In January 2015, I got my bookseller-boyfriend a literary present: a bibliotherapy session.
Yeah, I know, it sounds kind of risky to get that for such a book lover. He is indeed a total nerd in classic literature and difficult towards contemporary literature. That’s why I was worried that the bibliotherapist would not be able to find books he had never heard about, books he would be interested in…
We arrived at Bath (United Kingdom) in the early afternoon and entered Mr B’s Emporium bookshop. I liked the place straight away. It was bright and well arranged, and it had soul. Then, we met the lovely Naomi (click to learn more about Mr B’s team). She was Richard’s bibliotherapist and led us to the bibliotherapy room. I was expecting something quite official and serious, in an office… But I was not disapppointed when I realised it would not happen like this at all. The room was filled with 2 big armchairs and a coffee table. On the walls, an entire shelf presented favourite books of Mr B’s Emporium’s team. No office then, it is happening here, next to the travelling books and poetry in front of the booksellers’ favourite books.
I asked Naomi if I could stay, as I have always been very interested in the bibliotherapy concept. She warned me: at Mr B’s Emporium, bibliotherapy is not taken seriously. What did she mean? Anyway, I stayed to see, and she brought us two cups of tea and a piece of cake for the patient of the reading spa.
The session is divided into 4 parts of about 30min each:
The first step is – obviously – to understand the reader’s tastes. What does he like, dislike, why… We did our best to give as much information as possible to help Naomi in her mission, trying not to forget any clue that could be useful to her. She then got around 10 books in the room and introduced them before leaving us.
While our bibliotherapist went around the shop to get more books, we spent time checking the ones she gave him and which one he liked the most. She came back to us with a tower of 20 books!
Naomi took time to present to us these new books and why she thought Richard would like them. Eventually she left us for the final choice.
Richard had to choose £45 of books that was included in the price of the bibliotherapy session I got him. So we went again through this gigantic pile of about 30 books to pick the ones that will come back home with us.
Naomi was incredible. She came back with a few books Richard had forgotten to talk about but had already read. From that moment we both knew that she perfectly understood and saw the reader he is. And indeed, she had a lot more to offer: classics, contemporary books, authors he knew well, authors he had heard about, authors he hadn’t. In each book she had chosen, I recognised Richard’s tastes. Unbelievable. And of course, we got more than £45 worth books.
Reading spa, a skilled bibliotherapy
To be honest with you, I first thought that wasn’t really bibliotherapy. And then, not long after I started again to read articles about it, I realised that it is bibliotherapy. Actually, it might be one of the best ways to do it. Fictional creative bibliotherapy, a non serious one, allows a spontaneous and natural dialogue between the reader and the bookseller-bibliotherapist. The reader is not expecting to be healed from anything, but to get books that will suit him. Even if Mr Bs Emporium is not applying bibliotherapy medically speaking, I think they are still providing a smart and very efficient service. Even if they do not practice it with the idea of healing, isn’t the purpose to take care of the readers? Don’t you go to a spa to take time for yourself? To feel better? By providing these literary recommendations, Mr B’s Emporium is offering to the reader wonderful tools to face life : books. Isn’t that what bibliotherapy is all about?