A Book About Mental Health: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge
Mental health touches all our lives. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association "[i]n any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness." Our recommendations for the "a book about mental health" category include memoir, fiction and even some free therapy from dinosaurs.
Hello! I Want to Die, Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny
Hello! I Want to Die, Please Fix Me interweaves Paperny's personal experience of depression with an exploration of depression treatment's present and future. Paperny lives in Toronto, which makes her commentary on flaws in our mental health system particularly relevant to Ontario readers.
- a book by an author from Toronto
- a book written by a journalist
- a book about an issue that is important to you
Here are some recommendations from TPL staff for this category.
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
The Comfort Book relays the message that it's okay to not be okay. Matt Haig offers up things that have helped him personally while he lives with anxiety and depression.
—Jennifer, Public Service Assistant
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a novel that offers dark comedy surrounding the slow mental unraveling of a young woman. She goes to the Emergency Department often for her anxiety and seeks to go to a therapy group only to be mistaken for a job applicant at a Catholic Church (she is an atheist lesbian).
—Jennifer, Public Service Assistant
Dinosaur Therapy by James Stewart
A comic featuring dinosaurs that discusses a range of issues including anxiety, tech dependence, friendship and more. The comics are refreshing, relatable all while tacking adult issues. I loved reading, and sharing some of the pages with friends and family as we ponder the real-life lessons that the adorable dinosaurs raise.
—Jestine, Senior Services Specialist
New Year by Juli Zeh
Henning, a man with a young family, finds himself bewildered by feelings of terror, panic, and anxiety, as he tries to care for his family and meet everyone's expectations. The family is spending the New Year's vacation on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Henning decides to go for an epic bike ride on New Year's Day, pushing himself despite a lack of training or preparation. As he reaches the summit of his ride, Henning has an encounter that cracks open a series of childhood memories that electrifies the book. Translated from the German by Alta Price, this is a riveting and compassionate book about childhood trauma and adult coping.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I found this book hard to read all at once. Not that it wasn't great it just hit close to home and the writing was so vivid and true to life that you were right there with Eleanor and her family. Sometimes painful books are cathartic and wonderfully good to get all your kleenex used up. Eleanor struggles socially all the time. She has a set timetable and doesn't change it for any one. Until Raymond comes along. Raymond is the opposite of Eleanor. And then they meet Sammy an older gentleman they find lying on the floor. How does Eleanor change? Can she change? Does it mean we have to change when we don't fit in? Or is it time those who circle us should change? I loved this book and how it deals with mental health. It might not be a scientific breakthrough or a how to book, but it sheds light on everyday people.
—Katherine, Library Assistant
The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
This debut novel speaks to the power of bibliotherapy – the idea that reading books can be used to support mental health. Aleisha and Mukesh are two strangers, both struggling with different levels of depression and grief. They meet in a public library in the UK and end up reading through a mysterious book list of 8 well-known titles that end up helping them find comfort in their situations.
- a book about a library worker
- a book about family
—Nalini, Senior Department Head
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott
Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott does an incredible job making the connections between mental health, trauma, and systemic oppression. In this autobiography, Elliott mediates on the different scales of colonial violence and their impact on her inter-personal and intra-personal relationships and experiences. Experiences that are always shaped by the structural conditions of their emergence.
Colorful by Eto Mori
This is a quirky book of magical realism. The main character is a nameless soul who is being given the chance at rebirth! In order to earn this reward, the soul is placed on a "homestay" in the life of Makoto Kobayashi, a 14-year-old who just committed suicide (and who appears to miraculously come back to life when this soul agrees to the plot). To complete the homestay, the soul must remember the greatest mistake they made in their past life... but can't help focusing on trying to figure out why Makoto was miserable enough to end his life!
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
While in a treatment facility for addiction, Saul Indian Horse writes of his experience growing up in an abusive residential school. He finds happiness playing hockey at the school and when he is older becomes an all-star player on a local Indigenous team. The trauma of the residential school and the racist encounters throughout his hockey career drives him away from his community and towards depression and alcoholism. It’s a powerful but heavy book that gives a deep understanding of the mental health issues faced by those that grew up in the residential school, which continues to have a long lasting impact. A movie adaptation was released shortly after the author’s death.
More Staff Recommendations
If you like to read in French, check out the list of recommended books for "santé mentale" - there's a mix of books, ebooks and digital audiobooks to try!
Recommendations from the Facebook Group
These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2022 discussion group. You can read the entire thread, even if you don't have a Facebook account.
- The Woo-woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family by Lindsay Wong
- Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
- The Strong Black Woman: How a Myth Endangers the Physical and Mental Health of Black Women by Marita Golden