2013 Non Fiction

The Novel Cure: An A – Z of Literary Remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

The Novel Cure: An A to Z of Literary Remedies

Five words from the blurb: advice, cure, ailments, books, world

The Novel Cure is a reference book that will delight every book lover. It claims that all of life’s problems can be cured by reading the appropriate book and prescribes a wide range of literature for everything from adultery and bad backs, to hunger and shyness. I’m not entirely convinced by all of their suggestions, but love the way it introduces the reader to many forgotten texts and exudes a passion for a wide variety of literature.

I admit that I haven’t read this book from cover to cover – the advice is so rich that it doesn’t make sense to do this. The joy is in looking up individual sections and discovering new reading ideas. I found myself adding to the wishlist on almost every page. I particularly liked the sound of Wolf Solent by John Cowper Paris, which is described as a cure for Internet addiction:

 ….once you discover JCP, as we shall call him, you’ll chuck your monitor into the nearest skip and go and live out the rest of your days among the birds and the bees.

On a slightly negative note, some of the advice didn’t make sense to me. I have a fear of flying and it suggested reading Night Flight by Antoine Saint-Exupery. I haven’t read this book and so don’t know whether or not it ends well, but the last thing I need is more images of plane crashes running through my head when I get on a plane. Similarly recommending The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe for agoraphobia and Blindness by José Saramago for fear of commitment made little sense to me, but both are amazing books so I’m happy people read them, whatever the reason.

I also loved the way it suggested books for every age group. I’ve only read one of the ten books recommended for thirty-somethings (Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which I loved), but I am interested in trying many of the others:

The writing style was light and chatty and I found the advice entertaining and easy to read, even when I had no interest in the ailment or the remedy suggested. I believe that the right book can help if read at the right point in time and I look forward to trying suggestions from this book for many years to come.


Should I give them the benefit of the doubt and see if Night Flight cures my fear of flying?

Have you read Wolf Solent?

16 replies on “The Novel Cure: An A – Z of Literary Remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin”

This sounds like a lot of fun, though I would probably derive much of my fun from disagreeing with the recommendations.

For example, you should read The Sun Also Rises before the age of 25 or not at all. And really no one should read The Jungle. I tried, I really tried, but why put yourself through that kind of pain.

I think the characters in Blindness survive because of their commitment to each other. On the other hand, what they went through….sheesh.

cbjames, Yes! I loved the book, despite the fact I disagreed with a lot of it. It would make an interesting book club choice as it would be so interesting to hear what different people would suggest for each ailment.

Your comment on the Sun Also Rises intrigues me. I haven’t read it yet, but it would be interesting to see if I end up agreeing with you or The Novel Cure authors.

I recently read ‘The Cow’ (a Swiss classic about the meat industry) which sounds as though it might be similar to The Jungle. It was shocking, but I’m glad I read it. It would be interesting to compare the two – I have a strong stomach!

I had a quick flick through this is a bookshop over the weekend and thought it would be really useful for adding to a wish list but also found myself disagreeing with a lot of the suggestions. Given how personal every response to a book is I did wonder if the writers really expected it to be taken seriously or if it was just a good money spinner.

Alex, Yes, most of the suggestions seem to be based around the fact the book contains that ailment, rather than its ability to help, but I love reading it so I’ll forgive that problem. Anything that adds to my wishlist so prolifically can only be good!

Hey, it couldn’t hurt could it? If you are already scared to fly, it won’t make it worse I’d hope. I like the idea of this book, even if it might be slightly tongue-in-cheek.

Lindsay, For depression the book recommends The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Bell Jar and Mr Chartwell. Again I can’t see them being any use -they are just books that contain depression and don’t offer helpful insights/solutions into how to cope with depression. I think The View on the Way Down is far more useful (as is The Noonday Demon, but that is nonfiction)

The book goes on to recommend 10 books to cheer you up which includes: When the Green Woods Laugh, Autie Mame, I Capture the Castle and Cold Comfort Farm. They could be a better bet.

The Jungle? The Jungle?!? I have to agree with cbjames because it was one of the most aggravating books I’ve read in my 30s (and I didn’t even mind the meatpacking expose). Sinclair manages to pile even more miseries on his Rudkus family than Steinbeck did with his Joad family, and The Jungle ends in a panegyric ode to socialism that’s tough to read.
That said, the other books on the list look interesting, and I’m curious to check this book out to get suggestions for future reading. I hope you find some good books off their recommendations!

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