Today is World Mental Health Day and in honour of this day I’ve decided to bring you a list of books featuring a variety of different mental illnesses. While compiling this list, I realised how few books I’ve read involving this topic. Which is awful. Mental illness has had a major impact on my life and I can’t believe how few books I’ve read regarding this subject that means a lot to me. So, this list is partly a recommendation list and partly a TBR of books I need to get to as soon as possible.
A bit of disclaimer for this list: these books all deal with difficult and possibly triggering subjects so only read them at your own discretion!
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Reasons to Stay Alive is about making the most of your time on earth. In the western world the suicide rate is highest amongst men under the age of 35. Matt Haig could have added to that statistic when, aged 24, he found himself staring at a cliff-edge about to jump off. This is the story of why he didn’t, how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how live better, love better, read better and feel more.
This is the only non-fiction book on this list. It focuses on the author’s struggle to overcome depression and anxiety and it was incredibly moving and somehow, humourous. This book explores depression and anxiety in a way that’s easy for everyone and anyone to understand.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say. Without Wren, Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She’s got a surly room-mate, a writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible . . .
This book focuses on Cath, who suffers from social anxiety. I don’t think I’ve ever related to a character like I have to Cath. She lives off cereal bars for the longest time because she’s terrified of asking where the cafeteria is and that is something I would totally do. This is an entertaining and touching book and I loved reading it.
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden inside there’s secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD. She second guesses every move, thought, and word. It doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of something wrong. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline who introduces her to Poet’s corner, a hidden room and a close group of misfits, she drawn to them immediately and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.
This book focuses on Sam, who suffers from purely-obsessional OCD, a form of OCD that isn’t often talked about in other novels or in the media. It mainly involves excessive rumination and upsetting/intrusive thoughts. This novel intrigues me as I’ve never read a book involving a character with OCD before and OCD is often incorrectly portrayed in the media so I’d love to learn to more about it.
Paperweight by Meg Haston
Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert. Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtimes, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid. Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.
Quite a few people I trust have spoken highly of this book which follows a teenager entering treatment for anorexia. I’ve heard it’s very raw and honest and doesn’t shy away from the dark side of eating disorders. This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time and I’m hoping to pick it up soon.
Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?
Evie, the main character in this book, suffers from OCD and this book focuses on her struggles trying to get through college with her mental illness. This book also talks about the difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships and explores feminist ideas about the pressure on woman in society.
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and back-stab to be the best of the best.
This novel focuses on a collection of different issues including mental illness (depression, eating disorders etc.), racism and bullying. I’ve heard that this is a great story and touches on so many important topics that I don’t want to miss out on reading it.
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.
This book is at the top of my wishlist, I want to read it so bad. It focuses on a girl called Elise who’s been an outcast most of her life and suffers from depression. Then she stumbles on a party and discovers her love of DJing and uses this to help her recover from her illness. I think this is a book I could relate to a lot.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl. I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through. I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame. Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.
This book focuses on two girls who are basically competing with each other to be the skinniest. I’ve heard this book is devastating and moving and it’s definitely something I want to read at some point.
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him. Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in? Lisa is determined to “fix” Sol. She steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.
This book has an interesting premise of a psychology student trying to fix a boy with agoraphobia and I believe it also features LGBTQ+ themes so it caught my eye and I’d like to read it at some point.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Ambitious teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself. Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
I’ve heard lots of great things about this book. The author, Ned Vizzini, has spent time in a psychiatric hospital himself. So, I’m sure this book doesn’t lack accuracy in portraying what it’s like to spend in a mental institution.
What mental health books are on your TBR