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24 Must-Read Books About Mental Health (2023)

Covers of 4 of the top mental health books

In a world where we’re constantly being bombarded with messages about the importance of physical health (cue those pesky detox ads and “that girl” influencer messages), it’s easy to forget about another — equally as vital — part of our health: our mental health. 

In the United States alone, 1 in 5 adults lives with a mental illness, which means that roughly 44 million people are navigating conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia on a daily basis.

Yet, because of cultural stigma, lack of access, affordability, and discrimination, many feel (or are) actively excluded, silenced, and hindered from reaching or accepting mental health support.

The good news is that more professionals in the field are offering resources for millions of folks to begin the process of caring for their mental well-being. 

One of the most powerful and accessible resources? You guessed it: Books. 

Whether you’re personally affected by a mental illness or want to learn more to support loved ones, there are countless resources out there to help. 

We’ve narrowed that long list to help you get started. 

It’s important to note that while these books discuss anxiety, depression, and other mental health topics, they aren’t a substitute for professional help. 

If you’re feeling troubled by any of these books — or need some support in general, we encourage you to check out our collection of mental health resources. Take good care!

By the way, some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

The Best Mental Health Books for Empowerment and Healing

“Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World” by Admiral William H. McRaven 

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Book cover of Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

Admiral William H. McRaven’s viral commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 inspired millions with its simple but moving message: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

His now-bestselling book “Make Your Bed” expands on that core message by sharing principles he learned during Navy SEAL training that can help anyone overcome challenges and ultimately inspire action — one small step (like making your bed) at a time. 

“What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and Oprah Winfrey

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Book cover of What Happened to You? by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

“What Happened to You?” is the ultimate tag-team collaboration between psychiatrist and neuroscientist Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and the queen of media, Oprah Winfrey. 

Through conversations with diverse groups of people, they unpack trauma’s impact on the human mind and body. 

With their combined wisdom (and some light-hearted humor), Perry and Winfrey remind us that while trauma is an extremely serious issue, it’s not the end of anyone’s story. 

“It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle” by Mark Wolynn

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Book cover of It Didn’t Start with You by Mark Wolynn

Author Mark Wolynn takes us on a journey through the mysteries (and legacies) of family trauma and how it can shape our lives in unexpected ways.

Through engaging storytelling and relatable examples, Wolynn shows how unresolved traumas from past generations can be passed down to us — affecting everything from our relationships to our physical health. 

But there’s hope for change. Wolynn also offers practical tips and techniques for breaking the cycle of inherited trauma and creating an alternative future for ourselves, our families, and future generations. 

“What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma” by Stephanie Foo

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Book cover of What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo

Stephanie Foo seemed to have it all — a dream job as a radio producer at This American Life and a loving partner. But behind closed doors, she was struggling with panic attacks. Eventually diagnosed with complex PTSD, a condition caused by repetitive trauma, Foo realized that her past was still impacting her health, relationships, and career. 

Frustrated by the lack of resources available, she set out to explore innovative therapies and even delved into the effects of immigrant trauma. In “What My Bones Know,” Stephanie Foo courageously shares her personal story and meticulous research. 

Through interviews with experts and her own experiences, she offers a glimpse into the lasting grip of the past and how trauma can reverberate across generations. This empowering memoir reminds us that while we may not be able to completely leave our traumas behind, we can learn to navigate life with resilience and reclaim control. 

“This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More” by Uma Naidoo, M.D.

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Book cover of This Is Your Brain on Food by Uma Naidoo

Foodies, we found a good one for you. In “This Is Your Brain on Food,” Uma Naidoo, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and nutrition expert, offers a comprehensive guide to the connection between food and mental health. 

Naidoo delves into the latest research on how specific foods can help (or harm) the brain and provides practical advice on how to use food to alleviate a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and more. 

Naidoo’s book emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to mental health and shows how food can be a powerful tool in achieving emotional balance. With its accessible and engaging style, this book provides a feast’s worth of information that can help readers make informed choices about what they eat — ultimately improving their mental and physical well-being.

“Hope and Help for Your Nerves: End Anxiety Now” by Claire Weekes

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Book cover of Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes

Whether you’re struggling with social anxiety, phobias, or everyday worries, “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” is the ultimate anxiety guide. 

Like a wise and caring friend, Weekes’ approach is refreshingly honest and straightforward — she doesn’t promise a quick fix, but instead offers a realistic and empowering path towards anxiety relief. 

With her guidance, readers are provided tools to identify and manage the patterns and triggers that often lead to feelings of anxiety or anxiety attacks. 

“The Politics of Trauma: Somatics, Healing, and Social Justice” by Staci K. Haines

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Book cover of The Politics of Trauma by Staci K. Haines

In “The Politics of Trauma,” author Staci K. Haines explores the intersections between trauma, healing, and social justice. Drawing on her experiences as a somatic therapist and activist, Haines argues that trauma is not just an individual problem but a societal one. 

She shows how systems of oppression —like racism and sexism — can cause trauma and perpetuate cycles of violence and injustice.

Through personal stories, case studies, and practical exercises, Haines offers a holistic approach to healing from trauma and creating social change. 

She encourages readers to use somatic practices, such as breathing and movement, to connect with their bodies and address the root causes of trauma. She also discusses the importance of community and collective action in creating a more just and equitable world.

“Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed” by Lori Gottlieb

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Book cover of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Curious about what really goes on in a therapist’s office? “Maybe You Should Talk To Someone” by Lori Gottlieb is a fascinating memoir that takes readers behind the scenes of therapy — both as a therapist and as a patient. 

With humor, empathy, and insight, Gottlieb presents a deeply personal look at the challenges and rewards of helping people navigate their lives.

She weaves together the stories of four very different clients: a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life, a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys, and a narcissistic Hollywood producer. The result is a relatable exploration of the human experience.

“Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle” by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, DMA

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Book cover of Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

“Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle” by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, DMA offers a fresh perspective on managing stress and regaining your energy. 

Drawing on the latest scientific research and their own experiences, the Nagoski sisters provide practical tools and strategies for navigating the many challenges of modern life.

Whether you’re a student, a busy professional, or simply someone looking to live a more fulfilling life, “Burnout” aims to help readers move past the seemingly endless stress cycles we’re accustomed to and find ways to reach happier and healthier lifestyles.

“The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.

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Book cover of The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron

Do you have a sensitivity to noise, light, and other stimuli? Or perhaps a deep emotional reaction to the world around you? If the answer is yes and yes, we’re right there with you. (For real, we’ve got a handful of neurodivergent folks on our team!)

“The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., offers a unique perspective on what it means to be a highly sensitive person (HSP) and provides practical tools for managing the challenges that come with it. 

Aron draws on years of research and clinical experience to provide an in-depth understanding of what it means to be an HSP and how to navigate a world that can be overwhelming for sensitive people.

She also provides helpful strategies for managing the challenges that come with being an HSP, including self-care, boundary-setting, and communication skills. 

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey

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Book cover of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Whether you’re looking to improve your relationships, advance in your career, or feel a little more fulfilled, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is like a personal trainer for your mind, helping you develop the inner qualities and habits you need to succeed in any area of your life. 

This isn’t quite your average self-help read, though. Covey uses relatable stories and practical exercises to make his teachings something you can actually put into action in your own life. 

“Healing the Trauma of Abuse: A Women’s Workbook” by Mary Ellen Copeland, M.A., M.S. and Maxine Harris, Ph.D.

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Book cover of Healing the Trauma of Abuse by Mary Ellen Copeland and Maxine Harris

If you’ve experienced abuse, “Healing the Trauma of Abuse” by Mary Ellen Copeland, M.A., M.S. and Maxine Harris, Ph.D. is a comprehensive guide to help women of all ages and backgrounds process their experiences of abuse and develop coping strategies for moving forward.

Copeland and Harris draw on decades-worth of experience as trauma and mental health experts to provide a safe and supportive space for women to explore their emotions, set boundaries, and build resilience. 

With its step-by-step exercises, journaling prompts, and practical tools, this book offers a compassionate and empowering approach to recovery. 

“Healing Through Words” by Rupi Kaur

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Book cover of Healing Through Words by Rupi Kaur

You might recognize the name Rupi Kaur from her #1 New York Times bestselling books “milk and honey,” “the sun and her flowers,” and “home body.” 

Kaur’s latest book release offers guided poetry writing exercises to help explore trauma, loss, heartache, love, family, healing, and celebration of the self.

The interactive book is divided into four sections: “hurting,” “loving,” “breaking,” and “healing,” each of which delves into different stages of the healing process — encouraging readers to use the power of language to transform pain into beauty.

“Future Tense: Why Anxiety Is Good for You (Even Though It Feels Bad)” by Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, Ph.D.

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Book cover of Future Tense by Tracy Dennis Tiwary

Many of us who seek to create a positive impact in the world struggle with the all too real, paralyzing, and uncomfortable feeling of anxiety

Anxiety researcher and author, Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, Ph.D., presents us with a powerful new framework for reimagining and reclaiming the confounding emotion as the advantage it evolved to be: an emotion that protects us and strengthens our creativity. 

By clarifying the latest research in psychology and neuroscience — including her own — Dennis-Tiwary shows how we can acknowledge the discomfort of anxiety and see it as a tool, rather than something to be feared.

“Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian Americans” by Jenny Wang

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Book cover of Permission to Come Home by Jenny Wang

“Permission to Come Home” by Jenny Wang dives deep into the unique struggles that Asian Americans face when it comes to mental health, providing a warm and supportive space for readers to explore these issues and find healing. 

From navigating the pressures of the “model minority” myth to dealing with the shame and stigma surrounding mental illness, Wang draws on personal experiences and those of others within the Asian American community to offer a comforting and empowering guide to reclaiming mental health.

