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Credit crunch cure

Years ago, before everyone thought they had so much moolah they ought to rush out and buy single-use DVD players, iPod Skiffles and designer kitchen bins, there was the humble book. Now that some of the glittering opulence of the 21st century has been stripped away by the credit crunch, books are still here for us. They're a simple pleasure to entertain us, enrich our lives, and help us realise that money isn't everything.

Books are cheap. Granted they cost more than they once did; but there are still amazing bargains to be had, especially online. Choose carefully, and you can get a week or two's spellbinding entertainment for the price of a large glass of Pinot Grigio.

Reading gives much longer-term pleasure than the instant gratification of buying stuff. Far from disposable, the ideas in a great novel can make you into a more rounded, interesting person, shaping and colouring the way you see the world. And once you've finished, a book sits handsomely on your shelf—to be treasured, reread or dipped into, without ever needing upgrading.

And if you're really fretting about money, reading is proven to reduce stress, and is by far the best way to escape the muddle of the world for a while.

For these reasons (plus ease of gift-wrapping) books also make the perfect credit crunch presents. If Christmas is looking a bit leaner than usual this year, don't forget how much you're giving someone when you give them a book.

So if you're feeling the pinch, try not to worry. Tightening the purse strings doesn't necessarily equate to misery. It means a chance to spend a little more time enjoying some great books.