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Love to Read

Selected resources from the Manchester Metropolitan University Library collection for leisure reading and reading for pleasure.

What is bibliotherapy?

Liz Brewster and Sarah McNicol define bibliotherapy as 'The therapeutic use of books and other materials with individuals or with groups of people' in the introduction of their recently-published book 'Bibliotherapy' (re-using an original definition from Howie,1988) .


Bibliotherapy book cover: Edited by Sarah Mcnicol and Liz Brewster

You can listen to Liz Brewster talking about bibliotherapy in this CILIP webinar, 2019.

Books recommended for individuals

Books recommended for individuals tend to follow the book prescription model based on self-help reading to enable you to understand and manage your health and wellbeing.

The ‘Reading Well Books on Prescription’ list is the key resource - most institutions take this as their base for self-help reading, and add/tweak as appropriate. Originally launched in 2003 as a Reading Agency project (revised and relaunched 2013), it is now offered by 97% of English public libraries (Brewster and McNicol, 2018: 11). The resource comprises a specific list of book titles relating to mental health, with additional recommendations for young people's mental health, long-term conditions such as managing pain and sleep problems, and dementia. We have some of these books available for you - have a look at our ‘Student wellbeing’ collection to find out more.

Reading Well for young people was launched in 2016, with a book list of 35 titles. Aimed at 13-18 age group, the scheme is informally known as ‘Shelf help’ - the books offer ‘support and advice on common mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and stress, and include self-help, psycho-education, memoirs, graphic novels and fiction (all chosen by young people and health professionals, with significant input from the children’s and young people’s mental health charity ‘YoungMinds’, for example)

Reading Well also has a section on Mood busting books’ which are suggested by readers/readers’ groups, and which are updated on an annual basis.

The Reading Agency also has a programme for 13-24 age group called Reading Hack which offers some book suggestions but no prescribed lists as such. 

Finally, this recent article in the Guardian gives some great suggestions for books to use with young children: 'Picture books on prescription' (February 2020) - take a look!

Cartoon illustration of family from a book for children.

Books recommended for shared reading groups

Resources and programmes working with shared reading/group reading schemes, tend to use resource lists based mainly on the use of fiction and poetry, and the type of material can vary tremendously. depending upon what users have found works best for them.  Alternatively, tailored ‘prescriptions’ for books may be given by bibliotherapists working with individuals on a one-to-one basis..

Here are some examples of  shared reading/group reading schemes:

Words Work Well Scotland - Bibliotherapy toolkit

Well Into Words – one of the original leaders in this area, set up by Kirklees - project now inactive but they have a new scheme running called 'Words in Mind', a 'lottery-funded project which aims to recruit, train and support volunteers to facilitate groups of people who want to enjoy literature and reading in all its forms'

The Reader – supports the idea of shared reading and the creation of reading groups and work closely with the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society at the University of Liverpool

ReLit tend to focus on the use of poetry in bibliotherapy, and have previously offered an online FutureLearn course on 'Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing'. Although this course is not currently running, you can still access films and videos from the course. This brief article from The Stylist includes more information and some book suggestions

More examples and case studies are available in:

Brewster, Liz; McNicol, Sarah (2018) Bibliotherapy’. London: Facet Publishing


Our 'Student Wellbeing' collection

We are working with colleagues in Manchester Met's Counselling, Mental Health & Wellbeing Services to bring together resources to help you cope with issues affecting your mental health, such as anxiety, depression, loss and bereavement, with special collections of recommended books available from the library.