Here you'll find 200+ reading recommendations and bibliotherapy resources across a range of fiction and non-fiction genres. If you’d like to self-prescribe literature you can learn the art of bibliotherapy through Book Therapy's online course Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health.
Core reading recommendations
Books on Bibliotherapy
These books on bibliotherapy, mental health and art as therapy are absolute reading essentials, which am hoping will help you gain a better understanding of how bibliotherapy works.
(a) Re-thinking Therapeutic Reading (Non-fiction) by Kelda Green
You can also read my interview with Dr Kelda Green here.
(b) Bibliotherapy (Non-fiction) by Liz Brewster and Sarah McNicol
(c) Healing Through Books: The Evolution and Diversification of Bibliotherapy (Non-fiction) by Natalia Tukhareli
(d) Literature and Transformation: A Narrative Study of Life-Changing Reading Experiences (Anthem Studies in Bibliotherapy and Well-Being) by Thor Magnus Tangerås
(e) Bibliotherapy: A Guide to Using Books in Clinical Practice (Non-fiction) by John T. Pardeck
(f) Bibliotherapy: A Clinical Approach for Helping Children by John T. Pardeck
(g) Art as Therapy (Non-fiction) by Alain De Botton
(h) The Conscious Reader (Thematic Anthology) by Caroline Shrodes
Books on Counselling and Psychotherapy
(a) The Compassionate Mind (Non-fiction) by Paul Gilbert
(b) Learning To Counsel (Non-fiction) by William Stewart & Jan Sutton
(c) Psychoanalysis: The Major Concepts (Non-fiction) by Bernard D. Fine, Burness E. Moore
(d) How to Set Up A Counselling Practice (Non-fiction) by Anna E Honeysett
He Promised He'd Stop: Helping Women Find Safe Passage from Abusive Relationships (Non-fiction) by Michael Groetsch
Better Boundaries: Owning and Treasuring Your Life (Non-fiction) by Jan Black
Where to Draw the Line (Non-fiction) by Anne Katherine
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (Non-fiction) by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis
A Bright Red Scream: Self Mutilation and the Language of Pain Addiction and Codependency (Non-fiction) by Marilee Strong
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself (Non-fiction) by Melody Beattie
Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self (Non-fiction) by David M Brodzinksy, Marshall D Schechter and Robin Marantz Henig
The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child (Non-fiction) by Nancy Newton Verrier
The Art of Aging, A Doctor's Prescription for Well-Being (Non-fiction) by Sherwin B. Nulan
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (Non-fiction) by Atul Gawande
What Are Old People For?: How Elders Will Save The World (Non-fiction) by William H Thomas
The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships (Non-fiction) by Harriet Lerner
The Angry Book (Non-fiction) by Theodore I Rubin
The Angry Teenager: Why Teens Get So Angry and How Parents Can Help Them Grow Through It (Non-fiction) by William Lee Carter
The Anger Workbook (Non-fiction) by Lorrainne Bilodeau
Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety (Non-fiction) by Robert Gerzon
My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind (Non-fiction) by Scott Stossel
The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (Non-fiction) by Edmund J Bourne
Alzheimer's Disease: Prevention, Intervention and Treatment (Non-fiction) by Elwood Cohen
The Alzheimer's Sourcebook for Caregivers: A Practical Guide for Getting Through the Day (Non-fiction) by Frena Gray-Davidson
Cancer as a Turning Point: A Handbook for People with Cancer, Their Families and Health Professionals (Non-fiction) by Lawrence LeShan
What to Do When They Say It's Cancer!" A Survivor's Guide (Non-fiction) by Joel Nathan
When Breath Becomes Air (Memoir) by Paul Kalanithi
How to Find Fulfilling Work (The School of Life) (Non-fiction) by Roman Krznaric
Your Creative Career (Nonfiction) by Anna Sabino
The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (Philosophy) by David Brooks
Living with Chronic Pain: One Day at a Time (Non-fiction) by Mark Allen Zabawa
The Beast: A Journey Through Depression (Non-fiction) by Tracy Thompson
Furiously happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (Non-fiction) by Jenny Lawson
The Bell Jar (Fiction) by Sylvia Path
Veronica Decides to Die (Fiction) by Paulo Coelho
Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships (Non-fiction) by Diane Vaughan
The Healing Journal through Divorce: Your Journal of Understanding and Renewal (Non-fiction) by Phil Rich and Lita Linzer Schwartz
Helping Children Cope with Divorce (Non-fiction) by Edward Teyber
