Depression strikes all of us at one time or another. Many fiction books can take us to faraway places, but books about depression can offer the comfort of sharing more intimate experiences. It can also be cathartic to read about people overcoming trauma, even if you’ve never experienced it yourself.
Here are 3 essential fiction books about depression that you can turn to for solace in trying times, or to experience someone else’s journey. Note that these aren’t the 3 most depressing books. They are books about depression, both its trials and, in some cases, its small triumphs.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower gave voice to a unique, introverted teenager. As a result, people who relate to him can experience his awkward journey from childhood to adulthood. The novel explores a range of themes through his interactions with family and friends. It is famous for its personal structure as a series of thoughts and letters.
Its themes include adolescent sexuality, drug use, and mental health. Others who struggle with related issues may find comfort in a story told from the perspective of someone like them. Chbosky’s book represents fictional depression at its most cathartic.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar may be the most famous fiction book about depression because of its parallels with its author’s real life. This book may be too intense for some.
The author, Sylvia Plath, wrote the book with many of her real experiences altered for fictional settings. The main character becomes mentally ill as a result of clinical depression and bipolar disorder. We witness her experiences with her mental state, including her attempts at suicide and her inability to sleep. Her relationship with her therapists plays a major role.
One month after The Bell Jar was published, Sylvia Plath committed suicide. While not for the faint of heart, her single novel should be read by anyone that wants a real-world story of depression translated into fiction.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
This is not a common suggestion for fictional stories of depression. Part of the reason is that the main character doesn’t even know she has depression. But Coraline, more famous as the 2009 stop-motion animated adaptation, is actually a fairytale about childhood depression. It’s full of heart and of the desire to feel loved in a scary world.
Neil Gaiman, famous for comic books like The Sandman and novels like American Gods, wrote this young adult novel with the help of illustrator Dave McKean. Coraline is about a girl who becomes withdrawn when she and her parents move. She feels like they don’t understand her.
Her life changes when another version of her mother entices her to a fantasy world based on everything she wishes for. While that world turns out to be more than what it seems, the novel takes childhood depression at face value and creates a great modern fairytale around it.
Many non-fiction books about depression can help us manage the condition. However, many people who suffer from depression simply need to know they’re not alone. These books can provide that knowledge, as well as help them make sense of their feelings.
But you don’t have to be depressed to enjoy these books and the journeys of their characters. Their thoughts may be personal but their struggle is universal.