The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite by Laura Freeman
(Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018)

The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite

by Laura Freeman

In 2002, at the age of 14, Laura was diagnosed with anorexia. Unhappy with herself, unhappy at school, she had seized the one aspect of her life that seemed amenable to control, and eradicated different foods from her diet one by one – until she was starving. But even at her lowest point, she continued to read, with an appetite that was missing in other ways.

This isn’t a book about an eating disorder, but about being cured, and what happens afterwards: ‘the pouring in of sunlight after more than a decade of darkness and hunger’. Once she’d defeated anorexia, Laura gradually rediscovered her capacity to enjoy food – and life more broadly – by reading. Unfamiliar words in Dickens – a “jorum” of tea, a “pottle” of strawberries – made the meals associated with them more savoury. The wounded Robert Graves’s appreciation of a pair of greengages changed the way she thought about plenty and choice. Virginia Woolf’s own evocation of a disordered mind was as comforting as her painterly descriptions of bread, blackberries and biscuits. Book by book, and meal by meal, Laura developed an appetite and discovered an entire library of reasons to live.

Praise for The Reading Cure:

“Freeman’s celebratory book is about getting better and learning to savour life again by doing what she most loves: reading.” - Ruth Scurr, Spectator

“the power and fascination of Freeman’s narrative – especially with regard to its bookish aspect – is such that you are cheering the author on, in her quest for a diet adequate to accommodate all her particular needs and tastes and eccentricities. The Reading Cure is brave and buoyant, as well as being delightfully written.” - Patricia Craig, Irish Times

“I can’t recommend this book highly enough… Laura’s account of reading as salvation, restorer of “relish”, is… graceful, balanced, elegantly observational, and above all hopeful, positive, and forward looking.” - Cornflower Books

Beautifully written” - Lucy Scholes, Financial Times

The Reading Cure is the work of a true-blue bibliophile, and it’s impossible not to be seduced by Freeman’s love of prose. It’s essential reading not just for those who love food, but words.” - Tanya Sweeney, Belfast Telegraph

Lyrically written, raw and honest, this inspiring book truthfully describes an ongoing struggle with inner demons, but celebrates those hard-won achievements with grace and gladness as books and their invaluable lessons restored Laura’s appetite for life.” - Eithne Farry, Sunday Express


You might not expect a book on anorexia to be a joy to read, yet somehow this is. Laura Freeman is unflinchingly honest about the loneliness and misery of suffering from an eating disorder: the desperate calculations over 'an inch of almond milk', the 'shivering hunger'. But her pleasure in the food of literature – from sweets in Harry Potter to roast goose in Charles Dickens – is infectious. The Reading Cure will speak to anyone who has ever felt pain and found solace in a book. There are no easy epiphanies here, but you are cheering Freeman on, page by page, as she slowly recovers her appetite, both for double-cheese toasties and for life.”
- Bee Wilson
[A] beautifully written hybrid of memoir and literary criticism... This book is about the anguish of anorexia, written by a bookworm unfurling her wings as a writer of considerable power.”
- Cathy Rentzenbrink, The Times
What an enchanting and original book … Beautifully written … An illuminating and highly engaging way to think about all kinds of literature”
- Amanda Craig
A miraculous memoir ... Anyone who has encountered anorexia, either first hand or in someone they love, will recognise this harrowing yet heartening portrait. The Reading Cure is a book for the bookish, for those hungry for self-knowledge, or for those who are just hungry.”
- Daniel Johnson, Standpoint
In its subtle, undogmatic way, The Reading Cure is a tale of joy winning against piety, and the triumph of life over death... both a stimulating argument for the power of fiction as a force for personal change and a wise memoir of anorexia. Moreover, it is never pat, always intelligent, full of enthusiasm, and almost entirely free of self-pity.”
- Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
Gentle in its tone and astute in its insights, the book is a treat... [and provides] sound evidence for the ability of literature to affect life.”
- Ada Coghen, Literary Review
The most moving, most evocative book.”
- Sophia Money-Coutts, The Sunday Telegraph
This book seems to have had the most unanimously glowing reviews of 2018 so far. Quite rightly: Freeman's wonderfully uplifting book is all about how she rediscovered the joy of food, and overcame her anorexia, by escaping into the fictional worlds of Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf.”
- Sunday Times Style
The Reading Cure is a painful exploration of anorexia but also a love letter to the healing power of books written with expert care, talent... and hope. ”
- Francesca Brown, Emerald Street
The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman is devastatingly close to the bone for anyone who has had an eating disorder and knows its power to warp the mind. Gripping, moving, healing, mouthwatering.”
- Ysenda Maxtone Graham