The most recommended books about self-harm

Who picked these books? Meet our 22 experts.

22 authors created a book list connected to self-harm, and here are their favorite self-harm books.
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What type of self-harm book?


Book cover of The Prison Doctor

Rhona Morrison Author Of I Don't Talk to Dead Bodies: The Curious Encounters of a Forensic Psychiatrist

From my list on medical memoirs which take you 'behind the scenes'.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired, Scottish, NHS consultant forensic psychiatrist, who worked with mentally disordered offenders in prisons, hospitals, and in the community. I am passionate about raising awareness, destigmatisation of mental illness, and introducing the human beings behind the sensationalist newspaper headlines. They are all someone's son or daughter, who didn't ask to get ill. Occasionally mental illness makes good people do bad things. It was my job to find, treat and rehabilitate them. I believe entertaining medical memoirs can engage readers and inform thinking by challenging attitudes and assumptions.

Rhona's book list on medical memoirs which take you 'behind the scenes'

Rhona Morrison Why did Rhona love this book?

I loved this book as it triggered memories for me from my time working as a prison psychiatrist in HMP Cornton Vale, Scotland's female prison.

The scenarios and emotions evoked were very relatable and highlighted the complexities involved in dealing with a population of women with complex trauma histories, who may often be both victims and perpetrators of crime.

The mix of relationship difficulties, mental health problems, personalities, substance misuse, self-harming, and humour is both interesting and sadly very familiar. This book helps to raise awareness.

By Amanda Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


As seen on BBC Breakfast

Horrifying, heartbreaking and eye-opening, these are the stories, the patients and the cases that have characterised a career spent being a doctor behind bars.

Violence. Drugs. Suicide. Welcome to the world of a Prison Doctor.

Dr Amanda Brown has treated inmates in the UK's most infamous prisons - first in young offenders' institutions, then at the notorious Wormwood Scrubs and finally at Europe's largest women-only prison in Europe, Bronzefield.

From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it…

Book cover of The Blinding Light

Pat Henshaw Author Of What's in a Name?

From my list on gay relationships that shouldn’t work.

Why am I passionate about this?

For some reason, many gay men like to talk to me about what they find important. For my part, I love to listen. The subject often turns to couples they know and how they got together. The most interesting conversations center around how two unlikely men meet, fall in love, and marry. Because my first husband was a closeted gay man, I am interested in how gay men view love and how they decide whether to get married. I myself am neither gay nor male. I pass along what I’ve heard and learned in order to open readers’ hearts and minds. Peace.

Pat's book list on gay relationships that shouldn’t work

Pat Henshaw Why did Pat love this book?

Without my glasses, I’m functionally blind. Without his hearing aids, my husband struggles to hear. We shouldn’t work as a couple. Or are our limitations our strengths?

In Kaye’s book, Patrick Stanford is considered by his rotating crew of housecleaners to be an unreasonable client. Until Jake Manning is hired, no one realizes that Patrick as a blind man needs his house to be kept in strict order or he harms himself just walking from room to room.

Although Patrick has a PhD while Jake has barely a high school diploma, what matters is how they understand each other’s needs and work to answer them.

(An aside: Besides, how could I pass up a book in which Pat (my name) and Jake (my husband’s name) fall in love? I couldn’t!)

By Renae Kaye,

Why should I read it?

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

Book cover of Foxen Bloom

Samara Breger Author Of A Long Time Dead

From my list on queer monsters who need a little kiss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and performer born and raised in New York City. In my previous life, I was an Emmy-nominated journalist and digital media producer, covering sexual and reproductive health. In addition to writing, I love musical improv, opera, Olympic weightlifting, and spending time with my wife and dog.

Samara's book list on queer monsters who need a little kiss

Samara Breger Why did Samara love this book?

Many books have kissing in the forest, but how many are about kissing the forest itself?

Fenton has watched countless hunters enter his forest to claim a wish by killing the white-tailed stag. Each hunter has taken: a sip from the stream, a flower from the vine, wood to light a fire. Each hunter has subsequently died.

Prior is different; he takes nothing, instead asking for a god’s assistance in waking his sister from her sleeping sickness. Fenton—who is the forest and the white-tailed stag and a son of Old Nan and also, definitely, a god—decides to pack up the forest and help Prior out.

Where I come from, that sort of thing will get you a little kiss or two at the very least.

By Parker Foye,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Season after season, hunters have attempted to capture the white-tailed stag. Local legend holds that its capture promises prosperity, and in a land that is dying—to hunger, to war; to a magical curse, some say—even a whisper of hope is a powerful lure. Yet every hunter who tries fails, never to leave the forest. Fenton, god of the forest, yet imprisoned within its borders, watches from his place in the trees as the hunters first despoil and then fall to his land, dispassionate as his deadwood heart.

Prior doesn't hope to capture the stag or secure prosperity. He has a…

Book cover of Kisscut

Thomas A. Burns Jr. Author Of Sister!

