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meet my bibliotherapist :)

Rachel Stevenson

I am so excited about this, I can’t wait to share it with you!

The other day, I came across a piece in The New Yorker, “Can Reading Make You Happier?


Anyway, the article is all about bibliotherapy, which it defines as “the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect.” The author described her own experience with a bibliotherapist and I was hooked. I posted on Facebook that I wanted to see one — what could be better than lying on a couch talking about books?! — or maybe even be one.

My Facebook friend, Rachel Stevenson, immediately replied, “I think as a librarian I can claim to be a bibliotherapist. I can give you a book recommendation for any mood you have.”

I knew there was a blog post in there, and I was over the moon that she could actually be my own personal bibliotherapist!

Because Rachel gave such amazing answers to the questions I sent her, I’m going to post our Q&A in two parts. Today is all about Rachel. Tomorrow is all about me  — and you!

Rachel StevensonTo give you a little background, Rachel is a public librarian in northwest Pennsylvania. Her love of reading comes from her aunt who bought her a book for every birthday and still does. Books have been a major part of her life, inspiring her to study abroad in Wales, travel to Massachusetts to do a research project on the Salem Witch Trials, and introduce herself to other people she finds reading — which often leads to great friendships. That’s how we virtually met.

The day after my post about the article, Rachel posted this note on my Facebook wall: “Okay, so you’ve inspired me. You have a voice and write a blog and I want to do that too. For now I’ll focus on books and you gave me the inspiration for my blog title. Here is the first post. I hope you like it.”

Do I like it? I LOVE IT. And guess what she named it? The Bibliotherapist Is In. Is that not perfect?! Check it out and subscribe, because once you’ve read her recommendations here, I’m sure you’ll want to make regular appointments with her.

How did the idea of a bibliotherapist resonate with you?

Of Mice and MenMy aunt, who is also my godmother, got me into reading at a very young age, so books have always been my friends. As I grew up they remained my friends and I realized that they could change my mood. Even though it was over 20 years ago I still vividly remember finishing Of Mice and Men in third period study hall in ninth grade and I couldn’t stop crying over Lenny’s death. It affected me so much. It was as if Lenny was one of my friends and he had died and I would never see him again. That’s when I realized the true power of books. If I want to cry, I read Of Mice and Men and bawl every time. It’s not a little cry. It is true, heaving, heavy crying.

Why did you decide to start your blog — which, you know, makes me so happy?

Even before I was a librarian I did a lot of reading. I am positive I buy more books than I can ever possibly read. I find as a librarian I am constantly suggesting things even if my patrons don’t always ask, but I definitely read things to fit my mood and I figure other people do as well. So I thought if I started a blog to share my love of books maybe other people would want to read and feel the way I do.

What are the most popular suggestions you get asked for, as a librarian?

With MaliceRight now everyone is looking for the next Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Everyone really seems to love the thriller and want more of that. I often suggest Eileen Cook’s With Malice, which I believe is technically a young adult book, but it’s really good and it captures that Gone Girl suspense and surprise that everyone is looking to read. I’ve been a fan of Eileen’s since I read Unpredictable, which is one of my favorites and one I read again and again, so I’m happy that not only I, but publications are also calling With Malice the next big summer thriller.

What are some of your personal go-to books when you need a lift?

If I need to see that the bookish girl gets the guy — because I’m 36 and single and sometimes it’s hard to think that this bookish introvert will ever find the right man — I read Alison Lane’s The Rake and the Wallflower. There’s something about going back to Regency times where people are mostly polite and civil to each other and the bluestocking does get the earl that I find nice. People tell me they never read fiction or that they never read the same book twice and I immediately feel sad for them. I go back to certain books again and again depending on my mood and I think fiction can offer so much in the way we relate to people and feel about things. I’ve also read the same book every March since I was 12. My aunt gave me the book A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi and it is one of my favorite books. It’s about the Salem Witch Trials and has me still to this day reading everything I can about them. It’s a story about a young girl who gets caught up in the trials and what she makes of all of it. She is not one of the accusing girls, but just one of the townspeople.

Is there a book you’ve read that you would really consider life-changing for you?

Seeing Me NakedWhen I was 28 I read Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer. It totally changed my life. It’s about loving a person and accepting their faults as part of who they are, which I think is a great message. It inspired me to quit my job, break up with my cheating boyfriend, and make some huge life changes that eventually lead me to where I am now. I’m very happy.

Who are your literary crushes?

Well, Jonathan, the main character’s love interest in A Break With Charity, was my first literary crush. Greg from Beth Elliot’s In All Honour was my last. This is another Regency-set book. I really love the Regency era, starting with Jane Austen in high school and then moving on to Regencies when I was an academic librarian and a fellow librarian introduced me to them. To me, Greg is the perfect man and I have told Beth this. She told me he was based on her son and I was so sad to learn he was married, but happy that he is happily married and has a good life because Greg in the story deserves that. This is a sweet Regency that has some really funny parts to it that always make me laugh, but there’s some scary stuff too. I don’t want to give too much away, but you should read it.

It can be challenging to find some of those British books in the States. Do you have any great sources?

I order from Book Depository because they ship from Great Britain for free. It’s how I keep myself in British versions. As a side note, Beth and I became friends via Facebook and she’s really encouraged my writing. She’s very lovely and we met last November when I went to England. We did high tea at the National Theatre and a behind the scenes tour. It was a wonderful experience, but it would have been better had it not been so rainy.

Okay, do you not love Rachel already? Come back tomorrow to see what she recommends for my current state of mind.


