Published: 17 December 2013

Reading for good health this Christmas

Madeline Smart

When treating mental illnesses such as depression and dementia, it is often thought that prescription pills or therapy is the answer; we rarely consider the significance of a good book.

The University of Liverpool has launched a collaborative project, investigating the importance of reading on improving serious health conditions.

The new research Centre, a joint venture between the School of English and the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, will examine how reading can benefit the health and wellbeing of global communities.

The School of the Arts Student Press team (Gee Canning, Jack Graysmark and Fred Johnson) asked students and staff about their favourite books to read during the festive period, exploring what makes these stories so enticing at this time of year.

Madelaine Smart (pictured above), Masters student in Medieval Literature, on Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy:

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally a comedy series broadcast on Radio 4, which was later adapted into five novels published between 1979 and 1992. Essentially, it revolves around a highly eccentric and inventive travel guide of the same name.

“Reading them always reminds me of listening to the radio series when I used to walk in or catch the bus to college and university. They made me laugh so much I forgot to be cold! I like to read them when I am stressed and need to relax. They’re very good at cheering me up. That’s why I like them I suppose; they appeal to my sense of humour.”

Ben Griffith

Ben Griffith, Philosophy, on Alexandre Dumas’, The Count of Monte Cristo:

“Edmund Dantes is in a good place at the beginning of the book as he receives a promotion to Captain of Le Pharaon.  On the eve of his wedding to the beautiful Mercedes, however, Dantes is framed for treason.

“I love how exhilarating it is; Dumas throws you into a tale of swashbuckling excitement. It is a classic revenge tale, tinged with suffering.  The novel, at more than 800 pages long can be quite daunting, but it really is the perfect story for escaping the harsh winter weather into a world of adventure and romance.”

Liam Hale

Liam Hale, Philosophy and Psychology student, on Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot:

“Salem’s Lot focuses on Ben Mears, a writer who returns to his childhood town after twenty five years. He later discovers that the residents are all becoming vampires!

 “The book is very atmospheric. It is set in a small town called Jerusalem’s Lot, and being from a small town myself, it’s easy to get immersed in the book’s setting. King is a master of characterisation – they all bring something different to the table, which is why it is so difficult for the reader when King disposes of so many of his lead characters.

“The dark, cold winter nights are a perfect backdrop for sinking your teeth into this engaging and unnerving vampire story.”

Dr Sarah Peverley

Dr Sarah Peverley, lecturer in the School of English, on Simon Armitage’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:

“Every time I read this book I see something different in it. When I read it as an undergraduate, it was one of the first things I’d read that really brought all the little evocative details of Medieval England to life, from the tinkling of the bells on Gawain’s horse’s bridle to the sparks that fly off its hooves as it rides into the court.

“It humanises Gawain which is really rare for a medieval romance; normally the hero is untouchable, like an unshakeable thing that always wins. Whereas in Gawain and the Green Knight, whoever wrote it originally in the 14th century, really brings his psychology to life, so you get little insights into all the workings of his mind and his own fears. You get to see what’s worrying him and you don’t get that normally in a romance.”

For more information about the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems visit the website at:

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