Well-Being//

7 Insightful Mental Health-Themed Books to Read This Summer

Poolside reads that also remind us we're not alone in our challenges.

Hero Images/ Getty Images
Hero Images/ Getty Images

By Reina Gattuso

Kids are out of school, adults are playing hooky from work, and we’re all sweating from parts of our bodies we didn’t even know could sweat. Summer is the time to rest, relax, and recharge. Whether that be taking time to see friends and family, going on a trip, or taking a much-needed staycation with Netflix, this summer, prioritize things that give you joy.

While you take some much-deserved time and a mental health break for yourself, why not read for pleasure? We know, we know, in the age of constant social media updates and endless work emails, reading for pleasure is a rare luxury. But taking that time to crack open a good book keeps your brain healthy and gives your imagination space to roam.

Try one of these new books on mental health. From first-person essays to heartfelt novels, they’ll teach you something new, entertain you, and even make you cry in a good way. Happy reading!

Our Summer 2018 Mental Health Reading List

Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss by Stephanie Wittels Wachs

In 2015, Stephanie Wittels Wachs lost her brother, noted writer and comedian Harris Wittels, to a heroin overdose. In this book, part memoir of her life with her brother and part the story of life after his loss, Wachs shares the ups and downs of her family’s journey.

Harris Wittels wrote for shows like Parks and Recreation, and his sister recounts both his humor and struggles in a voice that’s at once funny and deeply sad. A great read for anyone who has loved someone struggling with addiction.

Straight Jacket: How to be Gay and Happy by Matthew Todd

In one sense, LGBTQ people have never had it so good. We (your author included) are becoming increasingly accepted in mainstream society, have won crucial legal rights, and more people are coming out than ever. At the same time, Matthew Todd reminds us, discrimination against LGBTQ people is far from over, and the trauma of anti-LGBTQ bullying can last a lifetime.

In this book, Todd reveals how far the queer community still has to go to achieve social equality and shed the shame and stigma that continues to harm LGBTQ people’s mental health. While the facts Todd reveals are grim, they also offer reassurance to countless LGBTQ people who suffer discrimination: you are not wrong, and you are not alone.

Life Inside my Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles edited by Jessica Burkhart

When we’re struggling, it can feel like everybody has it together except us. Little do we think that people around us can be going through the same thing — including the people we look up to.

This anthology of essays (and a poem!) about mental health struggles by favorite Young Adult genre authors reminds us that, in fact, everyone has struggles and many people experience mental illness. From substance abuse to OCD, depression, and everything in between, these essays assure us, through heartbreak and humor, that we are definitely not alone. A good read for adults, the collection would also make a great gift to remind a teen in your life that they’re supported and loved.

Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

In 2014, slam poet Sabrina Benaim broke the internet with her viral poem, “Explaining My Depression to My Mother.” Her spot-on metaphors for what it feels like to struggle with depression resonated with millions of people.

Now, Benaim has released her first poetry collection. The poems continue familiar themes of mental health and illness, and incorporate meditations on daily life, romance, and self-love. Perfect to read in bed on a lazy Saturday morning, or to keep in your backpack for a couple minutes of reprieve during a busy day.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

The poignant and complex effects of mental illness on our intimate relationships haunt Mira T. Lee’s first novel, an exploration of sisterhood and schizophrenia. The novel traces decades in the life of Lucia, a vibrant, quirky individual with a deep desire to explore the world, and her sister Miranda.

As Lucia struggles with schizophrenia, her and Miranda’s relationship transforms. Everything Here is Beautiful asks profound questions about family and sisterhood, and will resonate with anyone whose life has been touched by mental illness, whether their own or a loved one’s.

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari

Part memoir, part investigative journalism, Johann Hari’s latest book chronicles his journey to find the underlying causes of depression. Hari challenges the “medical model” which attributes depression solely to brain chemistry. Instead, Hari talks to researchers and depression sufferers who emphasize the role of life events and environment.

From his own journey with depression, to an Amish farm and a Baltimore laboratory, Hari’s book takes a sweeping view of the issue. It’s also caused controversy, with critics arguing that Hari’s book misrepresents the science on depression and risks stigmatizing people who benefit from antidepressants. Whether you agree with Hari’s conclusions or not, the book will certainly get you thinking.

The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison

From Ernest Hemingway to Raymond Carver, the myth of the “alcoholic artist” — a figure of both glamor and condemnation — looms large in literature. But the realities of addiction are far less glamorous. It’s this reality that Leslie Jamison explores in her memoir, an autobiographical account of her own recovery from alcoholism as well as a reflection on the relationship between sobriety and creative inspiration.

While Jamison may have begun by idolizing the figure of the solitary creative genius, she ends on a more self-reflective note, in embracing everyone’s potential for recovery.

Give These Books a Try This Summer!

While the mercury may be rising, we hope you take some time to chill. Those summer days of your childhood with nothing on your to-do list but a nap and a novel weren’t just indulgence — they helped expand your mind and relieve stress. So clear your schedule, pull up a chair (or a hammock!), and let one of these books take you away.

Originally published at www.talkspace.com

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- MARCUS AURELIUS

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