The best mental health books

16 authors have picked their favorite books about mental health and why they recommend each book.

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Letting Go!

By Dr. Sharie Coombes, Ellie O’Shea (illustrator),

Book cover of Letting Go!

Grief, unfortunately, is a part of life. Western culture has a habit of ignoring and minimizing grief in detrimental ways. When we gently turn toward the difficult stuff in life, we can “feel and deal” in ways that benefit mental health. There are many books about grieving the death of a loved one (a list for another day, perhaps), but few acknowledge the other intense and life-altering kinds of loss and change that children are grieving. Dr. Coombes’ book is much more inclusive–plus, it delivers a treasure trove of activities to help children (and adults) navigate this challenging part of being human. The delightful doodles will appeal to upper elementary and quite a few tweens and teens.


Who am I?

My super-power is making brain science accessible and entertaining for children and adults alike. I am living this out as an author, mental health counselor, and the founder of BraveBrains. In addition to training parents and professionals, I have the joy of sharing my passion and expertise through podcast appearances, blogs, and articles. The lightbulb moments are my favorite, and I'm committed to helping people bring what they learn home in practical ways. I write picture books because the magic of reading and re-reading stories light up the brain in a powerful way. But don’t worry…I always include some goodies for the adults in the back of the book.


I wrote...

What's Inside Your Backpack?

By Jessica Sinarski, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (illustrator),

Book cover of What's Inside Your Backpack?

What is my book about?

Zoey Harmon just wants to feel light-hearted and carefree. Unfortunately, she keeps getting weighed down by pesky “books” in her backpack, like Worry and Shame. Much to her surprise, she’s not the only one! Zoey learns that the adults in her life deal with these difficult feelings too! Luckily, they have some bright ideas that can help her set aside the books she’s not meant to carry! Will it be enough to help her with the biggest book of all?

While there are no quick fixes for all of life’s complex problems, What’s Inside Your Backpack? highlights some of the ways we can nurture resilience in body and mind.

Marcy's Having All the Feels

By Allison Edwards, Valeria DeCampo (illustrator),

Book cover of Marcy's Having All the Feels

Mental health does not mean that we will feel happy all the time. This book helps children embrace a range of emotions, even some of those uncomfortable ones, like frustration and jealousy. The playful illustrations engage young readers about the abstract topic of emotions. It would be easy to get creative, helping children draw an image of their “happy” or “angry” feelings. Great conversation starter for elementary school students on managing a range of emotions.


Who am I?

My super-power is making brain science accessible and entertaining for children and adults alike. I am living this out as an author, mental health counselor, and the founder of BraveBrains. In addition to training parents and professionals, I have the joy of sharing my passion and expertise through podcast appearances, blogs, and articles. The lightbulb moments are my favorite, and I'm committed to helping people bring what they learn home in practical ways. I write picture books because the magic of reading and re-reading stories light up the brain in a powerful way. But don’t worry…I always include some goodies for the adults in the back of the book.


I wrote...

What's Inside Your Backpack?

By Jessica Sinarski, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (illustrator),

Book cover of What's Inside Your Backpack?

What is my book about?

Zoey Harmon just wants to feel light-hearted and carefree. Unfortunately, she keeps getting weighed down by pesky “books” in her backpack, like Worry and Shame. Much to her surprise, she’s not the only one! Zoey learns that the adults in her life deal with these difficult feelings too! Luckily, they have some bright ideas that can help her set aside the books she’s not meant to carry! Will it be enough to help her with the biggest book of all?

While there are no quick fixes for all of life’s complex problems, What’s Inside Your Backpack? highlights some of the ways we can nurture resilience in body and mind.

M Is for Autism

By The Student Of Limpsfield Grange School, Vicky Martin,

Book cover of M Is for Autism

M. is an autistic teen girl who desperately wants to be just like everyone else. Who longs to know the proper things to say and do.

And this was me. I was an undiagnosed autistic girl who longed to know the “right” ways to be/talk/act/feel, who never could quite de-code social situations or feel like I fit in.

Written collaboratively with the autistic girls who attend the Limpsfield-Grange School and their teacher, Vicky Martin, this book captured something special about the tricky social dilemmas of young teendom, something that resonated so deeply in me – I loved its truth-telling, and how funny and sad it was in turns – that’s how I write, too.


Who am I?

