The Healing Power of Books

For some time now the Government has been investing millions of pounds in tackling poor mental health and loneliness through reading.  It has set up a campaign called “Read, Talk, Share”.  Reading has brought solace to many of us forced to stay at home and has transported us to new adventures and foreign countries offering soothing escapism and triggering our emotions and imaginations in a satisfying way.  The cares of the day are forgotten when immersed in a good book.

I read every night for an hour before I go to sleep and always have – even as a child when my parents turned out the light.  I would wait a while then get out my torch and read under the blankets.  Since the first lockdown I have read approximately seventy books.  Some of these are books which I already own and have enjoyed reading for a second time, others have been donated by friends and the rest have been purchased second-hand online from sites such as e-bay and Amazon.

The “Read, Talk, Share” campaign is run by the Reading Agency charity.  Its Reading Well scheme helps people to understand and manage their mental health by providing a reading list put together by health experts and people who have suffered from different mental health conditions.  These books are available at libraries free of charge and also as e-books.

Some GPs and health professionals recommend them.  Ninety percent of people who used the books said that they were helpful.  The Reading Friends scheme can be accessed by phone or internet and will be available at libraries once restrictions have eased.  This involves volunteers and library staff using books as a conversation starter with people at risk of loneliness providing a connecting experience which enables people to feel less alone through having meaningful conversations. it also offers ” a lifeline to help people through this year and beyond ” according to Debbie Hicks, Creative Director of the Reading Agency.

A University of Sussex survey found that reading for as little as six minutes can reduce stress by sixty percent slowing the heartbeat, easing muscle tension and altering our state of mind.  Reading is even more successful at easing stress than listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea!  When we read about characters in novels solving their problems and dealing with difficult issues, it helps us to deal with our own challenges.

Here are some titles from the Reading Well list:

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Living with a Black Dog by Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone  (  “Black Dog” is sometimes used to describe depression.)


Written by Anita McGhee