Bibliotherapy: 10 ways books can transform your life

I’ve always believed in the magical power of books. As a kid I felt sure that a book could cure any manner of ills. Later I realized there was a name for how books helped people: bibliotherapy.  So it was only natural that when I became a therapist I used books with every single client. I was thrilled to use my life experience and my education to confirm what I already knew. There is therapeutic value in reading and books not only help us feel better, but they can be the catalyst for enormous changes!  Image

10. Books cure loneliness. As a kid, when I felt lonely, all I needed was to spend a little time with Tom Sawyer before I felt infinitely better. Books don’t only keep us company, but many books help us know that we are not alone in our struggles or our eccentricities.

9. Books cure sadness. Oliver Twist always cheers me up and makes me feel grateful for my life. When I’m working with depressed clients I encourage them to read memoirs like The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls.  Sometimes reading about others’ troubles helps us have more perspective about our own sorrows.

8. Books cure hurt feelings. When my feelings are hurt, I reread The Prince and the Pauper, A Little Princess or Anne of Green Gables. The characters in these stories have real reason to feel hurt, but they persevere and triumph.  Why not follow their example?

7. Books create escape. When I am sick, I read Daddy Long Legs, by Jean Webster.  This book never ceases to delight and distract me, no matter how many times I read it.  

6. Books help us remember. When I read Sharon Draper’s Out of my Mind,  I was so moved that I immediately bought a copy and told everyone I knew that they should not only read it, but own it. (Seriously, if you haven’t read the book yet, get it now.) Out of my Mind reminds me of times that I was bullied, times I watched others get bullied, and the few times my shy teenage self actually took a stand for somebody else.

5. Books make us smarter. Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis, taught me to worry less about my outward appearance, and more about what who I am inside. The Scarlet Letter taught me to avoid mistakes that I knew I’d regret.

4. Books motivate us to change. When I was a kid, every year my dad read us A Stranger for Christmas, by Carol Lynn Pearson, and every year I’d recommit to thinking more about others than myself.

3. Books help us connect with other people. Getting into the head of a monk or an Amish mother helps us relate to people we would never understand otherwise.  Reading and talking about what we read also helps us connect.

2. Books make great decoration. This goes without saying.

1. Books make us better writers. The most important point I’ve made all day!

How have books changed your life?

15 comments

  1. Here’s a testimonial for #7, Books create escape: This summer has been all go-go-go-go-go for me. A few weekends ago I had about 48 hours of “down time” and desperately needed a break between one big busy week and the next. I sat completely still for most of Saturday and read an entire novel. Voila! Instant vacation. It really worked.

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  2. Great post, Kirsti! Books have always been such a huge part of my life that they feel like a constant friend, but I also give them more credit than anything else for making me tolerant and considerate of others. Living inside someone else’s head for a bit- even if it’s only a fictional character- has introduced me to perspectives and opinions that might not be my own, and allowed me to respect and understand them.

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  3. Kirsti, this is a great post. And I, too, believe in the power of books. I read aloud books that touched on every subject when I taught 4th grade, and now I hope to touch little lives with the books I write. Thank you for this thoughtful blog.

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  4. Great points, Miss Kirsti! I also think books make us smarter not just from the explicit lessons they teach, but the act of reading stimulates the brain and causes us (and especially kids) to think.

    The best part of my day is reading with my many many children, so not only am I connecting with a monks, Amish mothers, pirates, and detectives, I am also connecting and bonding with my children. This might be my favorite thing about books – connecting with other readers, writers, and book lovers!

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