About philosophical bibliotherapy


Bibliotherapy is generally understood as the treatment of mental health conditions through reading.

In the UK, The Reading Agency has promoted schemes through which doctors can prescribe self-help books, the use of which has been approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) for use by the National Health Service. The term has also been used by those who see reading other genres of books, for example plays and novels, as being therapeutic.

Although the word “bibliotherapy” may be new, the idea of books as “medicine for the mind” goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years. When Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia was suffering from melancholia, René Descartes prescribed her Seneca’s “On the Happy Life” (De Vita Beata). The correspondence that followed, proved productive for Descartes too, culminating in his writing his final book, The Passions of the Soul.

The aim of this site is to forward the idea that reading and discussing works of philosophy can help us to understand ourselves and learn to live better lives. This is not to say that philosophy books will always give us instant happiness –  often they will make us uncomfortable, forcing us to doubt our most cherished assumptions and opinions.

But, on the premise that self-examination is the beginning of  understanding, and going by my  personal experience, I would argue that philosophical bibliotherapy is a genuinely rewarding path to wellbeing of mind and body – offering if not a complete cure, then at least a way of living with the human condition.

Please feel free to leave a comment on any post, suggest a book, a relevant link, or just leave some feedback on this page. (This is a troll-free zone, all comments are therefore moderated!)


More on bibliotherapy

UK Reading Agency: Reading Well

American Library Association: Bibliotherapy

Reading Well Books on Prescription

Fiction prescription: why libraries make you happy (Guardian Newspaper)

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