It might sound crazy, but a bibliotherapist could be what you need to change your life.
Being a book lover, visiting a bibliotherapist may be one of the coolest and most exciting things I have ever experienced.
Before I met Sydney’s Lucy Pearson, I had no clue what a bibliotherapist was, and once I found out, I realised I was missing out on something life-changing.
Lucy is genuinely a walking, talking, breathing library and a bookstore, which is so impressive, even to people who are massive book lovers. But if you are a book lover or would love to get into reading, I’m about to put you on to something.
To put it in the simplest of terms, a bibliotherapist is a therapist, but instead of spoken advice and talking about what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you and just typically what’s been going on in your life, she gives you solutions, spiritual growth and learnings through book recommendations.
It’s a therapeutic approach, recommending books and other forms of literature to help address your issues and life changes instead of taking a traditional therapeutic route.
During the session, I got to chat about all my reading interests and loathes, and she analysed my biblio needs.
Before the meeting, I filled out a quick quiz. It asked questions like who my favourite authors are, my favourite books, what genres I avoided and if I had any significant life events happening within the next three months.
The issues I was hoping she could help with were stubbornness, mainly through routines, feelings of inferiority, particularly not feeling ready in a career industry while I feel others around me are growing, and guidance with relationships.
The feeling of inferiority is through not feeling ready in a career industry while I feel others around me are growing. I want to know how I can prepare for this and combat feelings of not doing or being enough.
As for guidance with relationships, I am someone who prioritises platonic over romantic, and those kinds of relationships are extremely important to me. People around me often feel the opposite and really value their romantic relationships, and I would love some guidance on this. As someone who connects and resonates with books, this was a perfect opportunity.
Some of my favourite authors are James Baldwin, Ottessa Moshfegh, Deborah Levy, and Patti Smith, and I was excited to get similar recommendations.
As for my favourite books, Giovanni’s Room, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Girls and The Secret History are some of them.
Lucy used my favourite authors and books to come up with a list of new books I could turn to for insights and support around my current emotional challenges.
As we got into the recommendations, Lucy mentioned that most came from my top books, significant life events and my interest in journalism.
What was only supposed to be four recommendations ended up with a few small extra ones, so it was a great conversation.
I could honestly take endless recommendations from Lucy. I’ve never heard of most of the recommendations, which is refreshing as I love being introduced to new authors and books.
Some elements of my favourite books were isolated that went into these recommendations, like the gothic genre, camp and journalism.
My main four book prescriptions were:
- Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales
- Valentino by Natalia Ginzburg
- The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier
- Rebecca By Daphne Du Maurier
It is evident that I love classics, and once I read these recommendations, I was more excited than ever as most of the recommendations were classics.
However, to change up my routine, Lucy asked about what I wanted to get into, and I mentioned that I would love to read more non-fiction because my taste in books is mostly fictitious.
We chatted about my love for journalism, and instantly, she prescribed the biography Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales, one of Australia’s most well-known journalists and authors.
One of my significant life events is that I am about to get my degree in journalism. After any degree, it’s normal to feel a little unready and fresh in the industry, especially in a male-dominated one, so Lucy recommended Any Ordinary Day to provide some guidance with my experience in the journalism industry.
The book follows Leigh’s investigation of how ordinary people endure the unthinkable. Reading about people’s stories from a well-known female journalist will definitely help me learn about people’s experiences and grow my aspirations, so I’m looking forward to reading this one.
The following recommendation, Valentino, mainly came from my love of Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. Similarly to Giovanni’s Room, Valentino centres around a queer character. This book has a heavy discussion of class, social expectations, wealth and marriage, which I am always interested in reading about to see how different authors write about it. I wanted to explore more queer literature, so this recommendation couldn’t have been more perfect.
Giovanni’s Room, being my favourite book,is one that I have a close relationship with. I associate it with strong emotions like lust, sadness and trust. I love a good relationship-based book, which is important in terms of my challenges with relationships. I also first read it during a chaotic but memorable time in my life, so I would love to have another book to remind me of it, even if it’s as sad as James Baldwin’s work.
The exploration of the themes in Valentino makes an exciting read, especially the relationships. Considering one of my issues is guidance with relationships, I really hope to learn from reading this book.
We got into a conversation about Daphne Du Maurier, and I soon learned Lucy is an admirer of her work. Daphne Du Maurier is an English novelist, biographer and playwright known for her haunting and atmospheric novels. I had heard of and watched film adaptations of Rebecca but have yet to really reach for the book. From Lucy’s own personal taste and my preferences in books, she knew it had to be in my recommendations, as well as Maurier’s other book, The Scapegoat.
One of my main struggles that goes beyond my reading is being stuck in a routine and unable to break out of habits due to stubbornness.
My favourite classics could be more eventful, so she recommended Rebecca. Usually, it’s not something I would reach for, but this was a perfect recommendation with my interest in the gothic genre and the need to break habits. I have already started reading it, and with elements of jealousy and dark and unsettling relationships, I am already hooked.
The Scapegoat follows two characters, John and Jean, one English and the other French. They meet in a railway station, realise they have an uncanny resemblance, and spend the next few hours together. When John fell into a drunken stupor and realised Jean had stolen his identity and disappeared. John steps into the Frenchman’s shoes and faces some perplexing roles like an owner of a chateau, director of a failing business and a master of nothing.
Lucy recommended this based on her own interest in Maurier and realising our similar taste in books. But also through the themes of identity, self and belonging.
As mentioned, one of my other current issues is inferiority, feeling unprepared through lack of experience, while I see others around me grow.
The book follows a protagonist living by their wits when thrust into an unfamiliar world. As the character follows a range of new and different lives, his experience grows, and he starts experimenting with his sense of belonging and self, but with a dark twist. I look forward to the book guiding me in self-discovery with a more thriller and exciting vibe.
Maybe we got too carried away, but I was fortunate to get a few more quick recommendations from Lucy, like A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, a huge book for emotional maturity, as it explores different forms of trauma.
Other suggestions like The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner were decided from my history with her books like The Hard Crowd, and the memoir Places I Stopped on the Way Home by Meg Fee is a recommendation based on career guidance and relationship focus.
I asked Lucy about the current reading trends if she found that people were reading more or less, and how reading culture is changing. When she started bibliotherapy in the lockdown of 2020, she found more people coming to her; people wanted tips to change their reading habits.
Lucy said reading in the modern world has transformed, becoming more accessible to people, and they’re reading more than ever. Social media is constantly changing and creating new ways to enjoy books, such as BookTok, YouTube book reviews and celebrity book clubs, which are continually evolving.
Lucy went into great detail about her prescriptions, making me want to listen for hours.
Apart from being a bibliotherapist, she is the founder and editor of The Literary Edit, originally known as The Unlikely Bookworm, an online platform where she ‘talks about all things bookish and stylish travel with a literary twist.’
Lucy is also a well-established bookworm with an impressive passion for amazing books, independent bookstores and literary festivals. She often writes book reviews, bookish features and literary travel.
It was a fascinating experience, and I would recommend it to anyone. It is a perfect, fun, and interesting choice for book lovers looking for guidance through books to help with discoveries, significant life moments and emotions.
Lucy’s bibliotherapy sessions are $150, and you can book by visiting here.