Book Review: Book Therapy by Jordi Nadal
It was my pleasure to be asked to review "Book Therapy" by Jordi Nadal, and it is somewhat unusual in that this book is written by a publisher, I have opted to follow the format he uses as he takes you on a thought provoking tour of wonderful books and authors that have piqued his interest stretching beyond those on typical "must reads". As Theodore Zeldin, the writer of the foreword says "A book is an opportunity to have a conversation with a stranger, a silent conversation which may sometimes continue for years." - let's make that conversation count.
Who is Jordi Nadal?
Jordi Nadal is Publisher, Editor and Founder of Plataforma Editorial in Barcelona. He is a mental and physical health advocate who lectures about the power of reading for wellness in Businesses and Corporations. In 1978 he began to keep a file on each book he read, and now, with "...just under eighteen hundred book reports" he is sharing the authors who have made an impression on his life, tempting us to engage our minds and enhance our overall wellbeing, through the power of the written word.
Scheherazade’s 1001 tales won her life as well as her marriage to the King, whose love for her grew as his enrapture for her stories, and indeed books have long been a literal, and figurative escape; a moment to press pause, and a way we can transport ourselves into the world of our imagination. Psychologically too, they may offer an exploration of our thoughts as we connect with characters and their behaviours, as well as provide a cathartic means of expression as we travel with them through different lifetimes and experiences. In the pandemic too – a book – which can bring an intimate familiarity with the narrator can provide a sense of connection, as well as of course a starting point for discussion in real life as you ask “Did you read…”?
As a personal story – I have always loved to read “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” was my growing up playbook, and even now, I often enjoy a book much more than the film because the images created in my mind still outshine what’s possible on camera. If we can make a difference by the words we speak - as an author it is possible to inspire with what I write. So often people say “If you can’t see it, how can you be it?” In a world reliant on vision – and perhaps a little lazy if we just wait for what others present (after all content comes at us thick and fast on smartphones and smart TVs) – I know I didn’t see role models that looked like me on TV, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t read about them in books, and know in my mind they can exist.
Imagination is not the only benefit. Reading also is another means of keeping our brain active, reminding us we can still learn – and it improves our focus. Reading can improve vocabulary, it can encourage empathy, and provides a starting point for discussion of issues – instead of “asking for a friend” – a discussion about whether labelling the “Cowardly Lion” as Cowardly is bullying might give as much personal insight.
…and what’s more – reading can often inspire you to write – and that’s a whole other opportunity for wellness!
Nadal's "Book Therapy" offers a taster of a diverse and captivating collection of authors and their work which have provided him with lessons in life. If we are looking for a connection, a champion or that companion to have a conversation with - especially when it feels like no-one else may understand, Nadal offers a wonderful starting point.
Fragments of his work
"Books are not in a hurry...Relaxed reading...brings intensity and depth, thereby creating the conditions to achieve a certain serenity."
"Read as an act of freedom. By making a choice we actively shape a way to manage our own lives. Reading good books teaches us to live with the contradictions of existence..."
"The best reading material makes us better. Or less bad."
In "Book Therapy", Nadal presents his reflections (set out in the format of this review) on 33 authors crossing continents and time spans including Chekhov, Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Buddha.
The fragments are a wonderful inclusion because through his quoting of the author, rather than offering an interpretation alone, the reader gets the feel of that author's voice...and certainly for me, this is a huge part of whether I choose to continue a conversation. It is something that I believe many reviewers would benefit from doing as while a recommendation may bring me to a book, sampling the words myself and allowing them to amalgamate with my own thoughts and ideas is what will compel me to purchase.
Nadal's commentary, especially from the perspective of a publisher, for whom books are (as he says himself) his "profession...[and]...mission" is not without value. He is able to contextualise the writing within the social zeitgeists as well as offer little gems of insight into the author, how they were received, and in some cases, what inspired them. Nadal also links his chosen authors to canon and contemporary in a gentle, but persuasive "People who liked this also liked...". But, he is clear he is not writing to recommend for a specific reason, but to connect you with the transformational, and health benefits of reading wisely, widely and well.
I am myself a voracious reader, and have a preference for non-fiction over stories. However, I found myself knowing many of the authors Nadal covers, largely through immersion in the world of community theatre for many years. While I do not share Nadal's passion for Chekov (and I know his plays and short stories), I appreciate - especially in his reflection on his contact with this author (for Nadal it was at a time when his 5 week old daughter - now healthy and proudly reading - was undergoing a medical emergency) just how powerful a book can be. I had the pleasure of interviewing actor Mark Farrelly recently on his sell-out one-man shows who himself has battled mental ill health who said "You always have a champion, it might be a dead author, but you always have someone who gets you." (For him it was Quentin Crisp). A book can cut through even the most extreme sense of loneliness.
While the classics (and many of those reflected on by Nadal including Frankl, Highsmith, CS Lewis, Marcus Aurelius and Buddha) adorn my shelves, for me it was what Nadal may balk at - romance fiction writer Judith Krantz who changed my life with her feisty, spoiled but brilliant (and in many ways unlikable) heroine Maxime Amberville. With little representation for an ambitious 2nd generation South East Asian child growing up in the UK, through Maxi I found my drive, single-minded determination...and 80s fashion sense. Today I am myself a chartered psychologist and published author (of 3 books in the field of wellbeing), with the invitation to offer my thoughts on "Book Therapy". Books for me, as for Nadal, "...uncover our souls."
Other Relevant Fragments
(Of Theodore Zeldin) "After reading his work, we will never be alone again....It is to be part of someone who wants to transcend their own life."
(Of Marguerite Yourcenar) "The almost absolute power speaks with insight, wisdom, love and an elegiac sadness of the world..."
(Of Francois de la Rochefoucauld) "Reading it is an examination of our innocence. It makes it easier to know how to take sides, because he, although never showing it, allows you, at least, to understand the boundaries between right and wrong with increasing clarity."
(Of Stefan Zweig) "To read Zweig is to understand applied geography and history. It is to bring to life the time and place in which we live. It is to understand that the world is not only ours."
Certainly, in "Book Therapy", Nadal offers us 33 opportunities to do just that.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt