Lunch and Learn: Prescribing from the Bookshelf: Bibliotherapy and the use of Books as Medicine

Tuesday, February 15 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm |

Have you ever turned to a book for consolation? Treasured the escape of a novel? Found comfort in a poem, self-help book, or simply from reading the newspaper?

Please join us for a virtual presentation by Historian Mary Mahoney on bibliotherapy, or the use of books as medicine. This talk will offer an exploration of the varied ways readers, doctors, and librarians have imagined books as medicine in the past. Focusing on case studies from 1800 to the present, we’ll explore some of the earliest imaginings of books on a shelf as vials of medicine that could treat all manner of ills. This talk will explore some of the earliest literary prescriptions at nineteenth-century asylums, question what books made the best medicine in the trenches of World War I, and beyond. Readers who prescribe themselves literary cures will learn they are not alone in the practice, and are in fact part of a larger story about the contested uses of reading.

This virtual program is free. To secure a spot, register now. You will receive an email confirmation with the Zoom link attached, and we will send you a reminder on the day of the program.

Questions? Contact Jennifer Busa, Public Programs and Special Events Coordinator, at

About the Speaker

Mary Mahoney is a historian who studies the uses of books as medicine, or bibliotherapy. Earning her Ph.D. in History from UCONN in 2018, she is currently writing a history of bibliotherapy in the United States from 1800 to the present. She is also the co-host of the American Girls Podcast.

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Image:  Bedside Library Service, circa 1918.  American Library Association Archives

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