Top Ten Tuesday: Fiction and Mental Illness


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and Bookish. Check out the blog here:

I’ve seen a lot of posts and tweets about the diversity read-a-thon but don’t have the time to participate this year. So when I saw this TTT was a freebie I thought I could add to the diverse books conversation anyway.

I graduated last spring with my MA, and my final project (or thesis) was on the depiction of mental illness in young adult literature (a lot of romanticizing suicide and depression once you start to look for it…).

So for this TTT, I’m looking at 10 books that go beyond the “depression is SO romantic” interpretation of mental illness and actually try to depict the struggle.

  • The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. Lou is a high functioning autistic, and the book revolves around the question of whether or not he should be forced to take a cure for his autism. I first read this book in a 96063disability studies class and the discussions we had. Well worth it for a book club (if your book club’s willing to have a tough talk).



  • If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie. Will’s mother is agoraphobic. Not 21462154exactly central to the plot, but Christie does take the time to really look at what this illness does to a life (and a family) rather than just giving it a cursory treatment or using it as a plot device.



  • Dietland by Sarai Walker. Main character Plum has (though not overtly mentioned that I22749796 can recall) an eating disorder. Plum goes from dieting through a forced restriction of calories to binge eating full pies at one sitting. This book takes a long, hard, brutal look at what societal beauty “norms” can do to a woman. Strangely, I read this book on the beach during my honeymoon. It was a weird combo.


  • The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian. Chip is suffering from PTSD after piloting a
    10209997plain that crashed (not his fault) killing almost all the passengers on board. Chip then spends the rest of the book struggling to figure out the difference between reality and his broken mind. It’s a horror novel, so the answer is kinda both.



  • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. Okay, so this is a memoir written by someone 25255745known for blogging about her mental illness. But I really love her combination of reality and humor. And her writing makes me feel less alone.



  • Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault. Anyone who tells you you can’t binge read Foucault never read this book. I couldn’t read it f18965049ast enough. It’s horrifying and absorbing and maddening.




  • Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum. I’ll admit this book is a little heavy on the activisim push, so if that’ll turn you off this book is19327774n’t for you. But if you can, it asks a lot of interesting questions about mental and physical disability.



  • More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. This allows hits the LGBT column, but that’s appropriate considering how often LGBT and mental illness cross over. And it’s Adam Silvera, so it19542841‘s not just a book that makes you question societal norms, it’s well written with a strong, crazy plot.



  • A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinns. Okay, this main character doesn’t actually have a mental illness, but 24376529she spends a lot of time in asylums with characters who do. A more historical approach to mental illness, you’ll be surprised at what’s changed, and what hasn’t.



  • Kneller’s Happy Campers by Etgar Keret. This is a novella I’ve bought for people as Christmas presents. I love it that much. But it’s not for every6324467one.



6 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Fiction and Mental Illness

    • Resa says:

      I liked Dietland, though it was a lot more abstract than I expected (abstract in a you’re reading a French art film). Not that that made it bad, it was just really unexpected.

  1. Tubaville says:

    Great recommendations! I added about half of them to my Goodreads list. Thank you! I have bipolar disorder amongst other things and once you have it, it’s like you see it everywhere. Like when I bought a green Honda Civic, suddenly EVERYONE was driving green Honda Civics LOL!

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