Bibliotherapy Recommendations

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.

Remember, for severe problems, bibliotherapy is a way to complement therapy, self-care, and a healthy lifestyle. For feelings as troubling as those related to PTSD, depression, severe anxiety, or other mental health issues, fiction is clearly not enough. I would recommend using books to help your wellbeing, but only when you are sure that you are receiving the support and guidance that you need as well.

I've also created a free bibliotherapy guide which you can download here.

If you'd like the original bibliotherapy recommendations list, here it is!

Overcoming abuse (may trigger)
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
Once in a House on Fire - Andrea Ashworth
A Child Called It - Dave Pelzer
Room - Emma Donoghue
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption - Stephen King 

Accepting yourself
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

Dealing with addiction
Requiem for a Dream - Hubert Selby Jr.
A Million Little Pieces - James Frey
Candy - Luke Davies
A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick
Naked Lunch - William S. Burroughs
Trainspotting - Irvine Welsh

Have more ambition 

Managing anxiety
Haikus of Basho
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Collected Poems - William Wordsworth
Collected Poems - Edward Thomas
The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim
The Lake Isle of Innisfree - W. B. Yeats (poem)
In Search of Lost Time - Marcel Proust
Howards End - E.M. Forster
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery

Get more bibliotherapy recommendations for anxiety here.
Also: Bibliotherapy for Anxiety: Active, Beautiful and Calming Fictional Books

Challenging childhoods
Once in a House on Fire - Andrea Ashworth
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit - Judith Kerr
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

Find more books about challenging childhoods here

Defining right and wrong
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Merchant of Venice - William Shakespeare
A Certain Justice - P.D. James

Managing and overcoming depression and low mood - get your bibliotherapy guide here
The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
The Blandings Short Stories - P.G. Wodehouse
The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernières
When God Was a Rabbit - Sarah Winman
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith
All Creatures Great and Small - James Herriot
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby 
Forrest Gump - Winston Groom
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Funny Side: 101 Humorous Poems - Wendy Cope
Various Pets Alive and Dead - Marina Lewycka
The BFG – Roald Dahl
The Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling
Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse
The Silver-Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick
Selected Poems - Edward Thomas
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - William B. Irvine (NF)

Find more bibliotherapy recommendations for depression here

Disability: understanding and helping others
House Rules - Jodi Picoult
Human Traces - Sebastian Faulks
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
Forrest Gump - Winston Groom

Dealing with exclusion
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Notes From Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Waves - Virginia Woolf
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
1984 - George Orwell
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Lady of Shalott - Lord Alfred Tennyson (poem)
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
Collected Poems - Emily Dickinson

Overcoming a fear of death
The Death of Ivan Ilyich - Leo Tolstoy
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
The Rain Before it Falls - Jonathan Coe
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson (recommended by Riv)
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez (recommended by Riv)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery (recommended by Holly)

Growing up
Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
The Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami

Persevering through hardship
The Odyssey - Homer
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
The Horse Whisperer - Nicholas Evans
The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende
Ithaca - Constantine P. Cavafy (poem)
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Bookseller of Kabul - Åsne Seierstad
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Room - Emma Donoghue
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne
The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twan Eng
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus (NF)

Heartbreak and questions of the heart
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery (recommended by Holly)
Looking for Alaska - John Green
The Love Letters - Madeleine L'Engle (recommended by Belleza)
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (recommended by Belleza)

Star of the Sea - Joseph O’Connor
A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

Edward Thomas's "Home" poems (there are three)

Facing illness
How to be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers - Toni Bernhard
My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
The Secret Garden - Frances Hogdson Burnett (recommended by Melissa)
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim

Experiencing insomnia
Collected Poems - Robert Frost
The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twan Eng

Finding inspiration
The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it For Life - Twyla Tharp (NF)
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! - Dr. Seuss
Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse (recommended by Brian)
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (recommended by Brian)
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (recommended by Melissa)
A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez (recommended by Riv)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery (recommended by Holly)