I grew up undiagnosed autistic. I got excellent grades and never caused much trouble, so no one could tell what was going on inside. But sensory overload and confusion over social dynamics kept me in a bewildering muddle. Books and stories are what helped me through! But there were no stories featuring neurodivergent kids like me, so, as an adult, I resolved to write some. I want to bust stigmas and write honest, fun, heartfelt stories for kids who might be going through their own ‘bewildering muddles.’ Now, I'm an award-winning author of several children's novels and a picture book. I'm also co-founder/editor of A Novel Mind, a web resource on mental health and neurodiversity in children's literature.


I wrote...

The Someday Birds

By Sally J. Pla, Julie McLaughlin (illustrator),

Book cover of The Someday Birds

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Charlie is a bird-loving autistic boy on a cross-country trip with his siblings – and under the care of a strange young woman named Ludmila, who is taking them to reunite with Charlie’s war-injured dad. Charlie tries to spot the birds that he and his dad had once hoped to find together someday — their “Someday” birds list. He hopes it can be like a gift he can give his dad, to help him feel better. But in the amazing, unexpected adventures along the way, Charlie discovers that “sometimes the birds you look for… are not the birds you find.”

Hailed as “a triumphant debut with the resonance and depth of an instant classic” and translated into many languages, this award-winner is beloved by readers young and old.

Parental Mental Health

By Jane I. Honikman, Daniel B. Singley,

Book cover of Parental Mental Health: Factoring in Fathers

This is an honest and very direct look at how our society should include men in the discussion of becoming new parents and illustrates many examples of how men have been left out until now. Dads’ mental health is considered carefully which is very important to my mission. This small yet excellent book offers a gender-equitable, whole family viewpoint of parental mental health and increases awareness about best practices in the care of fathers and fathers-to-be.  


Who am I?

After life-threatening postpartum depression in the 1980s, I became a pioneer of maternal mental health in the U.S. I’ve helped moms and moms-to-be finally receive the support they deserve. Between masters’ degrees, Ph.D., teaching credentials, and becoming licensed as a clinical psychologist, I wrote four books and enjoy interviews on radio and TV. Training health professionals and my clients to develop a wellness strategy for motherhood has been my life’s passion. A few years ago I realized that during this movement, dads’ experiences had been disregarded and minimized, and my mission then shifted to parental mental health. Dad’s worries and needs are important too.


I wrote...

Postpartum Depression for Dummies

By Shoshana S. Bennett Ph.D.,

Book cover of Postpartum Depression for Dummies

What is my book about?

It's a great blessing when a new mom with postpartum depression (PPD) is fortunate enough to be diagnosed early by a knowledgeable medical practitioner or therapist. But without guidance, it isn't always clear where the boundary between normal baby blues and PPD lies. As with any other illness, the quicker that PPD is identified and treated, the faster the woman will recover.
Postpartum Depression For Dummies can help you begin the process of determining what’s going on with you and give you a better idea of where you fall so that you can get yourself into proper treatment right away. The book covers all aspects of PPD, from its history and its origins to its effects on women and their families to the wide variety of treatments available.

Living

By Lise Gold,

Book cover of Living

Living has all the best ingredients for an epic slow-burn romance: a shocking first encounter, two very different heroines from completely different worlds, a beautiful friendship that unfolds with care and heartwarming tenderness, and a simmering layer of tense attraction that will keep you turning the pages as fast you can to see the burn finally burst into flames. It’s also a story that handles the topics of grief and depression with respect and a poignancy that makes this story difficult to forget. I love romances that focus on the growth of the individual characters as much as the development of their relationship with each other, and Living does a beautiful job at balancing both.


Who am I?

I write romance novels that are as much about the characters learning to love themselves as they are about people falling in love with each other. While most of my books are romantic comedies, that doesn’t stop my characters from facing some of the darkest parts of themselves and coming out on the other side feeling sure of their own worth. I often explore mental health topics, and I love to see other romance authors de-stigmatizing things like therapy, medication, and reaching out for support. The romance novels I’ve included below cover a wide range of subjects, but they all handle mental health with care, respect, and hope.


I wrote...

This Used to Be Easier

By Katia Rose,

Book cover of This Used to Be Easier

What is my book about?

After a last-minute internship cancellation sets all her plans on fire, Meg Doyle is stuck spending the summer after college in her tiny hometown. It’s anything but a triumphant return. Her city friends won’t stop reminding her what she’s missing, her mom won’t stop researching lesbian slang terms to seem more ‘relatable,’ and around every corner in the town of Chapel Creek, there’s Connie Shipley.

