16 Mental Health Books for Tough Days, Good Days, and Every Day in Between
by Sonya Matejko
Today more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, and we’re only just starting to break up with the taboo on mental health. In the meantime, we do what we can — and we learn to let that be enough. Of course, some days will be easier than others, while some weeks will make you feel like you’ve lost all progress. But nothing is ever truly lost, and the below collection offers a diverse array of answers, methods, and stories of inspiration to help you get found. From overcoming trauma to battling burnout, consider this a mental health resource you can turn to no matter what troubles you. And whether you find this list on a tough day, a good day, or someday in between, remember that you are not alone on this daily journey. (After all, none of these books would exist if everything and everyone were perfect.)
Go from constantly feeling on edge to feeling enchanted with Enchantment. For if you feel like you’re in a world that’s harsh, ever-changing, and stressful, May’s book invites you to find subtle wonder between all the overwhelm. Through her empathetic and lyrical storytelling, May guides you to discover rest and ease in your daily life by helping you reconnect with the quiet environment around you. The Washington Post calls the book a “gentle inspiration for those who feel exhausted or helpless,” and it’s a wonderful addition to your bookshelf for when you’re feeling depleted.
Boundaries are key for maintaining balance, especially when life feels unbalanced. What do boundaries really look like, though, and how can you express your needs without hurting anyone? Licensed counselor, sought-after relationship expert, and influential therapist on Instagram, Nedra Glover Tawwab, demystifies boundaries in this best-selling book. Set Boundaries, Find Peace offers simple-yet-powerful ways to help you establish healthy boundaries in all aspects of life through a relatable and inclusive tone. Pick this up to end the struggle and speak up for your needs.
Over half of Americans experience burnout, but burnout is statistically more likely to affect women. In this groundbreaking book, sisters Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski explain why women experience burnout differently than men and provide a simple, science-based plan to help women minimize stress, manage emotions, and live more joyfully. And instead of asking you to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between you and your well-being, these two sisters explain with compassion and optimism what women are up against — and show you how to fight back.
Chart a clear path to release inner child wounds, unlearn fear, and remember love so you can enjoy inner peace daily with this book from best-selling author and spiritual teacher Gabrielle Bernstein. Inside these pages, Bernstein explains why most people feel frozen in mental health patterns that make them unhappy and provides nine transformational yet untapped techniques for peace and genuine happiness. A powerful book for releasing trauma, Happy Days can show you how to become the happiest person you know — and it may just be the catalyst you’ve been looking for.
Sometimes anxious days call for humor. Enter: Love Poems for Anxious People, a hilarious collection from Thurber Prize-winner John Kenney on, well, poetry for anxious people. In his collection, Kenney covers it all, from awkward social interactions and insomnia to nervous ticks and writing and rewriting that one email. As the New York Times bestselling author of Love Poems for Married People and Love Poems for People with Children, Kenney knows how to speak to the particular intricacies of daily life and bring light-hearted humor into the sometimes-chaotic picture.
Ever responded to a quote with, “I really needed this today?” Then this is for you. From New York Times bestselling author and beloved Today Show co-host Hoda Kotb comes an inspiring collection of quotes that offer wisdom, courage, and hope. In I Really Needed This Today, Hoda shares 365 motivational sayings and quotes. Hoda also writes about the people and experiences that have pushed her to challenge boundaries, embrace change, and explore relationships to their fullest. Written with her signature wit and warmth, keep this book around for the days you need it.
From best-selling author Kate Bowler, Good Enough is a compassionate, intelligent, and wry series of Christian daily reflections on learning to live with imperfection in a self-help culture that promotes continuous progress. Co-author Jessica Richie and Bowler offer 40ish short spiritual reflections on making sense of life not as a pursuit of endless progress but as a chronic condition. Think of Good Enough as a permission slip if you need to hear that there are some things you can fix — and some things you can’t — laced with humor and gentle encouragement.
When the silver lining feels too hard to find, look for the microjoys instead. In Microjoys, Cydnie Spiegel teaches you the untapped practice of uncovering joy and finding hope at any moment. And while microjoys don’t change the truth of loss or make grief any more convenient, learning how to see them will allow you to temporarily touch joy when you need it most. Through a series of inspiring essays and thoughtful prompts, Spiegel helps you spot joy to keep you afloat in difficult times and sustain you in your everyday life.
