When You’re Horribly Depressed, You Should Read These 50 Books
Mental Health

When You’re Horribly Depressed, You Should Read These 50 Books

If you’ve been feeling off lately, these books from Ask Reddit might help you feel a little bit better.

1. FEELING GOOD, the new mood therapy by DR. David Burns. This book is all about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and has been proven to help people. It is also good if someone can’t afford therapy.

2. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. When you’re depressed you tend to be really hard on yourself. This book really helped me through my dark moments and made me embrace who I am.

3. The Book of Joy. It’s a conversation between The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They are long time friends and discuss what they have both learned over the course of their amazing lives. Tremendous book.

4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I don’t think it needs an introduction. It’s a very small book, which helps since some people with depression can’t read huge volumes, it tires them out. It’s also very simply written while being thought provoking at the same time.

5. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson, is a fantasy epic about broken people doing great things.

6. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Genuinely heartwarming stuff, focusing not on how to ‘cure’ your mental illness, but how to love life in spite of it.

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is one that a friend made me read and it’s stayed with me for the past 8 years.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

That line makes me want to weep. It’s so simple and so true.

8. The Harry Potter series. It might sound pretty lame, but those books helped me throughout some rough times allowing me to escape into this world of magic.

9. DUNE. That book helped me so much. I was in a very dark place and it helped me see the light and entrapped me in an adventure. It holds a very special place in my heart, and it really feels like it saved my life.

10. Guards! Guards! By Terry Pratchett is a fantasy satire (think Douglas Adams) that is very funny and thought provoking.

11. The Princess Bride. The book the movie was made from. Delightful and funny as hell and full of hope. It has a lot of extra details that were not included in the movie.

12. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Ridiculously funny, vignettes that are short enough to not get overwhelming, and the only depiction of depression that made me stop and go, “This! This is what it’s like.” I hope Allie’s ok…

13. Every Word You Cannot Say by Iain Thomas. It’s a book of poems that helped me deal with my uncle passing. It’s an uplifting book and it helps give something physical to something abstract like pain. Not trying to sound pretentious, it just a great book that helped me through some dark times.

14. I think Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. That shit got me thinking in so many ways and it made me smile many times while I was in a really bad place and I love it and read it to this day.

15. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. It’s a little bit more about philosophy, not so much motorcycle repair. But it’s good. Made me look at my problem solving skills, and how to approach actually understanding something vs just being in the moment and accepting things as they are.

16. 100 Years of Solitude should be required reading for everyone. In my life, it’s informed every major decision I have ever made.

17. What Happy People Know was a life saver. It changed my whole perspective.

18. The Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss! Started getting into the series around 4 or 5 years ago and it really helped put myself into perspective as far as what I wanted to achieve for myself and what I wanted the future to hold. It made me feel optimistic for a change.

19. How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s just good advice, and like 10 years ago some of those tips helped me get out of a funk where I was really not OK.

20. Yes Man by Danny Wallace. It’s just a depressed comedian who agrees to a bet where he has to say “yes” to every offer and proposition he gets, and it improves his life enormously. (It got Hollywoodised into that shit Jim Carrey film, but I promise you they bear no similarity).

I read it as an impressionable 13 year old and it really brought me out of the shell I had built for myself at that time.

21. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho! Such an amazing read. It allows the reader a different perspective on life. Nuff said.

22. This is How by Augusten Burroughs. I was too depressed to read it, though. I just listened to the audiobook.

23. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. It’s written in first person, through journal entries and the narrative is extremely good at capturing the thought processes of someone with depression. Reading it made me feel a little less alone, and it helped me to step outside of myself and analyze my thoughts from another perspective.

24. A Street Cat Named Bob from James Bowen It’s a autobiography from a drug addict who gets clean with the help of a cat he had adopted.

25. You know what. I’m gonna say Shel Silverstein. The Giving Tree. Beautiful to me. It’s a more well-known one I would say.

26. The Messenger, by Markus Zusak. I read it when I was at a really low point, and I can say that book just cleansed my soul.

27. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Hear me out on that one.

