Books not only transport readers, but can also help heal


“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place,” said J.K. Rowling.

To avid reader there are no truer words.

Breakthroughs have been made in industries such as health, fashion, or science, so much so it comes to no surprise that Alison Kerr Courtney’s BiblioRemedy has been proven relevant.

Kerr Courtney isn’t a licensed therapist. She was an English teacher in France for 10 years and worked in a library and a bookstore a couple of years.

People come to Kerr Courtney or other empathic listeners to talk. They tell her about their problems and goals. After listening to what the client said she gives a list of books to read.

“I’ve had clients dealing with grief issues, for example. I paired them up with books I think will most help in their specific situation,” said Kerr Courtney in a CNN article.

The books she recommends vary in fiction, examples are “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “A Wrinkle in Time” Madeleine L’engle, “Alice in Wonderland” by Alice Gerstenbery, “Great Expectations” Charles Dickens, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling and more.

Kerr Courtney suggests five to seven books the client can choose to read. She does this because some stories are more blunt with problems and situations which at times come off too strongly to some clients.

She’s been called the book whisperer.

In a similar article written by Courtney Seiter, Seiter makes her views on BiblioRemedy known and offers more benefits of reading fiction both mentally and physically.

Seiter said reading fiction improves relationships because books become a reality simulator, in other words people see how a character reacts and applies what he/she learned to similar situations in everyday life.

“I guess fiction is imaginary … it helps you imagine what to do in a situation and offers a more creative solution to a problem,” said Samantha Kenyon, Delta College student.

Another example offered in Seiter’s article is more of a two part one, Seiter talks about how it helps with empathy and inclusivity.

Seiter describes empathy as something that comes from imagination. It’s how readers get in the story. Imagining the story is understanding the character, which leads to questions, which in turn opens the mind.

Thus fanfictions are born.

“I think it gives you a better way to adapt to problems … so when you read you get to see the situations and you get to see how other people react to them and then next time you’re in a situation, you’ll have different ways of thinking through it and new ways to think through it that you can apply to your own life,” said Nadine Deckert, Delta College student.

When connecting this to the Delta College campus, Librarian Steve Schermerhorn had a lot to say.

“When we’re talking about the idea of fiction, saving lives, I think of two of the most interesting people I have ever known. One is Michael Cart, he was the director of the Beverly Hills Public Library and he came from very modest circumstances in Indiana before he moved to Los Angeles but he was absolutely dedicated to the idea, particularly for young people at risk, getting access to stories about other young people going through challenges would save lives. I was conceived he was right.  He got to a point in his career as a librarian where he was actually– he gave up being a library director in Beverly Hills because it just wasn’t enough and he got involved as an author and as a promoter of literature to young people,” he said.

“Another person I remember is Professor Robert Chianese, and Professor Chianese would talk about how his parents demanded that he studied engineering in his teen years and they wanted him to grow up and be an engineer. By the time he got to about nineteen years old he started studying as an engineer_ he went back and told his parent he could not do this, he must study literature because it was going to save his life and it was exactly because he was studying stories that gave him insight into the human condition he wasn’t getting from science and he would convey that message to us in class. And I found that very moving.”

Does reading a book in class impact our view of it?

“I think all literary works that way. Through metaphor and… if you trade a story that is engaging but the core ideas of the story are the same almost at anytime or any given situation the things that tie us in and get us excited about a story aren’t just based on things like magic…doesn’t matter whether it’s Dickens or Danielle Steel or the latest author is that people are excited about the basic core issues of the situation are what draw people in … not the icing,” said Schermerhorn.

Though the idea of fiction being the cure to many situations may be true to some, others don’t see the appeal.

“I don’t know about that it’s not like books, it’s real,” said Frida Robles, Delta College Student