Kevin Woster’s essay on his Divorce Bike (that’s what he calls his 30-year-old two-wheel trail machine) includes an inspiring note on the importance of reading books—real books:
There were no self-help books involved in my passage through divorce and its emotional aftermath. I tried a few of them at the advice of friends and found them to be mostly unreadable and almost entirely unhelpful. I’m sure they were useful to others, however.
I found other books that managed to be helpful without calling themselves that. Poetry books. Books of essays. Compelling novels. Well-crafted stories of trauma and loss and recovery and redemption, sometimes told without mentioning trauma and loss and recovery and redemption.
And there were poems and essays about lost loved ones and found strength, amazing flowers and postcards to friends, herding cattle and fixing fence. You know, stuff that really can help you, if you’re paying attention.
Stanley Kunitz helped me. Mary Oliver helped me. Ted Kooser helped me. Linda Hasselstrom helped me.
I received page after page of counseling through literature, sometimes while absorbed in wild places with a fishing rod nearby. At other times I was alone at home or alone in public, slumped in a booth of a late-night cafe where the lonely and lost tend to gather to peer down into porcelain cups and consider what went wrong [Kevin Woster, “Pedaling Down the Road to Recovery, and Stopping to Fish Along the Way,” SDPB: On the Other Hand, 2019.10.04].
Self-help books—a genre whose very name entails a contradiction (if it were self-help, you’d write it yourself) can’t be much good. Do yourself some real good: read a good book.