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- Best for dealing with grief: It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand
- Best holistic view: Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression
- Best for spiritual connection: Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About
- Best for a new perspective: The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs
- Best for Buddhist philosophy: The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
- Best for scientific explanation: The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time
- Best for pessimists: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
- Best for a natural lifestyle: Depression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger from Your Life
- Best for multiple perspectives: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
- Best for changing your mood: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
- Best for positive thinking: Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
- Best for breaking bad habits: Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You
- Best for mindfulness: Full Catastrophe Living
- Best for entertainment: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
- Best for educators: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day. It’s a mood disorder that affects the way you think, act, and feel. It can take different forms and affect individuals in different ways.
Read on to learn more about depression and how it affects people. You’ll also get to know what treatments and lifestyle changes improve symptoms, and how more people can get the help they need.
Thankfully, there are quite a few resources out there, including the following books that each offer a unique perspective.
If you think someone is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Depression is a common mood disorder that causes many people to feel sad, lost, or angry on a fairly regular, constant basis. It can also include feelings of self-loathing or a lack of self-esteem, and it’s a serious medical condition that can interfere with everyday activities.
Depression can come up in different ways for different people. For instance, it can interfere with your day-to-day work, causing you to lose track of time and productivity. Or it might affect your relationships and may worsen some chronic health conditions, including arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:
- feeling sad, anxious, or “empty”
- feeling hopeless, worthless, and pessimistic
- crying a lot
- feeling bothered, annoyed, or angry
- loss of interest in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed
A common method to treat depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of cognitive and behavioral psychotherapy is one of the
When you see a therapist for CBT, they work in a structured setting to pinpoint how you negatively think about and behave in response to stressful or challenging situations. Then, they create more balanced or constructive responses intended to help mitigate or remove the negative situation.
Other treatments for depression include medications like:
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
- tetracyclic antidepressants
- dopamine reuptake blockers
- 5-HT1A receptor antagonists
- 5-HT2 receptor antagonists
- 5-HT3 receptor antagonists
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- noradrenergic antagonists
It’s a good idea to read up on depression and get a better sense of what it can entail.
There’s a wealth of information out there on the subject, including many books that can help you feel more understood, provide coping mechanisms, and offer education on the topic. Take a look below, keeping in mind that these books won’t be a substitute for professional help or medication.
The following books are written either by professionals in mental health or by people who have managed and conquered depression in their own lives, giving them expertise on the subject. The books also have high customer ratings, and some have been featured on bestseller lists.
- $ = under $15
- $$ = $15–$18
- $$$ = over $18
When looking for helpful books on depression, you’ll want to think about:
- the author’s relevant experience, expertise, and reputation as it relates to the subject matter
- the approach or theme discussed in the book, and if you think it’s something that will resonate with you
- the style and tone of writing — you should try to get a sense if it suits you and will hold your interest
- reviews from other readers (everyone responds differently to writing, but it can be helpful to consider feedback from buyers)
Best for dealing with grief
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: people who want to learn about living with grief
Written as a response to society treating grief as something that needs to be fixed and removed from our lives as fast as possible, “It’s OK That You’re Not OK” shares Megan Devine’s approach to dealing with painful loss or life-shattering events. She points out, “Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form… It is a natural and sane response to loss.”
Megan, who experienced grief as a therapist and witnessed the accidental drowning of her partner, shuns the idea of returning to a “normal” life. Instead, she replaces it with a middle-ground of creating a healthy life with grief.
In this New York Times, Reader’s Digest, HuffPost, and NPR’s Radio times-featured book, you’ll get sound advice, wisdom, stories, research, life tips, and creative and mindfulness-based practices for dealing and living with grief.
- honest and open
- relatable and accessible writing style
- excludes certain losses (like parents)
- may feel repetitive to some readers
Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: those looking for a holistic approach
Sometimes psychotherapy and antidepressants simply don’t work for people struggling with mental health issues. In his book, “Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression,” James Gordon uses his 40-year trailblazing career in psychiatry to bring you a seven-stage process that can work.
Using a combination of nutritional supplements and food, movement, exercise and dance, Chinese medicine, meditation, psychotherapy, guided imagery, and spiritual practice, Gordon shows readers that there are other methods to cope with depression.
