Overcoming the Fear of Books or Bibliophobia

Numerous stacks of books
Arman Zhenikeyev / Getty Images

Bibliophobia is an unusual phobia of books. It can be broadly defined as the fear of books, but it also refers to a fear of reading or reading out loud or in public. Many people have only a subset of this phobia, fearing textbooks or historical novels or children’s stories, rather than a fear of all books. Mythophobia, or the fear of legends, can be considered a subtype of bibliophobia if the fear is of those legends that are written down. Metrophobia, or fear of poetry, is another subtype of bibliophobia.

The Phobia of Books

If you experience bibliophobia, you may have difficulty when forced or encouraged to read. You may fear the stories themselves. Or, even the simple act of reading, holding a book, or being in a library may cause anxious behavior associated with your phobia. If you have learning disabilities or difficulty with reading, then it is natural to be nervous, particularly when reading out loud. It is important to determine and treat the root cause of the phobia. You may have been ostracized in childhood for not reading adequately or forced to read before you were proficient, so the fear is associated with a lack of control over reading material which has created your aversion and resulted in anxiety surrounding books.

If you have bibliophobia, you may shake, sweat or cry when having to read. You might go out of your way to avoid reading out loud by sitting in the back of a classroom or even skipping classes altogether. You may try to convince others to read important information to you instead of having to read it yourself. Or you may heavily control your interaction with books or reading environments such as libraries, museums, and other places where reading is an important aspect of the experience.


Because bibliophobia can be extremely life-limiting, causing problems at work and school as well as in personal life, it's important that you seek proper treatment. Your doctor or mental health professional will work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your needs. You will likely be taught new ways of thinking about books, and encouraged to read a few pages at a time within the safety of your therapist’s office. At no time will you be forced to progress at a faster pace than you feel comfortable with.

Remember treatment is not a cure, so your best course of action is to continue to expose yourself to books to lessen your anxiety surrounding your fear of books. This continual exposure will help you better overcome your phobia in the long run.

Bibliophobia in Popular Culture

Although this phobia is rather unusual, it makes an excellent backdrop for certain Halloween events, such as Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. In Universal’s scenario, for example, a female drama voice coach develops both bibliophobia and metrophobia, making it difficult or impossible to do her job. The treatment, in horror movie style, is to force the woman to face horrific images contained in a series of twisted fairy tales. This may be a comic way of showing people who are afraid of scary stories, but the fear should be taken seriously because of the consequences of this particular fear.

1 Source
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  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed). Washington DC: Author; 2013.​​

Additional Reading
  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed). Washington DC: Author; 2013.​​

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.