Can Reading Really Improve Your Mental Health?

So how can books re-balance the self? Well, above all, as the panel agreed, they provide a form  of escapism that is more intense than in any other artform. “With a film or TV show, you’re given the visuals whereas with a novel you’re inventing them yourself, so it’s actually much more of a powerful event, because you’re involved,” as Berthaud noted. Wheatle offered a powerful example of the transportative effect of fiction when he recalled discovering Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn while living in a children’s home in South London. “It was quite brutal, and so [the book] was a place where I could escape my everyday turmoil. At least, come 9 or 9.30pm, I could hide under the covers with my little torch and go through those pages, and imagine I was floating down the Mississippi River, coming across steamboats and making my own decisions about where I was going to eat and rest.”

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