It’s common for survivors to feel like they’ve lost themselves to trauma, and it can seem impossible to find the upside of an experience that’s so devastating. If this resonates, You’re Going to Be Okay provides ways to heal to help you find yourself and maybe even become an improved version of yourself. This hopeful and approachable book comes from the creator of @HealingFromPTSD, Instagram’s largest trauma healing community. In each chapter, Madeline Popelka shares an insight she gained along her healing journey that shifted her perspective, comforted her, reduced her shame, or helped her feel less alone.
Named by The Washington Post as one of the best feel-good books of the year, The Comfort Book is for anyone in search of hope, looking for a path to a more meaningful life, or in need of a bit of encouragement. Written by Matt Haig, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Midnight Library, The Comfort Book is a collection of notes, lists, and stories written over several years that initially served as gentle reminders to Haig’s future self that things are not always as dark as they may seem. If you want an uplifting and reassuring read, this is it.
In Lighter, Yung Pueblo demonstrates how you can move forward in your healing by letting go of the heaviness that holds you back. The book follows yung pueblo’s path to healing after years of drug abuse had taken a toll on his mind and body. As he searched for his way forward, he found that honestly examining and addressing the anxieties and fears he’d been running away from was how he went from a stranger to his heart and mind to a friend. Beyond showing you a path to healing, Lighter also shows you how you too, can contribute to building a structurally compassionate world where everyone feels lighter.
In this riveting and timely memoir, Elaine Welteroth unpacks lessons on race, identity, and success through her journey of shattering glass ceilings. As a young boss and often the only Black woman in the room, she’s had enough of the world telling her — and all women — they’re not enough. In More Than Enough, Welteroth explores what it means to come into your own — on your own terms. A soon-to-be TV series, Refinery29 calls this “an essential read for women in the workplace today,” while Entertainment Weekly dubs it the “millennial Becoming.” Pick it up ASAP.
Author and founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, asks you to imagine if you lived without the fear of not being good enough. Inspired by her popular TED Talk, in Brave, Not Perfect, Saujani shares her powerful insights and practices to help you let go of your need for perfection and make bravery a lifelong habit. She explains how, by choosing bravery over perfection, you can find the power to claim your voice, leave behind what makes you unhappy, and go for the things you genuinely and passionately want. Stop playing it safe, and start being brave with this title.
by Mercedes Acosta, Karen Jialu Bao, James Bird, and many more
Ab(solutely) Normal is a powerful and uplifting collection of fiction in which sixteen exceptional authors subvert mental health stereotypes. While this book is categorized as Teen & Young Adult, many of us didn’t have the opportunity to talk about mental health enough in our teenage years, and it’s never too late to talk about it now. In this courageous and hope-filled mixed-genre collection, the diverse authors draw on their own lived experiences with mental health conditions to create stunning works of fiction that will uplift and empower you, break your heart and stitch it back together stronger than before.
Brain Energy could change your life if you or someone you love is affected by mental illness. Author and Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Chris Palmer pairs cutting-edge science with practical advice and strategies to help people reclaim their mental health by outlining a revolutionary new understanding that mental disorders are in fact metabolic disorders of the brain. Brain Energy also sheds light on the latest treatment pathways for several mental disorders, from anxiety and depression to ADHD and alcoholism. In this book, Palmer puts together the pieces of the mental illness puzzle to provide readers with answers — and offer hope.
Brought to you by bestselling author, Harvard professor, and The Atlantic’s happiness columnist, Arthur Brooks, From Strength to Strength is a guide for finding purpose, meaning, and success in the second half of life. Brooks calls out that little-spoken truth that the greater our achievements and our attachment to them, the more we notice our decline, and the more painful it is when that happens. If you find yourself nearing or in the second half of your life, Brooks’ book will help you refocus on your priorities through deep wisdom, detachment from empty rewards, connection and service to others, and spiritual progress to set yourself up for increased happiness.