Fascinating Mental Health Books

If you’re anything like me (and I suspect you might be if you found yourself here in the first place) you enjoy reading about mental illness.  As most of my casual reading is on mental health, I thought I would point you in the direction of some amazing reads.

Bar none, the most fascinating book I have read on mental illness is by Richard Bentall.  His book ‘Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature’ is a wonderful look at mental illness and the many misconceptions surrounding it.  Dr. Bentall has spent most of his professional career working with the severely mentally ill.  He has done extensive work on psychosis which is wonderfully presented in this book.

He explores the science behind hallucinations, voices, paranoia, depression, mania and everything in between.  The great thing about his work is that he does not believe in terms such as ‘schizophrenia, bipolar disorder’ and the like.  He makes an excellent case against the DSM diagnostic criteria of mental illness and does so with passion and poise. Definitely worth checking out for anyone who is interested in psychosis.

Next on the list would have to be Kay Redfield Jameson’s ‘Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.’   Jameson, who is herself a sufferer of manic depressive illness takes a look through time at some of the most creative people who have ever lived on our planet and relates many of their accomplishments to mental illness.  Although she touches on other illnesses such as depression, she focuses mainly on bipolar disorder.  This was actually the book that originally got me interested in mental illness.  Take a look, and prepare to have everything you thought you knew about mental illness torn to pieces.

Also by Jameson is her memoir ‘An Unquiet Mind.’  This is a remarkable memoir detailing her struggles with psychotic mania and violent depressions.  Perhaps one of the most heartfelt biographies I have ever read.

Last on this list is ‘The Day the Voices Stopped’ by Ken Steele.  A lifelong sufferer of schizophrenia, Steele eloquently brings the reader into his mind from madness to hope.  His powerful words are definitely worth reading for anyone who has the debilitating illness or knows someone who suffers from it.  The hope that it provides is monumental as Steele went on to become a leader and speaker on schizophrenia.

Oooh, I almost forgot ‘Electroboy’ by Andy Behrman.   This astonishing account of bipolar disorder is a definite must-read for anyone who is subjected to the illness.  It reads as a fiction story as most of his real life is far stranger than fiction.  Behrman is an activist for mental health and certainly has the life experience to back up his passion.

Hopefully this short list will get you started on your journey to understand the most complex thing on Earth: the human mind.



  1. worddreams said,

    May 6, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Excellent post. I’m going to try several of your suggested books. I have a feeling when man gains a greater understanding of the human brain, we’ll discover that these so-called ‘mental illnesses’ are simply variations in how our complicated brain processes information. We will realize these sufferers are merely outside the norm for what the ‘normal’ person accepts as brain functions.

    Unfortunately, I probably won’t live to see that day!

  2. May 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I’m so happy to hear that you’re going to check out some of these books! Based on your comment, I think you would enjoy Madness Explained the most. Bentall debates that the line between the mentally ill and the mentally healthy is an extremely fine one, that all of us are teetering on daily.

    Happy reading!

  3. May 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    “Madness” by Marya Hornbacher is a good one that I read recently 🙂 I would also highly recommend Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an Epidemic”. He paints a fascinating picture of mental illness in America and puts forward some mind-boggling evidence about psychotropic drugs and the history of psychiatry.

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