Bookworms are being prescribed poetry rather than pills in the search for a new way to get rid of the winter blues.

To improve people’s moods, Brighton and Hove City Council’s public health team is co-sponsoring a Happy Book scheme during January, which provides a wide range of mood-boosting titles in libraries across the city.

Julie O’Neil, Jubilee Library’s community engagement manager, said: “If you are engrossed in a book, or it has an amusing story, you feel uplifted.”

Readers are asked to tell the council about their favourite novel or poetry so that it can share the city’s top 20 feelgood book titles and make sure they are all available from libraries.

Ms O’Neil said: “People have been voting for the old favourites. They seem to be going down the nostalgia route and choosing books they read when they were children. Things like PG Wodehouse, or classics like Pride and Prejudice.

“If people have no money after Christmas, it’s free and hopefully will cheer them up. We have book groups and writing groups to help people get out of the house to socialise.”

The campaign is backed by mental health charity Mind in Brighton and the national Reading Well scheme, which advises on prescriptions for those with depression, stress and anxiety.

Since the relaunch of Reading Well, Jubilee library went from issuing 20 prescription books a month to between 180 and 200.

Ms O’Neil hopes the Happy Book scheme will have similar success.

Dr Tom Scanlon, the council’s director of public health, said: “I’d rather prescribe books than drugs.

“We want to help people lift their mood and prevent the winter blues.

“So many people enjoy reading, and library books are free. Sharing ideas about enjoyable books is a brilliant way to help people connect with others.”

To run alongside the scheme, Hove Library is running free computer help sessions around mental health and wellbeing from 10am to midday today and next Monday.

To get involved email, call 01273 290800 or join the conversation on Twitter using #bhhappybooks.