a “House of Healing for the Soul.” (They were smart, those Egyptians. We are still trying to figure out how they designed and built the pyramids.) But these and other giants of the ancient world understood that reading provides an escape, relieves stress, and sometimes, offers answers.

Bibliotherapy allows a reader to identify with a character and as the story unfolds, the conflicts resolved, an insight and transformative catharsis occurs. Finally, these lessons are applied to life and its challenges. The process often happens in a group setting through open discussion or individually as a prescription is written in the form of a required reading list. Yes, I realize that seems rather simplistic, but most of us have experienced a moment when being lost in a story allows us to uncover some new truth about ourselves. And teachers can certainly attest to the link between reading and improved achievement and self-concept. There is nothing like that ah-hah moment that follows when a cleverly crafted plot gives us some glimpse into the wisdom of the universe that makes our own lives better.

So who knew that a psychotherapist could also be a librarian? Sorry, but that delights me. And certainly, there is no denying that there is more to a book than its cover.

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