The best books on mental health, addiction, and how those affect families

Karen Harmon Author Of Where Is My Happy Ending?: A Journey of No Regrets
By Karen Harmon

Who am I?

I have the expertise for this topic because I was raised in a loving home with a mother who struggled with bipolar disorder. At times my life was hilariously adventurous or heart-wrenchingly sad. Given little direction, I married an alcoholic and then went on to work at a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center. I have fallen on hard times, but at the age of thirty-two, as a single mother collecting welfare, I managed to grief, heal and dig myself out, creating a rewarding life. I am optimistic, and I try to find humour in all things, especially after the tears and healing have subsided. My writing has brought me tremendous healing and joy.


I wrote...

Where Is My Happy Ending?: A Journey of No Regrets

By Karen Harmon,

Book cover of Where Is My Happy Ending?: A Journey of No Regrets

What is my book about?

Karen's memoir takes place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1970-1990. Looking for love in all the wrong places, Karen leaves home at seventeen at her mother's urging. She soon finds herself emersed in the disco scene, meeting unsavoury characters and going from one dead-end job to another. Where is my Happy Ending is a true story about a girl who enters adulthood after being raised in a home plagued with mental illness. A genuine, heartbreaking and heartwarming account that is relatable to women of all ages. Karen's wit and storytelling abilities and simplicity at looking at life will keep you engaged from start to finish.

The books I picked & why

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The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls,

Book cover of The Glass Castle

Why this book?

Jeanette's memoir is one of my favourite books. A heartbreaking and heartwarming story of a girl growing up in a home with addiction and mental health issues. Even though her parents have serious problems, the author paints a picture of love at all costs. She weaves us through her childhood, allowing us to see the world through her eyes. You will smile, laugh, and possibly cry.

The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson.

This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist's journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, 'brilliant' but alcoholic parents.

At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the 'mundane,…


Too Close to the Falls

By Catherine Gildiner,

Book cover of Too Close to the Falls

Why this book?

Too Close to the Falls is hilarious and moving with a dark side that at first is undetectable. Gildner's memoir is richly absorbing and captures childhood's essence, where each experience is a lesson. In the 1950s, Too Close to the Falls is an exquisite, haunting portrayal of friendships, brushes with death, and how a schoolgirl affects the course of aboriginal politics. Memorable and skillfully told.

Too Close to the Falls

By Catherine Gildiner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Too Close to the Falls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to the childhood of Catherine McClure Gildiner. It is the mid-1950s in Lewiston, New York, a sleepy town near Niagara Falls. Divorce is unheard of, mothers wear high heels to the beauty salon, and television has only just arrived.

At the tender age of four, Cathy accompanies Roy, the deliveryman at her father's pharmacy, on his routes. She shares some of their memorable deliveries-sleeping pills to Marilyn Monroe (in town filming Niagara), sedatives to Mad Bear, a violent Tuscarora chief, and fungus cream to Warty, the gentle operator of the town dump. As she reaches her teenage years, Cathy's…


The Memory Palace

By Mira Bartok,

Book cover of The Memory Palace

Why this book?

A harrowing and beautiful tale of two sisters growing up with a paranoid schizophrenic mother. The author describes a fine line between gentle artistic creativity and debilitating mental illness. The reader will come away with a better understanding of how deeply children are affected growing up in a dysfunctional and traumatic environment. A mother's love and a journey to forgiveness teach us the complex meaning of love.

The Memory Palace

By Mira Bartok,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the tradition of The Glass Castle, two sisters confront schizophrenia in this New York Times bestselling poignant memoir about family and mental illness. Through stunning prose and original art, The Memory Palace captures the love between mother and daughter, the complex meaning of truth, and one family’s capacity for forgiveness.

*A Washington Post Best Book of the Year *
*The National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Best Autobiography*

“People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you’ve been through,” Mira Bartók is told at her mother’s memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship…


Mennonite Girl at the Welcome Inn

By Mary Ediger,

Book cover of Mennonite Girl at the Welcome Inn

Why this book?

This lovely memoir follows Mary, the daughter of Mennonite Pastors. Her recollections are comical and heartwarming as she deals with growing up in a Mennonite home in a non-Mennonite community. The creativity that goes with being raised with little means and living frugally makes Mary and her family rich beyond belief in adventure and storytelling.

Mennonite Girl at the Welcome Inn

By Mary Ediger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mennonite Girl at the Welcome Inn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to the Welcome Inn and welcome to the life of Mary Ediger. A work of creative non-fiction, Mennonite Girl follows Mary from her life as a young girl in a quiet rural parsonage to an inner city community center in Hamilton, Ontario.
The daughter of a Mennonite preacher, Mary struggles with the trials of growing up Mennonite in a non-Mennonite community, while her parents continue to follow God's call. Young and old, religious and non-religious readers alike will find themselves drawn into Mary's tale, laughing all the while as she deals with everything life throws at her.
With interminable…


Olive Kitteridge

By Elizabeth Strout,

Book cover of Olive Kitteridge

Why this book?

Stout's story is fiction, but we can all see the truth in ourselves displayed by the main character Olive. She never fails to exude the ugly parts while also showing lovable humanitarian features. Olive comes across as not a very nice person, but we somehow fall in love with her. The author introduces us to Olive's life and the characters, who are equally trying to maneuver around who she is as a wife, mother and friend. Olive Kitteridge is also a four-part Netflix original.

Olive Kitteridge

By Elizabeth Strout,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Olive Kitteridge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • The beloved first novel featuring Olive Kitteridge, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah’s Book Club pick Olive, Again
 
“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her.”—USA Today
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post Book World • USA Today • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Seattle Post-Intelligencer • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Christian Science Monitor • The Plain Dealer • The Atlantic • Rocky Mountain News • Library Journal
 
At times stern, at…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in mental health, poverty, and Mennonites?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about mental health, poverty, and Mennonites.

Mental Health Explore 116 books about mental health
Poverty Explore 55 books about poverty
Mennonites Explore 10 books about Mennonites

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Another Hill and Sometimes a Mountain, The Tender Bar, and Night if you like this list.