Emotional Unavailability: Recognizing It, Understanding It and Avoiding It's Trap (Non-fiction) by Bryn Collins
He's Scared, She's Scared: Understanding the Hidden Fears that Sabotage Your Relationships (Non-fiction) by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol
Surviving an Affair (Non-fiction) by Willard Harley and Jennifer Harley Chalmers
Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (Non-fiction) by Marya Hornbacher
Making Peace with Food (Non-fiction) by Susan Kano
When Food is Love:Exploring the Relationship Between Eating and Intimacy (Non-fiction) by Geneen Roth
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender
Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out (Non-fiction) by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Kaahumanu
The Journey Out: A Guide For and About Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Teens (Non-fiction) by Rachel Pollack and Cheryl Schwartz
The Shared Heart: Portraits and Stories Celebrating Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People (Non-fiction) by Adam Mastoon
The Lesbian and Gay Parenting Handbook: Creating and Raising Our Families (Non-fiction) by April Martin
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (Fiction) by Jeanette Winterson
The Velvet Rage (Fiction) by Alan Downs
Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue (Non-fiction) by Leslie Feinberg
True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism (Non-fiction) by Mildred L Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley
Grief and Loss
Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (Non-fiction) by Pauline Boss
Grieving: How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies (Non-fiction) by Therese Rando
Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow (Non-fiction) by Judith Viorst
Loss of a Child
How to Survive the Loss of a Child: Filling the Emptiness and Rebuilding Your Life (Non-fiction) by Catherine Sanders
When a Baby Dies: The Experience of Late Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Neonatal Death (Non-fiction) by Nancy Kohner and Alix Henly
Loss of a Parent
How to Survive the Loss of a Parent: A Guide for Adults (Non-fiction) by Lois F Akner
Losing a Parent: Passage to a New Way of Living (Non-fiction) by Alexandra Kennedy
Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss (Non-fiction) by Hope Edelman
Loss of a Spouse
Companion Through the Darkness: Inner Dialogues on Grief (Non-fiction) by Stephanie Ericcson
How to Survive the Loss of a Love (Non-fiction) by Melba Colgrove, Harold Bloomfield and Peter MvWilliams
The Measure of Our Days: A Spiritual Exploration of Illness (Non-fiction) by Jerome Groopman
Mortally Wounded: Stories of Soul Pain, Death and Healing (Non-fiction) by Michael Kearney
The Lies That Bind: Re-thinking Identity (Non-fiction) by Kwame Anthony Appiah
Complete Guide to Fertility (Non-fiction) by Sandra Ann Carson and Peter R Casson with Deborah J Shuman
Wild (Non-fiction) by Cheryl Strayed
Tales of A City (Fiction) by Armistead Maupin
Meaning of Life
The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (Non-fiction) by Alan Watts
Man’s Search for Meaning (Non-fiction) by Viktor E. Frankl
The Glass Castle (Memoir) by Jeannette Walls
Malignant Self Love (Non-fiction) by Sam Vaknin
Rethinking Narcissism (Non-fiction) by Dr Craig Malkin
Should I Stay or Should I Go (Non-fiction) by Dr Ramani Durvasula.
The Self-love Experiment: 15 Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate and Accepting of Yourself (Non-fiction) by Shannon Kaiser
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (Non-fiction) by Brene Brown
I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame (Non-fiction) by Brené Brown
Healing the Shame that Binds You (Non-fiction) by John Bradshaw
Trauma (Managing PTSD)
The Boy Who Was Raised A Dog (Non-fiction) by Dr Bruce D Perry
It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle (Non-fiction) by Mark Wolynn
The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity (Non-fiction) by Nadine Burke Harris
Book Therapy resources
A - Z of Book Prescriptions - Ordered in A - Z format, these recommended reading lists, 'what-to-read' digests, literary remedies and literary travel guides (what I fondly term "book prescriptions") have been hand-picked and collated for a variety of issues and topics - whether you're looking for something therapeutic or for personal interest, these book recommendations are here to inspire, uplift and engage. These can be used to inform both self-prescription and prescription as a mental health professional.
Comfort Reads - Fiction reads that are comforting during difficult times.
