Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey. You basically get a new topic every Wednesday, and you list your Top 5 books related to that topic. Head over to the Goodreads group, and add your name to the list of Wednesday-ers if you’re interested in participating!
Today’s topic is “Books that Deal with Mental Illness.” This is such a brilliant topic. As an Applied Psychology major, I often wonder about how media and literature portray mental illness, and I’m not happy about what I find. Often, mental illness is stigmatized or stereotyped. And worse than that, it is often glorified. This needs to stop, because mental illness, contrary to what ignorance might lead you to believe, is a serious issue. Good, relatable and honest portrayals are very important, so this topic and post is in honor of that.
5. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
This book is important in a number of different ways. Firstly, it deals with mental illness very light-handedly, and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. Often, books revolving around mental illness can become very hard to digest. They’re very heavy and leave you with a weight on your chest, and this book isn’t like that at all. It’s funny, but it’s still an honest portrayal of depression. The characters are relatable and unique, and the writing is thoughtful.
But what makes the book important is Ned Vizzini, who battled with depression most of his life. Unfortunately, Mr. Vizzini committed suicide in 2013. Knowing that and reading this book packs a punch, because it’s completely honest. And uncensored, and sincere. And even though Ned Vizzini is no more with us, he left a piece of literature behind that can hopefully lead to the betterment of society’s treatment of mental illness.
4. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
This might be an unconventional choice, because mental illness doesn’t play a huge role in this book. And I don’t think a lot of people even consider the mental illness in this. If you didn’t know, this book revolves around a school shooting. There are multiple perspectives, including the victims of the shooting as well as the perpetrator and his family. I think post-traumatic stress disorder plays a role in this book. And what’s interesting is that you’d expect the victims to have PTSD, but I would argue that the shooter has it as well. Before AND after the shooting.
This book is brilliant. It IS very hard to digest, because it focuses on such a difficult issue, but I think it’s important. Because it offers insight into something we don’t always consider. I’m going to refrain from saying more because what I mean can only be understood by reading this book. Go read it.
3. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
This is another one where the mental illness isn’t outright stated, but I would argue that our protagonist, Leonard Peacock, has clinical depression. This book is about Leonard, who on his birthday, decides to kill his former best-friend and then himself. The book takes place over the course of one day as Leonard sets out on his ‘errand.’ Matthew Quick pieces together Leonard’s past.
This is an extremely sad book. I wept like a baby at the end, but Quick portrays depression with the utmost tenderness. He emphasizes how important it is for someone in Leonard’s position to have a support system. Critically, this may not be the best mental illness book out there, but I think it’s an outstanding book nevertheless.
2. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
I read this very recently, and I didn’t LOVE it, but I definitely appreciated it for its portrayal of mental illness. My main problem with this book was the lack of a cohesive plot, so it received a three-star rating. But if I were to rate this book solely on its portrayal of mental illness, it would be beyond five stars. I’m not going to say what mental illness this focuses on because it may be a spoiler, but I loved the way Filer brought us to the reveal. It’s subtle and brilliant– it leads the reader to piece together everything that has happened so far. It’s definitely a winding, twisting, confusing reading because of the nature of our protagonist’s illness, but that’s what makes it so brilliant- the brutality of it, the sheer honesty with which it is written.
1- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I think some people might disagree with me about this one, mainly because it relies on a very controversial branch of Psychology. Freudian theory is something some people don’t take seriously anymore, but I think this book does a great job of portraying it. Charlie is very young – a freshman in high school. He’s starting his year after spending some time in a psychiatric clinic because of his depression due to his best friend’s suicide. Charlie is trying to get out of his social anxiety and meet people, make more friends. But something isn’t quite right in Charlie’s life.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I love this book. It focuses on so many different issues, and despite it being an extremely short read, it gives them all the attention and justice they need. Charlie is a character I very much related with- he’s shy, quiet and awkward. And if you think about it from an outsider’s point of view, he seems like a totally normal person. But then you wonder- you never really know what a person is dealing with unless you’re in their head. Or, in this case, unless you read their diary. I wish Chbosky would write something else- he’s such a brilliant author.