Recommended Reading for Understanding Mental Illness: Fiction

Book cover for Too Bright to Hear too Loud to See by Juliann GareyBook cover for 72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore CampbellFiction portraying characters with a mental illness can increase a reader’s understanding of what it might be like to live with depression, anxiety or other disabilities. That understanding can create compassion. For a person living with mental illness or caring for someone with mental illness, reading about people like themselves can also bring comfort and hope.

May is Mental Health Month, and the fine folks at Librarian411.org compiled the following list of recommended fiction for understanding mental illness.

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky follows 10th-grader Charlie as he deals with both anxiety and depression in this coming-of-age novel.
  • Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See” by Juliann Garey portrays Greyson Todd, a high-flying movie executive struggling with bi-polar disorder.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon is an inventive novel told in the voice of 15-year-old Christopher Boone, an autistic math genius.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey is narrated by Chief Bromden, a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Oregon, and explores the mistreatment of patients with mental illness.
  • I Know This Much Is True” by Wally Lamb explores the conflicted relationship between twin brothers, one of whom suffers from schizophrenia.
  • Ron McLarty’s “The Memory of Running,” a novel of loss and redemption, portrays characters suffering from alcoholism and schizophrenia.
  • 72 Hour Hold” by Bebe Moore Campbell tells the powerful story of a mother trying to cope with her daughter’s bipolar disorder.
  • Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” follows Esther Greenwood as  she descends into depression and contemplates suicide while interning at a New York City magazine.
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini is a humorous account of a New York City teenager’s battle with depression and his time spent in a psychiatric hospital.

Have there been books that have helped you gain greater understanding of mental illness? Please share them in the comments.

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