Find prescriptions in the pages with THE NOVEL CURE.

The authors of The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You (The Penguin Press, $27) call their book “a medical handbook — with a difference.” Instead of a prescription filled at your nearest pharmacy, these voracious readers recommend a literary remedy found in any library. ELLA BERTHOUD and SUSAN ELDERKIN are “bibliotherapists,” recommending health-restoring doses of fiction that span 2,000 years of literature. Explains Elderkin: “We believe that the right novel, read at just the right moment, has the power to change your life.”

American Way: How do you suggest readers use this book?
Ella Berthoud: Our book is an alternative medical handbook, and a copy should be kept in the medical cabinet as well as by your bed. Look up the problems with which you struggle in life — such as being shy or stuck in a rut — and you will find the novel, or two, that can help.

AW: Lately, in this digital age, many people have trouble finding the concentration needed to read. What do you recommend?
Susan Elderkin:
Equip your bathroom with some brilliant, short novellas: I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn, for instance, and To the Wedding by John Berger. Time spent in the bathroom is [good for reading because] there are no competing demands on your brain.

AW: How do I avoid last-minute pulp purchases at the airport kiosk?
SE:
Too much pulp fiction, like too much fast food, wreaks havoc on your reading health and spoils your appetite for the real thing. Fiction set in another era is ideal for reading on holiday, as it takes you out of your day-to-day preoccupations.

AW: Is the efficaciousness of your cures affected by whether a story is read in book or tablet form?
EB:
We think that a novel is a novel even when it’s a stream of digital info — or, for that matter, if it is entering your body through your ears, as an audio book. A novel can only be what the reader makes of it. It is the quality of attention the reader brings to the work that matters, whether these are marks on a screen or on paper you hold between your fingers.