Books & Reports on BT

This section lists selected general BT monographs suitable for librarians, and BT monographs authored by librarians and LIS scholars; sources including the definitions and foundational principles of BT, as well as practical guidance for training bibliotherapists and implementing BT projects. It excludes work on children and young adults, which can instead be found on the BT for Children and Young Adults page on this site.

Also included are a few doctoral dissertations and master theses, as well as research reports of considerable length. We realize that it’s not the easiest type of material to read. Moreover, not all librarians have easy access to these publications. However, dissertations and theses often turn into books and articles, and if you like the subject coverage and the topic, please keep an eye on the author’s future work.

AUTHOR INDEX

| Aubry | Berthoud & Elderkin | Billington et al. | Gold | Hynes & Hynes-Berry | Kramer |
| Lerner & Mahlendorf | Longden | Miller | Pardeck | Parkinson | The Reader Organization | Robinson & Billington | Rubin | Stanley |

Aubry, T. R. (2011). Reading as therapy: What contemporary fiction does for middle-class Americans. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.
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In this book the author looks at how middle-class Americans read contemporary fiction, and argues that it is done primarily for therapeutic purposes rather than as a source of “aesthetic satisfaction” (1). Aubry focuses on middle-class readers because they comprise “the majority of regular readers in the United States” (12). Each of the six chapters of the book analyzes a contemporary novel that addresses a particular aspect of present-day life that readers may struggle with. The author’s flexible, in-depth critique of what some may dismiss as “middlebrow literature” will be of use to librarians who are interested in self-administered bibliotherapy as it is practiced by most readers in North America.

Berthoud, E., & Elderkin, S. (2013). The novel cure: An A-Z of literary remedies. Edinburgh: Canongate.
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Written by two bibliotherapists, The Novel Cure seeks to address a long list of emotional and physical ailments by recommending novels that “cure,” or at least bring temporarily relief to the reader. In addition to such problems as “appetite, loss of”; “dread, nameless”; “jealousy”; and “single-mindedness,” the authors also include advice for those readers who struggle with “reading ailments,” such as “sci-fi, fear of” and “non-reading partner, having a.” Interspersed throughout the book are lists of various “ten best” novels to suit diverse situations. Practical, humorous, and easy to use, this book would be appreciated by librarians interested in bibliotherapy, as well as by anyone who wishes to expand their reading horizons and find relief from their own afflictions. However, the light-hearted treatment of some of the more serious issues (such as “abandonment” or “loss of limb”) might be problematic, and librarians should be careful when using this book.

Billington, J., Dowrick, C., Hamer, A., Robinson, J.,& Williams, C. (2010). An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being
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The Reader Organisation (TRO) and the University of Liverpool’s Department of English and Schools of Health Sciences and Medicine collaborated on this project to study the mental, emotional, and psychological benefits observed in the shared reading of classic literature for patients diagnosed with depression. The researchers collected data via observation, recordings, and interviews from weekly reading groups in two different health centers. The data, which were analyzed through multiple disciplinary lenses, suggested that the mediated group reading of serious literature in an atmosphere of support and in the presence of a skilled facilitator instilled confidence, social inclusion, and focus. This research is unique in that it argues for the benefits of reading a certain calibre of literature as well as the importance of shared reading, and such findings may provide some food for thought to librarians when selecting titles for reading initiatives.

Billington, J., Humphreys, A., McDonnell, K., Jones, A. (2014). An evaluation of a literature-based intervention for people with chronic pain
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This study, resulting from the partnership of The Reader Organisation (TRO), the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS), Health Sciences at the University of Liverpool, and The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen NHS Hospital Trust, explores the potential role of a literature-based intervention for people with chronic pain. Participants with severe and chronic pain attended “Get into Reading,” facilitated by a trained project worker, and the researchers collected data through psychological tests, interviews, and focus groups. The report provides brief background information on chronic pain and on TRO, and illuminates a set of exemplary case studies and worker reflections. While this study and its results, which found some positive changes in the well-being of the participants, are preliminary, the data expose many threads consistent with Billington’s earlier findings. Specifically, the challenge of literature was valued by patients because it gave them a chance to transcend their pain via concentration and contemplation while also increasing their confidence and sense of self-worth. The group setting facilitated a sense of encouragement and community. This research is unique for its focus on literature’s healing potential for physical rather than emotional pain, and may be useful fodder for hospital librarians or public librarians hoping to introduce new collaborations with healthcare professionals in their communities.

