In my Christmas stocking, this year was a copy of the unusual and highly intriguing The Novel Cure. In the madness of Christmas, I didn’t get a chance to curl up with it. This has turned out to be a good thing. This is very much a book to dip in and out of when you want or need to.

The general premise is that you look up whatever you are currently feeling (an affliction or otherwise). The book will prescribe a novel (or a list of ten) which are suitable, and tell you why.

Too busy

So you look up a familiar issue such as being too busy. Recommended for this ailment is The Thirty-Nine Steps. The ten best novels to read after a nightmare features the Wind in the Willows. Two of my favourites pop up in the “books to read on a train” list. They are, of course, Murder on the Orient Express and the Railway Children.

The one that struck me the most was the description of humans and daemons in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, prescribed as a counter to loneliness. The series is one of my all-time favourites and has got me through several difficult periods.

Also addressed are a series of “reading ailments”. From feeling overwhelmed by all your books to not having enough time to read, they make a delightful interlude and will ring true with any lover of words.

As you can see, my fluffy cat Clover has made herself extremely comfortable across the rest of my notes and my keyboard, and I don’t have the heart to move her, but the essence is that while I feel rather less well-read than I did (I’ve read hardly any of the books they recommend), I’m excited by a whole stack of new books to read in the world.

What ailment would you cure with a book?