8 Life-Changing Books on Mental Health

I first became interested in mental health and addiction in the fourth grade (I know, I know, it’s strange to be interested in such a topic when you’re eight) and of course, it was all because of a book.

I was a bookworm basically from birth. Even when I couldn’t yet read, I remember being drawn to them – so it’s no surprise that I started reading very young (and asked for a library card for Christmas by the time I was six). As a result, I was often ahead of my class in terms of reading level, and had already read all the books we would be assigned for book reports.

In grade four, while my class was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I was given the honour (with permission from my parents, of course) to choose a book from my teacher’s personal collection of teen and YA novels – kept on a bookshelf behind his desk. I was beyond excited, I had been eyeing these books for months…it took me an entire day to decide on a book, but I settled on Go Ask Alice. That’s where my obsession with learning everything I could about mental health and addiction began.

I’ve read a lot of books on mental health in the nearly 17 years since I first read Go Ask Alice – fiction, non-fiction, self-help, you name it, but there are always those books you carry with you forever. Here are eight books on mental health that changed my life:

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How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook– Lee Crutchley

Image Source: Amazon
Image Source: Amazon

I only picked this book up recently. I spotted it on the “new books” shelf in the library I volunteer at and had to check it out. I’ve always been drawn to books like Wreck this Journal, but never picked one up…this book however, was different. A soon as I opened it and read through all the prompts I knew I had to get my own copy to work through. The prompts are simple but they definitely help you reflect, and focus on small things that make you happy (that we often overlook).

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think– Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky 

Image Source: Amazon
Image Source: Amazon

This book is highly regarded by counselors, doctors, and just about everyone who’s picked up a copy – Mind Over Mood uses techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy to improve mood, thought patterns, etc. It’s the holy-grail of workbooks for anyone dealing with a variety of mental health issues – but I honestly think that just about anyone could benefit from this book.

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook– Edmund J. Bourne

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Image Source: Amazon

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook provides techniques for assessing and treating a variety of Anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and panic attacks. This is one of the first workbooks I was introduced to after being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks and I used it in combination with other treatment methods to help me manage my anxiety. This book introduces you to very practical exercises and techniques for managing anxious thoughts and symptoms – exercises I still use, and recommend to others that are dealing with panic or anxiety symptoms.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness– Kay Redfield Jamison

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Image Source: Amazon

Some of my favourite accounts of mental illness are by authorities in the field who have battled mental illness themselves. It may be because of my own background, but I always gain a lot from books where the individual can both describe their experiences with a particular mental health issue, as well as explain the science behind it. Dr. Jamison’s account of her own manic-depression is truly eye-opening.

A Million Little Pieces– James Frey

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Image Source: Amazon

A book controversial book – A Million Little Pieces was originally marketed as James Frey’s memoir of addiction and recovery, and was later criticized for being fictional or having fictional components. I read this book in high school, just after it came out and it completely changed my life. I never got caught up in the controversy, because honestly…regardless of how much of this book is real, it is still a truly incredible account of addiction and recovery. It was this book that helped me decide whether or not I really wanted to pursue a career in addictions counselling.

Go Ask Alice– Anonymous

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Image Source: Amazon

Go Ask Alice is another controversial book that changed my life. Originally this book was said to be an anonymous journal of a teenage girl and her descent into addiction – it is now known to be a fictional story written (or edited, depending on who you ask) by Beatrice Sparks.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction– Gabor Mate

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Image Source: Amazon

This book is often considered one of the best books on addiction. A combination of real stories from his patients and Mate’s own clinical understanding and research, this book is one of the most compassionate, and real books on the topic that I have read.

Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs– Marc Lewis

Image Source: Scribe Publications
Image Source: Scribe Publications

Memoirs of an Addicted Brain holds a special place in my collection. As a neuroscientist, Marc Lewis is able to explain his own struggle with an addiction in a way I’ve never heard before. With the unique combination of neuroscience, gritty experience and ultimately triumph – this book makes an impact in the way few books do.


The number of great books on mental health and addiction are endless, these are just a few great titles. If you’re looking for more options check out my Comics for Newbies: On Mental Health post.

If you have any recommendations for books on mental health, let me know in the comments!

 

23 thoughts on “8 Life-Changing Books on Mental Health

  1. I LOVE DR. KAY REDFIELD JAMISON!!!!!!!!!! SHE IS MY IDOL!!!!!!!!!! I BOUGHT HER MEMOIR AND READ IT IN LESS THAN A DAY, IT MOVED ME SO MUCH!!!!!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

  2. I am actually thinking of buying The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, I think it would actually work out great for my agoraphobia! Thanks for sharing these books! 🙂

  3. I read Lisa, Bright and Dark at 15 (main character is Lisa, I’m Lisa…. She was bright and dark, I was bright and dark…) followed by Girl, Interrupted. Both we pivotal, as I was dealing with the onset of mental health problems myself, and no one believed me. I felt less alone. Treats later, I was diagnosed Borderline, like Susanna kaysen, and everything I already knew was justified.

    During hard times, the right books can be invaluable.

  4. I’ve read a few of these and totally agree – they really opened my eyes on mental health., I’ll have to be sure to check out the rest. Thank you for this insightful post!

  5. So many awesome recommendations! I’m definitely drawn to that workbook, I’ll have to check that out! And I hear so much and Mind Over Mood that I think it’s time to grab a copy for myself:P

  6. Well, there’s one book that sent me on the path to recovery 10 years ago and that was “No more Mr Nice Guy”. http://www.nomoremrniceguy.com/ It doesn’t exactly stipulate that all the content is related to Mental Health but it covers a lot of genres in it. Extreme Anxiety, Depression, Addictions, Toxic Shame and a ton more. I wouldn’t have sought help were it not for that book. Back then I had schizoeffective disorder; now? Nothing 🙂

      1. I hear you. I tend to avoid e-books too. But actually, I could probably say that this book changed the way I perceived the world, encouraged me to get help and set me on the path to recovery. If someone asked me, “What was the most pivotal moment of your life” I would say agreeing to pick up this book and giving it a try – my friend kept badgering me to read it, and I was like, Ohhh kkkay. Give it ‘ere then. lol

  7. I read your post, and from the beginning I could relate 🙂 In this period of my life, I’m also interested in what is going on in human brain, but not addiction that much. Feelings have always intrigued me. Thank you for sharing these books, I’ll probably read them.

    1. So glad you could relate. Despite not being all that interested in addiction, definitely check out memoirs of an addicted brain if you’re interest in feelings and how the brain works.

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