- good variety of approaches
- well-structured and supportive
Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: those who believe in God and value spirituality
Pastor and psychotherapist Ryan Casey Waller believes that we are not meant to manage the mental illness we struggle with. In his book, “Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About”, he points out that mental health issues are not a symptom of failing spiritually or lacking faith, and that the battle doesn’t need to be lonely and discouraging as experienced by so many.
Waller combines clinical insight with practical theology and deep empathy, inviting us to talk about mental health without shame and discover why self-awareness is important. He encourages us to explore how psychology, biology, and spirituality intersect and discover different ways to heal.
- helpful perspective on substance abuse
- useful for people who believe in God
- no warning when suicide is discussed
- less beneficial for people who aren’t religious
The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: those who prefer or need to avoid drugs
It’s not a coincidence that depression rates have gone up in our modern, fast-paced society.
In “The Depression Cure,” Stephen Ilardi, PhD, reminds us that human minds and bodies weren’t designed to function well with poor sleeping and eating habits and long work hours.
He takes us back to basics, using examples of techniques to combat depression that are inspired by populations like the Kaluli of Papua, New Guinea, who are still untouched by modern technology.
Ilardi is a clinical psychology associate professor at the University of Kansas and conducts research on mental health and depression. His program, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC), is based on years of clinical research. It revolves heavily around lifestyle changes, such as physical activity and social connection, for antidepressant benefit.
- easy to read and follow
- well thought out
- some tips are obvious or self-evident
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: those looking to bring mindfulness to their lives
Mindfulness is a Buddhist philosophy that began about 2,600 years ago. Psychologists believe real mental health benefits can come from breathing and being in the moment.
J. Mark G. Williams, DPhil, John D. Teasdale, PhD, Zindel V. Segal, PhD, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, are the authors of “The Mindful Way Through Depression.” In it, they emphasize how trying to simply “snap out” of depression can lead to more negative feelings. They also explore other methods of defeating those negative feelings.
Mindfulness comes with so many benefits, including stress reduction, anxiety control, and improved emotional health. This book does a great job of explaining how mindfulness works to combat a negative thought process and how you can use it to help with depression.
- highly informative
- helpful CD
- useful exercises
- little or no real-life examples
The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: those who like to understand how things work
There’s a science behind how depression works. Causes can be biological or circumstantial, or a combination of both, such as brain chemistry, hormones, family history, medical conditions, and substance misuse.
In his book “The Upward Spiral,” neuroscientist Alex Korb, PhD, explains the process in your brain that causes depression.
Using this information, he outlines tips for how you can apply neuroscience research to rewire your brain toward healthier, happier thoughts.
This book is great for people with depression, or for people who just want a better look at how our brains function and deal with different emotions.
- good explanation of reasons and causes
- common sense, logical approach
- repetitive and long
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: those who find happiness in the unconventional
This is a self-help book for people who hate self-help books. Not everyone is wired to respond to the promise of positivity.
“The Antidote” takes a more existential approach. This book explores how embracing some negative feelings and experiences as a part of life can actually be uplifting.
Many people find that some aspects of life like money, romance, and family don’t fulfill them completely. While this certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, this book is written specifically for people whose happiness might revolve around other things.
- helpful and clear writing and storytelling
- new approaches
- too academic
Depression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger from Your Life
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: those looking to lead a natural lifestyle
It’s been said that you are what you eat. Nutritionist Joan Mathews Larson, PhD, believes imbalances and deficiencies are the cause of depression and anxiety. Some vitamins, herbs and supplements and types of food have been found to help those with depression, including vitamin D, the keto diet and certain teas.
In “Depression-Free, Naturally,” she offers tips for emotional healing and suggestions for foods, vitamins, and minerals to boost health and keep depression at bay.
The book allows for self-screening for certain behavioral symptoms, followed by a guided plan to help naturally heal your mind and body and become a healthier person overall.
- lots to learn about useful, well-tested treatments
- doesn’t account for degrees and types of depression
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: those who are looking for various perspectives
Depression isn’t a one-size-fits-all mood disorder. It can affect everyone differently, and “The Noonday Demon” attempts to shed light on that.
Author Andrew Solomon explores depression from several angles, including personal, scientific, and cultural perspectives. His account includes his personal struggle and experience and the experiences of those he’s interviewed, including others with depression, doctors, policy-makers, and drug designers. It also discusses the ethics of biological questions that the illness poses.