The girl Meg used to know better than anyone in the world. The girl she spent countless nights huddled under the blankets with for sleepovers. The girl who leaned in and kissed her four summers before. The girl who hasn’t spoken to her since—which makes it very inconvenient that Meg’s heart still stops every time she sees her.

Behind the Bars

By Brittainy C. Cherry,

Book cover of Behind the Bars

Brittainy Cherry’s work never fails to sweep me off my feet and pull me in with its lyricism, grace, and depth. She’s truly a poet, and this story about two musicians as in love with their craft as they are with each other brings out some of her most stunning writing yet. Behind the Bars takes us on a journey through the hero and heroine’s childhoods all the way up to their reunion as adults. Along the way, they face some dark moments and deal with topics including bullying, loss, grief, and dysfunctional family relationships. These moments are real and raw, and instead of sensationalizing or romanticizing them, Brittainy Cherry uses them to show that life can be beautiful and ugly all at once, and that we can always reach out and find the help we need to let a little more beautiful in.


Who am I?

I write romance novels that are as much about the characters learning to love themselves as they are about people falling in love with each other. While most of my books are romantic comedies, that doesn’t stop my characters from facing some of the darkest parts of themselves and coming out on the other side feeling sure of their own worth. I often explore mental health topics, and I love to see other romance authors de-stigmatizing things like therapy, medication, and reaching out for support. The romance novels I’ve included below cover a wide range of subjects, but they all handle mental health with care, respect, and hope.


I wrote...

This Used to Be Easier

By Katia Rose,

Book cover of This Used to Be Easier

What is my book about?

After a last-minute internship cancellation sets all her plans on fire, Meg Doyle is stuck spending the summer after college in her tiny hometown. It’s anything but a triumphant return. Her city friends won’t stop reminding her what she’s missing, her mom won’t stop researching lesbian slang terms to seem more ‘relatable,’ and around every corner in the town of Chapel Creek, there’s Connie Shipley.

The girl Meg used to know better than anyone in the world. The girl she spent countless nights huddled under the blankets with for sleepovers. The girl who leaned in and kissed her four summers before. The girl who hasn’t spoken to her since—which makes it very inconvenient that Meg’s heart still stops every time she sees her.

Some Sort of Happy

By Melanie Harlow,

Book cover of Some Sort of Happy

While the conversation around mental health still has a long way to go to be totally free of stigma, men’s mental health is especially in need of being more openly discussed without shame. When I read Some Sort of Happy, I was thrilled and grateful to find it features a hero struggling with anxiety and an OCD diagnosis. There is a lot of room for the romance genre to step up and show that the stereotypical view of what a ‘strong’ man looks like doesn’t line up with reality and that there are so many ways to be valid and worthy of love. Melanie Harlow does an amazing job at that in Some Sort of Happy, and she instantly became one of my favourite authors after I read this book.


Who am I?

I write romance novels that are as much about the characters learning to love themselves as they are about people falling in love with each other. While most of my books are romantic comedies, that doesn’t stop my characters from facing some of the darkest parts of themselves and coming out on the other side feeling sure of their own worth. I often explore mental health topics, and I love to see other romance authors de-stigmatizing things like therapy, medication, and reaching out for support. The romance novels I’ve included below cover a wide range of subjects, but they all handle mental health with care, respect, and hope.


I wrote...

This Used to Be Easier

By Katia Rose,

Book cover of This Used to Be Easier

What is my book about?

After a last-minute internship cancellation sets all her plans on fire, Meg Doyle is stuck spending the summer after college in her tiny hometown. It’s anything but a triumphant return. Her city friends won’t stop reminding her what she’s missing, her mom won’t stop researching lesbian slang terms to seem more ‘relatable,’ and around every corner in the town of Chapel Creek, there’s Connie Shipley.

The girl Meg used to know better than anyone in the world. The girl she spent countless nights huddled under the blankets with for sleepovers. The girl who leaned in and kissed her four summers before. The girl who hasn’t spoken to her since—which makes it very inconvenient that Meg’s heart still stops every time she sees her.

Weightless

By Kandi Steiner,

Book cover of Weightless

No other author captures the joy, longing, confusion, love, and heartbreak of the first few years of adulthood the way Kandi Steiner does. They don’t call her the Queen of Angst for nothing, and in Weightless, she showcases some of her best new adult romance skills to craft a story about stumbling your way into being a grown-up while learning to love yourself as you fall in love with someone else. The heroine of Weightless also struggles with body image issues, and Kandi Steiner doesn’t shy away from exploring the harsh realities of the way society and even the people we trust can reinforce our deepest insecurities. This was one of the first romance novels I read, and it led me to an enduring love for and appreciation of Kandi Steiner’s work.