I usually struggle with my environment a lot when my mental state is on its worse side. I keep everything cluttered and can’t handle the amount of stuff I have. I cannot find things, which then frustrates me – pushing me further down. The book is not only an easy and light read, but it helps you set certain systems in place that you can easily maintain once you do. My mind usually feels better when everything around me is clean. Also, I did the classic “does it spark joy” thing and it was actually nice. I now only have things that really keep me happy, nothing unnecessary. It is freeing.

I liked the little stories that Marie Kondo put in her book. Although not all of them were relatable for me, as she is in the traditional housewife mindset, they still put a smile on my face.

I would really recommend that book to get out of a down phase or to prevent unnecessary stress.

28. She’s Come Undone by Wally lamb. That book is so special to me and really got me through a lot. I still read it when things get difficult or just certain chapters to feel comforted.

29. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It’s my favorite and has helped me with a lot of things. Maybe it doesn’t correlate as well as I remember but it’s great.

30. A.M. Homes’ This Book Will Safe Your Life. It is motivational, but in an indirect way.

31. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck is a good one. Also, please consult a doctor.

32. I’ve always found the Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead books to be very inspiring and moving. They show the worst and best of Humanity. And they somehow come from a bigoted man.

33. Moby Dick. It’s a book that can be killed by school and having to write a paper on it, but is absolutely incredible. Modernist writing 60 years before modernism, and in-between all the wonderful weird shit, there’s high seas action.

34. Darkness Visible by William Styron. Came out many years ago but I think it still holds up as a thought-provoking memoir.

35. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson “Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”

36. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Got me through bouts of terrible depression and a miscarriage.

37. The Power of Now. It will really get you out of your head and stepping into the now.

38. All people have different responses to depression and different wants and needs consequently, but personally I’d never been made happier and had a more brightened and calm perspective of the world than when I’d read The Chronicles of Narnia series. CS Lewis does a fantastic job of putting the emotional state of childlike wonder and innocence into words.

39. Any book by Alan Watts. From personal experience, it helped me to calm down a lot. He also has podcasts! He teaches Buddhism to a Western audience, but in a more secular way that’s applicable to your real, everyday life. Highly recommend. He has books like The Wisdom of Insecurity to The Way of Zen.

40. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – just a mans thoughts on how to better himself. Never meant for publication.

41. I’ve got a good one. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson was just given to me. I’m only part-way through it, but I love it so far. From the cover: “Author Jenny Lawson explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.”

42. The Earthsea Saga by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is a very simple yet nice story, similar to what Tolkien could write, but so much lighter to read.

43. War and Peace. I’m not joking. There is something about that work that just murders depression. I think it’s the way it covers the full spectrum of human experience.

44. Slaughterhouse Five. Seriously, Kurt Vonnegut got me through some rough times emotionally. He has a dark, wry sense of humor but ultimately a heart of gold beneath that really makes you feel like you’re not alone, that other people out there think like you and have been through the same things.

45. Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy helped me. Just an absurdist take on humanity that helps undercut any overwhelming negative thoughts I can’t shake.

46. If you’re still a teen then It’s Kind Of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. For sure made me smile and I could, even if only for a while, feel less lonely.

47. For an uplifting story for both young readers and adults that takes the person on a journey from darkness into light: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

48. Good Omens. It’s been my favorite book for around 25 years now, and it never fails to make me smile. It’s hilarious, yes, but there’s a quiet charm and encouragement that reminds you that as hopeless as things may feel, they will get better.

49. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E Frankle. It helped me a bit, and most people I know who’ve read it. Victor E Frankle is a psychologist who endured a concentration camp as a jewish prisoner. He observed what kept people alive and what didn’t and used his experience to launch his own psychotherapeutic approach called logotherapy, which focused on ‘will to meaning’.

He applied his own theories to his life in the concentration camp, writing his book while he was there. The first half is biographical, the second half is his theories and practice for them. Depression and how to help deal with it in a way similar to cognitive behavioral therapy.

50. Winnie-the-Pooh. Some kids are messed up at an early age. I was one of them. Pooh, and Rabbit, and especially Eeyore were cool friends with massive faults. I learned from these books it was OK not to be like the others. Definite read. TC mark

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January Nelson is a writer, editor, dreamer, and occasional exotic dancer. Her work has appeared on Facebook, ... Read more articles from January on Thought Catalog.

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