From my list on dark mysteries you should read with the lights on.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not sure why the dark side of humanity has always fascinated me, as it does so many others. I’ve read mystery and horror stories ever since I was a young boy, gravitating to ever darker books as I aged. I’m a pantser—that means that I don’t totally know where a story is going when I start, so I discover it right along with the characters. I think evoking emotion is key to writing a riveting tale, so I try to imagine what my character is feeling as I chronicle their experience. Part of being able to do this well is reading other writers who can, such as the authors on this list.

Thomas' book list on dark mysteries you should read with the lights on

Thomas A. Burns Jr. Why did Thomas love this book?

Kisscut is the second book in Karen Slaughter’s Grant County series.

Slaughter’s books are dark, and this one is no exception. The darkness is magnified because I think her heroine, Dr. Sarah Linton, is an innocent at heart.

Even though Sarah, a pediatrician, doubles as the Grant County coroner, she tends to see the best in people until the worst appears before her in a way she can’t ignore.

After her ex-husband commits a necessary but appalling act, Sarah discovers a threat to the community’s children which she’s compelled to follow until its unspeakable end is revealed.

The depravity she uncovered haunted me long after I finished the book.

By Karin Slaughter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a teenage quarrel in the small town of Heartsdale explodes into a deadly shoot-out, Sara Linton -- paediatrician and medical examiner --finds herself entangled in a horrific tragedy. And what seems at first to be a terrible but individual catastrophe proves to have wider implications when the autopsy reveals evidence of long-term abuse and ritualistic self-mutilation.

Sara and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver start to investigate, but the children surrounding the victim close ranks. The families turn their backs. Then a young girl is abducted, and it becomes clear that the first death is linked to an even more brutal…

Book cover of Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story

Caroline Cauchi Author Of Mrs Van Gogh

From my list on truly understanding the real Vincent Van Gogh.

Why am I passionate about this?

As well as being a novelist (ten published books to date), I’m a Senior Lecturer in Prose at Liverpool John Moores University. My current academic fields of interest are the role Johanna van Gogh-Bonger played in Vincent’s rise to fame, the silencing of women involved in creative pursuits, and the consideration of a novelist’s ethical and moral responsibilities when fictionalising a real life. My true passion lies in the creative uncovering of those erased stories, and in adding to the emerging conversation. That’s why I’ve shifted from writing contemporary to historical novels. I’m also known as the international, bestselling author Caroline Smailes (The Drowning of Arthur Braxton).

Caroline's book list on truly understanding the real Vincent Van Gogh

Caroline Cauchi Why did Caroline love this book?

Sadly, when asked about the artist, most people describe Vincent as the man who chopped off his own ear. I hate that they do.

This book though is neither gratuitous nor indulgent. Instead, it offers a detailed, well-researched, and intelligent response to the question - Why did Van Gogh cut off his ear? There has been much speculation about the events that led to Vincent delivering his ear to a maid at a brothel in Arles.

This book is essential reading for any who wishes to open conversations about Vincent’s motivations and the happenings that led to that gruesome act on a specific day in December.

By Bernadette Murphy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Van Gogh's Ear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On a dark night in Provence in December 1888 Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear. It is an act that has come to define him. Yet for more than a century biographers and histo­rians seeking definitive facts about what happened that night have been left with more questions than answers.

In Van Gogh’s Ear Bernadette Murphy sets out to discover exactly what happened that night in Arles. Why would an artist at the height of his powers commit such a brutal act of self-harm? Was it just his lobe, or did Van Gogh really cut off his entire ear?…

Book cover of Tell Me I'm Worthless

S. James McLaughlin Author Of The WVU Coed Murders: Who Killed Mared and Karen?

From S.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Podcaster Researcher Horror-movie enthusiast Sour-beer connoisseur

S.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

S. James McLaughlin Why did S. love this book?

This is not your average haunted house story––not by a long shot.

This abandoned house is alive and salivates, built with wood, bricks, hatred, and soaked in murder throughout the ages. Three women went in, but only two returned, both remembering a completely different set of details of victimization by the other. Three years later, the house calls them back to finish what it started.

Rumfitt’s writing style at times reads like a fever dream, she even describes one event simultaneously from two different perceptions. Its subject matter is not for everyone; it highlights the darkest parts of fascist-born damage, PTSD, self-harm, and internalized shame. It’s dirty, it’s gory, and it’s fantastic. 

By Alison Rumfitt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tell Me I'm Worthless as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three years ago, Alice spent one night in an abandoned house with her friends Ila and Hannah. Since then, things have not been going well. Alice is living a haunted existence, selling videos of herself cleaning for money, drinking herself to sleep. She hasn't spoken to Ila since they went into the House. She hasn't seen Hannah either. Memories of that night torment her mind and her flesh, but when Ila asks her to return to the House, past the KEEP OUT sign, over the sick earth where teenagers dare each other to venture, she knows she must go. Together…

Book cover of Virtual Mode

Kit Caelsto Author Of The Pegasus Project: A Musimagium Story

From my list on fantasy for horse lovers.

Why am I passionate about this?

