The best books featuring strong female leads (and one male!) with mental illness or neurodiversity

Who am I?

Mental illness has been such a huge part of my life for so long now that it has become second nature for me to incorporate it into my work. After suffering postnatal depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, I’ve been on anti-depressants for 11 years and regularly see a wonderful psychologist. Recently, I added a psychiatrist into the mix who diagnosed me with ADHD, so now I’m learning to juggle ADHD meds alongside the antidepressants. I’ve always been passionate about talking and writing openly and honestly about my own personal experiences because if there is any chance that I can help someone else with my words, then I’m going to take it.


I wrote...

You Need To Know

By Nicola Moriarty,

Book cover of You Need To Know

What is my book about?

Jill's three grown-up sons mean everything to her.

She would do anything for her boys - protect them, lie for them, even die for them. Then one day she receives an email with the subject line: 'You Need To Know.' Jill doesn't want to know. She leaves the warning unread. But some truths you can't hide from. Soon Jill will start to wonder if she knows her sons at all...

The books I picked & why

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Other People's Houses

By Kelli Hawkins,

Book cover of Other People's Houses

Why this book?

The thing I love about this book is that the reader is hooked from the start by a thrilling mystery as Kate starts investigating the secrets hidden within a seemingly perfect family; but at the same time, you’re also drawn into Kate’s struggles with her past. As you discover the unspeakable tragedy that Kate is attempting to shut out through alcoholism and by spending her weekends taking voyeuristic visits through open homes for sale – which she has no intention of buying; you slowly realise that you’re experiencing an unreliable view of the world, which means you start to doubt everything you read, in the same way that Kate is doubting everything she sees.


The Good Sister

By Sally Hepworth,

Book cover of The Good Sister

Why this book?

As someone who has only recently discovered my own neurodiversity (having been diagnosed late in life with ADHD), I’m drawn to books with neurodiverse characters as I try to navigate my new understanding of myself and my world. In The Good Sister, Fern, who is on the autism spectrum, works hard to keep her life carefully structured. When her sister Rose can’t fall pregnant, Fern sees an opportunity to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. But as the book delves into the sisters’ past, it becomes clear that there is a dark history between these sisters, and with plenty of clever twists it makes for a truly compelling read.


Grace Under Pressure

By Tori Haschka,

Book cover of Grace Under Pressure

Why this book?

I absolutely love being a mother – but becoming a mum wasn’t the simple experience I thought it would be. I suffered from post-natal depression after the birth of both of my daughters and it was a shock for me to discover that motherhood wasn’t as easy and natural as I’d imagined. That’s why I loved reading Grace Under Pressure – it perfectly captures the ups and downs of motherhood and the terrifying loneliness, while simultaneously incorporating humour, heart, and comradery between women.


The Mystery of Mercy Close

By Marian Keyes,

Book cover of The Mystery of Mercy Close

Why this book?

I adore every single word written by Marian Keyes, but the reason I’m including this book in this particular list is because the story centers around Helen Walsh, a private investigator who is severely depressed – and yet the book is not at all depressing to read. It’s clever, funny, and warm. So many of Helen’s thoughts and experiences rang true for me, which made it such a satisfying and validating read.


Contacts

By Mark Watson,

Book cover of Contacts

Why this book?

The concept for this book had me intrigued from the moment I saw the front cover. James Chiltern sends a message to all 158 contacts on his phone, telling them he plans to end his life in the morning. Then he switches his phone to flight mode and sets off on an overnight train journey. While I have had dark times and moments where I was close to the edge throughout my life, I’ve never reached the point where I had actually made a plan to end things. So to read a story where the main character has made that heart-wrenching decision and to see the differing perspectives of all the people in his life waking up to that message was both heart-breaking and riveting.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in neurodiversity, mental disorders, and romantic love?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about neurodiversity, mental disorders, and romantic love.

Neurodiversity Explore 17 books about neurodiversity
Mental Disorders Explore 99 books about mental disorders
Romantic Love Explore 417 books about romantic love

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Normal Sucks, A Boy Called Bat, and Fifty-Four Things Wrong with Gwendolyn Rogers if you like this list.