Mental illness has been a favorite topic for writers as it allows the exploration of extremes of the human condition. From depression to schizophrenia to psychopathy, dysfunction in the brain underlies a huge variety of mental diseases. The books we’ve listed here explore some of these topics, and provide a more informal way than textbooks into the world of mental health. We’ve selected a few of the best books in fiction on mental illness below. If you are looking for books on how to deal with family members or friends with mental illness, have a look here.
A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.
Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal
The Virgin Suicides is set in Grosse Pointe, Michigan during the 1970s, and centers on the suicides of five sisters.
Zion, a doctor of psychology, imbues her characters with bizarre psychological abnormalities to create vivid, memorable eccentrics that leap from the page.
Hailed upon its publication as “a glittering parable of good and evil” (The New York Times Book Review) and “a roar of protest against middlebrow society’s Rules and the invisible Rulers who enforce them” (Time), Kesey’s powerful book went on to sell millions of copies and remains as bracing and insightful today as when it was first released. A classic, and a must-read if you haven’t already!
We’ve added a 6th because it’s so good!
“Still Alice” is a beautifully written, heartbreaking novel about the devastating affect Alzheimer’s has on its victims and their families. Author Lisa Genova’s choice of Alice – young, in shape, and intelligent (she’s a Psychiatry Professor at Harvard) – shows that Alzheimer’s can strike anyone, not just the elderly. The book is written from Alice’s viewpoint, but Genova does a good job of showing the affect of Alzheimer’s not only on Alice, but how her family (John, and their children – Anna, Tom, and Lydia) struggle with the changes in Alice. Genova does an excellent job of describing what is going on in Alice’s head as the dementia increases.