It’s official: this last Monday, the third in January – Black Monday, it’s called – is deemed the most depressing day of the year. Let’s not dwell on the whys (we’ll all have our reasons), but instead acknowledge the judgement and move on. This year, help is at hand. Shelf Help to be more precise. Shelf Help is a collection of twelve books – fiction and serious non-fiction – specially chosen by journalist Alex Clark and published by Vintage, that can make us feel better mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically (readers are encouraged to read the list in sequence, one book per month), thus providing a staunch literary alternative to the waves of flimsy and faddish self-help books which arrive every January as reliably as Black Monday itself. Oh, but the list is good. Even reading the titles is cheering. The series starts this month with Stephen Grosz’s bestseller, The Examined Life (Grosz is a psychoanalyst and the book is a series of fascinating case studies that he has collected over 25 years, which read like short stories). If you haven’t read this book, read it now. Its insights make you feel better about life in all kinds of ways. February’s book is Jeanette Winterson’s wonderful and funny memoir, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? – a life enhancing book if ever there was one. The list continues with titles including Richard Mabey’s Nature Cure, Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree, Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with the Amber Eyes, John Williams’s Stoner and Julian Barnes’s Nothing to be Frightened of. Each book is a gem on its own, but together they form a perfect capsule library containing some of the secrets of life. To see the complete list, go to Vintage’s website, where there are also details of the Shelf Help talks taking place throughout the year at King’s Place in King’s Cross. The next event is with author Tim Parks (his Teach Us to Sit Still is June’s book) on 7th April, and worth booking for now.