The best novels on surviving, overcoming, and triumphing depression

Indu Muralidharan Author Of The Reengineers
By Indu Muralidharan

The Books I Picked & Why

The Midnight Library

By Matt Haig

Book cover of The Midnight Library

Why 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.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Stephen Chbosky

Book cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why 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

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High Fidelity

By Nick Hornby

Book cover of High Fidelity

Why 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.

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

By Muriel Barbery, Alison Anderson

Book cover of The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Why 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.

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Why 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.

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