Books provide SHelf Help for the winter blues

ID-10065957Are you feeling blue today?

With spring months away and no more holiday lights to distract us,  mid-January can seem … well … bleak. For many, this is the heyday of seasonal affective disorder–that quarterly depression that my mother thinks is hooey and that I combat with a sunlight desk lamp.

I’m not going to contribute to the myriad articles out there suggesting you:
• invest in light therapy (mine was a gift),
• pester your doctor for Zoloft (pills ain’t the answer, man),
• sprint around the block every time you want a cookie (though I’ve done it; it sorta works),
• or nix the coffee (it suppresses serotonin, which is bad; but it also makes me less like the Incredible Hulk in the morning, which is good).

However, as a writer who can attest to the therapeutic benefits of the pen (or keyboard, or iPad, or whatever), I WILL suggest that you follow Vintage Book’s lead and seek solace between the pages of a book. And I do not mean the sort of book you find in the dreaded self-help aisle.  What I mean is more along the lines of … wait for it … SHelf Help 😉

Starting today, Vintage Books is launching Shelf Help, a year-long campaign to make the world feel better through reading. They’ve chosen twelve books–one for each month of the year–that Guardian journalist Alex Clark feels will enlighten, inspire, and generally brighten your spirits throughout the course of 2014. That’s the full mind, body, and soul treatment. Think a little pill can compete with all that?

January’s pick is The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, by Stephen Grosz. Grosz,  according to the book’s official description, is a practicing psychoanalyst who “has spent the last 25 years uncovering the hidden feelings behind our most baffling behavior.” It is filled with stories about our everyday lives–about our loves, our lies, our struggles, and our triumphs.

I know it’s a PR move (scroll down for the complete list, all published by Vintage), but I still think it’s a fantastic idea. For me, I can think of several books that gave my soul a good cleanse at a time when I needed it: Eat, Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert; The Faith Club, by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner; The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom; and, although this may sound like a mismatch, The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd. (Hey, sometimes a story just gets you at the right time in your life, and you can’t explain why, but it leaves a mark. Am I wrong?)

The point of Shelf Help is to remind us of the healing power of books. And while I don’t get to read nearly as often as I’d like, this is something in which I wholeheartedly believe. No matter what form they may take in 20 years, books will always be essential to us as individuals and as a society. No matter how dreary and gray and frigid it is where you are, one turn of a page can plop you smack in the center of a tropical paradise … or the Italian Renaissance … or a whole other world that exists only in the imagination.

Here is Shelf Helps full list of suggested titles:
The Examined Life, by Stephen Grosz
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson
Far from the Tree, by Andrew Solomon
Nature Cure, by Richard Mabey
How to Live, by Sarah Bakewell
Teach us to Sit Still, by Tim Parks
Heartbreak Hotel, by Deborah Moggach
Waterlog, by Roger Deakin
• Nothing to be Frightened Of, by Julian Barnes
Stoner, by John Williams
Human Traces, by Sebastian Faulks
The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal

What titles would you add?




It may be dreary and gray and frigid where you are, but with one turn of the page you can find yourself in


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