VIEWPOINTS: What books do you turn to when you’re feeling down?

Books are the new best medicine – at least, according to a recent article in The Independent. The article talks about a recent push for “Book Prescriptions” – in other words, directing people to mood-boosting books when they struggle with pain, anxiety or depression. 

The Reading Agency has promoted 27 books as mood boosters, and there's an online reading group for these books. 

A London-based author is also implementing “Bibliotherapy.” As one Huffington Post article notes, the idea of using books for mental health is nothing new. 

If you were to make a list of your mood boosting books, what would be on it? What books do you turn to when you're feeling low? How has literature helped you in hard times?

We'd love to hear your viewpoint – simply leave a comment below.


6 Responses to “VIEWPOINTS: What books do you turn to when you’re feeling down?”

  1. Philip Stine

    Many years ago on Easter Sunday I came away from church feeling very frustrated. The sermon had been absolutely awful, full of cliches and nothing that brought about reflection, joy or repentance. When I got home, I pulled out T.S. Eliot’s great poem Ash Wednesday. Line after line brought reflection, hope, repentance, including these closing words: “Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,/Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood/Teach us to care and not to care/Teach us to sit still/Even among these rocks,/Our peace in His will/And even among these rocks/Sister, mother/And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,/Suffer me not to be separated/And let my cry come to Thee.”

  2. Shawn Blackwelder

    There are two books that immediately come to mind:

    1) While on a much-needed spiritual retreat, the spiritual director with whom I worked introduced me to Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying. It is a creative adaptation of the Psalms for use as a tool for prayer and meditation. It substitutes some of the violent and patriarchal language, as well as some of the culturally-specific references that sometimes keep us from using these prayers ourselves.

    2) Pat Conroy’s books have always resonated with me, and Prince of Tides came along at a particular time when I needed a boost. There is something to be said about the victorious struggle to defeat the inner monsters that continue to hold us back.

  3. Melody Gordon

    There have been times in my life when just holding a book is like hanging onto a life raft; to immerse my mind in a different world and imagine me in the central plot and becoming the protagonist. Is there anything better? When I need a change of scenery and physically cannot, I open a book. Lately, whenever I feel the need I go to usually the Sherlock Homes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or aptly named the “canon” if you are a Baker Street Irregular. These stories lift me up, get me thinking, break up the mood, and give me the lift I need.

  4. Amanda Greene

    What wonderful responses and books! Personally, because real life is too close, I can’t read biographies for pleasure. I crave fiction, fantasy and poetry so when I’m in need of inspiration I reach for my battled, ragged copy of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” or I might read a section of a Harry Potter book to my children, or James Melvin Washington’s “Conversations with God,” or “The Treasury of American Poetry.”

    Sometimes even Dr. Seuss or “The Light in the Attic” are all I need to spurn and laugh at life’s troubles and keep putting pen to page.

  5. Lynn Heritage

    I’m with Amanda on Dr. Seuss and just about any of them will pull me out of a funk, as well as just about anything from Shel Silverstein.
    Another book I go to, particularly as I get older, is “Crones Don’t Whine” by Jean Shinoda Bolen. I like that she says, “crones trust what they know in their bones from experiences.” It sort of helps to validate me as a senior citizen.
    But, if I had to choose just one book, it would be so very difficult, but I would have to go with “Everyday Sacred”. To me, there are so many ‘aha’ moments in the reading of that book on just about every humanistic level. One of my favorites…”Maybe this is the beginning of wisdom. There are no answers, there are just experiences.” I find that so freeing and at the same time, so very, very humbling.

  6. Bonny Logsdon Burns

    I love Melody Gordon’s first sentence above. I read ebooks, but more comforting is the feel and smell of paper pages. There are two books that bring me solace, the Bible and my ancient copy of 101 Famous Poems. I read the Bible to hear from heaven. No matter what my issue of the day, sorrow or joy, I can find words that wrap me in an embrace. 101 Famous Poems encompasses the best of the best; Whitman, Longfellow, Sandberg, Dickinson, Shakespeare, Shelley, Kipling. I love word pictures that convey the most complicated of feelings and philosophies. Both books tell me that what I’m feeling has been felt the world over and this too shall pass. There is good waiting on the other side of the issue and ultimately on the other side of life.


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