Gold, J. (2002). The story species: Our life-literature connection. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
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Presenting literature as a human behavior, rather than solely an artistic endeavor, Gold argues that “a biological approach to Literature will restore our connection to language and to the stories that form our view of the world and our identity” (xi). The book outlines the history of stories and storytelling from ancient times to the present day. Reflecting on the current prevalence of various information technologies and the fragmenting effect they have on our brains and our consciousness, Gold passionately and eloquently advocates for a renewed emphasis on reading rather than other forms of media, both in the context of public education and public libraries.

Gold, J. (2001). Read for your life: Literature as a life support system. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
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Gold presents his book as “a mixture of memoir, theory and instruction” (xx) for those who are concerned with the disappearance of reading and storytelling from our lives. Describing fiction as “a human survival strategy,” the author gives practical reading advice to address a number of potentially challenging life events and issues, such as marriage, divorce, and aging. The appendices include an essay on bibliotherapy, a reflection on the use of literature in professional training, and two questionnaires that can be self-administered by readers in order to maximize the usefulness of their own reading. The book is addressed to the lay reader, and will be of benefit to all those interested in the ways reading can be used to therapeutic effect.

Hynes, A. M. C., & Hynes-Berry, M. (1986). Bibliotherapy–an interactive process. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
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In this book, the authors explore the process and goals of bibliotherapy and its three major components: the literature, the facilitator, and the participants. Each chapter is followed by “Study Questions,” “Practicum” (case study scenarios for reflection), and suggestions for further readings. The appendices contain exercises, information about professional organizations, and a number of recordkeeping templates. The book includes references to poems, songs, and stories that can be used in bibliotherapeutic practice alongside novels. Addressing practical concerns as well as theoretical underpinnings, this book is meant to be used for private study by librarians and anyone interested in bibliotherapy. However, the suggested reading material needs to be assessed critically as the book was published almost thirty years ago. This is also the case with the information provided in the appendices – for instance, some organizations are no longer in existence, while more recent ones are not listed.

Kramer, K. (2009). Using self-help bibliotherapy in counseling. (Master thesis). University of Lethbridge, Alberta.

In her Master of Counselling thesis, Karin Kramer addresses the use of self-help books as a component of counselling and argues that counsellors without training in bibliotherapy may be unaware of its complexity as an intervention. She reviews the literature on the effectiveness of self-help books in a counselling context and appends a manual of guidelines and resources. Kramer’s work is specific in its focus on self-help literature and counselling as opposed to a clinical context. Her manual presents a useful introduction to bibliotherapy, supplies interesting relevant resources, and offers some words of caution. Given the counseling context, Kramer’s work may be useful reading for librarians looking to partner with local counselling services. What this manual is missing, however, is suggested ways of training and certification in bibliotherapy that counselors might investigate.

Lerner, A., & Mahlendorf, U. R. (1992). Life guidance through literature. Chicago: American Library Association.
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The premise of Lerner and Mahlendorf’s book is that “insightful contemporary writers are … eminently well qualified to advise us on our and our society’s most pressing problems” (vii). The book consists of sixteen chapters that analyze specific life problems as portrayed in works of fiction. Each chapter contains questions for discussion and extensive annotated suggestions for further readings (including some film titles). The chapters’ themes range from shorter-term crises, such as “Divorce and Separation” and “Facing Sudden Success,” to long-term, existential conditions, such as “Man’s Inhumanity to Man,” “Women’s Experience,” and “Ethnic Minorities.” 

Longden , E., et al. (2015). Shared reading: Assessing the intrinsic
value of a literature-based health intervention
. Medical Humanities.

