Health and reading well

Books and reading can have a positive and impactful effect on your health and wellbeing.

Keeping you well

From self-help books to health information and creative reading, your library can help you to get well and keep well in a number of ways.

Self-help books can be very effective when read on their own, or when used with counselling, therapy or prescribed medication and we stock copies of recommended titles chosen for the national Reading Well programme.

All the Reading Well books are approved by health experts and people living with the conditions, their relatives and carers. Your health professional may recommend a title - which is why Reading Well is sometimes still called Books on Prescription - or you can visit your local library and simply take a book out on your own.

You can find up-to-date book lists on our catalogue at 'Good Reads', Health and Wellbeing section.

Many titles are now available as eBooks for free loan. Please go to our eBooks and eAudio page and look for the OverDrive section. 

The current Reading Well selections are given below. Libraries also stock books on a variety of health conditions as well as books that explore diet, exercise, and healthy cooking.

Mental health conditions

Recommended books on mental health issues (pdf format, 1Mb) such as anger, anxiety, depression and stress.

For children and families

Reading Well for children helps children and families to boost their wellbeing and manage their mental health using recommended reading collections. 

The Reading Well for children book collection is aimed at primary school children and their families to encourage children to read together with others, such as their parents.

The books on the list have been selected to help children understand and talk about their mental health and wellbeing and to inspire conversations about feelings between children and their parents or carers who support families whilst waiting for further support.

For young people

There are two lists of recommended books for young people.

The latest is Reading Well for Teens (2022) which is a fresh variety of books to help support teens with a variety of wellbeing concerns chosen by other teens and health professionals.

Oxfordshire Libraries has plenty of copies of the books and on the online library via the Libby app.

Reading Well for Young People (2016) is also widely available in libraries and online

List of books (pdf format, 117Kb) on mental health compiled by young people for young people. You will find self-help and information titles, graphic novels, memoirs and fiction.


The Reading Agency’s booklist recommends helpful reading for people living with dementia, as well as their family, friends and carers. The books provide reliable information, advice and support along with personal stories.


Reminiscence boxes, Reminiscence bags and Pictures to Share are excellent resources designed to spark conversation and memories. 

Many of these personal memories are based on work, home, festivals, leisure and family life. The boxes and bags include photos from Oxfordshire History Centre that reflect the people, places, transport, landscape and work-places that have defined local lives over the last century.

  • Reminiscence boxes contain 10-15 items, mainly illustrated books on a variety of themes which are sometimes supplemented with a DVD, music CD, postcards or facsimile artefacts that can enable people to connect with their memories.
  • Reminiscence bags include 2-3 books in addition to a selection of items which may include illustrations, replica packs and music. They are particularly designed for use with individuals, and come in easy-to-carry bags, making them ideal for borrowing. 

The bags and boxes also include a contents list, a list of all boxes or bags available and a magnifier sheet to assist those with a visual impairment.

All bags and boxes are available for loan and can be requested online or through any library for the standard request fee. They will then be delivered to your chosen library ready for collection and can be borrowed free for three weeks.

Reminiscence bags

Live, work and play

Reminiscence boxes

Transport 1 - Rail
Transport 2 - Road
Transport 3 - Air
Transport 4 - General
Childhood - Boxes 1 & 2
Royalty & celebrated people - Boxes 1 & 2
Britain through the decades Early 20th Century
Britain through the decades 1930s and 40s
Britain through the decades 1950s and 60s
Britain through the decades 1970s onwards
Local History -  Boxes 1 & 2
Sport & entertainment - Boxes 1 & 2
Wartime - Boxes 1 & 2
Work, home and school - Boxes 1 & 2
Country Life
A Day Out
Feeding the Family
Music and Theatre
Sport and Leisure

Pictures to Share books cover a variety of themes such as pets, travel, countryside and shopping. They are like other reminiscence materials with mostly pictures and a small amount of text and are ideal for family, friends and carers to use and develop a sense of togetherness with someone who is finding communication difficult.

Mood-boosting books

Books inspire laughter, tears and lots in between; they are a fantastic way to expand your imagination and forget about life’s cares.  Readers across the UK were asked to nominate their favourite uplifting and mood-enhancing books and the eclectic mix of uplifting novels, non-fiction and poetry is available through your local library.

Library activities and services

Activities & volunteering

Libraries across Oxfordshire offer a variety of activities and services, including book choices, which can help residents connect with others, discover new interests or hobbies, reduce isolation and anxiety. 

Explore the library website or visit a library for more information on: Language cafés, Knit ‘n’ Natters, author talks, family rhymetimes and seasonal activities. 

Reading groups

As well as sharing recommendations through a list, why not be part of a reading group? They can be a good way of bringing people together, promoting wellbeing and reducing isolation. No two reading groups are the same, they cater for all sorts of people and all kinds of reading tastes. Find out more about the options available to you through your library.


People who volunteer say it helps them feel better connected with others and their community and they enjoy having the opportunity to do something useful. The library service has a number of volunteering opportunities, including roles to support some of our smaller libraries across the network and task-specific roles such as rhymetime volunteers, digital helpers and code club volunteers. Please visit our webpage