Reading books is good for your mental health

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare


Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday; to be more precise, it is his 450th birthday!  Reputedly, as well as being born on the 23rd April, Shakespeare also died on the 23rd April.  In just a couple of years, 2016 is set to mark 400 years of the date of his demise.

Many people first encounter Shakespeare’s work during their school days, and often may have struggled with the unfamiliar and archaic language.  A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet are the usual contenders for purposes of study.  While the language is somewhat different from our contemporaneous vocabulary, it remains compellingly enigmatic with its iambic pentameter, its rhyming couplets, quatrains and soliloquys.  Shakespeare’s work, for me, is a thing of beauty, and many authors – be they playwrights, poets or novelists – can never hope to match the Bard in his sheer productive quantity of plays and sonnets.  Shakespeare was prolific with his mighty pen.  If in doubt, just take a look at the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and you will be faced with a heavy and cumbersome volume of text.

If Shakespeare is not your thing though, there is a fantastic array of reading material in our libraries, bookshops and on the Internet.  Whatever your taste, there has got to be something to suit – fiction or non-fiction.  I personally favour the literary classics, especially Thomas Hardy, and I also love Scandinavian crime fiction, especially Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo.  Reading books is good for your mental health.  It is healthy to be intellectually stimulated, to escape, to learn and to imagine.  To promote this positive pursuit further, it is a special reading occasion, today and tonight.  To find out more, please read on…


World Book Day and World Book Night

In honour of the Bard, today is also UNESCO’s World Book Day and World Book Night.  World Book Day first began in 1995, and was launched as a tribute to authors and their books, and to encourage the reading habit as a pleasurable pursuit, with a particular emphasis upon engaging the young.

Every year, a World Book Capital is chosen for a period of exactly one year, and the 2014 choice is Port Harcourt in Nigeria.  The city is intent upon improving literacy rates amongst its young people, and as Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director General states: ‘books are our most powerful forces of poverty eradication’.  Education, as we know, is often key to building our future prosperity.

For more information, go to

To support and advocate the ethos of literacy promotion, World Book Night is literally spreading the word.  Tonight, many free books will be handed out, by community book givers, at public events and places all around the world.  The event is run by the Reading Agency, and here in the United Kingdom, the twenty books for distribution this year are:

Getting rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon

The Boy with the Topknot by Sathnaw Sanghera

Today everything changes by Andy McNab

Vengeance is mine inc. and other stories by Roald Dahl

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Four Warned by Jeffrey Archer

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Confessions of a GP by Dr. Benjamin Daniels

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Hello Mum by Bernadine Evaristo

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

Theodore Boone by John Grisham

The Humans by Matt Haig

Geezer Girls by Dreda Say Mitchell

Whatever It Takes by Adele Parks

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

The Perfect Murder by Peter James

59 Seconds: Think a little Change a lot by Professor Richard Wiseman

For more information, go to

You might just be one of the lucky ones, and end up being given a book.  Books are your own personal ticket on a journey to another world.  You can travel to virtually anywhere you want to!

Books on Prescription

Many people who experience common mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders, can be helped further in their recovery through some medical reading.  Thirty self-help books in the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme have been specifically chosen by health professionals, to address sufferers’ problems through the process of CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy.  In very simple terms, CBT is designed to encourage positive attitudes, and to displace the more negative ones.  It is a way of re-training the mind.

Books on Prescription schemes have been operating for several years across selected parts of the UK.  From June 2013, the Reading Well Books on Prescription titles were extended to include libraries within England, and should now be helping readers to understand and self-manage their conditions more effectively.  A growing wealth of evidence supports the efficacy of the books, and the English scheme is supported by the Department of Health’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, the Royal Colleges of GPs, Nursing and Psychiatrists, and is also compatible with the NICE guidelines.

For further information, and to find out which books are in the scheme, go to