Bibliotherapy: Mood-Boosting and Gloomy Books For Depression

Bibliotherapy for depression - Penguin deckchairs
Bibliotherapy for low mood (at the seaside). Image from

For depression it’s always best to contact your GP and discuss the possibility of therapy and/or medication.

There’s been a lot in the media lately about using books to assist good mental health, largely because of the NHS decision to start “prescribing” self-help material for mental health issues.

As part of the “Books on Prescription” scheme, patients could be recommended one of 30 medical volumes dealing with specific conditions by their GP. These will be available to borrow from libraries, and not restricted to those “prescribed” them. Alternatively, the “Mood-boosting Books” scheme is a national promotion of uplifting novels, non-fiction and poetry selected by readers, which includes writers such as Jo Brand, Bill Bryson and Terry Jones. Ms McKearney, director of The Reading Agency, has said: “It will encourage people to use the other reading aspects from libraries to help them feel better: novels, poetry and reading groups.” Here’s the link to the 2012 list of mood-boosting books by The Reading Agency. 

As I began my blog with the intention of blogging about books that have helped, or are helping, my own mental health, this is really exciting news. I believe that the “Books on Prescription” scheme could provide useful complimentary support, whilst the “Mood-boosting Books” project can work to sustain good mental health, particular after therapy and courses of medication.

Recent news articles have also ascertained that the encouraged books do not have to be of the uplifting, funny and summery variety. One such piece by The Telegraph is entitled “Depressing books could be just what the doctor ordered“. I don’t think that the miserable alternative approach would work best for me; I had to have several breaks from McCarthy’s The Road because it was making me feel so low. I’m lucky enough not to have suffered low mood recently, however. A few years ago I had some really unhappy patches, but in hindsight they must have been highly related to undiagnosed PTSD. Nowadays, having things to look forward to, being positive, and, of course, reading good books helps.

Below are two lists of suggested reading material for if you’re in need of a boost. One is for those in search of comfort and a laugh, whilst the other is for readers who want reminding that they could have it so much worse. I’m more of an advocate of the first list for when I’m feeling low, but the latter contains so many great pieces of literature regardless.

Uplifting books (most of the time) for low mood:

More gloomy books that you may (or may not) relate to:

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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at

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