17 books directly related to psychosis 📚

All 17 psychosis books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness

By Catherine Cho,

Book cover of Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness

Why this book?

This memoir of postpartum psychosis is not for the faint of heart, but is an absolutely necessary addition to the motherhood literary canon. In beautiful prose, it charts the author’s increasing mental instability following the birth of her son. These are the types of stories that should be shared more frequently to reduce the stigma of perinatal mood disorders. 


The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family

By Lindsay Wong,

Book cover of The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family

Why this book?

Wong's book is a gut-punching yet hilarious memoir about the Chinese immigrant experience and the searing impact of mental illness that left me with an overwhelming it-could-have-been-worse feeling. But seriously, the value in books like these is they make those in truly terrible situations know they aren't alone. That itself—that feeling of being seen—can keep one going. This book also reminded me of the importance of setting boundaries with family members--a lesson I could have used far earlier in my life. Yay for Wong, a beloved Canadian writer and writing instructor, for triumphing (like Lizzie) in the end! 


Mindplayers

By Pat Cadigan,

Book cover of Mindplayers

Why this book?

Pat Cadigan is one of my favourite authors. Mindplayers is a short book, bizarre and strange but fascinating as per Cadigan’s style. The main setting here is the human mind. The protagonist is forced to become a Mindplayer, a sort of state-controlled psychologist who jacks into people’s minds in order to cure them. This book makes you wonder how vast the world inside your head is, and if your thoughts and memories really belong to you once a government takes control of them. There’s even Brain Police involved, what can be more dystopian than this?


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

By Paris Williams,

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

Why 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.


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

By Daniel B. Smith,

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

Why 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 oppressed, and even though voices that cause them mental pain may come from traumatic experiences that need compassion and healing, they are told they have schizophrenia and will never recover. Smith’s book is a rallying cry for patients’ activism such as the Hearing Voice Movement, where voice-hearers are coming together in self-help groups to find peer support and demand a new understanding of this unreasonably feared and pathologized human experience.


Down Below

By Leonora Carrington,

Book cover of Down Below

Why this book?

This slender, 70-page memoir of a time in which both one woman and the world went mad is a beautifully-rendered portrait of psychosis. Written decades after the episode, Down Below describes the British-Mexican surrealist painter Leonora Carrington’s psychotic break in 1940, the circumstances of which were themselves aptly surreal. As a 19-year-old art student in London, she had fallen in love with the celebrated (and married) artist Max Ernst, and run scandalously away with him to a farmhouse in Provence. After Germany invaded France, the Jewish Ernst was arrested, leaving Carrington so intensely abandoned and shocked by unfolding history that she vomited repeatedly.

She began to unravel as she wandered her way out of France, eventually entering Madrid, which she perceived “as the world’s stomach, and that I had been chosen for the task of restoring this digestive organ to health. I believed that all anguish had accumulated in me and would dissolve in the end.” Her time enduring brutal treatment in a Spanish asylum and her subsequent escape to Mexico where her career flourished speaks to her tremendous resilience.


Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

By Susannah Cahalan,

Book cover of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Why this book?

I read this during my first retail job, post military. My job was nothing compared to the protagonist’s role at the New York Times, but I could relate to her sense of urgency. She needed to push herself; to always exceed expectations even if it was causing her physical/emotional pain.

People called her a drama queen or even a self-centered bitch. That was why the diagnosis of a brain illness was, in a way, a happy ending. She wasn’t a bad person; she was just sick and needed help (or at least an ounce of compassion from her superiors.)

This is a great book for anyone who feels like the world has gone to crap; maybe it has, or maybe it’s all in your head. Either way, you’re not alone.


Insomnia

By J. R. Johansson,

Book cover of Insomnia

Why this book?

Every once in a while, when I’m under a lot of stress or experiencing emotional turmoil, I struggle to sleep. At one point a few years back. I went more than a week where I was only able to sleep around an hour or two per night. Needless to say, I was not myself. I love how this story explores the importance of sleep, the long-term effects of not getting a solid amount of it, and what it’s like to lose large chunks of time that you can’t account for. Plus, stalking. There’s a lot of fascinating psychology in this story, along with a best friend whose sense of humor brings valuable comic relief to the situation. Yeah. Another must-read!


Notes Made While Falling

By Jenn Ashworth,

Book cover of Notes Made While Falling

Why this book?

“What’s wrong with fiction, my best, most precious thing? What’s wrong with me?” asks novelist Jenn Ashworth. She set out on writing her fifth novel, then abruptly, excruciatingly, extendedly, found she couldn’t. Instead, in a broken and braided narrative which I found un-putdownable, she digs into the nightmares and strange waking states that PTSD and psychosis left her in, the stuffs and dreams of reading, writing and watching movies, and the painfully live legacies of a childhood caught between a violent father and an embattled religion. Writing is my best, most precious thing too: this is a disturbing, often bleakly comic and heartbreaking account of how illness and madness can be both the ruin and the making of art and an artist.


