Ask The Agony Aunts: January Blues

17th Jan 2013


With a new year comes new literary conundrums and the resident agony aunts are here to help! This week they tackle the problem of January blues, and how to use literature to rid us of our gloom.

“Now that Christmas and New Year are over and we’re all back at work, it’s like the holiday season never happened. It’s safe to say I’m suffering from the January blues.

I want to turn to some literature to cheer me up, but my bookcase seems to be full of depression and deception. Can you recommend anything to cheer me up on this dull January day?”


There are two ways to approach the ‘first book of the year’ conundrum, either go with the mood and read something as ridiculously depressing as possible, or put on a smile and read something hilarious.

Personally I favour the former; last year I read Portia De Rossi‘s memoir Unbearable Lightness which made me want to shoot Hollywood’s expectations of women’s bodies in the face.

This year I got Bidisha‘s Beyond The Wall: Writing a Path Through Palestine for Christmas which I’m sure will make me have similar feelings albeit with a different target.

Happy books, happy books… Not a massive fan, to be honest. Reading should make you experience all emotions and happiness is one that is probably the hardest to describe in print.

Books that make you laugh I can recommend by the dozen; Tina Fey, Caitlin Moran (I know…), Dodie Smith‘s biography Dear Dodie by Valerie Grove, Jenn Ashworth‘s A Kind of Intimacy (if your sense of humour is as twisted as mine, anyway), Miranda Hart, Soulless by Gail Carriger, early Lisa Jewell… all of these have made me chortle unnecessarily on the bus.

If you really want cheering up though may I recommend treating yourself to a really pretty book? Persephone Books, who do the forgotten classics in grey jackets, are now doing a six book subscription for £60, where they send you a pre-selected book each month.

The books, which include Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s Making of a Marchioness, which was adapted on ITV over Christmas, are just beautiful. They cover a wide variety of writers and issues and would make a lovely gift to yourself perfect to kick start the year properly with a bit of self love.

The Notorious BMD:
Book Elf appears to have covered front and backwards the Happy/Not-So-Happy options available. But in an inspired moment of blue sky, outside the box, escape the cube thinking it’s occurred to me that maybe what you need is a New Years Resolution book?

By that I mean a book that’s the equivalent of wholemeal toast and a 6am jog for you brain. Something you can simper with self-righteousness over before descending back down to the 12-shot latte-lyf.

Here’s a list of books everyone is meant to read and yet no one does read, the recent prize nominees and the books that are so long you’ll feel like you’ve run a marathon just by reading the press release;

The Uncrackable Classics – Middlemarch by George Elliot, Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell, Evelina by Fanny Burney

The No-Picnic Newbies – Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Swimming Home by Deborah LevyState of Wonder by Ann Patchett

The Laborious Long-Reads – Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, all the Harry Potters in one go by J.K. Rowling

If none of the above appeal head to the childhood classics; Malory Towers and crumpets on a cold January morning are far more restorative than Nicorette patches, green tea and good intentions.

Do you have a question for our Agony Aunts? Let us know in the comments below. If you have any recommendations to help cure the new year sadness then leave your suggestions below, and let us know what you thought of our aunts answers!

Image via hanspoldoja