Family Therapy - Salvador Minuchin’s book on family therapy, titled “Family Healing”, eloquently articulates a myriad of unspoken truths that resonate strongly on family dynamics. Minuchin died two years ago in October 2017, yet his pioneering work on structural family therapy continues to influence family therapists all over the world. He also mentored the psychotherapist Esther Perel, whose work on couples therapy remains outstanding.
Books on Finding Greater Connection and Meaning in Life Our need to feel connected to something greater than our everyday existence is an important one and a need that is often overlooked. Everyone has a story of a moment in their life when they felt disconnected — be that the loss of a loved on, early stages of motherhood, the relationship break-up, the promising job that turned out to be a dead-end or the loss of a loved one. The next time you feel disconnected these books will help you find that reconnection. They’ll reaffirm your faith in life, in others and most importantly, in yourself.
Recommended Books for Anxiety - helpful books on managing anxiety.
Recommended Books for Depression - finding hope in books that take you on an incredible journey of understanding what it truly means to live with the condition and how to triumphantly overcome it.
Recommended Books on Raising Self-esteem (self-love) - A list of books on building self-esteem and self-love.
Recommended Books on Trauma (Managing PTSD) - A list of books on dealing with trauma and managing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The Power of Poetry - explore why reading and writing poetry is hugely empowering and therapeutic.
Therapists in Fiction - If you're studying to becoming a therapist, this list recommends literature with depictions of therapists and therapy in fiction.
Literature for dealing with a bereavement - Loss often has a profound impact on us, our emotions, our beliefs on life and sometimes changes us for ever. Sometimes reading about others’ losses helps us understand our own. This is a recommended reading list of books which are a must-read if you are grieving the death of a loved one.
Recommended Books on Dealing with Shame and Guilt - Shame is often the forgotten emotion but the havoc it plays on both our mental and physical health is quite profound. A brilliant exploration of the difficult consequences of shame with powerful coping strategies that can be life-transforming for women from breaking down barriers to love and parenting to building better relationships. These are a selection of books, some that deal with shame directly and some that are a little more indirect but which might help you look at life a little differently.
Literature on the Power and Benefits of Solitude - these books showcase the power of solitude as a form of freedom, liberation and independence.
Literary Journaling - Journaling is one of the best ways to connect with ourselves, reflect on our emotions and thoughts and gain some clarity amidst the day-to-day stresses and strains of life. These literary journaling tools are designed to help you keep track of all the books you've read in one year, the impact they've had on you and your key learnings/takeaways.
Book Therapy Quotes - A selection of bibliotherapy and literary quotes to uplift and inspire.
The Japanese books making loneliness popular - solitude is a rising trend in Japan and these are the books making it so.
Japanese Wisdom - The Japanese way of life and philosophy, continues to inspire and offer a very different perspective from the West to living well. These book recommendations are designed to offer a wide selection of Japanese wisdom and philosophy.
Meditations on Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet: What Gibran's Poetry Fables Teach Us About Life - Gibran's The Prophet is a poetic meditation on the human condition - on love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death. Each poetry fable is devoted to a specific chapter and this short unpacks the hidden life lessons so eloquently and articulately captured in metaphoric prose by Gibran.
Book Therapy's Personalised Reading Service - Book Therapy's personalised reading service is a book curation service for bibliotherapy or personal interest purposes.
Dealing with a Friendship Breakup - The loss of a close friends evokes a complex set of emotions in us; this literary guide on dealing with broken friendships and relationships will give you the courage, faith and empowerment to heal and move forward again.
365 Book Journaling Ideas For Every Day of the Year - designed to connect literature to the self, this book is filled with daily book journaling inspiration.
Graphic Medicine - Brilliant website on how graphic novels can assist with resolving physical and mental health issues and serve as bibliotherapy, particularly for 'reluctant readers' and those with dyslexia or other learning disabilities.Poetry Therapy: Changing Concepts and Emerging Questions
A Bibliography for Use in Bibliotherapy - A study and list of useful reference materials for use with a variety of bibliotherapy clients.
Souls in jeopardy: questions and innovations for bibliotherapy with fiction - the practice of bibliotherapy with fiction and the ideal conditions for treatment success
The long-term effects of bibliotherapy in depression treatment: Systematic review of randomized clinical trials - Bibliotherapy appears to be effective in the reduction of moderate depression in the long-term, providing a cost-effective, non-medical treatment. This review concludes that bibliotherapy could play an important role in the treatment of a serious mental health issue.