Who am I?

I write romance novels that are as much about the characters learning to love themselves as they are about people falling in love with each other. While most of my books are romantic comedies, that doesn’t stop my characters from facing some of the darkest parts of themselves and coming out on the other side feeling sure of their own worth. I often explore mental health topics, and I love to see other romance authors de-stigmatizing things like therapy, medication, and reaching out for support. The romance novels I’ve included below cover a wide range of subjects, but they all handle mental health with care, respect, and hope.


I wrote...

This Used to Be Easier

By Katia Rose,

Book cover of This Used to Be Easier

What is my book about?

After a last-minute internship cancellation sets all her plans on fire, Meg Doyle is stuck spending the summer after college in her tiny hometown. It’s anything but a triumphant return. Her city friends won’t stop reminding her what she’s missing, her mom won’t stop researching lesbian slang terms to seem more ‘relatable,’ and around every corner in the town of Chapel Creek, there’s Connie Shipley.

The girl Meg used to know better than anyone in the world. The girl she spent countless nights huddled under the blankets with for sleepovers. The girl who leaned in and kissed her four summers before. The girl who hasn’t spoken to her since—which makes it very inconvenient that Meg’s heart still stops every time she sees her.

Mental Health Through Will-Training

By Abraham A. Low,

Book cover of Mental Health Through Will-Training

I’ve read this book about a dozen times in the past fifteen years, and I find new nuggets of wisdom with each visit. I was first convinced that I could overcome anxiety by reading Dr. Low’s strong conviction that there are no hopeless cases. He breaks down the root causes of mental health issues and describes cognitive-behavioral techniques for overcoming anger, negative judgments against oneself, fears, interpersonal conflicts, and many other ailments. His pithy sayings are easy to remember and have become the backbone of the self-help program Recovery International. Written in the 1950s, the examples and language can be somewhat dated – such as streetcars, elevator operators, and clotheslines – but his great love for his patients and his understanding of the human mind are timeless. 


Who am I?

I was born an anxious person and spent the first 18 years of my life trying to ignore panic attacks and anything to do with mental health. When I finally hit rock-bottom, I joined the CBT group Recovery International and discovered how freeing it was to be in control of my mental health. I now passionately talk and write about mental health, lead a weekly Recovery meeting, and teach CBT techniques to teens. Stigmatized portrayals of mental health in books - hospitalizations, suicide attempts, violent insanity, or being a pathetic burden - kept me from pursuing help, so I wrote my own novel with a positive, realistic take on anxiety and depression.


I wrote...

Moving the Chains

By Em Lyons Bouch,

Book cover of Moving the Chains

What is my book about?

As a freshman, Abby is the star quarterback of her tiny farming town's high school football team. When she finds out her family is moving to the big city and leaving behind everything she knows, Abby's latent anxiety becomes a problem that she can no longer ignore. To be successful both on and off the field, she must face stigma and her own fears before her nervous symptoms become crippling.

This is a work of fiction, but it incorporates cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques from the real mental health organization, Recovery International. You’ll be cheering for Abby and you might just pick up a CBT tool along the way.

The Anti-Cool Girl

By Rosie Waterland,

Book cover of The Anti-Cool Girl

Rosie is one of Australia’s most compelling young writers. Her book came out at the same time as mine, so my wife read it straight after my book. Afterward, she picked up my book and said: “You really are just a middle-class whinger.” Ok, it was said with a smile, but she had a point. Rosie’s parents were so much worse than mine—jaw-droppingly awful—yet it’s brilliant how Rosie shrugs off any urge for self-pity.


Who am I?

I’m an Australian writer and journalist. I’ve written several humour books, as well as a history of Australia in the 1960 and 1970s called The Land Before Avocado. I also write for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Washington Post and present a radio show on ABC Radio Sydney. Of the books I’ve written, the one that’s closest to my heart is my memoir Flesh Wounds.


I wrote...

Flesh Wounds

By Richard Glover,

Book cover of Flesh Wounds

What is my book about?

Flesh Wounds is a defiant and, I hope, funny book about growing up in a dysfunctional family. My mother had a fake past, hidden under delusions of grandeur. My father had more conventional problems. Together they had me—using artificial insemination, my mother said, due to her unwillingness to consummate the marriage. She found herself pregnant and yet still a virgin. In the book, I describe a game of my own invention called “Who’s Got the Weirdest Parents.” Maybe you’d like to play. Who knows? You may even win.

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