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10 reads that can help us find Time to Talk 

Written by Rachael Norris, 6th February 2020

We share our list of novels and poems that can support mental wellbeing for #TimeToTalk Day 2020.



Time to Talk Day, which takes place on Thursday 6 February, is an initiative led by social movement, Time to Change, which encourages everyone to talk about mental health and change lives.

The list of novels and poems published by The Reader draws upon its experience of helping people across the UK to live well in their communities through an idea known as Shared Reading.

Founded in 2002, the Shared Reading movement in the UK is powered by over 1,000 trained volunteers who lead reading groups in their local communities every week. The groups are free to attend and open to anyone, and provide a kind and welcoming space for people of all ages and life situations to talk, laugh and share great literature.

The list of novels and poems recommended by The Reader for Time to Talk Day are:

My Left Foot, Christy Brown

Born with cerebral palsy, Christy Brown was unable to use any part of his body other than his left foot. This is a book about the challenges and pain of being different, and about the feelings that can be brought on once you start to become aware of this. But it is also a wonderful book for celebrating those moments in which we make some progress, however small that might be.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

'Do you think I am an automaton? - a machine without feelings?'
This is the voice of a woman of courage, spirit and passion, whose story is one of straining to find a way to not be limited by the circumstances that life has created for her.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, Jeanette Winterson

'Going mad takes time. Getting sane takes time.' This is a daring, brutally honest memoir in which Winterson confronts the places inside herself which have been most damaged, but also finds a way out, and into love.

My Name is Why, Lemn Sissay

In this memoir  with a message – about growing up in care and finding hope, determination and creativity –  British poet Lemn Sissay opens up a world of pain and resilience, his story illuminating the lives of many thousands of others, his flourishing survival offering hope in the bleakest situations. Sissay reflects on his childhood, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home.

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

In a group run in partnership with Age UK, readers found in this book 'inspiration to carry on in the face of adversity'. And in his lonely adventure battling the elements, the old man in this story is a figure with whom many of us may be able to identify.

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

'I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.'
This is a book packed with an array of different characters, events and experiences, but through it all, we see Pip working to unravel the meaning of who he has become and of what has happened to him.

Dandelion Wine, including 'The Happiness Machine', by Ray Bradbury

What does it take to make us happy? In this novel, made up of a series of short stories, Ray Bradbury traces those moments which, as time passes, seem to most stand out to us as worth holding on to.

No Worst There is None, Gerard Manley Hopkins

A service user at an NHS trust asked for this to be read at a meeting with a group of directors. He said, simply: ‘I find it helps to see it written out like that, in order, when I am feeling very bad. It helps.’

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.

I Am, John Clare

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept

A Little, Aloud, The Reader

An anthology of prose and poetry, highlighting human situations where people might find themselves in a new place, or in which generations meet, and sometimes clash.

Jane Davis, The Reader’s Founder and Director, said: “We all know how important it is for our mental wellbeing that we connect with others and understand our emotions but, as with many things, taking the first step can be difficult. The Reader believes that great literature is a powerful tool that can help to get these conversations started.

“The texts on this list are diverse in nature, but what they all have in common is their ability to make us say: ‘I never knew anyone but me felt that!’ and when we share them in the company of others, they can help us to express how we’re feeling and create a deeper sense of connection.”

In a survey carried out by the charity in 2019, people attending Shared Reading groups across the UK reported that:

  • the reading sessions ‘make me feel better’ – 91%
  • they’ve made new friends in the group – 84%
  • the group ‘helps me to relate to others in a deeper way’ - 83%
  • ‘what we read in the group helps me to understand myself better’ – 72%

To find your nearest Shared Reading group, visit our Find a Group page.

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