Last week I spent a lot of time thinking about how learning to read and consequently loving nothing more than to spend hour after hour immersed in a good book might have a downside of missing out on living your own life while wrapped up in a fictional one.
Well, then this week along comes this article in the New Yorker, "Can Reading Make You Happier?" which introduced me the concept of "bibliotherapy" and the belief that reading fiction can give you more empathy for others and make you an all around nicer person.
As Mister Spock might say, "Fascinating."
I'm skeptical of the nicer person thesis, but I wholly buy into the idea that reading can be personally therapeutic, a ridder of demons, if you will, and what Jeanette Winterson calls "doses, medicines."
Coincidentally, when I was going through a particularly troublesome rough patch with my own mental health in my late 20s, the work of Jeanette Winterson, among others, played a really pivotal role as a coping mechanism and therapy in healing "the rupture reality makes on the imagination."
Related, while I'm cured of the demons that haunted me in my 20s, I am engaged in a regular duel with a new set of mental hobgoblins here in my early 50s—the general malaise of being disinterested in or otherwise feeling useful with my day job, being the toughest sparring partner, and returning to regular blogging here at Poemaholix is absolutely a means to help me beat back the malaise and shake off the awful fallow feelings I get from the pay-the-bills work I endure forty or so hours a week.
After reading this New Yorker piece, I'm going to increase the depth and breadth of my reading as well, but, hopefully, at the same time not forgetting to notice the bees.