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One does not often come across a medical handbook that prescribes fiction for ailments. The Novel Cure urges you to turn away from the chemist and enter the library or bookshop instead!

The Novel Cure: A prescription of fiction and some literary tonics for a variety of ailments

Have you heard of a literary doctor? Well, between the pages of a book lie wonderful cures that may or may not be known. The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin (with Indrajit Hazra) uncover these literary remedies and put them in front of the reader in an easily accessible tome. Browse through the book randomly as you please or search for a specific cure, you are sure to come across books that will work on your mind, body and heart! 

 The Novel Cure: for every ailment under the sun…

 What kind of ailments does the book tackle? There are serious issues such as dealing with death or an emotional crisis or abandonment as well as relatively less serious issues such as feeling lazy or coping with Monday morning blues. Well, in addition to the emotional ailments there are remedies for physical ailments as well. 

 One of the things that I was keen to know was how the authors dealt with physical ailments. That emotional ailments can be addressed by books and the ideas they represent is something that most of us can digest. But physical ailments? This is where the authors really shine. They have books that address physical issues (baldness, loss of appetite and yes……even toothache and tonsillitis!) with a touch of humour. The books they advocate for physical ailments help the reader to look at the situation with different eyes, and herein lies the cure. 

Have you heard of a literary doctor? Well, between the pages of a book lie wonderful cures that may or may not be known.

Beyond self help

 We’re NOT talking of self-help books here. True to their aim, self-help books are written with a view to help. However, The Novel Cure prescribes fiction. It suggests books from the rich literary heritage of the world. Right from good old classics to modern literature and everything in between, the authors have scoured the annals of literature for the apt prescriptions! 

 A dictionary of sorts

 When did you last use a physical dictionary to look up a word? The skills are not lost yet! This handbook is organised like a dictionary. Listed in alphabetical order are an exhaustive list of ailments both emotional and physical. Right from A to Z the reader will be able to locate a cure by looking up the ailment.  

 The authors list the book or books for a specific ailment in the margin. In short compact descriptions they explain the theme of the book before delving into what about it will actually set you on the path to relief.

 There are many cross references (as one can expect in a good dictionary) to related ailments. Look up the ailments you want or just read the manual from cover to cover if you please. There is a lot packed into this one! 


An authentic cure

 The authors are bibliotherapists themselves. The recommendations hence come from a place of awareness. Since 2008 they have set up a bibliotherapy service at The School of Life in London. The cures in this book were also tested over time by clients.

 The authors write in a conversational tone peppered with lots of humour. They have painstakingly screened a rich literary heritage to come up with novel suggestions that meet the mark. 

 The world of fiction is a wonderful place to be. It gives you a place to go even when you are weighed down by the most challenging circumstances. It provides soothing relief because fiction connects you to a larger collective consciousness. Ultimately, true healing always comes from within… and a good book never fails to light the way! Perhaps The Novel Cure will continue to remind us, that no matter what the ailment, the right book will always make a difference! 



 Title: The Novel Cure

Author: Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin (with Indrajit Hazra)

Publisher: LOTUS, ROLI

Genre: Non-fiction


Dhanishta Shah

Dhanishta is a freelance writer, going strong on a quest to explore a variety of topics and avenues for generating purposeful content. A self-confessed bibliophile, she is the Founder of Bookedforlife.