The best books for your bipolar bookshelf

Kathleen Founds Author Of Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grownups
By Kathleen Founds

Who am I?

I’m a writer and illustrator based in coastal California. I have bipolar disorder, and my writing reflects my preoccupation with the mysteries of mental health. I wrote a novel-in-stories about an idealistic young teacher struggling with bipolar disorder, and my latest book is a graphic novel about a bipolar bear who gets trapped in the labyrinth of health insurance claims. I’m also the creator of a website designed to encourage people who are fighting off depression’s Voice of Doom. 


I wrote...

Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grownups

By Kathleen Founds,

Book cover of Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grownups

What is my book about?

Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grown-ups is a funny, whimsical, graphic novel about a bipolar bear who confronts the labyrinth of health insurance claims. 

The books I picked & why

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Bipolar II Disorder: Modeling, Measuring, and Managing

By Gordon Parker (editor),

Book cover of Bipolar II Disorder: Modeling, Measuring, and Managing

Why this book?

This book is a fascinating collection of academic articles and clinician perspectives. Does this sound dry? Okay, it’s a little dry, and I did have to look up big words like “iatrogenic” and “hypophagia.” But I have bipolar II, and there are very few books on this lesser-known bipolar variant. Bipolar II (in case you’re curious) is characterized by chronic depression and infrequent episodes of mild mania (known as “hypomania”). Fun facts I learned from this book: bipolar II is more common in women, and due to the severity and chronic nature of the depression, bipolar II can actually be more disabling than bipolar I. Wait, those might be sad facts. Oops. 

Bipolar II Disorder: Modeling, Measuring, and Managing

By Gordon Parker (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The lifetime risk of developing bipolar II disorder is 5-7%, yet the condition is often poorly detected. Mood elevation states are less extreme than in bipolar I disorder although the depressive episodes are usually severe. When correctly treated, the outcome is positive, but bipolar II is often poorly managed, resulting in a high suicide rate. This is the only academic and clinical management review focused entirely on bipolar II, scrutinizing history, epidemiology, burden and neurobiology and including an extensive clinical debate by international experts about effective management strategies. Now in its third edition, this book features new chapters on the…


Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

By Kay Redfield Jamison,

Book cover of Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

Why this book?

This book is also full of sad facts. But understanding suicide is important. Many people with bipolar disorder struggle with suicidal thoughts, and researchers estimate that 20-60% of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide. Kay Redfield Jamison’s book is full of compelling patient profiles, thought-provoking statistics, and beautiful poetry. This is book is gripping, compassionate, and ultimately life-affirming.

Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

By Kay Redfield Jamison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Critical reading for parents, educators, and anyone wanting to understand the tragic epidemic of suicide—”a powerful book [that] will change people's lives—and, doubtless, save a few" (Newsday).

The first major book in a quarter century on suicide—and its terrible pull on the young in particular—Night Falls Fast is tragically timely: suicide has become one of the most common killers of Americans between the ages of fifteen and forty-five.

From the author of the best-selling memoir, An Unquiet Mind—and an internationally acknowledged authority on depression—Dr. Jamison has also known suicide firsthand: after years of struggling with manic-depression, she tried at age…


RX

By Rachel Lindsay,

Book cover of RX

Why this book?

Time for a fun one. RX is a wry, insightful, graphic memoir by a woman with bipolar disorder who gets a job writing ads for a pharmaceutical company. She finds herself in meetings, brainstorming ad ideas for bipolar medication! A manic episode lands her in an inpatient psychiatric facility. She chronicles her experience as a patient, and reflects on what it means to heal. 

RX

By Rachel Lindsay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A graphic memoir about the treatment of mental illness, treating mental illness as a commodity.
 
In her early twenties in New York City, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Rachel Lindsay takes a job in advertising in order to secure healthcare coverage for her treatment. But work takes a strange turn when she is promoted onto the Pfizer account and suddenly finds herself on the other side of the curtain, developing ads for an anti-depressant drug. Overwhelmed by her professional life and the self-scrutiny it inspires, her mania takes hold. She quits her job to become an artist, only to be hospitalized…


The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays

By Esmé Weijun Wang,

Book cover of The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays

Why this book?

As you probably deduced from the title, this book focuses on schizophrenia, not bipolar disorder. But it is the best mental health memoir I’ve ever read. I keep multiple copies so I can hand them out to my friends. Esmé Weijun Wang is a beautiful writer, and the book contains deep, insightful reflections on the weight of stigma and the nature of a psychiatric diagnosis.

The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays

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…


Strength to Love

By Martin Luther King Jr.,

Book cover of Strength to Love

Why this book?

This book may seem like it has nothing to do with bipolar disorder, but hear me out. In Strength to Love, King says that love undergirds the universe, and that good will ultimately triumph over evil. The book also tells us that all humans are interconnected, and that we can find hope and purpose in fighting for freedom and justice. Bipolar depression can rob people of all hope. People with bipolar disorder need books that hold our hope for us when we can’t hold it for ourselves. 

Strength to Love

By Martin Luther King Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic collection of Dr. King’s sermons that fuse his Christian teachings with his radical ideas of love and nonviolence as a means to combat hate and oppression.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., prepared for the Birmingham campaign in early 1963, he drafted the final sermons for Strength to Love, a volume of his most well known homilies. King had begun working on the sermons during a fortnight in jail in July 1962. While behind bars, he spent uninterrupted time preparing the drafts for works such as “Loving Your Enemies” and “Shattered Dreams,” and he continued to edit the volume…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bipolar disorder, suicide, and cartoonists?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bipolar disorder, suicide, and cartoonists.

Bipolar Disorder Explore 26 books about bipolar disorder
Suicide Explore 107 books about suicide
Cartoonists Explore 37 books about cartoonists

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, A Mind Apart, and The Body Keeps the Score if you like this list.