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5 Books to Read When You’re Feeling Down

We all feel down sometimes, and the reasons behind our mental state and emotions can vary greatly. One thing that most of us search for when feeling down is simply a distraction or a way to feel slightly better, if only temporarily. My favorite way to escape is through books. I love reading anything from fantasy to non-fiction, but here are some books that especially helped me when I was going through hard times.

1. Reasons to Stay Alive — Matt Haig

One of my favorite books, Reasons to Stay Alive is an inspiring and great pick-me-up book. Matt Haig discusses his experience with depression and anxiety in a way that is raw and relatable, even if you do not suffer from any mental illnesses. According to Goodreads, this book “is both inspiring to those who feel daunted by depression and illuminating to those who are mystified by it.” The book alternates between short chapters of anecdotes and metaphors and pages of inspiring words and quotes. If you or someone you know is being plagued with depressive thoughts or tendencies, this book should be next on your to-read list.

2. Unholy Ghosts: Writers on Depression – Edited by Nell Casey

Unholy Ghost is a collection of twenty-two essays about depression. Writers such as Susanna Kaysen, author of Girl, Interrupted, appear in this book, speaking on everything from their own experiences with suffering from depression to what it is like being married to or living with someone who has depression. It gives multiple perspectives on depression and is described in one review on Goodreads as “an exploration of all sides of the illness, from inside and outside, from before and after, from searching to knowing.” I recommend this book to anyone who is suffering from any mental illness, because the very nature of the essays in this book can make you feel less alone.

3. It’s Kind of A Funny Story—Ned Vizzini

This is a YA coming-of-age novel that revolves around a teenage perfectionist who finally caves under pressure and is required to spend some time in a mental hospital. It is a very touching read by Ned Vizzini, who also spent some time in a mental hospital. It is described as a “remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.” While the author himself lost his fight with depression in late 2013, I still believe this book can be a beacon of hope to anyone who reads it.  

4. The Catcher in the Rye—J.D. Salinger

This novel might be familiar to most, as it is a common book read in high school English classes. It is an excellent novel written from the perspective of an angsty and rebellious teenage boy. Even if you were required to read it in high school, I highly recommend picking this book back up and re-reading it as an adult. While this may not explicitly mention depression or mental health, it is a good insight into the brain of a teenager that gives the reader a chance to form their own opinion on Holden Caulfield. Can you relate to him? Do you find him hypocritical? Is he a lazy, unmotivated kid, or is he just confused and scared?

5. Depression and Other Magic Tricks—Sabrina Benaim

Depression and Other Magic Tricks is a collection of poems by Sabrina Benaim. She is the author of "Explaining Depression to My Mother,” a poem which has picked up a huge following, with over 5 million views on YouTube. Her debut book covers topics such as mental health and wellness, love, family, and struggle. It is very well-written and touching, especially to those who can relate. If novels aren’t your thing, I’d recommend giving Depression and Other Magic Tricks a read.

Reading books and poetry is a great to not feel alone. Whatever you’re going through, someone else most likely can relate. I hope this list gave you a few ideas on your next read! 


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Leanna, originally from New York City, is a student at Boston University.
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