Ask the Bibliotherapist
Q: What is Book Therapy?
A: Book therapy or bibliotherapy is an age-old and time-tested method for using the power of reading to support better mental health and wellbeing, whilst remaining a cost-effective form of therapy.
This blog post provides more detail: Bibliotherapy - The Magical Healing Quality of Literature
You might also find our online training course in Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health helpful.
Q: What is bibliotherapy?
A: Bibliotherapy, book therapy, or bibliocounselling as explained above, uses the therapeutic power of storytelling to heal.
Q: How can Book Therapy help me?
A: Book Therapy can help you in a number of ways. What kind of issues can be treated with Book Therapy explores the ways in which Book Therapy can help. Self awareness, empathy and mental well-being are just some of the benefits that the therapy offers. The Benefits of Book Therapy offers more insight.
You might also find Book Therapy's online course on Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health helpful in understanding how bibliotherapy works, self-prescribe bibliotherapy as well as train as a bibliotherapist and learn the art of bibliotherapy. In addition, our book Bibliotherapy: The Healing Power of Reading offers detailed history of bibliotherapy, client stories on how books have helped them heal as well as a variety of reading lists across a range of mental health themes capturing fiction, non-fiction and poetry book recommendations.
Q: How does personalised reading work?
A: A personalised reading list is a curated book list based on your individual preferences and needs.
It can include fiction, non-fiction, poetry and philosophy depending on your preference; and can be classics or modern literature, children's books, best-sellers or little-known but powerful books, authored centuries or decades ago or hot-off-the-press, produced by a diverse set of writers and artists.
The books prescribed can serve as literary prescriptions for specific predicaments (for example, bereavement, friendship breakups, a ticking biological clock, fatherhood, redundancy, regret etc) or they could be a travel prescription for a holiday read (take a peek at our book prescription for New York) or fulfill individual interests.
You simply answer a few questions at the following link. I’ll email you a customised reading list of 7 - 10 book recommendations within 48 hours of purchase or your money back.
It's one of the best investments you can make. The book prescriptions also serve as great gifts for book lovers and avid readers of all ages. Simply select ‘Gift Instantly’ above and a bespoke book prescription will be emailed to the gift recipient when it's ready.
Q: Can reading help with anxiety?
A: Reading is a great way to reduce anxiety - it offers a form of escapism and reduces our heart rate and breathing as we relax upon focusing on the words in front if us. Through connecting with characters on the page, we often empathise with them, teaching us to be more compassionate towards ourselves and others which can be an antidote for anxiety. Reading about other people's difficulties often offers cathartic relief for our own problems.
Refer to the following book prescription on anxiety for two of my favourite books on managing anxiety.
Q: Can reading decrease anxiety?
A: Yes - see response above.
Q: Does reading relax the mind?
A: Reading is a form of meditation/mindfulness. With the right book in hand, it most certainly relaxes the mind.
Q: What can you read to calm anxiety?
A: Refer to the following book prescription on anxiety for two of my favourite books on managing anxiety.
Q: What is writing therapy?
A: Writing therapy qualifies as an 'expressive therapy', where patients use the written word is to reveal their feelings and throughs and reflect on these to bring self awareness, healing and relief. The goal is to reduce emotional trauma. Writing therapeutically can work on an individual level or at a group level. It's the most helpful for people who are anxious and struggling to disclose these in-person, face-to-face or in an intimate setting.
Writing there is very effective in working with grief or bereavement issues as well as abuse. Forms of writing include crafting letters (that may or may not be sent to the intended recipients) coupled with visualised responses or conversation from the recipient to promote healing, clarity in thinking and coping strategies.
You might also enjoy this articles on the power of writing as therapy and writing poetry can be so powerful as a form of therapy.
Q: Why is writing therapeutic?
A: See response above.
Q. How do I train as a bibliotherapist/learn more about bibliotherapy training?
A. You can find out more on our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course: https://www.booktherapy.io/products/bibliotherapy-literature-and-mental-health
Q: What books should everyone read?
A: Whilst Classics are usually recommended as the books that everyone should read, there is no clear-cut list. Rather, each book should be carefully selected based on a person's interest or need and whether the book fulfills their needs.
Q: Does a self-help book count as therapy?
A: A self-help book can certainly count as therapy. Fiction books too can count as therapy too. Depending on your preference for fiction or non-fiction books.
Reading is more than just voraciously devouring words as we hurriedly rush through the chapters of an engaging J K Rowling book for example. It is the connection that we feel with the characters, the identification with those characters, the sense of comfort and the feeling of being understood.
A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology confirmed that when people read about an experience the same part of the brain lights up as having experienced it themselves. This suggests that people who read a lot, tend to empathise better with others, and are able to accurately predict what someone else is thinking or feeling.
As Virginia Woolf so aptly put it: "when we read we are in perpetual union with another."
Whilst reading may also give us a temporary but refreshing escape from the harsh realities of life, it enables short meditative pauses akin to small doses of medicine for daily stresses.
Increasing empathy and self-awareness, reading promotes mental well-being, acting as a catalyst for positive behaviour change.
A prescribed/curated reading list (which I call a ) can help you find the most relevant books for you for your current situation. In addition a (essentially a book therapist) can be very helpful too as you can reflect on the book with the therapist who can counsel and coach you in the right direction. This blog article might help:
Q: Which books have inspired you the most?
A: There are so many books out there that are inspiring in different ways.
Wearing my bibliotherapist (book consultant/therapist) hat, it really depends on your individual interests and needs.
The two books that have really made an impact on me and many of my clients have been Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Both these made it into my top 13 books that you need to read in 2018. You can read the reviews here along with the other 11 books that you may find fascinating too:
Currently it’s this one:
It’s the book you need to read if you want to change the course of a difficult relationship with a loved one or a work colleague to one that’s more equal, effective and open.