  1. OMG, I love this! I saw your post on FB but never knew you pursued it, Lois. I should have known better! How wonderful to find this bibliotherapist. I’m pulling up a couch next to her right now.

    What a wonderful, brilliant lady. I’m looking forward to your next post! I love, love, love this. Did I mention that? 🙂

  2. I can’t imagine having that much insight, and that much variety in my reading – I tend to stick with the same authors, so having someone with all that knowledge would be amazing – I might have a seat on the floor at her feet!

    • As a librarian I believe I need to read a little of every genre. Of course I have my favorite genres, and I read them quite a bit. But I like variety and I have so many varied interests. I think there was one summer when I was only reading about art theft, female spies, and airplanes. I’m pretty sure the FBI has a file on me based on this summer of reading.

  3. I love that she likes Regency novels. I used to read the more often than I do! I am not a thriller fan at all, and now I watch way too much TV. But there was a day when I read a book or two a week and I aim to get that back.

    • I’m so glad someone else liked the Regencies I recommended! I really love Regencies. I like the manners and the balls and the pretty dresses, but my favorites are always when the bluestocking get the lord. I’m also obsessed with Ancient Egypt and there’s this really great series that takes place there.

  4. Rachel, I ugly cried over, Of Mice and Men, too. And for that matter countless books have moved to tears. I still remember reading, Crossing to Safety, written by Wallace Stegner while traveling by plane with a friend, I sobbed. My friend, horrified over my blubbering, told me she had never cried while reading a book. WHAT? I’ve lost count, I told her. Anyway, I digress.

    Your aunt is brilliant and clearly so are you, I look forward to reading tomorrow’s piece.

    Last, I will leave you with this, my mother told me as a young girl, “Elin, if you love to read you will never be lonely.” I’d say she pretty much nailed it.

    Thanks for sharing a few of the books that you love.

    • I think if you don’t cry over Of Mice and Men that something is wrong. I mean oh, Lenny. I think your mother was exactly correct. I remember being in high school and my mother begging me to go to a party, but I’d say something like “Can I please just stay home and read Pride and Prejudice?” Books are some of my most successful relationships.

  5. Love this Lois. I’d never heard of a bibliotherapist. What a great idea!
    I envied how much you read. It’s on my bucket list to read more. I’m always in the kitchen!

  6. Yes I love Rachel already and I am requesting ‘With Malice’ from my library. There are art therapists and a master’s degree in it, is there one for bibliotherapy? Audio books were a godsend for me when I was going through cancer.

    • You can do programs to get certified in bibliotherapy. You can find one such here: http://ifbpt.org/obtaining-a-credential/getting-trained/, but I look at mine as a different type of therapy. I am in no way trying to fix major problems in your life as your actual therapist. I am a strong believer in therapy with an actual licensed therapist if you have a problem, but if you are in a certain mood or would like a book to put you in a certain mood then definitely I am your girl. But if you need to get over having an alcoholic parent who abused you, I would strongly recommend a real therapist. Not that you are, but I’m just clarifying.

  7. I had a biblio relationship with a book seller once. Sadly, he has retired so Rachel will be my new go-to person!

  8. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    A bibliotherapist, wow! Love it! Rachel is very savvy and I admire her book selections. Read on!

  9. There is nothing that makes me happier than reading a good book. A book can make you forget about anything going on like nothing else.

  10. I love this. I love that she can recommend a book to fit any mood. That is indeed great therapy.

  11. Books are such a great way to relax and get away from reality for a little bit! My only problem is that I neglect my family because I cannot put a great book down!

  12. Rachel, first may I thank you for your kind words about my Greg. It’s wonderful he made such a good impression [and my son is very happy at your comments]. It was such a pleasure to meet you and your mother when you treated me to tea and a visit round the National Theatre last November. We discussed your WIP, and I hope you can find time to complete that as this new project could keep you very busy. It’s a delightful idea to act as a booktherapist.. I’m thrilled to hear of other people who reread their books and experience the same emotions as keenly. My books are my friends and my solace. Writing stories is another area, but perhaps you’ll tackle that later on.

  13. Rachel sounds like a remarkable young woman. I love the idea of a bibliotherapist. I’ve got to make more time to read books. Too many interruptions at home.

  14. Love the knowledge here. I surely don’t have the time to read as much as I would like, but I love books. Some of her suggestions I definitely want to look up now.

  15. Yes, I love Rachel. Excited about the books she talked about today and can’t wait to see her recommendations tomorrow.

  16. Rachel Stevenson says:

    Just a note to keep posted to my blog in the future. My author friend, Beth Elliot, just received a two book contract for two new Regencies. One set in France and England and the other set in Constantinople, which is close to her heart. It will be a while before they print and such, but I can’t wait to review them and share them with my readers!

  17. This is so great that you made this connection and have encouraged a blogger! I am a big the reader but tend to stick to certain niches. I would love to have someone recent something depending on my mood!

  18. That is a perfect name! I enjoy reading and might need to find my own little bibliotherapist!

  19. Bibliotherapy. I have been practicing an ancient therapy method my whole life and didn’t even know it! I need to friend a libraria…. ummm…. I mean bibliotherapist!

  20. A bibliotherapist!! Is that a real thing? If so, I need one! I would love for someone to recommend me good books to read!! Thanks for the idea!

  21. So inspiring! One of my goals this summer is to read more often. I need a bibliotherapist too. Thanks for the variety of book recommendations.

  22. That would be my dream job! Reading is my favorite hobby and way to unwind. I love a lot of her recommendations, too!

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