School of Life, a London-based organization dedicated to improving how we go about our daily lives — from finding a fulfilling job to a satisfying relationship — has devised a simple, personalized method of working through life’s troubles. Its bibliotherapy program takes a personal survey of each applicant and then prescribes books that may encourage enlightenment on the client’s issues. But these aren’t self-help books we’re talking about. Co-founder Ella Berthoud explains:
“We want to spark people’s imagination and show them that a world exists other than theirs,” she says. “Reading provokes empathy with people you have no relation to, from different cultures, religions — and even ones who have committed atrocities.”
Berthoud wants to treat reading as an outlet that allows us an escape, as well as a form of self-help.
“We spoke about the idea of Bibliotherapy as a one-to-one service people could use if they didn’t have a seriously big issue but rather needed to get through the nitty-grittiness of everyday life,” says Berthoud.
Individual prescriptions, which include up to eight books and an explanation of each book’s significance to an individual’s particular issue, are sent to the client following a questionnaire and short interview. The questionnaire asks for personal details (marital status, career, age) and more about authors they love and hate. Berthoud and her team then mull over ideas and discuss the prescription according to the clients’ individual needs and complaint, explaining why each book is good for them.