"Bibliotherapy, quite simply, is about books as therapy. It's not meant to take the place of medicine, but it can complement it," says Dr Byrne. "It's actually a reinvention of a traditional idea. The ancient Greeks used poetry as therapy and Queen Victoria drew comfort from the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson when her husband, Prince Albert, died. "Books can take you to a different place. They can relax you and calm you, and they can offer wisdom, or humour, or both." The NHS is increasingly tuning into the benefits of literary prescriptions. Reading Well offers two things: a books-on-prescription scheme which helps people to understand and manage their mental health - all the book lists, which are non-fiction, self-help-type books, are endorsed by health professionals and supported by public libraries in England.
Separately, the scheme also lists a range of mood-boosting fiction recommended by readers, from Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. You can also sign up to a bibliotherapy service with The School of Life. For £100, you'll complete a questionnaire about your relationship with books, before having a having a one-to-one session with a bibliotherapist who will create your own unique book prescription. In her work with ReLit, Dr Byrne often uses poetry as a way into the practice. "We focus a lot on poetry because it is short and accessible. We all lead busy lives and if you want to relax or go into a different headspace, taking time to read a poem can really slow you down," she says.