Knowing yourself
The Enchanted April - Elizabeth von Arnim
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery (recommended by Holly)
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera 
Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman (P)
Wild - Cheryl Strayed (NF)

Low self-esteem
Essays - Michel de Montaigne (NF)
Meditations - Marcus Aurelius (NF)
How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer - Sarah Bakewell
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
The Last Runaway - Tracy Chevalier
The Fry Chronicles - Stephen Fry (NF)

Facing loss
The Toys - Coventry Patmore (poem)
Toby's Room - Pat Barker
Home Burial - Robert Frost (poem)
P.S. I Love You - Cecelia Ahern
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading - Nina Sankovitch (NF)
The Epic of Gilgamesh (recommended by Brian)
The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick
Luke and Jon - Robert Williams

Moving on and starting afresh 
Star of the Sea - Joseph O'Connor

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption - Stephen King
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald 
P.S. I Love You - Cecelia Ahern

Experiencing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 
Just in Case - Meg Rosoff
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Just Checking - Emily Colas
Perfect - Rachel Joyce
Kissing Doorknobs - Terry Spencer Hesser
The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling
Meditations - Marcus Aurelius (NF)

Childhood, Boyhood, Youth - Leo Tolstoy
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Read on the blog: Tolstoy's "Rules" and Perfectionism

PTSD and trauma (may trigger, particularly those marked with an asterisk)
The Faerie Queene - Edmund Spenser
Ulysses - Lord Alfred Tennyson (poem)
Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks*
Healing Without Freud or Prozac - Dr. David Servan-Schreiber (NF)
Toby's Room - Pat Barker*
Regeneration Trilogy - Pat Barker*
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Collected Poems - Wilfred Owen
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf**
Hamlet - William Shakespeare
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut*
The Horse Whisperer - Nicholas Evans
Mr Vertigo - Paul Auster
Beloved - Toni Morrison*
Remainder - Tom McCarthy

Questions of race 
On Beauty - Zadie Smith
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
The Color Purple - Alice Walker

Search for beauty and meaning
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree" - W.B. Yeats (poem)
Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values - Robert M. Pirsig
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting - Milan Kundera
Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse (recommended by Brian)
Momo - Michael Ende (recommended by Melissa)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery (recommended by Holly)

Need for solitude
Walden, or Life in the Woods - Henry David Thoreau
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim
A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
Into The Wild - John Krakauer

Unrequited love
First Love - Ivan Turgenev
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel García Márquez
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky - Patrick Hamilton
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair - Pablo Neruda (poetry)
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

Introducing LitTherapy, a bibliotherapy network

In February 2014, I launched LitTherapy, a site to find free bibliotherapy recommendations for any feelings or situations that we may be facing, mental health issues included. The site is in very early stages, but the project is progressing quickly! I'm getting some lovely people involved with the site, and we're shaping it into a social resource with a community feel. If you're looking for book recommendations for a specific feeling, problem or situation, why not browse through the site and get inspired? 


Riv said...

Having finished "One Hundred Years of Solitude", I thought of your list, as it is the kind of book that could fit into several categories. It generally made me feel good, but I don't know, with it's "life is circular" and everything-repeats themes I would probably also put it into the fear of death category. Or need for inspiration. :)

Lucy said...

Thanks for the comment, Riv! It's great to hear about the books that have helped others.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is an incredible book (and one I definitely should re-read!) Also, García Márquez is such a talented author, and one whose work I really should read more in the original Spanish! It would make my degree more worthwhile, that's for sure.

I'll add your recommendation to the categories you've mentioned - I'm sure it will help others! I'll also put a link back to your blog :)

Thank you, and best wishes.

Bellezza said...

What a fascinating and comprehensive list. I will be referring to it often. Of course my favorite source of inspiration is the Bible, but as far as books can comfort I adore your list.

Lucy said...

Thanks Belleza! I'm glad you think the list could be of some use to you :)

I've never been greatly religious, but I've been meaning to read The Bible for quite a while now. It's one of those texts that I think everyone should read, religious or not. I'm not quite sure how I'd categorise it on this bibliotherapy list though! It probably would fit every category.

Hope you're well,