If you live with depression, sometimes facing the day is difficult. When you find yourself fighting symptoms like feelings of isolation, fatigue and ruminating thoughts — just to name a few — it can be hard to cope. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, it can also be hard to find others who truly understand what you’re going through.
It’s at times like these that books may come in handy.
Sometimes a book gives you the words to explain what you’ve been feeling for so long. Sometimes books can make you feel less alone in your struggle — like someone else has been there, too. Or sometimes a book can simply provide a temporary reprieve from the depressive thoughts that crowd your brain. Whatever the reasons may be, we know books can be useful tools in battling depression, so we asked members of our mental health community to share a book they’d recommend to someone struggling with depression.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini
“It’s a great book for teenagers with depression because it makes you realize there will be people out there who understand what you’re going through, and also the emotions you feel are valid in every way.” — Kenzie L.
2. “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
“It’s a biographical book about her struggles and own battles with depression in which she overcame them by accepting her flaws, made peace with her past and love who she has become because of what she went through. The book has and will always help me stay alive. Existence is pain, but it eases a little knowing even the greatest human beings too hurt just like you and me.” — Boonn H.
3. “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig
“This book made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Everything he said in this memoir I could nod my head to. It was real, didn’t fluff over stuff and gave it the attention it needed. Anyone who feels guilt or shame about how they are feeling needs to read this. It normalized my experience and made me feel OK. It was also easy to read with short sections, so I could put it down when I was tired without feeling I had to get to a break.” — Erin W.
4. “Prozac Nation” by Elizabeth Wurtzel
“I totally relate to Elizabeth Wurtzel and she explains how it feels to have depression so well. I felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders knowing someone else felt exactly how I feel now and she survived. Absolutely fabulous book.” — April B.
5. “Feeling Good” by David Burns
“It has completely changed the way I started approaching my own thoughts and moods. I learned to observe them, analyze them and stopped treating them as dogmas. It has allowed to me substitute them with more rational and helpful thoughts, which in turn allows me to say that after many months of depression I finally… feel good.” — Piotr K.
6. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
“It was a hard and emotional read, but I had never related to a character before in terms of a book character and my depression. I felt like I was looking at myself a lot of times, and it really is such an amazing book. It doesn’t paint it in a glorifying way, and I am thankful for that. Would definitely recommend but be warned it is triggering.” — Kaela W.
7. “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
“While this book is about an eighth grader and her experience being raped, Melinda struggles with severe depression because of the trauma and struggles to find her voice, metaphorically and literally. Melinda often is mute because of the incident. Her art class becomes her sanctuary and slowly she finds her voice to speak up about the trauma she has endured. While I wasn’t raped, I experienced childhood abuse physically and mentally and when my 11th grade English teacher recommended this book, it cracked my shell and made me have more of an interest in art, which is now how I try and escape my major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder and my PTSD. [My teacher] helped me find the most important thing I’ll find within myself — a voice.” — Ashley C.
8. “Note to Self” by Connor Franta
“In Connor Franta’s book ‘Note to Self,’ he has a whole chapter about living with depression and how to support someone living with depression. It’s beautifully written. His sole purpose isn’t to give depression more awareness, although that is as extremely important thing to do, his purpose is to help people struggling by finding comfort in his words, to know they aren’t alone, to know that even people who appear to live a ‘perfect life’ struggle too. It’s so beautiful to see media influencers using their internet platforms to spread mental health awareness.” — Jasmine M.
9. “If You Feel Too Much” by Jamie Tworkowski
“The author is the founder of the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms, which raises awareness and offers help and resources for mental illness and suicide. It’s a collection of blog posts over several years, and I always feel comforted and less alone after reading a section or two.” — Shannen A.
10. “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson
“It’s a youth novel, but it’s so powerful. It lets readers know the darkness you feel can always give way to the light at the end of a tunnel.” — Bailey S.
11. “Lincoln’s Melancholy” by Joshua Wolf Shenk
“[It’s a] fascinating study of President Lincoln and how depression shaped his life and presidency. It’s a nice reminder you can have a mental illness and still contribute to the world in a positive way.” — Annette A.
12. “Undoing Depression” by Richard O’Connor
“Incredibly thorough, covering many perspectives and crucially says, ‘You need a therapist, you can’t do it alone.’” — David P.
13. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath
“It may be slightly triggering, but I could relate to what the protagonist was going through. In a way, it felt good to read the book to know that depression is common, even back in the 1960s, when the story was set.” — Mariah A.
14. “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom
“It’s an amazing storyline and gives an incredible perspective to life and how you live it. Especially your interactions with others and how they can change their lives no matter how small that interaction is.” — Katie G.
15. “You Are Special” by Max Lucado
“It’s a children’s book, but it’s so poignant. The message of the story explicitly contradicts a lot of what depression says about oneself (you’re a mistake, you don’t have value, you’re a burden, etc.) I was given a copy of this book when I was 5 years old, and my mom would read it to me on bad depression days and it would just make everything better. I took that same copy with me to college and I would read it whenever I was really down and now, my husband will read it to me. The book reminds me I’m not a mistake and, despite what my depression tells me, I am worthy of life.” — Ellen G.
16. “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson
“It’s funny, poignant and inspiring. Lawson really ‘takes you there’ and opens up about depression, self-harm, therapy, relationships and the challenges that can come from living a life with mental illness.” — Tiffany A.
17. “My Fight, Your Fight” by Ronda Rousey
“Ronda struggled through her dad’s suicide, dropping out of high school and many other things. Her struggles made her who she is today though, a UFC fighter [who] never gives up.” — Aaron O.
18. Game of Thrones ( A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) by George R.R. Martin
“They were a wonderful distraction and you get so much insight on the characters and their talents and flaws from a first person perspective of so many different kinds of people. You witness abuse through their eyes and you witness how that shapes them and either breaks them or allows them to persevere and grow.” — J.S.
19. “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl
“Excellent book especially for those struggling to find hope and meaning in their suffering. Very helpful if you struggle with existentialism, as I do. I highly recommend this book to everyone!” — Bethany P.
20. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
“It’s not a book, but a series. The Harry Potter series, to be exact. This series was the only reason I stayed alive through my teenage years. It’s such an immersive, imaginative, incredible world, and you can’t help but cry with Harry, love with Harry and triumph with Harry. Through all his struggles, he kept going. With his friends love and encouragement, he found hope. Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Kat P.
What would you add?
Thinkstock photo via Tasia12.