Bibliotherapy Recommendations

 

Create a reading list for where you are in life with this selection of my favourite books for bibliotherapy.

What is bibliotherapy?

Bibliotherapy is all about feeling good with books: reading great novels, poems and stories to help us through difficult situations and feelings.

It’s also about nurturing our sense of wellbeing and feeling better in ourselves. Reading is one of the best ways to relax and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.

Reading fiction is one of the easiest ways to relate to others when we feel isolated. Also, as we get to know characters, we get to know ourselves.

Bibliotherapy is a lifelong companion to all those who welcome it. You don’t have to hit rock-bottom before you consider it, simply pick up a book.

My Favourite Bibliotherapy Recommendations

This list includes Amazon Affiliate links, at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase.

Books to help you get out of a rut

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa – A delightful slice-of-life book tells the story of Sentaro, a man who dreams of becoming a writer but in fact has a criminal record, drinks too much, and spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling sweet bean paste pancakes. But when he meets Tokui, an elderly woman with a troubled past, everything changes for both of them.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Rekindle the magic, adventure, and daring in your own life with this classic tale of characters who have more power than they could know.

Books for when you’re feeling anxious

How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh. I love this little guide to relaxation by the father of mindfulness.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (Anthony Briggs translation). This was the book that helped me to slow down, ease my anxiety, and notice the beauty of the world around me.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. This feel-good classic shares the story of four women who find each other—and the Italian castle of their dreams—through a classified ad in a London newspaper one rainy February afternoon. By the wisteria and spring sunshine, they rediscover their true selves and their joy.

Haikus of Basho. Through such simple words, Basho cuts straight to the most beautiful parts of life with his timeless poetry.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. This is Matt Haig’s vulnerable and comforting memoir of the realities of living with anxiety, which anyone who has experienced anxiety will be able to relate to. Here are some of my top takeaways from the book to remember.

Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton. A gorgeous guide to cultivating your own beautifully imperfect life.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières – A book that oozes warmth and summer, weaving the story of a beautiful young woman and her two very different suitors.

“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by W. B. Yeats. “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, / And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made…” Take a minute to rest and reset with this gorgeous poem by Yeats.

Books for remembering the beauty of life

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver – My all-time favourite book, about life by the mountains during a summer in bloom.

Circe by Madeleine Miller – A stunningly intricate work of fiction imagining the story of Circe, daughter of the sun-god Helios. I adored following Circe’s time alone on the island of Aiaia, honing her craft and learning to read the natural world.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer – A true love letter to the land, combining indigenous wisdom, science’s findings on the mysteries of nature, and the teachings of plants.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry – This is a collection of love letters to the land: short, simple, and profoundly wise hymns to the cycles of nature and the hope, love, healing, death, friendship, and belonging we witness.

Long Life: Essays and Other Writings by Mary Oliver – The essays of one of the most loved poets from the last century on the beauty of the natural world.

Books for when your heart is broken

Brave Enough: A Mini Instruction Manual for the Soul by Cheryl Strayed. This selection of quotes by Cheryl Strayed is enough to warm any heart, even at your most difficult moments.

How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh. This book helped to rebuild my heart after a difficult breakup several years ago, and I’m still so grateful to it. Learn from the master of mindfulness how to open your heart and cultivate thriving relationships with those around you.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim. This beautifully illustrated little book was another book I turned to during my breakup and found so much wisdom within. It’s a lovely guide not just to romantic relationships, but to approaching life with an open heart, kindness, and curiosity.

Some Thoughts About Relationships – Colin Wright

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton – The book I wish had been published a decade before to teach me what love really means – and doesn’t mean.

Books for when you’re struggling with depression

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Turn to the best-loved writer on mental health from the last decade and learn from his own struggles with depression and journey to rediscovering meaning in the world. Here are my top takeaways from the book.

Selected Poems of Edward Thomas. This British wartime poet and long-term friend of Robert Frost struggled with several bouts of depression and mental breakdowns, but nonetheless (or therefore) created stunningly beautiful poetry. “‘Twas home; one nationality / We had, I and the birds that sang, / One memory…” (“Home”)

All Creatures Great and Small: The classic memoirs of a Yorkshire country vet – James Herriot

The BFG by Roald Dahl. Warm your heart and rediscover some of the joy of childhood with this classic piece of children’s literature.

Books for working out who you are

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. An immersive novel of a flawed and fascinating protagonist recreating herself in the energy and creativity of the 1940s theatre world of New York City.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. A stunning novel about twins born in Ethiopia that, between Ethiopia and New York, weaves a stunning tale of becoming and working as a doctor, learning about the world, and experiencing love and heartbreak. Read it to explore themes of home, making big changes, and finding your place and purpose in the world.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – The darling of the quarantine era, this is the ultimate story of imagining new lives and the choices that go into a life well-lived.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. An incredibly uplifting, feel-good book about a man with autism finding a relationship.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – This is the first book of a trilogy in which Helen Hoang embraces the wonderfully unique themes of discovering autism spectrum disorder, understanding yourself, and uncovering the joy of sex. Hoang writes excellently about protagonists who need to let go of their old way of doing things to step into a new way of living.

Books to help you navigate PTSD and trauma

“Ulysses” by Lord Alfred Tennyson. This poem is one of my all-time favourites. I memorised it when I was a student and really struggling with my mental health. These lines in particular have always managed to remind me of the strength inside of me when all feels lost: “Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and though / We are not now that strength which in old days / Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; / One equal temper of heroic hearts, / Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Healing Without Freud or Prozac: Natural Approaches to Curing Stress, Anxiety and Depression – Dr Servan-Schreiber

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy – Francine Shapiro

Books for getting through a difficult time

The Odyssey by Homer. This will always be the ultimate story of a quest, charting Odysseus’s long and arduous journey home after the Trojan War.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This popular memoir of a journey from lost to found is for anyone feeling stuck, lost, or confused in their own life and searching for the courage to take a leap or make a change.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This huge classic is actually an accessible, compelling, and unputdownable epic of betrayal and revenge in disguise that makes blockbuster hits such as The Shawshank Redemption pale in comparison.

Books to help you indulge in some self-care

Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki. Inspire a simpler, lighter life with this elegant guide to minimalism. You can check out my book notes over on Live Wildly.

What I Know for Sure – Oprah Winfrey

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down – Haemin Sunim

Books for when you need some solitude

Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau. The classic memoir of escaping into the forest to get back to a simpler way of living. Here’s my list of books like Walden to read next (over on Live Wildly).

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim. The protagonist of this lovely book intends to spend a summer wholly alone to rediscover her joy, and although she isn’t wholly successful, her effort is valiant. Here we can share her wonder at magnificent larkspurs and nasturtiums, forest walks, and the refuge of her beloved plants and books.

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf