Books for Sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Elizabeth Bastos

Staff Writer

Elizabeth Bastos has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and writes at her blog 19th-Century Lady Naturalist. Follow her on Twitter: @elizabethbastos

This is the time of year when I won’t be found without a pit crew of a full spectrum lightbox, Vitamin D supplements, and a good book. It’s the only way to trudge through the grim gray slush of of Mid-Atlantic midwinter.

Hitting the arrow into the heart of the matter is William Styron’s Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. The novelist was stricken with depression in his 60s and his chronicle is to too many, familiar. He strikes that gong of monstrous ugly sludge that is the “illness narrative.” Read it and understand deeply, empathically, this line from Dante, “In the middle of the journey of our life / I found myself in a dark wood.” And then turn your light box up to ELEVEN.

Wendell Berry wrote, “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light./To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,/and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, / and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.” I’ve taken this poem to mean that I should learn about owls. Owls of the United States and Canada: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior by Wayne Lynch has been my guide.

Since it is so dark so early and the trees are barren of leaves I’ve become quite a good owler (when life hands you lemons and darkness, make lemonade and go owling, right?).

Then, add froth. Gaiety. Absurdity. It will be spring again. “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind…” And while it’s not here yet, go in your imagination to Italy and southern France with Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun and Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Watch the movie Jean de Flourette just for the soundtrack which is dry Mediterranean sunny, summer insects and warm breeze.


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