Books Can Make You Happier

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The year 2016 has been the year that bad things happen. Every day.

For most people on a personal level it is business as usual but for the world it has been a catastrophic loss of talented people and liberal values that has rocked many of us to the core.

A bookshop in Massachusetts put a sign on an A-board that has gone viral declaring 'Post-Apocalyptic Fiction has been moved to our Current Affairs section'.

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Indeed the unthinkable has happened and over the past week I have been inundated with requests from friends of books that can be a respite from the horrorshow that is our news.

We may be trying to put on a brave face otherwise we would all be crying or hiding under the duvet; but those bills still need to be paid and we need to eat so off to work we go.

My solution to any source of unhappiness, anxiety or despair can usually be remedied with a good book.

When I ran my bookshop Dialogue Books in Berlin my favourite moments were giving Book Doctor sessions.

The reader would be given a questionnaire before the session so I could find out which books they liked, and just as importantly which books they didn't like. I would also ask when and why they wanted to read.

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Looking back now, most people wanted to escape from something and lose themselves in the fictional lives of others. Once the questionnaire was filled in the reader would come to the bookshop and I would go through my list of ten to fifteen books I had chosen based on their answers and they would usually go away with six titles.

It was a hugely satisfying and rewarding experience and as that reader would finish each book they would come back for another and slowly I would be building up a library that they would hopefully keep for life, books to be cherished, books to make you think, stories that made you happy and tales to share and to return to throughout their lives.

When I was a child I would always be found reading, as an adult I read so much that when I think of scenarios I can't remember if they happened in real life or a book.

I truly believe reading is the reason I am able to empathise with others and also see the true capabilities of humans beings good and bad, because of all the varieties of characters and their escapades that I have encountered in stories.

Multiple studies concur with this as it has been proven that reading activates the parts of the brain that instructs us to relate to people and have new perspectives on the world.

Scientists say reading helps with creativity: pictures and images are created in your mind which literally expands your brain.

It's been proven that the more you read the more your vocabulary, and writing skills are improved. Reading is also cheap, easy to do anywhere at anytime and you can fit a book and e-reader in most handbags.

Here are some books I believe will get you out of groundhog day:-

The Twisty Love Story - The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Boy meets girl. Boy meets girl again. And again. Three different takes on what life could be like for Jim and Eva after a chance meeting at university, which will leave you wondering about the roads not taken.

Music Makes the World Go Round - The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

Ross explores the history of the 20th century by giving it a soundtrack, looking at how music survived under dictators to more modern experimentation.

The Life We All Wish We Had - I Will Never Write my Memoirs by Grace Jones

The people, the places, the parties; Jones proves that she really is a superstar in a life with no dull moments. Go along for the ride and see what it's like after the live show.

Beyond Humans We Have Nature - Wildwood:A journey through trees by Roger Deakin

A loving and knowledgeable travel book – of sorts – that goes from Suffolk to Australia through its trees. Will make you look more carefully when you're going through the park, and think that what is dangerous for trees, is maybe dangerous for us as well.

The Alternative Love Story - Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

It's hard to have quality time with your lover when your wife keeps getting in the way, but somehow Barry manages it, conducting his affair with another man while Carmel tells the tale.

A Journey of Discovery in a Different Time - The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

De Waal follows the curious story of the mini animal figurines – Japanese netsuke – he has inherited and their complicated history in reaching him that takes him across Europe over decades.

Thoughts From A Powerful Woman - Changing my Mind by Zadie Smith

It will come as no surprise that Smith thinks a lot about what she reads, and the literary essays are excellent, but the real treasure here is her love of film. She writes with such enthusiasm and joy that it will become impossible to resist her recommendations.

Another Planet We'd Love to Inhabit - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Want to know the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, everything? Then wait until you read this book and continue to quote it for the rest of your life.

Heartwarming and Hilarious - Where'd you Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette is a mother, a wife, and a genius. When it all gets too much, she disappears, and it is left to her devoted daughter and others to find her. This is a modern and funny mystery told through the documents that litter our lives: emails, letters and even a transcript of a TED talk.

Classic Capers - Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Jim is the hero you love to hate and hate to love. He is a second-rate academic going from one disaster to another, and filled with vile dislike for most people, but still manages to make us laugh even in his most hopeless moments.

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