Literary Apothecary: books to cure

Thursday, April 26 2018, 5:00PM

I think about books a lot. Always an avid reader, books have contributed so much to my life, and I've always had that insatiable thirst for knowledge, be it about the real world or an imagined one. I remember needing to learn to read again, struggling with words and language, aphasia and memory loss stalling me along the way. Even now, words don’t always come easily, but part of my course of study has been looking at the positive impact of literature (and reading) on all levels of learning. It has got me wondering what kind of books do others like to read? Have books helped your recovery?

Last week I decided to write a letter to one of my favourite authors, thanking her for her books and letting her know how her books aided my recovery and gave me something to work towards. I had heard that the last book in a series she wrote was about to be published in 2013 and I wanted to reread the entire series before it came out! (I had my stroke in March 2013). It took me nearly two years to reread the six books she had written, but that worked out well because the final instalment was delayed until 2015. I know there is a very active photography conversation that people on Enableme contribute to, and I thought how wonderful it would be to have an ongoing conversation about the books we read.

Last year I read ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ by Nina George. The main character owned a book shop located on a boat tied up on the Seine in Paris, and he described himself as a ‘literary apothecary’, believing that there was a right book to read to cure people of a variety of ailments. Conversely, there were books that should be avoided at certain times. ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ was the right book for me at a time when I was very lost and searching for a solution. At the back of the book is a ‘prescription’ list for various books and the ailments they can cure you of. I have started compiling my own prescription list for some of the books I read and love.

Here are a couple of prescriptions from the book and from me:


Carmody, Isobelle. The Obernewtyn Chronicles.

For the treatments of isolation and feelings of hopelessness. Recommended for animal-lovers and people who seek out and fight for all forms of inclusion.

Side effects: an innate pull towards mountain landscapes, tendency to treat animals as equals and a longing for choca!

(My own prescription)


Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts.

Effective in large doses for treating pathological optimism or a sense of humour failure.

Side effects: an aversion to owning things, and a potentially chronic tendency to wear a dressing gown all day. (And a need to know where your towel is at all times!)


Barberry, Muriel. The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

An effective cure in large doses for if-such-and-such-happens-ism. Recommended for unacknowledged geniuses, lovers of intellectual films and people who hate bus drivers.


Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking.

Effective against acquired (rather than innate) pessimism and a fear of miracles.

Side effects: dimished numeracy skills, singing in the shower.


L.M. Montgomery. Anne of Green Gables (and all others in the series).

Effective for the treatment of dull, dreamless lives and fears about the future.

Side effects: fear of geometry, longing for the most fashionable clothes (particularly puffed sleeves) and ability to remember and take comfort from the idea that ‘tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it’.

(Another of my own prescriptions)


So what are we reading and why? My current books are: 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (for book club, but full of hope!)

The Little Breton Bistro (another Nina George book, about transformations)

Sophie’s World (Jostein Gaarder, for those wanting to learn more about philosophy and those planning to escape their current worlds).

Anne of Windy Willows (a little light bedtime read, full of hope and predictability!)

As I look back at my list, I see that the books I’m reading right now are all books where people are trying to seek out a better way of living, which very much reflects where I’m at in my own life journey. I didn’t notice that until I had them all written down.

 Happy reading!