“Unf*ck Your Brain: Getting Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers with Science (5-Minute Therapy)” by Faith Harper

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Book cover of Unfock Your Brain by Faith Harper

“Unf*ck Your Brain” by Faith Harper is a no-nonsense guide on how to cope with a slew of mental-health issues that are hell-bent on controlling the lives of millions of people around the world. 

The author, a licensed therapist and psychologist, provides a five-minute therapy approach that offers simple and effective strategies to help you overcome anxiety, depression, anger, and other “negative emotions” that may be holding you back. 

The book is grounded in science and draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and trauma therapy to help readers better understand their brain and how to work with it, rather than against it.

“Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

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Book cover of Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

From John Green, the #1 bestselling author of “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” comes an incredible story about the inner workings of a teenage girl’s mind as she struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

Throughout the novel, Aza’s experiences with mental illness are depicted in a raw and honest way, highlighting the challenges of living with OCD and its impact on relationships, sense of self, and overall well-being.

The book is a powerful read that brings us into the mind of a character trying to cope with a world that feels out of her control. 

“The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health: Navigate an Unequal System, Learn Tools for Emotional Wellness, and Get the Help You Deserve” by Rheeda Walker, Ph.D.

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Book cover of The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health by Rheeda Walker

“The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health” by Rheeda Walker, Ph.D., is a comprehensive and empowering resource for Black folks seeking ways to navigate the mental health system, prioritize their emotional well-being, and advocate for a more inclusive and equitable care system. 

Through personal anecdotes, research-backed insights, and practical tools, Walker guides readers through the unique challenges that Black people face when it comes to mental health, including the impact of racism, historical trauma, and societal stigma. 

“Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love” by Amir Levine

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Book cover of Attached by Amir Levine

If you’ve ever wondered why some people seem to have a knack for finding and maintaining healthy, happy relationships while others struggle to make it past the first date, “Attached” by Amir Levine might have some answers. 

This book explores the science behind adult attachment styles and how our individual styles can influence how we approach relationships. 

Based on years of research and clinical experience, the book provides insights into the three main attachment styles – anxious, avoidant, and secure – and offers practical advice for navigating and building healthy relationships.

“Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

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Cover Book Of Reasons To Stay Alive By Matt Haig

If you’ve ever dealt with depression, then you’ll likely connect with Matt Haig’s story (you might recognize him from his bestselling books “The Midnight Library,” and “Notes on a Nervous Planet”). 

Haig shares his personal journey of overcoming depression through writing, reading, and the support of his loved ones. 

With an oddly refreshing mix of humor and motivation, he uses his deeply personal and universally relatable experiences to offer hope and encouragement to anyone struggling with their mental health.

“Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto” by Tricia Hersey

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Book cover of Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey

Ever feel the unconscious urge to shame yourself for resting? Tricia Hersey, founder of The Nap Ministry — an organization examining the liberating power of naps — is here to change that for you. 

Informed by her experience in theology, activism, and performance art, “Rest Is Resistance” is a call to action and a field guide for the sleep-deprived justice seekers seeking ways to liberate themselves from the “grind culture” and reclaim it as a radical act of self-care and resistance.

“Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts” by Guy Winch, Ph.D.

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Book cover of Emotional First Aid by Guy Winchg

In a world that often prioritizes physical health over emotional health, Guy Winch argues that we need to take care of both to live a fulfilling life. 

Through case studies, real-world examples, and practical exercises, “Emotional First Aid” offers readers the tools they need to heal from common emotional wounds, like rejection, guilt, failure, and loneliness.

But it’s not just about healing from emotional wounds. Winch emphasizes the importance of preventing emotional injuries from causing long-term damage. He draws from research in psychology to explain why these everyday hurts can be so difficult to overcome and offers strategies to promote emotional resilience. 

“Stop Overthinking: 23 Techniques to Relieve Stress, Stop Negative Spirals, Declutter Your Mind, and Focus on the Present (The Path to Calm)” by Nick Trenton

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Book cover of Stop Overthinking by Nick Trenton

Hello, over-thinkers, this one’s for you! 

From identifying and recognizing our inner anxieties to focusing on relaxation and action, author Nick Trenton offers powerful ways to stop ruminating and dwelling on negative thoughts.

He provides scientific approaches to refocus the way we think and feel about ourselves — freeing up our minds from overthinking and allowing us to live in the present moment.

“Girl in Pieces” by Kathleen Glasgow 

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Book cover of Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow 

“Girl in Pieces” is a young adult novel by Kathleen Glasgow that follows the journey of a teenage girl named Charlie as she navigates life on the streets, struggling with addiction and self-harm, and attempting to rebuild her life with the help of newfound friends and a support system. 

Throughout the book, Charlie’s story highlights the devastating impact of childhood trauma and the importance of mental health care and advocacy.

The book sheds light on the realities of mental illness and the challenges faced by those who have experienced trauma, while also celebrating the resilience and strength of the human spirit — emphasizing the importance of self-care and self-love.

Article Details

September 7, 2023 8:57 AM
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