Using Books in Clinical Social Work Practice: A Guide to Bibliotherapy - This book introduces clinical social workers and other helping professionals to bibliotherapy, an innovative approach to helping individuals deal with psychological, social, and developmental problems.
From Library War Service to Science: Bibliotherapy in World War I - Books as Medicine: Studies in Reading, Its History, and the Enduring Belief in Its Power to Heal
Creative bibliotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - Creative bibliotherapy – or the guided reading of fiction or poetry – is used widely in mental healthcare settings. This publication captures the positive outcomes of creative bibliotherapy in the treatment of PTSD.
Bibliotherapy and the Learning Disabled - a helpful tool for teaching those with learning disabilities through bibliotherapy.
The Creative Arts Therapists: Struggling for Recognition - a bid for recognition of art therapies.
The Therapeutic Implications of Poetry Writing: A Methodology - reports on the therapeutic impacts of writing workshops in psychiatric hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, and other institutions.
Three year follow up of bibliotherapy for depression - Cognitive bibliotherapy for mild to moderate depression.
Patients’ and providers’ perspectives on bibliotherapy in primary care - evaluations of bibliotherapy from patients' and providers' perspective.
Bibliotherapy: An Annotated Bibliography Dealing with Physical and Self-Image Handicaps - books for children and teenagers to assist with physical handicap and self-image issues.
Bibliotherapy after the Internet - An interesting opinion piece on literary reading and bibliotherapy.
A Literary Prescription for Social Isolation by the Vancouver Public Library - an interesting selection of books curated by the Vancouver Public Library on how to thrive in times of social isolation.
Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain - a helpful study on how reading a novel causes measurable changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain.
Literary Reading and Eating Disorders - Bibliotherapy research on people's perception of the links between reading and mental health.
Reading well books on prescription evaluation - an evaluation exploring the reach and impact of the second year of The Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarian’s Reading Well Books on Prescription programme. Reading Well Books on Prescription helps individuals manage their mental health and wellbeing by providing access to accredited self-help reading through English public libraries. Books can be recommended by GPs or other health professionals but are also available as self-referral for anybody to borrow from the open shelves. the books prescribed focus on mental health conditions and dementia.
A Guide to Bibliotherapy for Eating Disorders - help for Patients, Families, Friends and Carers.
Is poetry therapy an appropriate intervention for clients recovering from anorexia? This report advocates that the process and benefits of poetry therapy may be particularly suited to clients recovering from anorexia, complimenting other treatments.
‘Reading for life’: prison reading groups in practice and theory -This article considers the theoretical and practice-based evidence for the therapeutic effects of the shared reading of literature (poetry, fiction, plays, short stories) in prison communities.
Bibliotherapy: Historical and research perspectives - a review and analysis of the literature on bibliotherapy, including history, practice, research and education, is provided in this article.
Psychological well-being, improved self-confidence, and social capacity: bibliotherapy from a user perspective - article concludes that participants demonstrated short-term improved psychological well-being after being a part of a guided reading circle in the form of improved social well-being, greater self-confidence and increased social interaction. Short stories, poetry and discussion about the texts, the presence of a circle leader with good leadership qualities, and continuous membership of the group.
An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being - A one year research study that concludes the benefits of Shared Reading groups in helping readers suffering from depression improve their social, mental, emotional and psychological well-being.
The Mystery and Magic of Metaphor An essay on the power of metaphor to represent concepts that often cannot be captured in straight forward writing - a magical tool for writers and for inspiring bibliotherapeutic effect.
Cognitive literary science: dialogues between literature and cognition - An excellent book brings that combines cognitive-scientific and literary theory to present the influence of literature on the cognitive brain.
Is literature healthy?: the literary agenda - this is a series of short critical detailed study about the importance of literature and of reading in the wider world and about the state of literary education inside schools and universities.
The concept of literary application: readers’ analogies from text to life - Literary application is the process in which readers of literature focus on elements in a text and compare them with the outside world as they know it – experiencing the cognitive and emotional consequences through understanding literary art and experience.
Foregrounding, defamiliarization, and affect: response to literary stories - Foregrounding is a widely-used term in text analysis, literary linguistics and stylistics, referring to patterns of language that stand out in a text.The notion that stylistic features of literary texts deautomatize perception, prompt defamiliarization, evoke feelings, and prolong reading time is central to a tradition of literary theory from Coleridge through Shklovsky and Mukařovský to Van Peer. Its a conscious choice made by the author to change the way we perceive, read and understand texts.
