Today “N is for Novel.” One function novels serve that is rarely addressed among novel readers when discussing why they read is bibliotherapy.
Huh? Well, that’s a word out of the counseling literature
describing the approach to helping readers understand more about situations
unfamiliar to them or to cope better with situations similar to theirs by
observing how novel characters do.
I was really into bibliotherapy (back in the day). I must
have been pretty dangerous as a non-licensed psychologist advising
acquaintances to read specific novels in order to
get insights into why they were screwing up their lives! (Apologies, friends.)
Still, there IS something to bibliotherapy in the hands of
a qualified practitioner who also knows a lot about novels.
You’ve done it, and so have I. We connect with a novel’s character. We connect with an event. We learn another way
to react, respond, reply as we observe our fictional friends coping with
When one reflects on the novel’s handling of life events, when one sees those connections
to one’s own life, the novel has an impact that lasts beyond the closing of the
I believe that is why most of the books I read, I cannot
recall later. Whereas, books that keep popping into my consciousness are novels that had a bibliotherapeutic effect. I learned something
as a result of having read that particular novel. And the life lesson learned is what keeps the book fresh
for me. Of course, that is where the polysemous nature of the word, novel, comes into play, too!