100 books like The Best Minds

By Jonathan Rosen,

Here are 100 books that The Best Minds fans have personally recommended if you like The Best Minds. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Zero O'clock

Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg Author Of Daughter of a Promise

From my list on books that utilize COVID in the plot.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author who also penned a novel during the pandemic, with a timeline that stretched into the first six months of the pandemic–against the advice of my agent and the publishing industry at large. I know many authors choose not to write about intense political and social happenings, but that “life will never be the same again” feeling was something I couldn’t avoid. The pandemic threw people together and kept us apart at the same time. I was intensely interested in its incubator effect as well as the silo aspect quarantining had on all of our lives. 

Jeanne's book list on books that utilize COVID in the plot

Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg Why did Jeanne love this book?

This YA novel was the first I read set during COVID times, and it hit me with the urgency of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

I loved the author’s unwavering courage in tackling the racial subject matter head-on. Heartbreaking and whip-smart, it taught me what teens were going through with regard to virtual friendship, classrooms, and pop stardom. Farley’s novel captures a moment in time during the pandemic while others were still processing it.

Like a photo album, I wasn’t quite ready to revisit, it portrays the importance of a difficult time in our nation’s history coupled with that uneasy age of adolescence. Entertaining, yes, but a historical artifact, definitely.  

By C.J. Farley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zero O'clock 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?

For sixteen-year-old Geth Montego, zero o’clock begins on March 11, 2020. By June, she wonders if it will ever end.

“An insightful, eye-opening, and inventive story. C.J. Farley has penned a novel that sheds an important light on real issues facing young people today.” ―Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give

In early March 2020 in New Rochelle, New York, teenager Geth Montego is fumbling with the present and uncertain about her future. She only has three friends: her best friend Tovah, who’s been acting weird ever since they started applying to college; Diego, who she wants to ask…


Book cover of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Michelle L. Teichman Author Of The Space Between

From my list on young adult books for women of all ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

At heart, I’m still just a girl. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of wanting to experience the excitement of first kisses, first loves, and of coming out, when everything was new and exciting, and the world was full of promise. That’s why we return to YA even as adults. To feel the butterflies of a first crush, the fluttering of first love, and the agony of first loss. Those transformative books, the ones that change the trajectory of our lives, are usually young adult novels. I wrote The Space Between to give readers a story to fall in love with and take with them the rest of their lives.

Michelle's book list on young adult books for women of all ages

Michelle L. Teichman Why did Michelle love this book?

This book will make you question everything you’ve ever thought about your sanity.

The incredible true story of Susannah Cahalan took the world by storm when it topped the charts to #1 New York Times Bestseller and was made into a film. Cahalan’s intense journey from New York Post investigative reporter to psychiatric lockdown patient spans only one month, a month that nearly ended her life.

A reader once described my books as ‘unputdownable,’ and I’m happy to share that label with Brain on Fire. Riveting, frightening, and incredibly moving, I couldn’t read quickly enough as Susannah fought to reclaim her sanity and her life.

Based on her article “The Month of Madness,” this book is one of the best about a young woman’s struggle to find and reclaim herself.

By Susannah Cahalan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Brain on Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brain on Fire is the stunning debut from journalist and author Susannah Cahalan, recounting the real-life horror story of how a sudden and mysterious illness put her on descent into a madness for which there seemed to be no cure

'My first serious blackout marked the line between sanity and insanity. Though I would have moments of lucidity over the coming days and weeks, I would never again be the same person ...'

Susannah Cahalan was a happy, clever, healthy twenty-four-year old. Then one day she woke up in hospital, with no memory of what had happened or how she…


Book cover of Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature

Ben Alderson-Day Author Of Presence: The Strange Science and True Stories of the Unseen Other

From my list on understanding the uncanny feeling of felt presence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been either studying, researching, or teaching psychology since I was 16 – but before that, I was a reader. I have always been drawn to books that pose fundamental questions about the mind, and to this day I still go back to fiction and non-fiction that can generate ideas and hypotheses for new experiments. I’ve even used fictional stories in brain-scanning experiments to explore how the mind represents voices and characters: our findings show that we are experts at automatically simulating both the sound and the intention of other people when they talk in a story (even when the stories are very simple ones). 

Ben's book list on understanding the uncanny feeling of felt presence

Ben Alderson-Day Why did Ben love this book?

My book starts with a series of conversations with people who have psychosis and hear voices. Some people described to me a particularly unusual experience: the feeling of a voice being there, even when it wasn’t speaking.

As an undergraduate student one of the books that first got me thinking about these topics was Richard Bentall’s Madness Explained. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of the mind and how we can think about experiences like hallucinations without necessarily pathologizing them.

This book was my gateway to then learning about things like the International Hearing Voices moment, which argues against an overly medicalized understanding of unusual experiences like voice-hearing. My book is quite wide-ranging, but I’ve tried to retain some of the ethos of Madness Explained in how I’ve approached the world of uncanny presences. 

By Richard P Bentall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THIS BOOK WILL EXPLAIN WHAT MADNESS IS, TO SHOW THAT IT CAN BE UNDERSTOOD IN PSYCHOLOGICAL TERMS, AND THAT BY STUDYING IT WE CAN LEARN IMPORTANT INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NORMAL MIND. THE BOOK WILL ARGUE THAT TRADITIONAL APPROACHES TO MADNESS MUST BE ABANDONED IN FAVOUR OF A NEW APPROACH WHICH IS MORE CONSISTENT WITH THAT WE NOW KNOW ABOUT THE HUMAN MIND. OVER THE LAST CENTURY OR SO IT HAS BECOME SO COMMONPLACE TO REGARD MADNESS SIMPLY AS A MEDICAL CONDITION THAT IT HAS BECOME DIFFICULT TO THINK OF IT IN ANY OTHER WAY. BENTALL ARGUES INSTEAD THAT DELUSIONS, HALLUCINATIONS…


Book cover of Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Hearing Voices and the Borders of Sanity

Will Hall Author Of Outside Mental Health: Voices and Visions of Madness

From my list on psychosis from someone who has schizophrenia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was an imaginative and sensitive kid – growing up in the confusing oppressions of the US south and raised by parents who are themselves trauma survivors. When I started to go into altered states, hear voices, withdraw in frightened isolation and drift towards strange beliefs, I was forcibly locked up at Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital in San Francisco. I was drugged, put in restraints and solitary confinement, and told I was schizophrenic and would never live a normal life. Today I don’t take medication, work as a therapist teacher, and advocate, and have joined the international patients’ movement working to change an abusive and misguided mental health system. I am not anti-medication, but I see psychiatric meds for what they are – tranquilizers, not treatments, tools not solutions. We need compassionate approaches and caring communities for individuals suffering from a psychotic crisis like I was. I am also the author of the Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs.

Will's book list on psychosis from someone who has schizophrenia

Will Hall Why did Will love this book?

Hearing voices is considered a symptom of schizophrenia and can quickly lead to hospital lockup, medication, and being shunned by society as “mentally ill.” In this fascinating account, Smith reveals the truth about this experience we call “madness” – hearing voices is actually a normal human experience across history and culture. Poets, religious visionaries, people spending time alone or grieving – even Freud, Gandhi, actor Anthony Hopkins, singer Lady Gaga -- all heard voices, and anyone under the right kind of stress can hear voices. The problem only arises when people hear distressing voices and have nowhere to go for help other than being treated as ill by a doctor.


Psychiatry made the catastrophic mistake of calling homosexuality a mental disease, and for many decades LGBT people were abducted, confined in hospitals, drugged, tortured, and killed for the mental crime of being different. Today people who hear voices are also…

By Daniel B. Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An inquiry into hearing voices-one of humanity's most profound phenomena

Auditory hallucination is one of the most awe-inspiring, terrifying, and ill- understood tricks of which the human psyche is capable. In the age of modern medical science, we have relegated this experience to nothing more than a biological glitch. Yet as Daniel B. Smith puts forth in Muses, Madmen, and Prophets, some of the greatest thinkers, leaders, and prophets in history heard, listened to, and had dialogues with voices inside their heads. In a fascinating quest for understanding, Smith examines the history of this powerful phenomenon, and delivers a ringing…


Book cover of All That I Remember About Dean Cola

Anne Buist Author Of The Long Shadow

From my list on crime where mental illness is conveyed authentically.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of Women’s Mental Health and have worked clinically, taught, and researched in the area of perinatal psychiatry for over thirty years. I do forensic psychiatry related to this; all this guides the books I write. I am passionate about promoting mental health and helping everyone understand the high level of trauma and its devastating effects on people; I have also been an avid reader of just about everything since I was eight, and love a gripping crime or psychological thriller. But it has to make sense, be authentic and not demonize mental illness; I have a particular hatred for the evil serial killer who was just “born that way”.

Anne's book list on crime where mental illness is conveyed authentically

Anne Buist Why did Anne love this book?

This is more literary than crime but Chandler has at the heart of her book a woman with serious mental illness; she captures the soul of a troubled woman and the rippling effects of past and psychosis, as well as the vagaries of memory. And there is a mystery to work out; it was short-listed for the Sisters in Crime Davitt’s award.

By Tania Chandler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All That I Remember About Dean Cola as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The boys from back home stand beside the bed, watching her bleed onto the white sheet. ‘He only said to scare her,’ one of them says.

Sidney is happily married to her firefighter husband and thinking about having a child, but her life has been marred by psychotic breakdowns. Haunted by memories of Dean Cola — the teenage crush who is an essential piece of the puzzle that is her past — she returns to the town where she grew up. Something unthinkable happened there, but is she strong enough to face it?

A compelling portrait of mental illness, memory,…


Book cover of The Tree of Ecstasy & Unbearable Sadness

Eugen Bacon Author Of Secondhand Daylight

From my list on psychedelic speculative fiction from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an African Australian author of several novels and fiction collections, and a finalist in the 2022 World Fantasy Award. I was announced in the honor list of the 2022 Otherwise Fellowships for ‘doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction’.  I have a master's degree with distinction in distributed computer systems, a master's degree in creative writing, and a PhD in creative writing. The short story is my sweetest spot. I have a deep passion for the literary speculative, and I write across genres and forms, with award-winning genre-bending works. I am especially curious about stories of culture, diversity, climate change, writing the other and betwixt.

Eugen's book list on psychedelic speculative fiction from Australia

Eugen Bacon Why did Eugen love this book?

The quality and production of this phenomenal hardcover of imposing size are mesmeric. Its metaphoric text on mental illness and accompanying artwork are visually appealing and poignantly immersive. Transformative text transports the reader, any reader—child, young adult, adult—to beauty and hurt, evolution and transformation. The perfect book for anyone living with psychosis or other illness, and for everyone else to understand the fragility of debilitating conditions.  

Book cover of Valis

Jeff Hopp Author Of Legend of the Mind

From my list on science fiction written by Philip K. Dick.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professional artist and musician, and I owe a huge debt to Philip K. Dick. I started to read his works at a very young age (I believe I’ve read most everything he’s written at least twice), and my love of his work has continued throughout my life and he has been the greatest inspiration to my music, writing, and art. I felt so influenced and indebted that a created a comic book to honor him and to tell my stories and ideas that have populated my imagination as a result of his books.

Jeff's book list on science fiction written by Philip K. Dick

Jeff Hopp Why did Jeff love this book?

I consider myself a very spiritual person and I believe that it is a person’s responsibility to question what it means to be spiritual in order to better understand one’s own faith.

As I am, Philip K. Dick was obviously obsessed with wanting spiritual answers. Valis is very entertaining, but it also made me question all that I believe in a way that expanded and made my spirituality stronger.

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Valis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It began with a blinding light, a divine revelation from a mysterious intelligence that called itself VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System). And with that, the fabric of reality was torn apart and laid bare so that anything seemed possible, but nothing seemed quite right.

It was madness, pure and simple. But what if it were true?


Book cover of Rethinking Madness: Towards a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis

Bruce E. Levine Author Of A Profession Without Reason: The Crisis of Contemporary Psychiatry―Untangled and Solved by Spinoza, Freethinking, and Radical Enlightenment

From my list on psychiatry for freethinkers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a practicing clinical psychologist, often at odds with the mainstream of my mental health profession. I have a strong interest in how society, culture, politics, philosophy, and psychology intersect, and my previous books about depression, activism, and anti-authoritarianism reflect that. The late historian Howard Zinn described me this way: “It is always refreshing to find someone who stands at the edge of his profession and dissects its failures with a critical eye, refusing to be deceived by its pretensions. Bruce Levine condemns the cold, technological approach to mental health and, to our benefit, looks for deeper solutions.”

Bruce's book list on psychiatry for freethinkers

Bruce E. Levine Why did Bruce love this book?

I found Rethinking Madness to be a highly original book. Clinical psychologist Paris Williams interviewed individuals who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychoses, and he integrated this research with prominent alternative explanations for madness. In contrast to the gloomy picture painted by establishment psychiatry, Williams describes how full recovery from schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders is not only possible but is surprisingly common, and that many people who recover from these psychotic disorders do not merely return to their pre-psychotic condition, but often undergo a profound positive transformation with far more lasting benefits than harms.

By Paris Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As the recovery research continues to accumulate, we find that the mainstream understanding of schizophrenia and psychosis has lost nearly all credibility:

* After over 100 years and billions of dollars spent on research looking for schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders in the brain, we still have not found any substantial evidence that these disorders are actually caused by a brain disease.
* We have learned that full recovery from schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders is not only possible but is surprisingly common.
* We've discovered that those diagnosed in the United States and other "developed" nations are…


Book cover of The Discovery of the Art of the Insane

Colm O'Shea Author Of James Joyce's Mandala

From my list on rationally investigating mystical and psychotic experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

My research into the overlap between mysticism and schizophrenia has garnered one academic monograph on James Joyce, with another on Charlie Kaufman’s films and fiction due out in 2025 (both from Routledge). For 15 years, I’ve been a writing professor at New York University, and the two things I want to impart to my students are: 1) the courage to pursue a singular question or unique viewpoint and (2) the compassion to write clearly for the reader! All five books on my list don’t shy away from profound questions of what it is to be a complex spiritual being, but they always remain lucid and engaging for a general audience. 

Colm's book list on rationally investigating mystical and psychotic experience

Colm O'Shea Why did Colm love this book?

MacGregor’s book blew my mind when I first read it. This masterful history reveals the discovery of a secret treasure, one that eventually transformed the art world.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, mental asylums in Europe began experimenting with art therapy, allowing psychotic inmates access to drawing materials. Over seventeen chapters jam-packed with astounding images, MacGregor’s book tracks the evolution of what is now known as Outsider art and the profound effect it had (and continues to have) on avant-garde art.

I love MacGregor’s ability to marry the rigor of a scholar with a humane and sensitive commentary on the lives of these forgotten "schizophrenic masters.” This book inspired my own research into schizophrenic art and is my go-to source for inspiration on this theme. 

By John M. MacGregor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Discovery of the Art of the Insane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This pioneering work, the first history of the art of the insane, scrutinizes changes in attitudes toward the art of the mentally ill from a time when it was either ignored or ridiculed, through the era when major figures in the art world discovered the extraordinary power of visual statements by psychotic artists such as Adolf Wlfli and Richard Dadd. John MacGregor draws on his dual training in art history and in psychiatry and psychoanalysis to describe not only this evolution in attitudes but also the significant influence of the art of the mentally ill on the development of modern…


Book cover of Soteria

Will Hall Author Of Outside Mental Health: Voices and Visions of Madness

From my list on psychosis from someone who has schizophrenia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was an imaginative and sensitive kid – growing up in the confusing oppressions of the US south and raised by parents who are themselves trauma survivors. When I started to go into altered states, hear voices, withdraw in frightened isolation and drift towards strange beliefs, I was forcibly locked up at Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital in San Francisco. I was drugged, put in restraints and solitary confinement, and told I was schizophrenic and would never live a normal life. Today I don’t take medication, work as a therapist teacher, and advocate, and have joined the international patients’ movement working to change an abusive and misguided mental health system. I am not anti-medication, but I see psychiatric meds for what they are – tranquilizers, not treatments, tools not solutions. We need compassionate approaches and caring communities for individuals suffering from a psychotic crisis like I was. I am also the author of the Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs.

Will's book list on psychosis from someone who has schizophrenia

Will Hall Why did Will love this book?

What would happen if instead of throwing people into jail-like mental wards and hammering them with tranquilizing drugs, we instead welcomed them into home-like settings and spent time listening and caring, patiently giving them time and space to explore the emotional roots of their crisis? Psychiatrist Loren Mosher did just that in the Soteria House research project in the 1970s and 80s, and the results were clear: people do better without medications and with listening and caring in a safe environment instead.

Mosher was the first chief of the Center for Studies of Schizophrenia of the National Institutes of Mental Health but you’ve probably never heard of him – his innovative project proved that psychosis can be healed more effectively without medication and outside of  hospitals, but came at a time when biological and pharmaceutical solutions – and the profits they generate – came to dominate psychiatry, so he was…

By Loren R. Mosher, Voyce Hendrix Fort,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the story of a special time, space, and place where young people diagnosed as


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in psychosis, mental disorders, and schizophrenia?

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