The effectiveness of our personal and professional relationships and the level of respect we command are dependent on the effectiveness of the boundaries we set.
Q: What is your favourite novel set in a single day?
A: Great question! There are a few surprisingly :)
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- The Uncertain Hour by Jesse Browner
- Saturday by Ian McEwan
- The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
Q: What are the 3 most important non-religious, non-political books ever written?
A: Whilst there are a number of them, these three are significant:
The author, an Auschwitz Nazi death camp survivor, illustrates, that through suffering, we find meaning and the drive to keep us going. Our goal in life is not to attain pleasure or power but to ‘discover meaning’ and it is the pursuit of this meaning that provides the purpose of life.
Specifically, the book advocates finding meaning in three different ways: through making ourselves useful to others, through unconditionally loving others and through suffering.
A significant book that continues to shine its wisdom whatever your circumstance.
A captivating take on mythology and how they explain human nature and the psyche. All cultures have similar mythology and stories that act as metaphors for human psychology and behaviour.
As a race we all ultimately have one story, a monomyth, with elements of creation and destruction. For example, there are many parallels between Greek and Hindu myths centred around similar story lines. The Hero With A Thousand Faces brings together mythology across the full spectrum of human cultures, ancient and modern, ranging from Hindu, Greek, Jewish, Maori, Buddhist, Romans amongst others.
A fascinating examination of the human psyche, including our natural desires to explain our inner world through the power of stories.
Banned in Russia, this classic was the inspiration for many of Mahatma Gandhi’s values and way of life. Often labelled the book that influenced him the most, the book emphasises morals, compassion, social justice and equality, particularly for the working class and the poor. It shines a light on humanity and its capacity to impact society for the better.
Raw yet radical writing that is not afraid to question outdated philosophies. A brilliant book that will keep you thinking long after you have read it.
Q: Are self-help books effective? What are some self-help books that are truly helpful?
Literature in itself can be hugely effective and therapeutic - even if it not considered self-help. There are some wonderful fiction books that can be considered therapeutic.
I have list of A-z book prescriptions here that encompass all genres (fiction and nonfiction) dealing with anything from anxiety, abandonment, anger to bereavement, loneliness, career crisis, becoming a parent etc:
There is a list for children as well covering things such as emotional regulation and bullying:
In terms of those books classified as self-help that are super helpful for every day life, I would suggest:
ALL of the Zig Ziglar books - the godfather of self-help literature.
Where to Draw the Line by Anne Katherine about setting appropriate boundaries.
The Book You Wish Your Parents Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) by prominent British psychotherapist Philippa Perry
Hope those give you a good start, if you need more or are looking for something specific, feel free to get in touch at
Q: Where can I find literary guides?
A: Book Therapy publishes literary guides and you can find them all here.
Q: I am looking for some short non-fiction to read, less than 15 minutes.
A: Book Therapy Shorts or Literary Guides? Both are designed with the busy reader in mind compressing a variety of non-fiction into 15-minute digests. Here's a full list. Check them out and save yourself both time and money.
Book Therapy Shorts
- A Short History of Elon Musk: The Genius Billionaire's Pursuit of World Domination
- A Short History of Warren Buffett: Learn about Warren Buffett's Way of Life, His Investment Principles and The Secret to His Success
- A Short History of Michelle Obama: A Heart-Warming Mini-Biography
- A Short History of George Soros: From Genius Currency Speculator to Master Philanthropist
- How to Influence Anyone: Influencing Skills Anyone Can Learn. Discover the Power of Persuasive Communication
- Saying More by Saying Less: The Power of Precise Communication
- The Happiness Plan: 17 Daily Habits to Create a Happier and More Meaningful Life
- Eudaimonia - The Art of Flourishing: An Ancient Greek Life-changing Philosophy
- The Philosophy of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Happy, Long and Healthy Life
- All In a Day's Work: Daily Habits for Greater Success
- The Smart Mindset: Realize Your True Potential
- Secrets of Successful Time Management: Learn How 50+ Multi-millionaires and 1000+ Entrepreneurs Achieve Super-Productivity
- Say Hello to Happier, More Resilient Kids: Proven Techniques to Develop Your Child's Self-esteem & Resilience
- Parenting, The Japanese Way: A Guide from One of the World's Most Sophisticated Cultures
- How to Raise Smart Kids: Build Your Child's Brain Using Language & Storytelling
- The Happy Baby Method: 6 Strategies to a Calmer, Happier Baby
- Dealing with Friendship Break Ups ((A Literary Guide)
- Writing As Therapy (A Self-therapy Literary Guide)
- The Power of Poetry As Therapy (Reading & Writing Poetry As Therapy)
Literary Travel Guides
- Literary Travel Guide to New York (What to Read & Where to Visit)
- Literary Travel Guide to London (What to Read & Where to Visit)
Q: When I am reading, I have trouble focusing and have to re-read a page a few times. Why is that?
A: Reading is a form of escapism - a mind meditation in itself. However often we are preoccupied with the anxieties of daily life. Therefore what I have found is that in order to fully focus, you need to be reading about something that will help alleviate the things that are bothering you - be that a book on anxiety or finding a new job or working through a relationship issue or some sort of loss. This could be fiction or non-fiction depending on your preference of genres.
As part of my Book Therapy practice, I have catalogued a whole list of of books in A-Z format for all sorts life issues and predicaments ranging from:
Feel free to browse through the whole list of A - Z of Book Prescriptions
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. If you’d like to self-prescribe literature you can learn the art of bibliotherapy through my online course Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health. You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
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