Learn why depression and its treatments are so complex according to many different perspectives, including people living with it.
- thorough and well-researched
- various helpful perspectives
- may be too detailed for some
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: those who are looking to break specific negative patterns
Certain negative thought patterns, like guilt, pessimism, and low self-esteem can fuel depression.
In “Feeling Good,” psychiatrist Dr. David Burns outlines techniques to help break out of these patterns by recognizing them and dealing with them.
The book helps guide you into thoughts that help with addiction, mood swings, guilt, hostility, and other negative feelings.
The latest edition of this book also includes a guide to antidepressants and more information on treatment options for depression.
- easy to read
- helpful exercises
- overwhelming amount of information
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: those who want science-backed evidence behind advice
Contrary to the old saying, you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. Did you know this applies to retraining your brain, too? Many of us deal with unhealthy thought patterns that we would greatly benefit from ditching. The good news is we’re able to change our thought patterns. It just takes work.
In his book “Change Your Brain,” psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen uses scientific evidence to provide “brain prescriptions” that help you retrain your mind. For depression, he offers tips to diffuse automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) which lower our self-esteem, make it tough to make decisions, and put a strain on our relationships.
He gives tips on a number of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, and anger, as well as many others.
- practical advice and examples
- useful information about the brain and depression
Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You
- Price: $$$
- Who it’s best for: those who want to break bad habits
“Undoing Depression” takes a practical approach to taking on depression. Richard O’Connor, PhD, a practicing psychotherapist, focuses on the aspects of this condition that are within our control: our habits.
The book offers tips and techniques for how to replace depressive thought patterns and behaviors with healthier approaches.
- holistic approach
- helps with understanding the disease in others
Full Catastrophe Living
- Price: $$
- Who it’s best for: those who want to ease stress and live in the present
In our fast-paced society, it’s easy to overlook the amount of stress and the profound effect it can have on our moods and well-being.
“Full Catastrophe Living” teaches mindfulness habits to help you live in the moment and ease daily stress. The book combines mind and body approaches, like meditation and yoga, to help you reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
- great approach to mindfulness
- long-winded (the CDs are more succinct)
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: those who love a good laugh
“Furiously Happy” is derived from author Jenny Lawson’s years of firsthand experience with depression and other conditions.
While living with severe depression, Lawson managed to find light in the darkness, and she shares that with her readers. As she says, “I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what ‘Furiously Happy’ is all about.”
The book highlights depression and mental illness, as well as Jenny’s focus on the joy she’s found.
- humorous and entertaining yet still educational
- lacks structure
- may seem exaggerated
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
- Price: $
- Who it’s best for: those who love to move
Exercise does more than keep you fit and prevent heart disease. It’s actually a powerful ally against depression and anxiety.
“Spark” explores the mind-body connection to explain how and why aerobic exercise is effective in reducing symptoms from several mental conditions.
The book strives to help readers not only eliminate depression but also increase intellect, enhance memory, lift mood, and conquer stress.
- clear evidence about the benefits of exercise
- a bit repetitive
- technical terms and information
It’s totally natural to feel lonely, sad, or depressed from time to time. These are human reactions to the events and hardships that life throws our way. But, you’ll know it’s time to see a doctor if your feelings of depression:
- turn into suicidal thoughts
- become overwhelming
- last for long periods of time
- cause physical symptoms, such as excessive fatigue, loss or gain of appetite, or lack of concentration
- change how you lead your life
Is reading good for depression?
Reading can be good for depression. It can reduce stress, blood pressure, and heart rate, and it can fight certain symptoms of depression.
Can books trigger depression?
In general, reading books won’t directly cause depression, especially since it’s been shown to boost moods, reduce stress, and provide a mental escape. However, if you have strong connections to trauma, some content may trigger feelings of depression. For this reason, it’s important to check content warnings and make sure that anything you’re reading is something that won’t upset you.
Does reading reduce depression?
Reading can be therapeutic and alleviate depressive symptoms, but it’s not a cure for depression.
Reading about depression can help you understand your own thoughts and feelings.
The books listed here can help you understand how to overcome some negative thoughts you may have, and help you discover how to change your thought process.
Keep in mind that these books aren’t meant to replace the advice and care of a mental health professional. If you find managing your mental health overwhelming, schedule an appointment with a licensed professional.