Reading lists

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1. Timeless reading - Poetry
  • Robert Frost: The Road not Taken – About life choices and consequences.
  • Maya Angelou: Caged Bird – About the lived experience of oppression, whether racial, economic, mental or physical.
  • Mary Oliver: The Journey - Focuses on the need to leave the past behind and find one’s own voice.
  • Denise Levertov: Talking to Grief – Accepting loss and other painful feelings as part of one’s life.
  • Robert Frost: The Armful – Feeling overwhelmed by life’s struggles and pressures, and making a fresh start.
2. Timeless reading - Novels, stories, biographies

Words for wellbeing isn’t limited to classics – all sorts of reading can work. But for those who are willing to read them, timeless classics like the ones below can provide support and insights for a lifetime.

Paul Coelho: The Alchemist. Inspiring story of self-discovery through following your dreams.

Kafka – Metamorphosis. Novella (long short story.) Fantastic, horrifying and funny. A man who has put work and family before himself wakes to find he himself in the body of a large insect. About a person being alienated and shamed by forces outside their control, trying to hold onto a sense of self and their humanity. Relevant to life situations that challenge a person’s sense of identity –e.g. unemployment, bereavement, illness, adolescence - as well as to victimization due to issues such as race, religion, disability, gender.

Tolstoy – Death of Ivan Illyich Short story about re-evaluating your life at the end of life, and finding meaning in compassion for others.

Viktor Frankl – Man’s search for meaning. Viktor Frankl's account of his time in the Nazi concentration camps and exploration of the will to find purpose, hope and meaning in times of great despair.

3. General

The Reading Well booklists from the Reading Agency are a good starting point, providing a  comprehensive source of a wide range of issues for children, young people and adults.

A-Z of book prescriptions  - Includes life events such as divorce and motherhood as well as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and other mental health issues.

Core reading for bibliotherapy -  Includes fiction and non-fiction on a range of topics including terminal illness, self-harm, loss of loved ones, transgender issues, loneliness.

Reading lists - mix of fiction and non-fiction




4. Reading lists for teenagers and children

Escape Connect Relate  on the Young Scot website provides reading lists for  young people to support mental health and wellbeing, as well as links to online advice and support.

The reading lists cover a wide range of topics including abuse, bullying, depression, self-harm, family and other relationships, equality and diversity issues.

A-Z of book prescriptions for children provides reading materials and reading lists for young children. It covers topics including anxiety and bullying.

The Book Trust provides themed reading lists and an A-Z list for children and young people, including topics such as grief and loss, refugees and asylum seekers, autism.

5. Poetry

The Scottish Poetry Library catalogue allows you to browse for poems on a range of topics including:

  • Courage
  • Despair and loneliness
  • Grief and sorrow
  • Homesickness
  • Love
  • Optimism and happiness
6. Resources for groups at risk of exclusion
  • Escape Connect Relate , the Book Trust and the Reading Agency all provide reading material to cover many key issues – including race, being a refugee or asylum seeker, disability and homelessness.
  • The Scottish Poetry Library provides a set of poetry readings in BSL format.
  • Suggest audio books and large print books for people with visual impairment.
  • For people with low literacy or learning disabilities, graphic novels and the Quick Reads provided by the Reading Agency (back catalogue here) can be a good starting point.
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