Valis

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of Valis

Why this book?

VALIS—Vast Active Living Intelligence System—is one of PK Dick’s most inspiring, and at the same time, depressing, novels. A bizarre film leads a rag tag group of friends to even more bizarre adventures. They meet a 2-year-old Messiah who cures the protagonist’s psychosis. Any more would be spoiling the plot.


Chimera Shakes: The Ontological Crisis of Jasper Hobbes

By Chuck Regan,

Book cover of Chimera Shakes: The Ontological Crisis of Jasper Hobbes

Why this book?

Okay, so the title already has you frowning. Stay with me here. This indie ebook novelette had me smiling, nodding, and ooo-ing. I loved the brave way the author attempted something new and, well, left field. Because this is a lot of left field…

Our main character is a hitman. Or is he? He’s a werewolf. Or is he? I loved every paragraph of this story’s prose. But it was this “what’s really going on here?” aspect that had me smiling all the way through. It reminded me of Mad Max: Fury Road—because you can watch that entire movie as a psychotic episode on Max’s part. Same with this book. Leaves you guessing until the last page while keeping things fun along the way.


The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us

By Veronica O'Keane,

Book cover of The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us

Why this book?

Veronica is a professor of psychiatry with a special interest in psychosis such as schizophrenia and especially those that are seen in women after childbirth. These states of altered consciousness and the memories they produce give us insights into the nature of mental illness and the making of memories. The book develops as a series of case studies that are gently described in relation to the different brain regions that are involved in the experiences with a simple-to-understand diagram. Bringing together her clinical insights with beautiful perspectives from prose and poetry as well as from philosophers especially Henri Bergson, she makes a compelling case for memories being the core of what we as humans are.


Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil

By Paul Levy,

Book cover of Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil

Why this book?

As someone who campaigns for a better way to operate spaceship Earth, Dispelling Wetiko was the precise slap in the face I needed to break free from the spell that has captured so many would-be change-makers like myself. It’s so easy to look around and point the finger at those who benefit most from the world’s problems as being the cause agents when nothing could be further from the truth. 

It is our collective hopes, our weaknesses, and our fears – multiplied in their billions – that create the super-structure that billionaires enjoy. Levy defines this as a collective psychosis of humanity that wreaks havoc on the world around us – a psychosis that we must face down before we can hope to defeat it.


A Father's Story

By Lionel Dahmer,

Book cover of A Father's Story

Why this book?

This is a true story that pulls you into a strange, painful reality. What is it like to be the father of one of America’s most notorious serial killers? Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 males. He lured them to his home, gave his victims drugs and alcohol, and strangled them to death. After he killed, Dahmer had sex with the corpses, dismembered them, and threw the remains away. Sometimes he kept souvenirs, skulls, or took photos. This gruesome story by Jeffrey’s father, Lionel, exposes Dad’s shock as he unravels the truth. It talks about the horror, grief, desperation, and struggle to embrace the reality of the child he still loves. Would you be able to forgive if it was your child?


The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness

By R.D. Laing,

Book cover of The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness

Why this book?

The Divided Self kick-started my search for the truth of the human condition. It taught me that I didn't have to follow the life laid out for me and that I was expected to follow. Through it I discovered that I was not the only person trapped in a world and struggling to make sense of the bizarre and contradictory reality around me, that lied and lied about existence continually. Further books by him reinforced this awareness of the illogic of it all, including The Politics of Experience, The Self and Others, and Knots. I was Brer Rabbit, caught in the honey trap of the tar baby and this book showed me that.


Soteria

By Loren R. Mosher, Voyce Hendrix Fort,

Book cover of Soteria

Why 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 pushed out. This intimate account of life at Soteria gives us a glimpse of what a truly caring response to psychosis, schizophrenia, and manic crisis would look like. And it gives us a blueprint for changing our current mental health system – if we can gather a movement to achieve it.


The Pill That Steals Lives: One Woman's Terrifying Journey to Discover the Truth about Antidepressants

By Katinka Blackford Newman,

Book cover of The Pill That Steals Lives: One Woman's Terrifying Journey to Discover the Truth about Antidepressants

Why this book?

Every so often, a masterpiece tumbles out of someone who has never written anything before and thinks they can’t write. Katinka Newman clearly didn’t stop to think whether she should include this trivial detail or leave in what she had just written about that person – the result is a book that hangs together perfectly. You know this is exactly what happened. You witness the extraordinary downward spiral of someone getting supposedly the best mental healthcare there is. What you don’t expect is how she escapes from near-certain death. Newman doesn’t quote any antipsychiatry people telling us how bad psychiatry is but her account of what happened to her is all the more devastating for sticking just to her story.