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The Surprising Power of Books

The Novel Cure by Ella and Elderkin

Books are entertainment, information and stories. But how do they affect us? We’ve taken a look at the surprising power of books:

Reading is Therapeutic

You may have heard of the term ‘bibliotherapy’. If not, it is used to describe the use of books as a therapeutic tool. Now there may seem like some obvious examples of this: self-help books. Self-help books provide a whole realm of benefits – they provide information, coping strategies and positive methods for a variety of circumstances. For those who aren’t inclined to read these, however, you are being aided by books more than you realise!

Both nonfiction and fiction are good for your memory. People, stories and places you discover in a book evoke the creation of new brain pathways and strengthen existing ones. These assist your short-term memory recall and can help stabilise moods. Books improve your focus and concentration: the immersion in a story gives you a focus, which then reappears when you may need it on a project. This immersion also works as a distraction mechanism. It allows your brain a break from the general business and stresses of life – providing moments of rest and relaxation that are vital to our mental health.


The wonderful ability of a nonfiction book to increase and expand your knowledge on a topic is good for your brain. The cognitive stimulation this provides is proven to help your brain function and can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Reading about particular topics increases your knowledge around them. For example, if a person needing an operation under general anesthetic reads about the subconscious and the theories behind the edges of consciousness, they learn more about what they will experience and it helps their brain to process the event.


A psychological study discusses how ‘[f]rom a psychodynamic perspective, fictional materials are believed to be effective through the processes of identification, catharsis and insight. Through identification with a character in the story the reader gains an alternative position from which to view their own issues’ (McKenna, 2010). This relation to character is invaluable. There are evidences of this used across society: from developmental bibliotherapy in schools that aims to help children deal with difficult issues to fiction books used in grief counselling to give positive narratives by which people can process their grief.

More than anything though, reading is a pleasure. A harrowing story can bring empathy and understanding and increase your awareness of others in society, a fantastic biography can help you appreciation the perfections and imperfections in others, and a heart-warming story can bring joy and satisfaction.

To get your dose of bibliotherapy, in whatever form you choose, come into CCB, browse, enjoy the bookish atmosphere.

Featured image: The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin