The most recommended books about insanity

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to insanity, and here are their favorite insanity books.
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What type of insanity book?


Inconvenient People

By Sarah Wise, Sarah Wise,

Book cover of Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty, and the Mad-Doctors in England

Mark Stevens Author Of Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum

From the list on the history of English mental health.

Who am I?

I’m an archivist, really, masquerading as a writer. For my day job, I am in charge of archives from across England’s Royal County of Berkshire, spanning from the twelfth century to the present day. I have care of collections from Reading Gaol – of Oscar Wilde fame, the conservators of the River Thames, and also Broadmoor Hospital. The latter was built in 1863 as the first criminal lunatic asylum for England and Wales. It’s a place where true crime and social history interact. My book tries to paint a picture of individuals who did dreadful things but also had a life beyond their mental illness.

Mark's book list on the history of English mental health

Why did Mark love this book?

I like to write about public Victorian asylums – where the bulk of English people with mental illnesses were admitted.  But the counterpoint is the private system, where the poor, rich mad spent their time in nice surroundings with wacky treatments. Sarah Wise captures this perfectly through a real-life investigation of the people in the attic – think Jane Eyre, or The Woman in White – and how the law sought to protect them.

By Sarah Wise, Sarah Wise,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A must-read for those who work in the mental health industry, I think most people will find it both eye-opening and provocative.” ―The Guardian

The phenomenon of false allegations of mental illness is as old as our first interactions as human beings. But it took the confluence of the law and medical science, mad-doctors, alienists, priests and barristers, to raise the matter to a level of “science,” capable of being used by conniving relatives, “designing families” and scheming neighbors to destroy people who found themselves in the way, people whose removal could provide their survivors with money or property or…

The Sword of the Land

By Noel-Anne Brennan,

Book cover of The Sword of the Land

Rachanee Lumayno Author Of Heir of Amber and Fire

From the list on awesome fantasy you may not have heard of.

Who am I?

Fantasy is my favorite genre, and honestly, I’m pretty deep in it. Not only do I read a lot of fantasy, I also write fantasy novels. I’ve been an active TTRPG player for the last few years, even creating and running a few campaigns. In addition, I wrote a one-shot campaign set in the world of my fantasy series, the Gifted Lands, which people can get for free when they sign up for my newsletter on my website. So it’s safe to say, I like fantasy. :) If you check out any of these books, let me know what you think of them! 

Rachanee's book list on awesome fantasy you may not have heard of

Why did Rachanee love this book?

I gotta say, Noel-Anne Brennan needs to be better known.

This book (along with its sequel, The Blood of the Land) makes up a compelling duology featuring Rilsin, the rightful ruler of her country, who pledges the throne to her cousin Sithli in an effort to stop the bloodshed in her land.

But her cousin is insane and could care less about being a good ruler, which means Rilsin may need to break her promise to help her country—except Sithli also holds Rilsin’s baby hostage.

Wonderful, strong characters, an engaging story, super easy to read. What more could you ask for? If you decide to read this, set aside a few uninterrupted hours. You can thank me later. :)

By Noel-Anne Brennan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After pledging her loyalty to her cousin Sithli, princess Rilsin Sea Becha, heir to the throne, realizes that she has made a grave mistake as she, unable to experience life and love, watches her cousin slowly destroy the kingdom, forcing Rilsin to risk everything she holds dear to save the Land. Original.

Artistic Differences

By Charlie Hauck,

Book cover of Artistic Differences

Peter Lefcourt Author Of The Deal: A Novel of Hollywood

From the list on the glitter and insanity of Hollywood.

Who am I?

Like many novelists – all the way back to F. Scott Fitzgerald --  writing for film and television has been my day job. The pay is obscenely good, and it leaves you time to write what you really love – fiction. Most writers in Hollywood have a love/hate relationship with the movie business – described by some wit as “a crapshoot masquerading as a business masquerading as an art form.” And the books I am recommending express this mixture of scorn and reverence with humor and compassion. In my book The Deal I am clearly biting the hand that fed me over the years – but why not? As that old humorist Albert Camus said, “There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.”

Peter's book list on the glitter and insanity of Hollywood

Why did Peter love this book?

This poorly known novel by a television writer deserves more attention. It concerns a writer on a TV sitcom that is plagued by an impossible actress/star who makes everybody’s lives miserable by her egotistical behavior. The revenge that the writer, Jimmy Hoy, contrives for her is both funny and appropriate. There are laugh-out-loud moments in this book that will make you roar.

By Charlie Hauck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the disarmingly charming and ruthlessly domineering Geneva Holloway lets her star temperament get out of hand, Jimmy Hoy, a writer for the "Geneva Holloway Show," joins with the show's other writers in plotting the perfect revenge

The Madman's Daughter

By Megan Shepherd,

Book cover of The Madman's Daughter

Samantha Gillespie Author Of The Kingdom Within

From the list on young adult retellings that capture the imagination.

Who am I?

As a reader and an author, I prefer young adult novels because they tend to focus more on character growth and development than other genres, but I’m particularly drawn to both historical and fantasy period pieces in books and film. The medieval ages especially, with their castles and feudalistic way of life, have always fascinated me. This fascination was largely filled by reading and watching fairy tales and novel adaptations while growing up. Nowadays, I gravitate toward retellings like a moth to the flame, as I get to relive stories that have a special place in my heart in a fresh new way. 

Samantha's book list on young adult retellings that capture the imagination

Why did Samantha love this book?

This atmospheric novel, a retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau, is a perfect blend of gothic romance and haunting mystery. It’s beautifully written, well-paced, and filled with unexpected twists. I love the feminist theme presented through the main character, Juliet, who is independent despite the hardships she endures, is not dissuaded from pursuing her passion for science even though it wasn’t proper for a woman to do so at the time. There is also an underlying theme throughout the book that expertly juxtaposes sanity and madness, eliciting the question of where the line should be drawn.

By Megan Shepherd,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Madman's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For fans of Libba Bray, this first book in a gothic suspense trilogy is inspired by H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau and has been hailed by New York Times bestseller Carrie Ryan as having "beautiful writing, breakneck pacing, a pulse-pounding mystery, and an irresistible romance."

Following accusations that her scientist father gruesomely experimented on animals, sixteen-year-old Juliet watched as her family and her genteel life in London crumbled around her—and only recently has she managed to piece her world back together. But when Juliet learns her father is still alive and working on a remote tropical island,…

The Big Book of Hell

By Matt Groening,

Book cover of The Big Book of Hell

Eric Sporer Author Of A Man Eating Chicken

From the list on to laugh in the face of insanity.

Who am I?

I am a joker at heart and was always the class clown. I currently write on my own humor website, A Man Eating Chicken. I started drawing comics in grade school and grew into writing comedic prose in high school. There was never a goal for any of this; it was all pre-internet, so I didn’t realize that humor could be published anywhere. As I got older, I was able to find some books that really spoke to my sensibilities. The books on this list really showed me the power and possibilities of humor and influenced my own writing.

Eric's book list on to laugh in the face of insanity

Why did Eric love this book?

The Big Book of Hell is the holy grail of dark humor, packaged perfectly in a comic format. Growing up as a sarcastic kid from Brooklyn, this was the first humor book I read that I felt was aimed directly at my sensibilities. It has a very unique “substance-over-style” aesthetic that is striking and somehow managed to become widely identifiable. It dances around subjects, poking fun at the absurdities of the world it was written in. It really showed me that you don’t need to be a conventionally great artist to publish comics and that there is a market for dark humor comics. The book, which reads almost like a variety show, opened my eyes to ways to play with structure of an individual comic and a whole book.

By Matt Groening,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A bumper collection of the classic Life in Hell cartoon strips from the 80s and 90s which were the basis for The Simpsons. Painstakingly assembled and rigorously organized by that master of clutter, Matt Groening, this is not another mini-jumbo, hard-to-read, abreviated compendium in that seemingly endless series of discourses on hell bu a gargantuan historical extravaganza of ten years' worth of the ever-popular Life in Hell cartoon strip, which looks uncannily like The Simpsons if you keep your eyes closed and have a sufficiently fertile imagination. Includes: The birth of Bongo! Binky's arrival in Los Angeles! Akbar and Jeff's…

Hunting Mariah

By J.E. Spina,

Book cover of Hunting Mariah

Gigi Sedlmayer Author Of Come Fly With Me

From the list on fiction about overcoming challenges.

Who am I?

After being rejected in school, because I had to move with my family again and again, I never had really friends and knew how being left alone and rejected felt. So I put my nose into books and developed a love for writing. Since I didn’t know what to do with them, I left them alone when I married. After being diagnosed with cancer later in my life, I couldn’t go back to work, I remembered my love to write and read so I started to write short stories again. I want to help young people going through similar rejections and bullying, to lift them up, and take the negativity out of their minds. 

Gigi's book list on fiction about overcoming challenges

Why did Gigi love this book?

I normally I don’t read mystery thrillers, but somehow this book got to me. I couldn’t stop reading, it held me captive till the end, even though I thought, right from the beginning, who the awful blood-thirsty killer might be. But still, I was pushed back again, could it really be him? There were so many different turns and twists, that you really couldn’t be sure of anything.

Mariah, the innocent schoolgirl was put into a dangerous twist; she nearly couldn’t get out again, shutting herself up to cope with the unexpected. And then you were transported into the mind of the schoolgirl killer. What a blood-thirsty individual, killing schoolgirls for practice then killing Mariah’s friend, only to get to her. Everyone longed for justice. But will justice come?

Very cleverly done, J.E. Spina. She put family values and support into the foreground.

By J.E. Spina,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An insane killer, obsessed with blood and death, seeks revenge with those he perceives wronged him. He is now on the loose. His next victim may be Mariah.

Mariah has lost her memory. Will she remember what has transpired in her past? Can Mariah escape this deadly killer's grasp. Will she finally be safe? Will the killer be apprehended?


By Chuck Palahniuk,

Book cover of Haunted

Jason McGathey Author Of The Doom Statues

From the list on horror featuring a cursed location.

Who am I?

I’ve been a lifelong horror reader, really since first stumbling onto Stephen King in the 9th grade. There’s something about that genre that has held a particular fascination for me through the years, probably because the best works are some combination of suspenseful, well-written, and cathartic, as they really get your mind racing as to what you might do yourself in a given situation. If you’re lucky, they might even have something to say about the human condition as a whole. But given this prolonged interest and exposure to horror, it’s only natural I would eventually progress to giving it a stab myself.

Jason's book list on horror featuring a cursed location

Why did Jason love this book?

This is a unique entry in that the cursed place is a framing device, for this collection of mostly disturbing tales. For his first-ever collection of short stories, Palahniuk brings his wretched cast of characters to a haunted house, where each in turn offers his or her own demented tale. They don’t all work, but a number of the stories really stick with you, and this spooky old house at the center of it ratchets the intensity up another level—it’s not a static situation they are in, there, so the plot progresses to its own warped conclusion on this front as well. 

By Chuck Palahniuk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Haunted" is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of them to be precise. Twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you'll ever encounter - sometimes all at once. They are told by the people who have all answered the ad headlined 'Artists Retreat: Abandon your life for three months'. They are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of 'real life' that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them. But 'here' turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theatre where they are utterly isolated from the…


By Gabriela Mistral, Randall Couch (translator),

Book cover of Madwomen: The Locas Mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral

Chriselda Barretto Author Of The Creep: A First of Its Kind Narrative Poetry in a Thriller Genre!

From the list on poetry from the world's greatest female poets.

Who am I?

Chriselda is a multi-genre, prolific author, and speaker, with a background in Business Administration and Chemistry/Microbiology. She speaks 5 languages & has published over 50 books. Her expansive writing covers poetry, horror, thriller, romance, children’s illustration, educational... but she enjoys telling a story in narrative poetry the most. Currently, she is working on her next dark poetry book Me and Him, where she will invoke one of the greatest poets – EA Poe. In her effort to promote more learning, she is also wrapping up the fourth book in her - Sigils, Symbols and Alchemy Series. Her passion for writing, lifelong learning, creativity, and her curiosity all help spark her innovative mindset.

Chriselda's book list on poetry from the world's greatest female poets

Why did Chriselda love this book?

Gabriela was a Chilean poet-diplomat, educator, and humanist, who became the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. Her poetry often focuses on dark, humane themes that undoubtedly reflect on traumatic episodes that she had personally endured. 

Gabriela has the knack of scratching the surface, which is potent enough to get all your senses actively experiencing the emotions and character she puts forth. The poems resonate on a deep level, offering a compelling clarity of life with its tragedy and complications. The women depicted here are anything but mad; some would say entirely strong-willed and intense, with a collected control and a modernistic sense of independence.

By Gabriela Mistral, Randall Couch (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) is one of the most important and enigmatic figures in twentieth-century Latin American literature. The Locas mujeres poems collected here are among Mistral's most complex and compelling, exploring facets of the self in extremis - poems marked by the wound of blazing catastrophe and its aftermath of mourning. Madwomen promises to reveal a profound poet to a new generation while reacquainting Spanish readers with a stranger, more complicated 'madwoman' than most have ever known.

The Hidden Prejudice

By Michael L. Perlin,

Book cover of The Hidden Prejudice: Mental Disability on Trial

Rob Wipond Author Of Your Consent Is Not Required: The Rise in Psychiatric Detentions, Forced Treatment, and Abusive Guardianships

From the list on involuntary commitment and psychiatric treatment.

Who am I?

My father, a college professor, sought mental health help during a difficult period—and got forcibly electroshocked. I later started doing journalism, investigating community issues such as poverty, government and business, racial conflicts, policing, and protests—wherever I looked, I’d find sources who’d been subjected to psychiatric detentions. I started to see that a far greater diversity of people were being affected than we normally realize or talk about. Over the ensuing years, I interviewed hundreds of people about their experiences of forced psychiatric interventions, and became determined to shine a brighter public light on mental health law powers. My articles have been nominated for seventeen magazine and journalism awards. 

Rob's book list on involuntary commitment and psychiatric treatment

Why did Rob love this book?

Lawyer Michael Perlin was, for decades, lead author of the seminal, annually updated reference volumes on developments in U.S. mental health laws and precedent commitment cases.

The Hidden Prejudice is written for general readers; many pages are still two-thirds reference footnotes, but Perlin allows himself a more personal tone that makes the core text riveting and disturbing.

Dispelling out-of-date notions that people can only be locked up if they’re physically threatening and dangerous, Perlin demonstrates with stark warning how criteria for detaining people have become shockingly broad, most judges have abandoned any requirement that psychiatrists meet even basic standards of science, average commitment hearings function virtually outside the law, and courts grant psychiatric institutions horrifying degrees of immunity for abuses.

You’ll never again hear calls to expand forced psychiatric treatment in the same way.

By Michael L. Perlin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In ""The Hidden Prejudice"", Michael L. Perlin reveals a pattern of prejudice against mentally disabled individuals that keeps them from receiving equal treatment under the law. ""Sanism"", like racism, is a prejudice against a minority population. This mostly hidden prejudice against mentally ill people has pervaded Western culture throughout history and continues to affect our culture and legal system. Under the pretext of ""improving"" society, a judge, lawyer or fact-finder may rationalize turning a blind eye to faulty evidence and render a sanist decision. The pretext for this testimonial dishonesty is that the end result justifies the means. In cases…

The Player

By Michael Tolkin,

Book cover of The Player

Howard Michael Gould Author Of Last Looks

From the list on comic crime that inspired comic crime movies.

Who am I?

I’ve made my way in the world as a writer, mostly of TV and movies, mostly of comedy of one stripe or another. As a consumer, though, I’ve always been more drawn to cops and robbers than to material designed primarily to make me laugh. Then, in my 50s, I made an unexpected turn to detective fiction, with a series shaped like traditional, serious mysteries but with satirical undertones and, hopefully, plenty of smiles along the way. My new career made me start thinking more attentively about how comedy and crime worked together, how my work built on what came before, and how it differed from it.

Howard's book list on comic crime that inspired comic crime movies

Why did Howard love this book?

Tolkin doesn’t hit you with belly laughs so much as tickle the upper corners of your mind with his knowing take on the mores and follies of the Hollywood of the late 1980s. (Of special interest to me, as that’s the moment I arrived there to begin my own TV and film career.) The trenchant satire is exemplified by the crime at its center: studio exec Griffin Mill, badgered by threats from some anonymous screenwriter he’s mistreated, focuses his attention on a different C-list scribe and winds up strangling him to death. Get it?  In a business full of writer-killing executives, Tolkin’s big-wig antihero literally kills a writer.

By Michael Tolkin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Griffin Mill is senior vice president of production at a Hollywood studio. Obsessed with his career, dedicated to his success and riveted by paranoia, he is the ultimate player. But now he is in trouble. He has been getting postcards from a writer he rejected, who threatens to kill him.

The Pig

By Edward Lee,

Book cover of The Pig

Elias Witherow Author Of The Third Parent

From the list on that make you feel uncomfortable.

Who am I?

Books that make me feel uncomfortable are usually the ones that have stuck with me most over the years. There’s just something so alluring to me about an author who can effectively bring out that feeling in readers. When I started writing stories, I wanted to make my readers squirm – I wanted to layer the guts and gore with underlying psychological themes that made the violence and trauma that much more impactful. These books that I mentioned acted almost as study guides on how to blend shocking violence with themes of loneliness, depression, and rage. If you layer these correctly, you’re going to effectively be able to make your reader uncomfortable and your stories memorable.  

Elias' book list on that make you feel uncomfortable

Why did Elias love this book?

Forget everything you know about the horror genre. This book is one of the most overwhelming, disgusting things I’ve ever read, and physically gagged multiple times while reading it. If you’re not familiar with extreme splatterpunk, brace yourself. Nothing can prepare you for the all-out gore, guts, and absolutely insane depravity found in this book. There’s one scene in here that will never leave me. You’ll know it when you get to it. Oh, and it’s kind of about a pig. 

This book is not currently available.

By Edward Lee,

Why should I read it?

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