Classics, illness narratives, or fantasy?

Literature selection in bibliotherapy


  • Cecilia Pettersson Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion, University of Gothenburg, Sweden



bibliotherapy, librarians, public libraries, library service, fiction, poetry, qualitative research


What kinds of fictional literature are most suitable for use in bibliotherapy? And what functions may reading and talking about this literature serve for those participating in a bibliotherapeutic reading group? These questions are highly relevant to researchers who carry out scholarly studies and to librarians who work with bibliotherapy in practice. However, very little empirical research has been conducted from a participant perspective. The aim of this study is to deepen the knowledge of these questions by examining them in relation to a bibliotherapeutic reading group for women with feelings of sadness after giving birth.

The material used in the study consists of participant observations of ten group meetings and in-dept interviews with the participants. The analysis shows that participants benefited most from reading and discussing genres that have not traditionally been used for bibliotherapy, such as fantasy and realistic fiction that thematize issues other than the participants’ own problems or health concerns. Some of the bibliotherapeutic functions highlighted by participants can be discerned in recent user-centered research, while others, such as the intellectual function, are quite new. This study contributes new knowledge as it problematizes notions of literature selection found in previous research and presents new functions of bibliotherapy. It is thus highly relevant to both researchers and librarians. Additional similar studies that are more extensive should be carried out to further broaden knowledge of literature selection bibliotherapy.  


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How to Cite

Pettersson, C. (2023). Classics, illness narratives, or fantasy? : Literature selection in bibliotherapy. Nordic Journal of Library and Information Studies, 4(2), 56–71.