The best empowering personal stories of mental illness

Marin Sardy Author Of The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia
By Marin Sardy

Who am I?

I grew up in the shadow of my mother’s untreated and very damaging mental illness, and despite how much I loved her, I struggled with having few ways to articulate or even understand how it shaped our lives. I went on to study biology and writing, and I now often weave psychology and neuroscience into my literary essays and memoir. I write to fill the gaps between my own experiences and the ways I have seen mental illness represented—or more often, misrepresented—in our culture. I write to explore mental health as it exists in real families and communities, and to tell nuanced, loving stories that fight against stigma.

I wrote...

The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

By Marin Sardy,

Book cover of The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

What is my book about?

Against the starkly beautiful backdrop of Anchorage, Alaska, where the author grew up, Marin Sardy weaves a fearless account of the shapeless thief—the schizophrenia—that kept her mother immersed in a world of private delusion and later manifested in her brother, ultimately claiming his life.

Composed of exquisite, self-contained chapters that take us through three generations of this adventurous, artistic, and often haunted family, The Edge of Every Day draws in topics from neuroscience and evolution to the mythology and art-rock to shape its brilliant inquiry into how the mind works. In the process, Sardy casts new light on the treatment of the mentally ill in our society. Through it all runs her blazing compassion and relentless curiosity, as her meditations take us to the very edge of love and loss—and invite us to look at what comes after.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir

Why did I love this book?

There are many useful, informative books about mental health, but I love a beautifully written story—the kind that pulls you into the world of real people and the ways that their mental health challenges shape their lives. Such is the case with this creative, experimental memoir, which follows a son into adulthood as he witnesses his father’s addiction and homelessness while also developing his own addiction problems, bringing their warped reality to life by warping the narrative itself. With chapters written in wildly different forms and approaches, it slowly builds into a story of self-discovery and tentative acceptance. Full of grit, pathos, and harsh beauty, it captures a pervasive quality of mental chaos while also finding a clear path through it.

By Nick Flynn,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Another Bullshit Night in Suck City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nick Flynn met his father when he was working as a caseworker in a homeless shelter in Boston. As a teenager he'd received letters from this stranger father, a self-proclaimed poet and con man doing time in federal prison for bank robbery. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City tells the story of the trajectory that led Nick and his father onto the streets, into that shelter, and finally to each other.

Book cover of A Mind Apart: Journeys in a Neurodiverse World

Why did I love this book?

This collection of interconnected essays, which explores writer Susanne Antonetta’s experience of living with bipolar disorder from myriad angles, is rife with facts and insights as well as her own idiosyncratic artistry. Through examinations of everything from the history of consciousness to the concept of neurodiversity, Antonetta humanizes her diagnosis and delves into the multiplicity of ways that it has informed her personal and professional life. Neither shying away from the difficulties nor dismissing the gifts that mania confers (such as her photographic memory for Shakespeare’s plays), she flips the script on stereotypes and offers an empowering take on what it means to live, and thrive, while managing a serious mental illness.

By Susanne Antonetta,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This beautifully written exploration of "the unusual abilities of those who are differently wired" (Psychology Today) received a Ken Book Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for outstanding literary contribution to the world of mental health.

In this fascinating literary memoir, Susanne Antonetta draws on her personal experience as a manic-depressive, as well as interviews with people with multiple personality disorder, autism, and other neurological conditions, to form an intimate meditation on mental "disease." She traces the many capabilities-the visual consciousness of an autistic, for example, or the metaphoric consciousness of a manic-depressive-that underlie these and other mental…

The Crying Book

By Heather Christle,

Book cover of The Crying Book

Why did I love this book?

This lyrical, book-length essay is a meditation not so much on a diagnosis as on one of its most visible expressions—tears. Exploring depression through the lens of the phenomenon of crying, The Crying Book is loaded with facts both esoteric and banal. Yet it is also deeply personalized by author Heather Christle’s reflections on her own struggles with depressive episodes, as well as on the deaths of other poets to suicide, and the allure and danger of romanticizing such acts. Christle’s loose, fragmentary approach gives her the freedom to wander far and wide as she considers the art and act of crying, allowing depression to surface as an experience that is at once individual and deeply embedded in its cultural and historical contexts.

By Heather Christle,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Crying Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"A poignant and piercing examination of the phenomenon of tears—exhaustive, yes, but also open-ended. . . A deeply felt, and genuinely touching, book." —Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias

"Spellbinding and propulsive—the map of a luminous mind in conversation with books, songs, friends, scientific theories, literary histories, her own jagged joy, and despair. Heather Christle is a visionary writer." —Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks

Heather Christle has just lost a dear friend to suicide and now must reckon with her own depression and the birth of her first child. As she faces her grief and…

Book cover of Denial: A Memoir of Terror

Why did I love this book?

In this intensively researched memoir, celebrated war reporter Jessica Stern turns her journalistic eye on herself, peering far into her past to examine a rape to which she was a victim as a teen—an event that caused her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and dramatically altered the course of her life. She uses her personal story as the anchor from which to more broadly examine how we think about trauma, interviewing veterans and others to explore how PTSD damages personal relationships while also contributing, for instance, to the “fearlessness” that enabled her to work in war zones. In doing so, Stern delivers a well-rounded examination of her condition with insights on why so many, including herself, are apt to deny its presence in their own lives. 

By Jessica Stern,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Denial is one of the most important books I have read in a decade....Brave, life-changing, and gripping as a thriller….A tour de force.”
—Naomi Wolf


One of the world’s foremost experts on terrorism and post-traumatic stress disorder, Jessica Stern has subtitled her book Denial, “A Memoir of Terror.” A brave and astonishingly frank examination of her own unsolved rape at the age of fifteen, Denial investigates how the rape and its aftermath came to shape Stern’s future and her work. The author of the New York Times Notable Book Terror in the Name of God, Jessica Stern brilliantly explores the…

Book cover of The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays

Why did I love this book?

In this clear-eyed series of essays about living with a form of schizophrenia, author Esmé Weijun Wang leverages her own stories to expose and critique the ways she has been misunderstood and condemned for her illness. Sharing anecdotes about life as an inpatient, as a student, and as a wife, she reveals the ways she compensates for the delusions and hallucinations that plague her, as well as the sense of separation and exclusion that these symptoms and others’ attitudes engender. Often foregrounding the intensity of her many challenges and openly confronting her uncertainty about her future, she nonetheless writes with a nuanced, thoughtful voice—a potent and compelling approach that, despite her circumstances, is ultimately hopeful. 

By Esmé Weijun Wang,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Collected Schizophrenias as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An intimate, moving book written with the immediacy and directness of one who still struggles with the effects of mental and chronic illness, The Collected Schizophrenias cuts right to the core. Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esme Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the "collected schizophrenias" but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community's own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of…

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