The best fiction books with characters experiencing depression that won't leave you feeling down

Who am I?

I’m a guitar-playing Canadian novelist, born in Kingston. Depression isn’t something that comes explicitly into most of my work, beyond a preference to write about people on the edges, never quite fitting. Lately I’ve begun to think about how in fiction we make and find metaphors for the things we’re carrying, and how sometimes those can help us to come to, if not always a way through, at least a quiet place to gain strength again. I’ve found the books on this list all do that, one way or another. I hope you might find that in them too.


I wrote...

Love/Rock/Compost

By Kris Jamison,

Book cover of Love/Rock/Compost

What is my book about?

Love/Rock/Compost is a hopeful book about depression — or about music, gardening, persistent depressive disorder, and being in love. It's the story of Lindsey Quinlan, an unemployed botanist who's been staggering onwards under the weight of varying degrees of depression for much of his adult life; of his partner, the effervescent guitarist Thomas Smith Gorev; and of Thomas's struggling band. It's not about easy answers or quick fixes, but a journey undertaken together, through dark times and sunlight. It's funny; it's filled with music; it looks at families, biological and found, in all their messy complexity. Ultimately, it's a story meant to comfort and to leave you feeling better.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Taproot

Kris Jamison Why did I love this book?

I love this graphic novel, with its muted, earthy colours. Hamal, the gardener, can see ghosts. At the time the story starts he seems to have found his feet, but he talks about his depression as a teen, which is one of the reasons why I think it can be included here; that sort of thing is never entirely left behind. Another is the emotions of the ghosts he encounters and tries to help; a lot of what the ghosts are experiencing, even apparently-cheerful Blue, who is in love with Hamal, can be read as akin to the lost greyness of various degrees of depression. It's a gentle, thoughtful story, well-told with lots of humour, and it has lovely art. 

By Keezy Young,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Taproot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"It's a pleasure to lose yourself in the beautiful artwork, and one of the loveliest queer romances I've ever read." — K. O'Neil, author of The Tea Dragon Society

Blue has been living as a ghost for a year when he meets Hamal, a beautiful and sweet gardener who has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. Together, their friendship develops into something more, but being a ghost, Blue can never truly be connected with Hamal.

When Blue realizes Hamal’s strange ability may be putting him in danger, Blue has to find a way to protect him--even if it…


Book cover of The Witness for the Dead

Kris Jamison Why did I love this book?

I reread The Witness for the Dead at least three times in the first months after I got my hands on it and have bought it in both physical form and ebook. This is a great secondary world fantasy and murder mystery. It’s on this list because of the portrayal of Thara Celehar as a man struggling with depression, haunted by past trauma and the bleakness he expects of his future while carrying on doing his duty by those who depend on him, combined with his unfailing mixture of wisdom and kindness and his awkwardness in accepting kindness and friendship in return, is so beautifully done. I can tell that this is going to remain one of my comfort reads forever.

By Katherine Addison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Witness for the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Murder, politics and intrigue.

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead.

Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. Now he lives in the City of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference.

He…


Book cover of The Blue Castle

Kris Jamison Why did I love this book?

The Blue Castle is my favourite Montgomery book. The heroine, Valancy Stirling, is not depicted as suffering depression per se, and yet something in it resonates. Her life is grey, dreary, and sad, until she rebels against her oppressive family and the daily belittling, nagging, and inducement of guilt she endures, and breaks free. The book is pure escapist romance, and Montgomery, who suffered from depression and dealt throughout her married life with her husband's extremely severe depression, seems to have written it as consolation to get herself through a particularly bad time. It’s a story of friendship growing into romantic love, which is always satisfying to read, and a celebration of the comfort and healing powers of the natural world. 

By L.M. Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Blue Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, comes another beloved classic and an unforgettable story of courage and romance.

Valancy Stirling is 29 and has never been in love. She's spent her entire life on a quiet little street in an ugly little house and never dared to contradict her domineering mother and her unforgiving aunt. But one day she receives a shocking, life-altering letter―and decides then and there that everything needs to change. For the first time in her life, she does exactly what she wants to and says exactly what she feels.

At first her family…


Book cover of Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Kris Jamison Why did I love this book?

This YA novel is the only one on my list that's officially about depression. Darius Kellner, like his father, suffers from depression and is taking medication for it. The story itself is about a family trip back to Iran to visit his mother's parents, during which Darius embarks on a new friendship, feeling like he's expanding into himself for the first time. It's what you might expect from a good teen story about families, conflicting cultural expectations, and complicated friendships, but the matter-of-fact inclusion of Darius's day-to-day navigation of his mental health, and his observations of his father’s struggles with depression as well, sets this apart. This would be a good read for teens dealing with similar issues, but it’s a satisfying story for anyone.

By Adib Khorram,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Darius the Great Is Not Okay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's a Fractional Persian - half, his mum's side - and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he's sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn't exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they're spending their days together, playing soccer, eating…


Book cover of Howl's Moving Castle

Kris Jamison Why did I love this book?

Depression, you say? Isn't Howl’s Moving Castle about wizards and fire-spirits, a young woman turned into an ancient crone by a curse, and an ebullient Welshman walking between worlds...? Jones is always about so many things; she's one of those authors in whose works there's always more to discover on a second or fifth or ninth reading. But the first part of the book, in which Sophie, after her father's death, finds herself growing weary and timid, dressing more and more to erase herself, and becoming afraid to leave her house and hat-shop to venture even just across town to visit her sister, has always struck me as a very powerful portrayal of the effects of grief and the depression that it may trigger. One of my all-time favourite books by one of my all-time favourite authors!

By Diana Wynne Jones,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Howl's Moving Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Now an animated movie from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, the oscar-winning director of Spirited Away

In this beloved modern classic, young Sophie Hatter from the land of Ingary catches the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste and is put under a spell...

Deciding she has nothing more to lose, Sophie makes her way to the moving castle that hovers on the hills above her town, Market Chipping. But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl, whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the souls of young girls...

There Sophie meets Michael, Howl's apprentice, and Calcifer…


You might also like...

Through Any Window

By Deb Richardson-Moore,

Book cover of Through Any Window

Deb Richardson-Moore Author Of Murder, Forgotten

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Mystery aficionado Beach lover Mother Gardener Housing advocate

Deb's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Riley Masterson has moved to Greenbrier, SC, anxious to escape the chaos that has overwhelmed her life.

Questioned in a murder in Alabama, she has spent eighteen months under suspicion by a sheriff’s office, unable to make an arrest. But things in gentrifying Greenbrier are not as they seem. As Riley struggles to forge a new life, forces are gathering in the tension-plagued neighborhood where glitzy new homes rise alongside crumbling mill houses, and everyone, it seems, can peer into a neighbor’s window.

When murder explodes, someone unexpected is caught in the crossfire. Detectives are left to ponder: Are the deaths personal or the result of rich and poor living in such close proximity? And will Riley take the blame as someone so meticulously planned?

Through Any Window

By Deb Richardson-Moore,

What is this book about?

After being questioned in a murder investigation, Riley Masterson has spent eighteen months under suspicion by the sheriff’s office. Anxious to escape accusing eyes, she finally decides to leave Alabama and move to South Carolina.

But Greenbrier isn’t the stabilizing influence she hopes for, as her neighborhood is slowly being gentrified, with homeless people living in the shadows of mansions. As Riley struggles to forge a new life, forces are gathering in the tension-plagued neighborhood as glitzy new homes rise beside crumbling mill houses, and everyone is able and willing to peer into a neighbor’s window.

When a ghastly crime…


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