I spend lots of time with books that aren’t meant to be read cover to cover but are to be enjoyed by browsing during a spare ten minutes here and there – between books, over a quick cup of coffee, during the telly ads.  But I get an enormous amount of pleasure from them and never write about them because up till now I have only reviewed books I’ve finished reading.  However, this new coffee table book of the month feature allows me to break the habits of a six-and-a-half year blog and do something new!

I’m starting the feature with an absolute cracker.  It dropped through my letter box on Thursday morning and has already made a difference.  How so?  I’ll get to that. 

First there was biblioholism, then there was bibliotherapy, which the practitioners, Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin have transformed into The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies for all kind of ailments of the mind and body.  That’s quite a claim .  I spent the weekend putting it to the test.

Ailment No 1: Overwhelmed by the number of books in your house.

After a wonderful summer of gallivanting here and there, reading books and collecting more along the way, I couldn’t see the floor of my library or my bedroom.  I was considering moving out!  What advice is offered in The Novel Cure?

Reader, cull your books.  Do it every six months, and aim to cut your library by at least 10 percent each time.  Give away any books you failed to finish or forced yourself to finish.  Take to a charity shop those books that disappointed you.  Keep only those books that fit into the following categories: books you loved, books which are beautiful objects in themselves, books you consider to be important, edifying or otherwise necessary, books which you might return to one day, and books to keep for your children.  Everything else is just bits of paper taking up space.  This way you will keep your library fresh and make room for new additions.  

Turns out this is good advice.  I applied the principles and soon had 176 books packed ready to donate to the library.  Just under the 10% target.

Ailment No 2: Seduced by new books.

The irony is, of course, that if I hadn’t been seduced by this new book, I would have made no progress with ailment no 1.  Still some battles take longer to win than others.  Here’s some advice for the future: 

It’s tempting to see new books the way we see gadgets; that we need the very latest, most up-to-date version.  But just because a novel is new doesn’t mean it’s any good: indeed, with a new novel being published every three minutes (except  on Sundays) the chances that it’s good are actually rather low.  Far better to wait and see if a novel stands the test of time, and in the meantime read one that’s already proved itself to be worth reading.  Because the art of re-reading is a neglected one, and arguably even more important than the act of reading the first time around.

Timeous advice again.  As I was taking the cure for ailment 1, I kept coming across all these pre-blog books that I would love to reread.  I might just take the time to do that in the coming months …

There you have it.  It’s been in the house for only 72 hours and my behavioural patterns are already changing.   I see this one winning Lizzy’s self-help book of year award.  What’s your ailment?  Tell me in comments and let’s see what novel cure is recommended for you.

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