13 Helpful Books About Depression
Learning about depression
About 15 million people in the U.S. are depressed, and there are millions more coping and caring for those in the throes of depression.
Not everyone wants to read about it, but there are some amazing books about depression—from how-to-help advice books to autobiographies written by people battling the “black dog” (Winston Churchill’s name for his depression).
If you’re interested in the topic, these books are worth checking out.
In his 1990 memoir, William Styron, the author of Sophie's Choice, turns his storytelling gift to his own battle with depression.
Darkness Visible opens in Paris, where Styron has come to accept a literary prize but instead has a breakdown. He undergoes therapy, takes prescription drugs (some of which he cautions against), has suicidal thoughts, and is hospitalized.
One review calls the book, "a chilling yet hopeful report from a mental wilderness into which one in ten Americans disappears."
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness ($7-12; amazon.com)
Listening to Prozac
This 1993 book helped introduce Prozac—which had hit the market five years earlier—and other antidepressants known as SSRIs. A psychiatrist, Peter D. Kramer, recounts the effect the drug had on some of his patients.
Dr. Kramer has been criticized for overbilling the effectiveness and safety of SSRIs. More than 15 years later, Dr. Kramerâ€™s book is still important, but for a more balanced take, read it alongside Talking Back to Prozac ($7; amazon.com).
Listening to Prozac: The Landmark Book About Antidepressants and the Remaking of the Self ($12; amazon.com)
The Noonday Demon
Winner of the 2001 National Book Award, The Noonday Demon is far more than a memoir. It is also a comprehensive survey of the history of depression, its cultural implications, and the many treatments that have been used to combat it.
At one point in the book, author Andrew Solomon visits West Africa to participate in a ritual in which he is covered in animal blood, a local cure for depression.
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression ($1-14; amazon.com)
A Fan’s Notes
Frederick Exleyâ€™s 1968 novel is the first in an autobiographical trilogy about a young man obsessed with professional football.
The book recounts the authorâ€™s dreams of being a professional athlete, as well as his descent—losing women and jobs, his dependence on drugs and alcohol, and, eventually, shock treatments at a mental-health facility.
Author Kurt Vonnegut heralded this work as "the best novel written in the English language since The Great Gatsby."
A Fanâ€™s Notes ($13; amazon.com)
Elizabeth Wurtzelâ€™s 1994 work about her 10-year battle with atypical depression was widely heralded as a book that depicted the indulgent woes of an entire generation.
At the age of 11, Wurtzel began struggling with episodes of intense depression. Later, as a student at Harvard, she self-medicated with drugs such as Ecstasy and cocaine.
Some critics say the work is self-indulgent, but Wurtzel offers a strong depiction of the throes of depression and thoughtful questions about medication in America.
Prozac Nation ($14; amazon.com)
In 1967, 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen took 50 aspirin tablets, saw a psychiatrist once, was immediately ushered into a taxicab, and sent to McClean Hospital in Boston, where she was treated for depression for 18 months.
The book, which relates her experiences about her hospital stay, was critically acclaimed and later made into a movie starring Winona Rider and Angelina Jolie.
A Boston Globe reviewer calls the book, "searingâ€¦(it) captures an exquisite range of self-awareness between madness and insight."
Girl, Interrupted ($8-22; amazon.com)
The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plathâ€™s essentially autobiographical book is about a young woman who falls into a deep despair while working as an intern at a New York City magazine in the early 1950s.
Merely one month after the book was published, Plath committed suicide.
The novel, an American classic, is described as "enchanting" by the Atlantic Monthly. The magazine adds: "The author wears her scholarship with grace, and the amazing story she has to tell is recounted with humor and understanding."
The Bell Jar ($3-18; amazon.com)
What to Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed
Clinical psychologist Mitch Golant, PhD, spent his childhood dealing with a mother who suffered from severe depression. In this book, he and Susan K. Golant offer a guide for people who act as support systems for loved ones with depression.
Rosalynn Carter says the work "will bring hope and comfort to the loved ones of those who struggle to overcome this most common of mental illnesses."
What To Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed: A Practical, Compassionate, and Helpful Guide for Caregivers ($ 3-10; amazon.com)
This collection of 22 essays is edited by Nell Casey, a recipient of the Carter Center fellowship for mental-health journalism.
The stories, by renowned authors and newcomers, shed light on the challenges of those who have depression.
Casey calls the book, published in 2002, "a reader on melancholy." A Publisherâ€™s Weekly review says, "The collectionâ€¦will lend some insight and cheer to those struggling with this little-understood condition."
Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression ($12; amazon.com)
The Black Veil
In this 2002 book, Rick Moody details his profound depression and stay at a psychiatric hospital. The memoir includes his search for a genetic trail of depression in his family, including his ancestor Joseph Moody, whom Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about in The Ministerâ€™s Black Veil.
Moodyâ€™s writing is known for its wit and meandering prose, and this continues in his book, which, author Thomas Pynchon says, "takes the art of the memoir an important step into its future."
The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions ($6; amazon.com)
The Mindful Way Through Depression
The bookâ€™s authors, Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, promote mindfulness—awareness of your emotions, thoughts, and feelings in a moment without judging them—as more effective in dealing with depression than thinking your way out of it.
Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness, calls the book, "an invaluable resource not only for those who suffer from depression, but for anyone familiar with the downward spiral of negative thinking and self-doubt."
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness ($9-41; amazon.com)
More Than Moody
In this book, child psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz helps parents understand the difference between a moody adolescent and one with depression. Koplewicz, founder and director of the New York University Child Study Center, addresses potential depression triggers, the link between gender and depression, and helpful treatments.
Dr. Koplewicz uses anecdotes and advice to create what Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes calls, "a heartening, knowledgeable, and useful guide. And it’s fascinating reading, too."
More than Moody: Recognizing and Treating Adolescent Depression ($2-9; barnesandnoble.com)
A Long Way Down
Nick Hornbyâ€™s 2005 novel is a fictional account of four people who meet by chance and form an unusual bond when trying to commit suicide on New Yearâ€™s Eve. Hornbyâ€™s uses his honest writing and dry wit to slowly unwind the tales of these very different people and their struggles with depression.
A Psych Central reviewer writes that the work is "wonderfully written and engaging. â€¦Frank discussions about emotions and depression are the mainstay here, not shallow Hallmark insights."
A Long Way Down ($10-23; amazon.com)