“Horse Crazy” isn’t a description; it’s a way of life for me. I’ve loved horses since I could remember, selling Girl Scout cookies to finance my way through three years of horse camp, working weekends cleaning stalls, even pursing a degree in Equine Science. Discovering fantasy books with magical, sentient horses not only introduced me to fantasy fiction, but also just made my own experience with horses seem real. Currently, I write equestrian fantasy as well as equestrian literature (horse books for those who chose not to grow out of being horse crazy” and live on my homestead with my herd of rescue horses, who inspire me every day.

Kit's book list on fantasy for horse lovers

Kit Caelsto Why did Kit love this book?

Having enjoyed Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, and again finding a horse on the cover, I remember picking up this story at Waldenbooks. (Oh look, I’ve dated myself again!). In this case, the book requires a content warning for mental health issues and self-harm, but the heroine struck a note with me, and when she befriends a telepathic horse and goes on adventures, I was hooked. 

By Piers Anthony,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Romance, danger, adventure, and intrigue intertwine as fourteen-year-old Colene and Darius, a stranger who dresses oddly and speaks an unfamiliar language, travel through alternate realities where anything is possible

Book cover of I Had That Same Dream Again

Yakira Goldsberry Author Of Curse of the Midnight King

From Yakira's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sweets magician Inkdrinker Language nerd Fairy in disguise

Yakira's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Yakira Goldsberry Why did Yakira love this book?

I am a huge fan of Yoru Sumino’s books, and her sweet MG/YA novel showcases what a brilliant writer she is.

The story follows Nanoka, a grade-schooler faced with a tough question for her school assignment—what does ‘happiness’ mean to her? Throughout the story she makes friends with a troubled girl who engages in self-harm, a woman ostracized by society, and an old woman looking to live out her years in peace.

The story handles tough subjects with a beautiful gentleness and has an almost Studio Ghibli peacefulness to it. It’s a wonderful story of family, life, and what happiness really means.

By Yoru Sumino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Had That Same Dream Again as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

An unhappy girl who engages in self-harm, a high schooler ostracised by her classmates, and an old woman looking to live out her twilight years in peace - what could three such different people have in common? That's what grade schooler Nanoka Koyanagi is trying to find out. Assigned by her teacher to define what "happiness" means to her, Nanoka tries to find her place in the world by exploring her relationships with these three strangers, and through them, comes to know herself.

Book cover of Building a Life Worth Living: A Memoir

Sheri Van Dijk Author Of Calming the Emotional Storm: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Manage Your Emotions and Balance Your Life

From my list on mental health that won’t bore you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since 2001 I’ve been working in the field of mental health and I am passionate about finding new and better ways of helping my clients – to understand themselves, to find the energy and power within themselves to keep going and make positive changes, and to reduce their suffering and build a life worth living. I’ve often found that when I can ground the skills I’m teaching or the strategies I’m using with my client to science, I get more buy-in and follow-through from people.

Sheri's book list on mental health that won’t bore you

Sheri Van Dijk Why did Sheri love this book?

The memoir of world-renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan, who happens to be someone I greatly admire for creating the treatment that I use: Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  This book relays Linehan’s struggles as a teen and adult with her own mental health condition, including self-harming behaviors and thoughts of suicide, and how her experience contributed to her creation of a therapy that has likely saved millions of lives.

By Marsha M. Linehan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Building a Life Worth Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marsha Linehan tells the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to world-renowned developer of the life-saving behavioral therapy DBT, using her own struggle to develop life skills for others.

“This book is a victory on both sides of the page.”—Gloria Steinem

“Are you one of us?” a patient once asked Marsha Linehan, the world-renowned psychologist who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy. “Because if you were, it would give all of us so much hope.” 

Over the years, DBT had saved the lives of countless people fighting depression and suicidal thoughts, but Linehan had never revealed that her pioneering work was…

Book cover of Willow

Kathleen Fine Author Of Girl on Trial

From my list on contemporary YA about peer pressure and addiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started to experiment at a very early age with alcohol. During my teen years, like so many of my peers, I had low self-esteem. I wanted to fit in so I understand firsthand the effects that peer pressure can have on a teenager. When I think back to those years, I sometimes wonder: what if? There were so many terrible outcomes that could have occurred in my life. These novels show their readers a “what if.” I hope that teens who read these books think twice before following a crowd and stand firmly with what they know is right in their heart as well as hope for healing.

Kathleen's book list on contemporary YA about peer pressure and addiction

Kathleen Fine Why did Kathleen love this book?

Willow is such an important novel for any teen who has gone through a traumatic event.

Willow, a 17-year-old girl is dealing with grief over the death of her parents and the fact that she was driving the car that killed them. She’s had to leave behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality of her life, she is secretly cutting herself.

For every teen that has either cut themselves, drank to numb the pain, starved themselves, or done any sort of self-harm in order to protect themselves from their inward pain, this book is for you. Not only is this story about grief and guilt, but it is also about love and never giving up.

By Julia Hoban,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Willow 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?

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow?s parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy ?one sensitive, soulful boy?discovers Willow?s secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the ?safe? world Willow has created for herself upside down.

Told in an extraordinary fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl?s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy?s refusal…