Building on the growing evidence base for the therapeutic value of literature, this study used a 12-week crossover design to compare the outcomes of six sessions of “Shared Reading” against the “Built Environment” workshop. A comparative social activity was the participants’ brainstorming of design ideas for a specified environment. The researchers found that shared reading had a number of associated benefits, including the liveliness generated by reading aloud, creative inarticulancy (or, as noted in previous studies, the benefit of therapy in an organic and non-dogmatic environment), emotional benefits enabled by certain triggers in the texts, the personal benefit of bringing their own experiences to bear on the text in a supportive group environment, and the group itself, which quickly became connected and communal. Two useful comparisons attest to the effectiveness of “Shared Reading” as an intervention: (1) The researchers found that the self-disclosure elicited by the texts created a more emotionally productive environment than that of the “Built Environment workshop”; and (2) participants cited “Shared Reading” as preferable to group psychotherapy because the emphasis in “Shared Reading” was on the text rather than on negative life experiences. Librarians may find this study interesting because it actually compares shared reading against another similar social activity; with limited budgets for events, librarians may be able to use this evidence to argue for shared reading initiatives over other possible community endeavors.

Miller, A. (2015). The year of reading dangerously: How fifty great books saved my life. London: Fourth Estate.
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In this bibliomemoir, Miller makes a pact to spend a year reading books he had meant to read, or abandoned, or lied about having read, or felt he should have read but didn’t. The driving forces behind this endeavor are his approaching 40th birthday and his realization that he had neglected his love of reading since the birth of his son. He ruminates on the power of books, the experience of reading, and the meaning of being a reader. His observations, directly and unabashedly filtered through his life circumstances at the time of reading, exemplify the type of memories that can be triggered when readers, as we say, find themselves in the text. However, promoting this book as an act of self-bibliotherapy might be a bit of a stretch, and some readers may find Miller’s exercise somewhat tainted by privilege. Although Miller did experience a life change in moving to the suburbs and becoming a father, his reading project is primarily driven by reading for the sake of reading and his effort to preserve his self-image as a reader. Librarians might actually find this book to be a fruitful icebreaker title for a book club, and a useful resource for getting readers to think about how books affect their lives.

Pardeck, J. T. (1993). Using Bibliotherapy in Clinical Practice: A Guide to Self-help Books. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
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This book is intended to provide mental health professionals with information about self-help books, and how they can be used to treat various clinical problems. The author also states that others – parents, teachers, and librarians – can use the materials listed. The book is divided into chapters, each dealing with a broad problem or issue, such as “chemical dependency,” “personal growth,” and “serious illness.” Each chapter begins with an overview, intended to familiarize the reader with a particular issue, and concludes with an annotated list of self-help books on the topic. While informative and numerous, the titles included in the book were published over twenty years ago and may contain outdated information and attitudes. In addition, it is important to remember that librarians are not trained or qualified to diagnose disorders and therefore should not attempt to “prescribe” a self-help book to a reader, unless operating as part of a bibliotherapy team, which includes a mental health professional.

Parkinson, R. (2009). Transforming tales: How stories can change people. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
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In his book about creating and sharing stories, Parkinson aims to present “a manual to which [one] can return over and again to try out new ideas” (18). Information and insights about stories from various disciplines, such as education, psychology, folklore, and entertainment, are brought together for a more holistic picture of the history and practice of storytelling. The author specifically focuses on the change that stories can bring about, not only in the listener but also in the storyteller. Intended for “a variety of different kinds of people, working in different ways with different kinds of change” (17), the book contains some theory and history, but is mostly practical. Opinions, ideas, and descriptions of techniques are interspersed with a large number of stories, jokes, and anecdotes from various cultures. This book would be a valuable resource for librarians who are interested in expanding their understanding and their storytelling repertoire.

