The Novel Cure Goes International

The postman has just delivered my own copy of Ella Berthould and Susan Elderkin’s book The Novel Cure so at last I can let the library have their volume back.

I’m sure you must all know about this book which came out in 2013 and which consists of a set of reading prescriptions for just about every ailment, physical, spiritual or reading related, that you might think of.  Suffering from a overplus of arrogance?  What else should you read but Pride and Prejudice? Just lost your job?  Try spending an evening or two in the company of Kingsley Amis’ s Lucky Jim.

When The Novel Cure was first published I have to admit that I was sceptical about its benefits and so other than flicking quickly through a copy in the local Waterstones I didn’t pay it very much attention.  However, a couple of months ago The New Yorker published a really interesting article about the pros and cons of the practice of bibliotherapy and it brought the book back to mind.

What attracted my attention most was that The Novel Cure is now being published in eighteen different countries and in each case the contract allows for a local editor and reading expert to adapt and fit up to a quarter of the recommendations to the native readership.  So, the Italian edition, for example, has entires on impotencefear of motorways and (rather worryingly) the desire to embalm.  I would like to ask “embalm what?”, but I’m rather fearful of the answer, although I would love to know what the related recommendations might be!

If you live in India you can get advice on what to read relating to cricket, obsession with.  It says something about the way in which football has taken over as our national game that this entry wasn’t to be found in the UK edition.  It would have been helpful for me if it had been.

Anyway, the upshot was that I decided I should give the book more attention, borrowed the library copy and then realised that I had to have my own.  Even though there are a myriad situations described that don’t match my position, reading the recommendations is great fun and occasionally there is a real find to be had regardless of whether I ‘need’ the book at the moment or not.

The authors offer a personalised service through The School of Life.  It is based in London but you can participate long distance from wherever you might be.  I was wondering if anyone out there had ever tried this or something like it and, if so, what the experience had been like?  I don’t know that I am, as yet, quite such a convert as to spend hard cash on more than the book, but I have to say that I am considering it.

23 thoughts on “The Novel Cure Goes International

  1. I loved dipping into this when it first came out but have to confess it’s been sitting on my desk unopened for a while. The idea of prescribing for national characteristics and interests is very appealing – I’ll have to pick my copy up again and see what it has to say about wet summers. It will be interesting to see if any of your readers has tried the service out, Alex.

    1. The writer of the New Yorker article had, Susan, and she seemed to think it was very worthwhile, but then the cynic in me wonders if the people concerned knew the article was going to be written and responded appropriately.

  2. I got this a few weeks ago and am as yet unsure of how to engage with it–dip in or read straight through? I’m sufficiently obsessive that my attempts at dipping into book usually turn into straight-through binges anyway, but that might be a little much with this one, surely…

    1. I started by looking at the reader related problems and very much enjoyed those, Elle. Now though, I am opening the book randomly and simply hoping that regardless of what the problem is the recommendation will be of a book that catches my fancy and can go on the tbr list.

  3. Sounds absolutely fascinating – though it could generate another one of those lists of books I must buy……

  4. I actually hadn’t heard of The Novel Cure. I may have to have a flick through myself next time I am in Waterstones. It sounds like something to dip in and out of rather than read straight through.

    1. Beware, Ali. It’s a bit like looking in a dictionary. One entry leads you on to another and before you know it an hour or two have gone by.

    1. get one for yourself as well, SO. Even if you don’t need help for a particular situation it’s fun thinking about whether you agree with the books they suggest.

  5. I hadn’t heard of this book, but maybe I should see if the US edition has a cure for missing an adult child who has just moved out of the house.

    1. It was already on my radar, Lisa, so it really reignited an interest. I also have a friend who is looking into bibliotherapy in general, so I’ve talked a lot about it with her.

  6. Wow, I had no idea that book had become so popular! The “desire to embalm” in the Italian one is both funny and disturbing at the same time! I’ve not read the book and have no plans to but I enjoy reading about other people reading it 🙂

    1. I would really like to know what people have got out of the actual one to one sessions, Stefanie. I am so tempted, simply because I love talking about books, but they are very expensive and anyway, I can’t think of a problem I need solving:-)

  7. Oh, you make this sound so good! Like you, I was skeptical. Have I read too many books about reading? Because I do believe in bibliotherapy. I’ll have to take a second look at this. This is where the library comes in, before I have to get my own.:)

    1. Yes, I went for the library copy first, but for me it is very much the sort of book that I am going to want to just read an entry of here and there and the library wouldn’t let me keep long enough for that. In the end I had to take the plunge and buy my own.

  8. I was very sceptical about this, thought it was the kind of book that was more fun for the authors to write than for readers to read, but I actually got addicted to it, so I was wrong!

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