‘The Novel Cure’ Provides Insightful Advice Fit for Any Emotion

As students, we read novels all of the time. From Shakespeare’s dramatic tales of love and power to Sue Monk Kidd’s endearing coming-of-age story The Secret Life of Bees, we are exposed to novels of all kinds on the daily. Many of us read these novels solely to ace the test in class. But what if you could pick up a book, based on what you’re feeling, and possibly love every page of it? Cross out the “what if” and pick up a copy of The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.

The subtitle of the book reads, “from abandonment to zestlessness: 751 books to cure what ails you.” That’s right. 751 books are accounted for within this literary reference book’s 400 pages. This book highlights the fact that novels were meant for so much more than simply entertainment. One can learn so much about the world around them and even oneself by picking up the right book, at the right time.

The book is ordered alphabetically by “ailment,” so they call it. With each ailment is at least one literary cure along with the authors’ take on the suggested novel and its purpose within the context of the condition the reader is in. The ailments range from humorously small and relatable struggles to the grieving process and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Start with how you’re feeling in the moment because whether you are “being tired and emotional,” or “coping with family,” this book has the answers. Many of us are currently experiencing excessive boredom during quarantine; a mundane ailment that encourages sitting around and doing absolutely nothing. The authors suggest reading Desperate Characters by Paula Fox to cure boredom. The novel is about a couple living in Brooklyn, New York as they adapt to major changes occurring in their lives. Desperate Characters  is described by Berthoud and Elderkin as “a useful reminder that boredom can be a good thing; it may mean that nothing is terribly wrong with your life, which ought to give you a boost and encourage you to stoke your enthusiasm.”

The London Guardian calls The Novel Cure, “an exuberant pageant of literary fiction and a celebration of the possibilities of the novel.” The stories that are accompanied with each ailment are well thought-out pairings that allow the reader to lean in to what they are feeling, potentially see the bigger picture, and be inspired by hundreds of  highly acclaimed texts worth reading.