The Reader Organisation. (2014). Read to care: An investigation into the quality of life benefits of shared reading groups for people living with dementia.
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Read to Care is a visually attractive document describing The Reader Organisation’s (TRO) shared reading groups for people with dementia. Opening with an emotional introduction by British broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, the report celebrates the work of TRO following a recent evaluation of the program that revealed many positive outcomes for patients with dementia. The report uses a narrative approach, often citing examples of poetry that had an observed impact on the patients; outlines session and project details; and includes feedback from relatives, staff, and residents themselves. Photographs of participants enjoying the shared reading experience appear throughout the document. For its readability and attention to the specifics, this would be a valuable resource for librarians implementing a reading intervention with people with dementia.

Robinson, J., & Billington, J. (n.d.). An evaluation of a pilot study of a literature based intervention with women in prison.

Achieved through a partnership between TRO and CRILS, the goal of this project was to determine whether “Get into Reading,” established as a viable intervention in other settings, would work in a women’s prison. The study revealed four main areas of improved well-being: social, emotional/psychological, educational, and organizational. As in previous studies, participants indicated an increased sense of support, confidence, and concentration, and a feeling of escape from their realities. Unique to the prison context was a documented sense of freedom and escape from imposed formal authority. Some other observed benefits were the development of better reading skills and the fact that the program attracted even the most solitary women. The women participated voluntarily and shared that they looked forward to the reading group. In some cases they even expressed attachment to the program and fear of its loss if they were to be transferred. The findings of this study would be of specific use to librarians working in correctional facilities, but public librarians may also find that the study has relevance to some of the more challenging populations they encounter at work.

Rubin, R.J. (Ed.). (1978). Bibliotherapy Sourcebook. Neal-Schuman Professional Book. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1978.
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The book presents a collection of articles on bibliotherapy. Rubin divides the articles into four parts: “Classic works on bibliotherapy” contains seminal writings from the first half of the twentieth century; “The view from other disciplines” presents papers from the fields of psychiatry, education, counseling, and occupational therapy; “Bibliotherapy and library science” focuses on librarians’ writings on the topic; and “Foreign perspectives” contains articles about bibliotherapy from countries other than the United States. Each part includes suggestions for further reading. The broad scope of this compilation would appeal to librarians who are interested in the history and development of bibliotherapy in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Rubin, R.J. (Ed.). (1978). Using Bibliotherapy: A Guide to Theory and Practice. Neal-Schuman Professional Book. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1978.
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In this book, Rubin offers “a detailed record of the evolution of training for the practice of bibliotherapy” (vii). After discussing the history and evolution of bibliotherapy, the author goes on to address the practical aspect of implementing a bibliotherapy program in various settings, including hospitals, schools, libraries, and correctional institutions. A separate chapter is devoted to a discussion of the training necessary for a bibliotherapist. Appendices include annotated bibliographies of materials for use with young readers and with an adult discussion group, a case study of a bibliotherapy certification program, and examples of job descriptions for bibliotherapists. Rubin emphasizes the importance of ethics in the administration of bibliotherapy, and calls for more rigorous research, education, and training practices. Despite its age, this book still remains one of the major sources of information about bibliotherapy for librarians, and some of Rubin’s statements are used widely in current research. One of this volume’s most important contributions is Rubin’s distinction between “the art of bibliotherapy,” which is implicit, developmental, nonmedical bibliotherapy, and “the science of bibliotherapy” provided by “trained mental health professionals,” which constitutes explicit, clinical, diagnostic, and institutional bibliotherapy.

Stanley, J. D. (1999). Reading to heal: How to use bibliotherapy to improve your life. Boston, MA: Element.
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The first part of Stanley’s book deals with the history of bibliotherapy and the various ways in which it is practiced today. The author provides case studies and anecdotes, as well as practical exercises and suggestions for the self-bibliotherapist. The second part of the book consists of thematic chapters, each presenting a recommended list of readings that address a particular issue, such as Motherhood, Fear, and Forgiveness. Fiction, non-fiction, self-help, and poetry titles are included. Each chapter concludes with a number of questions for consideration based on the topic of the readings. Addressed to the lay reader, this book would be of use to librarians who consider incorporating bibliotherapeutic elements into their library programming, as well as anyone interested in the practical side of bibliotherapy.