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We now know that depression is much more widespread and common than previously thought, especially in these days of social media and extremely busy lifestyles.

Studies show that the constant “alert mode” that we set ourselves on contributes to the prevalence of anxiety and depression, especially among the younger generation. 

Is Reading Good for Anxiety and Depression? 

While there is no replacement for medical diagnosis and an accredited professional guiding you toward recovery, books can serve as powerful tools in helping you process and overcome emotional challenges, including depression.

Here is an assorted list of books that you can choose from to help you or a loved one manage depression in a healthy way: 

Nonfiction Books About Depression

These self-help books about depression offer actionable steps and helpful facts for managing depression.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David Burns

Psychiatrist David Burns provides a positive and proactive plan for treating depression in Feeling Good. Using an easy-to-read style, he offers tools for being aware of how you feel, reducing damaging emotions, and improving your overall level of happiness.

He also includes a helpful guide to antidepressants, while offering tips for fighting off depression both with or without medication. 

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon

This National Book Award winner has one of the most accurate descriptions of depression. Andrew Solomon’s own experience and strong gift for using words and analogy let him vividly describe the experiences of depressed individuals.

It helps them become understandable even to those who have not had the experiences themselves. His intensive research and interviews add to the richness of this text. 

The Disappearing Girl: Learning the Language of Teenage Depression by Dr. Lisa Machoian

Perfect for those who want to learn more about depression in teenage girls, this book is both educational and instructive.

It contains tips on helping teenage girls to prevent as well as overcome symptoms of depression. Written in layman’s terms, the book’s scientific research forms a good foundation for parents, teachers, and other caregivers to provide help for the girls in their lives. 

The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb

Neuroscientist Alex Korb uses the latest research on how the brain works in order to help others fight against depression.

The book includes small, actionable steps to help you improve your—or a loved one’s—mood. 

Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor

Psychotherapist Richard O’Connor provides a great add-on to anyone’s existing prescription: in this book, he candidly explores how depression may be linked to the habits we’ve formed.

This very useful guide helps us understand that changing what we are doing regularly can have a great impact on our overall emotional health. 

Lost Connections by Johann Hari 

New York Times bestselling author Johann Hari shared an important insight in a TED Talk he gave on addiction, which also had a ripple effect on general thought surrounding mental health.

In this book, he explores different cultures to illustrate how depression is seriously linked to the way people live. He studies the Amish community, the population in Germany, and others to challenge us to rethink our lifestyles and change them for the better.

Fictional Books About Depression

These fictional books, though at many points heartbreaking, explore the challenges of dealing with depression in a way that all readers can relate to.

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

Despite having her beauty, youth, boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family, 24-year-old Veronika feels something is missing. She decides to end her life by taking a handful of sleeping pills. But instead of dying, she wakes up at a mental hospital, where she learns she only has days to live. 

Paolo Coelho, who wrote this book based on events in his own life, expertly delves into questions of mental health and challenges us to celebrate individuals who do not seem to fit into the rules set by society. 

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

This classic novel, published in 1925, follows the story of Mrs. Dalloway, a woman who is about to host a party. During her preparations, she contemplates the greater meaning of life. 

She encounters people from both her past and present, including a war veteran who has turned suicidal. She explores his struggles as this man is being forced to leave his family and live in a mental asylum.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This coming of age New York Times bestseller follows the life of Charlie, whose friend just committed suicide.

Dealing with this grief, Charlie struggles to find peace, between making new friends, dealing with family issues, and dating, all while discovering a traumatic experience from his past.

This young adult novel was adapted into a feature film starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerma. 

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Craig is accepted into an elite high school but struggles with the pressure to succeed. He doesn’t like competing with his peers, and this eventually leads him into a downward spiral of using drugs and falling into depression.

For some reason, he ends up in a psychiatric hospital, in the adult unit, and he finally finds a reason for living. 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

In the book that inspired the hit Netflix adaptation, Clay’s classmate Hannah has killed herself and left a series of tapes for Clay, explaining why she did it.

He finds the tapes two weeks later and follows the strange scavenger hunt that she set for him. But what he discovers is not at all what he expected.

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

This book, written in verse, offers an unusual look at suicide. The story follows three young adults—Connor, Vanessa, and Tony—who each attempted suicide and ended up at a psychiatric hospital.

Through their healing process, they share from their hearts what led them to the end of their rope, and they discover that their friendship is a great support for overcoming their struggles. 

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

After Aysel’s father committed a hideous crime several years ago, she hasn’t had any desire to live. But she goes on a website where she becomes a “suicide partner” to Roman, a young man struggling with his own pains and issues.

As their friendship becomes deeper, Aysel struggles with whether or not she can go through with their promise. 

By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peter

Daelyn has been bullied all her life, and even after several failed attempts at commiting suicide, she still believes she doesn’t want to live.

But a kind boy reaches out to her, and she starts to experience a tenderness she’s never known before. Will that be enough to keep her alive? 

Memoirs About Depression

These firsthand accounts express the difficulties of depression while offering hope that it can be overcome.

Girl, Interrupted by Susan Kaysen  

Susanna Kaysen wrote this memoir about her stay at McLean Hospital back in 1967. The hospital is a psychiatric facility popularized for treating famous people.

The book does a great job of portraying the late 60’s and gives us a glimpse of the unique individuals she meets throughout her stay there. 

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh’s memoir is based on her popular web comic. Using illustrations, she muses about life and her childhood, giving us a humorous look at life. She also digs into her own struggles with depression.

Although she delivers these ideas through her simple comics, the depth of her contemplation shines through and will clearly be something we can easily relate to. 

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

A New York Times bestseller and labeled “a cultural touchstone,” this 1994 book came out right after Kurt Cobain’s tragic death.

During that time, Xanax was a mainstay in many homes. Wurtzel explores her own depression in the midst of the generation’s increasing dependence on antidepressants. 

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Who would expect to laugh at a book about depression? But well-known blogger Jenny Lawson succeeds in drawing both tears and laughter in this book she wrote, subtitled “A Funny Book About Horrible Things.”

Using stories and a lot of humor, Lawson allows us to see her struggles behind the scenes and helps us to understand that more people struggle with depression than we ever thought. 

Darkness Visible by William Styron

Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Styron writes candidly in this memoir that deals with his life in the mid-80s when he came down with deep depression.

He shares his stories of suicidal ideation and gives us glimpses into his hospital experiences. He draws sympathy from readers as he discusses the challenges he faced in overcoming his despair. 

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison

Kay Redfield Jamison offers a unique perspective on the topic of depression: she writes as both a doctor and a patient. As a psychiatry professor, Jamison is considered an expert on bipolar disorder.

But she herself struggles with bipolar disorder, which triggered a deeper interest in the subject of mental health. She shares many of her insights in this unconventional memoir. 

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Matt Haig gives us a breath of fresh air in this book described by critics as a soon-to-be “modern classic,” in which he shares his own experiences in struggling with despair.

He also takes us into his journey with reading, writing, and family, which helped him to overcome his depression. 

Books on Depression

All of these books, whether fiction or non-fiction, provide important insights to depression and those affected by it.

Whether for your own struggle or that of a loved one, remember that you can take action to help your own emotional health and spread hope.

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