The best novels on surviving, overcoming, and triumphing depression

Who am I?

When I battled severe depression from my early teens to early thirties, stories were my lifeline that kept me going. As I overcame depression, I wrote my first novel The Reengineers, rewrote my life, and reconstructed my reality. I have moved so far from that past version of myself that my first novel on surviving depression now reads like someone else’s story. Having experienced the healing power of fiction first hand, I am excited to share these stories which gave me hope when I needed it the most. While each of these books is bibliotherapeutic, they also offer the pleasure of reading a wonderfully narrated story.


I wrote...

The Reengineers

By Indu Muralidharan,

Book cover of The Reengineers

What is my book about?

Chinmay Narayan is about to kill himself in a desperate attempt to take charge of his life from his dysfunctional family. But when he and his friends accidentally enter Conchpore through Uncle RK’s library, he finds that his life has been predetermined from the beginning by Siddharth, the author who is writing him into life. When Siddharth has a relapse of depression, Chinmay finds that like man creating God in his image, only he can revive his author. 

The Reengineers can be read at various levels: a coming-of-age story of a boy growing up in Madras in the nineties, a fantasy exploring the relationship between an author and his hero, a fable that addresses the meaning of life, and a handbook on triumphing depression narrated through the story of a boy who learns that he can be both the author and the hero of his own life.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Midnight Library

Indu Muralidharan Why did I love this book?

The Midnight’s Library tops my list of novels on triumphing depression, because of how the story empowers the depressed character to take charge of her life.

Depression can freeze a person’s thoughts and shut them within their own minds that they may fail to see how easily they can free themselves. To a depressed person, the idea that they are free to live life on their own terms can often be life-changing. This is the premise of The Midnight Library which reads like a response to the existential dilemma portrayed in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Nora, the heroine of The Midnight Library, finds that she can browse through infinite alternate lives and choose to shape her future the way she wants it. This genre-bending novel inspired by the concept of multiverses reaffirms an individual’s power to create their own reality.

By Matt Haig,

Why should I read it?

32 authors picked The Midnight Library as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling WORLDWIDE phenomenon

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction | A Good Morning America Book Club Pick | Independent (London) Ten Best Books of the Year

"A feel-good book guaranteed to lift your spirits."-The Washington Post

The dazzling reader-favorite about the choices that go into a life well lived, from the acclaimed author of How To Stop Time and The Comfort Book.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of…


Book cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Indu Muralidharan Why did I love this book?

I love The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the way it shows how a depressed person who has suffered the condition since childhood can be healed completely.

The childlike narrative voice of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a marked contrast to the heavy social issues portrayed in the novel including drugs, angst, abuse, and incest. The novel’s power lies in the way it shows how a traumatised child who had gone into a catatonic state is healed so completely that he feels himself expand in joy as he closes the past chapter of his life and looks forward to his future. “You are alive. And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song, and that drive with the people who you love most in this world. And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.” - Stephen Chbosky

By Stephen Chbosky,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Perks of Being a Wallflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A modern cult classic, a major motion picture and a timeless bestseller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story.

Charlie is not the biggest geek in high school, but he's by no means popular.

Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is attempting to navigate through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and music - when all one requires to feel infinite is that…


Book cover of High Fidelity

Indu Muralidharan Why did I love this book?

I was undecided between High Fidelity and another of Nick Hornby's novels on the same theme and picked High Fidelity because in this novel the depressed main character turns around his life on his own. High Fidelity is about the self-realisation that only you can help yourself out of depression.

Narrated with warmth and humour, the story of Rob Fleming, a depressed music record store owner is anything but depressing. Rob’s juvenile attitude to life and the realisation that he had been sleepwalking through it is brought out as he ruminates on his many relationships to find the reason behind his fear of commitment. High Fidelity is the coming of age story of a grown-up Holden Caulfield who eventually finds his way home.

By Nick Hornby,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked High Fidelity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I've always loved Nick Hornby, and the way he writes characters and the way he thinks. It's funny and heartbreaking all at the same time."—Zoë Kravitz

From the bestselling author of Funny Girl, About a Boy, A Long Way Down and Dickens and Prince, a wise and hilarious novel about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll.

Rob is a pop music junkie who runs his own semi-failing record store. His girlfriend, Laura, has just left him for the guy upstairs, and Rob is both miserable and relieved. After all, could he have spent his life with someone who has a…


Book cover of The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Indu Muralidharan Why did I love this book?

The Elegance of The Hedgehog is a story of hope and happiness that is always there in the world if you know where to find it.

Narrated through the eyes of twelve-year-old Paloma who is disillusioned with her privileged life and has decided to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday unless she finds meaning beyond her "vacuous bourgeois existence," the story is about how she finds it through her connection with Renee, the concierge who strives to hide her intelligence from the world. Through long self-reflective passages and gentle interactions between the main characters, this charming novel examines the question of the meaning of life and is so exquisitely written that reading it allows the reader to pause, reflect and experience several moments of beauty and tranquility that makes life worth living.

By Muriel Barbery, Alison Anderson (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rene is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building. She maintains a carefully constructed persona as someone uncultivated but reliable, in keeping with what she feels a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Rene: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Rene lives with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid…


Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Indu Muralidharan Why did I love this book?

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine follows a depressed woman’s journey of transformation and growth as she finds social acceptance and friendship for the first time in her life.

When Eleanor helps a stranger who has collapsed on the street, her lonely and dysfunctional life begins to change for the better through a series of related incidents. While the backstory hints at how much she was traumatised as a child that she learnt to accept physical, verbal, and emotional abuse as the norm, the story remains focused on Eleanor’s journey towards a happy life, with a positive and realistic ending. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine scores high for the delightful narrative voice which is both funny and sad, and the way it allows the main character to move on from their past, and heal and grow.

By Gail Honeyman,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

"Beautifully written and incredibly funny, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about the importance of friendship and human connection. I fell in love with Eleanor, an eccentric and regimented loner whose life beautifully unfolds after a chance encounter with a stranger; I think you will fall in love, too!" -Reese Witherspoon

No one's ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of…


You might also like...

At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

Book cover of At What Cost, Silence?

Karen Lynne Klink Author Of At What Cost, Silence?

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Child abuse survivor Reader Adventure traveler Animal lover

Karen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Secrets, misunderstandings, and a plethora of family conflicts abound in this historical novel set along the Brazos River in antebellum Washington County, East Texas.

It is a compelling story of two neighboring plantation families and a few of the enslaved people who serve them. These two plantations are a microcosm of a country on the brink of war, encompassing a variety of issues: love and friendship between men, relationships between fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, slavery, and the position of women in society.

At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

What is this book about?

Adrien Villere suspects he is not like other boys. For years, he desperately locks away his feelings and fears-but eventually, tragedy and loss drive him to seeking solace from his mentor, a young neighbor Jacob Hart. Jacob's betrayal of Adrien's trust, however, results in secret abuse, setting off a chain of actions from which neither Adrien's wise sister, Bernadette, nor his closest friend, Isaac, can turn him.

At What Cost, Silence presents two contrasting plantation families in a society where strict rules of belief and behavior are clear, and public opinion can shape an entire life. Centerstage are the Villeres,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, decision making, and France?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, decision making, and France.

Romantic Love Explore 797 books about romantic love
Decision Making Explore 79 books about decision making
France Explore 857 books about France