Children's A-Z of Book Prescriptions - Children's books are a wonderful way to address issues that might be difficult to talk about or convey. This is an A - Z of book recommendations, literary remedies and recommended reading lists for children depending on what they might be going through.
Reading tools for Children - A variety of bibliotherapy tools for children to help foster a love for reading.
Helping Children Deal with Tragedies (including Terrorist Attacks) - Resource that deals with the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the role of literature in helping children during traumatic events.
Helping Children Understand Alzheimer's in Loved Ones and Parents - a beautiful children's book that portrays the difficulties and nuances of memory loss from a child's perspective, offering hope.
The Role of Bibliotherapy and Therapeutic Storytelling in Creating Inclusive Classrooms - Case for using bibliotherapy as a strategy to provide empathy and understanding for diverse behaviors and emotions in the classroom.
Helping Children Cope Through Literature - a public policy report on the role literature can play in providing coping and resilience strategies for children.
Benefits of Using Bibliotherapy within Play Therapy - a helpful study on the therapeutic effects of combining bibliotherapy with play therapy.
The impact of bibliotherapy superheroes on youth who experience parental absence - As one key element of establishing a superhero persona, many superhero myths are based on the principle of experiencing parental loss at an early age. This study examined the impact of group bibliotherapy using superhero stories with children and adolescents who have experienced parental absence.
Bibliotherapy for young children (ages 2 - 7) - a paper that discusses the therapeutic applications of bibliotherapy with young children (ages two to seven). Includes a bibliography of useful books.
The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales - this revelatory study of fairy tales discusses their universal importance in understanding childhood development. Analyzing a wide range of traditional stories, from the tales of Sindbad to “The Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “The Sleeping Beauty,” Bettelheim shows how classic fairy tales can help children find meaning for one’s life.
Preadolescents and Divorce: Being in Between - why bibliotherapy is an effective therapeutic intervention tool for preadolescents facing divorce.
Bibliotherapy with young people : librarians and mental health professionals working together - discusses how reading can be combined with therapeutic intervention, with guidelines for structuring school and library programs
Early childhood experiences in language arts: early literacy - a wonderful book on early literacy, learning language and bibliotherapy for parents of young children.
Examining the Use of Bibliotherapy in a Third Grade Classroom - A six-week bibliotherapy study illustrating that children's literature books can help students think about, understand, and work through social and emotional issues helped third grade students' develop more social and emotional skills. Results confirmed that students were more accepting of classmates, would interrupt less and demonstrated a growth in social and emotional skills.
The effectiveness of creative bibliotherapy for internalizing, externalizing, and prosocial behaviors in children: a systematic review - Creative bibliotherapy can have a small to moderate positive effect on child behaviour in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) models.
Bibliotherapy for youth and adolescents—School-based application and research - article addresses how bibliotherapy can assist students with mild behavioral issues to physical and psychosocial conditions. This article in particular is useful in guiding readers on developing a bibliotherapy program for youth and adolescents.
Bibliotherapy Treatment for Children With Adjustment Difficulties: A Comparison of Affective and Cognitive Bibliotherapy - This study compared outcomes following cognitive and affective bibliotherapy treatment with 79 children and adolescents in a residential home in Israel. Results indicate a reduction in social anxiety in both treatment groups compared with control. A reduction in adjustment symptoms was found only under affective bibliotherapy conditions. The study concludes that affective bibliotherapy is superior to cognitive bibliotherapy.
Bibliotherapy: A tool to promote children's psychological well-being - focuses on child development and bibliotherapy in Portugal including benefits from collaboration between psychologists and educators.
Fictive Bibliotherapy and Therapeutic Storytelling with Children Who Hurt - looks at the impact of traumatic events on children and the impact of bibliotherapy treatment on children with grief and pain through books and stories.
Poetry in therapy: A way to heal for trauma survivors and clients in recovery from addiction - This paper will explore the use of poetry in therapy, particularly with trauma survivors, and clients in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
Treating abused children through bibliotherapy This article discusses using the bibliotherapeutic technique to treat children who have been abused. Several appropriate children's books dealing with abuse are mentioned. The application of bibliotherapy with abused children is discussed, as well as its limitations.