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Book Therapy: The 10 Best Books for Mental Health

In today’s world, where our phones never stop buzzing and screens are always lit up, there’s a silent epidemic spreading – not one of viruses or bacteria, but of the mind.

A few months ago, my colleague’s brother took his own life after silently battling the demons of deteriorating mental health. To the world, he seemed just like any other guy, but inside, he was grappling with things he felt he couldn’t talk about, not even with his own brother.

It’s heartbreaking to think that so many around us are wearing these brave faces, yet feeling so alone. Shockingly, recent data suggests that nearly 1 in 5 adults globally struggle with a mental health disorder. Anxiety and depression lead this sinister chart. Some experts say these are only official numbers and the real data could be far more staggering.

man in gray long sleeve shirt sitting on brown wooden chair
Photo by Andrew Neel on

As discussions around mental health continue to break traditional stigmas, the interest in self-education and self-care also continues to grow. Today we have a plethora of resources available, but few are as accessible and insightful as books.

In this post, I will share the ten best books for mental health and wellness. These books offer a diverse range of perspectives to not only help you better understand, but also manage your mental health.

1. “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by David D. Burns (1980)

Best books for mental health

The first entry on our list of ten best books for mental health is Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. In it, renowned psychiatrist David D. Burns presents groundbreaking, practical, and scientifically based approaches to overcoming depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

Using clear, engaging language, Burns introduces cognitive-behavioral therapy concepts, a form of psychotherapy that has been widely studied and is highly effective for various mental health conditions.

Even if you struggle with lethargy, lack of motivation, and self-doubt, this book can act as a magic bullet for you.

2. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk (2014)

Best books for mental health

In this seminal work, Bessel van der Kolk explores how trauma affects the body and mind, and how healing can occur.

The book is a deep dive into the effects of trauma on mental and physical health, supported by decades of research and clinical experience.

Dr. van der Kolk discusses various therapeutic techniques, both traditional and alternative, that can aid in the healing of trauma. This includes methods like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), yoga, and neurofeedback.

The book is interspersed with poignant real-life stories of trauma survivors, adding depth and a human touch to the scientific explanations.

3. “The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time” by Alex Korb (2015)

In this book, neuroscientist Alex Korb provides an accessible introduction to the neuroscience of depression. He offers actionable, step-by-step strategies for managing symptoms and improving mood.

The book’s title suggests that just as a minor setback can pull you down, the right intervention can spark the momentum to lift you up.

Built on a foundation of clinical trials and observations of the brain, this book is as up-to-date with contemporary neuroscience as possible. The best part is that Alex Korb writes in a style that is neither overly scientific nor excessively dumbed down, and makes the material accessible to anyone.

4. “Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think” by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky (2015)

Best books for mental health

This book, written by renowned cognitive therapists Greenberger and Padesky, provides readers with tools to improve their mental health.

It offers practical ways to combat emotional distress and boost your well-being. There are worksheets in it with exercises for understanding and managing moods and emotions.

The authors claim that by dedicating time to the exercises and engaging with this book, you’ll undoubtedly experience positive shifts.

5. “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living” by Russ Harris (2007)

With over 1 million copies sold, “The Happiness Trap” offers insights into achieving a truly fulfilling life by combating stress, anxiety, and depression. The book introduces techniques from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in its latest edition.

You learn how to handle challenging emotions, break negative habits, boost self-confidence, foster better relationships, and find job satisfaction.

Suitable for all, this one is one of the best books for mental health. It guides you in building genuine happiness from within, no matter the challenges you face.

6. “An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness” by Kay Redfield Jamison (1995)

Best books for mental health

Jamison, a psychologist who has bipolar disorder, provides a personal and poignant account of her struggle with the condition. This book offers a unique perspective, shedding light on the realities of living with a mental health disorder.

Her courage to share and educate her readers is commendable and valuable. Kay’s life is proof of the miracle of the dual life-saving impact of medication and psychotherapy.

This is a must-read for all mental illness advocates as well as those suffering from bipolar disorder looking for direction.

7. “Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions” by Johann Hari (2018)

Investigative journalist Johann Hari was plagued by a pressing question: Why was there a rising trend of depression and anxiety in the Western world during his lifetime? This question was deeply personal.

As a teen, he’d confided in his doctor about his overwhelming emotional pain. Though some treatments provided relief, his anguish persisted.

Determined for answers, Hari embarked on a global journey, covering 40,000 miles to converse with top experts on depression and anxiety’s roots. He discovered nine scientifically backed causes and their solutions, and this book covers them all.

8. “Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha” by Tara Brach (2003)

Brach combines her background in clinical psychology with her understanding of Buddhism to offer strategies for dealing with feelings of inadequacy and failure.

The book is an excellent resource for anyone seeking to cultivate a more compassionate and accepting relationship with themselves.

Tara uses the stories and experiences of the people she met and helped along her path to aid, which makes it more enjoyable to read than a book in which the author is always speaking to the reader in the abstract. It really helps to humanize her ideas and bring them home.

9. “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead ” by Brené Brown (2012)

Best books for mental health

Brown specializes in researching shame. Her studies of shame led her to delve deeper into vulnerability analysis. When someone’s identity is tied to their shortcomings, they experience shame. 

Brown tells us that many problems in family, school, and organization are caused by inadequate recognition of the power of shame. Her inquiries into vulnerability, shame, and empathy provide groundbreaking insights into these subjects.

In “Daring Greatly”, she explores how embracing vulnerability can lead to a more fulfilling life. Brown’s work has broad implications, not just for mental health, but for how we engage with others and the world.

10. “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (2012)

Cain’s “Quiet” offers a thought-provoking discussion about the value and power of introverts in a society that often undervalues them.

The book is particularly revelatory, shedding light on the strengths of introverts. She highlights their capacity to function well without sleep, negotiate effectively, and lead in a manner that captivates others.

By understanding the strengths and needs of introverts, this book helps to promote mental well-being for introverts themselves and for those who live and work with them.

Final Word

So that was our list of ten best books for mental health. This book list represents a broad spectrum of topics in mental health, ranging from professional perspectives to personal memoirs. Each offers unique insights and strategies to help readers navigate their mental health journeys.

It’s important to remember, however, that while self-education is an empowering tool, it doesn’t replace professional mental health care.

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, reach out to a health professional who can provide the appropriate support and treatment.

Disclaimer: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we may receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

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A depressed looking girl in the middle of book stacks. Best books for mental health

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