Books about depression: what is bibliotherapy?
One of the best ways to overcome depression is to read good books about depression. This article provides a list of some of the best books about depression. Reading self-help books about depression as part of your therapy is called “bibliotherapy,” which is just therapy that comes from books. There are a large number of books on depression, but not all of them are therapeutic to read. In other words they don’t all actually make you feel better.
For example, the book, The Noonday Demon, by Andrew Solomon is an excellent book about what it is like to be depressed. This is a book that has won prizes and it is very well-written and interesting. It is a great book about the experience of depression. However, it is not a therapeutic book. In fact I believe it can be the opposite for some people. Although some might find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in the often crushing despair of depression, some others might find that having it described in painstaking detail only reminds them of their suffering and keeps them “stuck”. I would recommend this book highly to friends and family of someone who is depressed! It is a great book for understanding what a depressed person experiences, but not one of the best books about depression for therapeutic purposes. (continued…)
How to do Bibliotherapy
Obviously, you can work your way through a self-help book any way you like. However, there are some ways to read books about depression that are more likely to be helpful. If the self help book is not a workbook, I recommend getting a journal and writing down thoughts and ideas that occur to you after each reading session. Specifically, what did you learn? How do you think it could apply to your life? If you are seeing a counsellor, you can take these notes to your therapy session to discuss them in more detail.
Sometimes, it is a good idea to read books about depression through once quickly without stopping and then a second time more slowly, taking time to make notes, jot down ideas, and to reflect on how the material affects you. By reading books on depression twice, you can be sure you fully grasp the messages in the book.
Even if you really disagree with or hate something that you read, that is good information. Why? Well, first, it can give you (and your counsellor) an idea of what does NOT work for you. However, also, sometimes when something makes us feel very strongly, that is a sign that we are resistent to a new idea because we find it threatening in some way.
Try to be open to the idea that when a new idea upsets you, it might be because it is actually true for you, but you are not quite ready to face up to it yet. That is why writing down your response to books about depression can be helpful. It is also important to be true to yourself and if an idea really feels wrong, to feel free to reject it. I am suggesting that, before you reject it, you consider the possibility that it is an uncomfortable truth. However, obviously, that is not always the case. Not all books on depression have the same types of ideas about depression or how to treat it, so please be persistent and find what works for you.
Another type of bibliotherapy
The next section lists the best books about depression. However, there is another type of bibliotherapy, which is fiction books that help with depression because they have a cheering effect on the mind. Although they do not address depression directly, such books have a positive and often humorous outlook on life without completely glossing over life’s problems. After the following section about books about depression, there is a section listing fiction for people who are depressed. These books will not magically cheer someone up, but they can provide a welcome distraction, demonstrate a different outlook, and therefore be part of a person’s recovery process. They are great books for people who are not depressed too.
Good books about depression:
- The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness – This is one of the best books about depression. It is about using mindfulness based cognitive therapy to overcome depression. That may sound complicated, but it is really not. Its roots are in centuries old Eastern wisdom, but explained in a modern and relevant way. Personally, my favorite format of this book is the CD only or Audible version because I think that, for many depressed people, it might be easier to just listen to a book than to read one (By the way: try Audible now and get two Free audiobooks (you normally just get one)). The main link is to the regular paperback version with guided meditations on CD. If you only buy one of these books about depression, buy this one since it is probably one of the best books to help with depression.
- Keys to Unlocking Depression: An Internationally Known Depression Expert Tells You What You Need to Know to Overcome Depression by Michael Yapko. I also recommend Breaking the Patterns of Depression also by Michael Yapko. I am excited about this new book about depression because it is very short and delivers only the essential elements that a person needs to recover from depression.
- The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns. This book is one of the classic books about depression and anxiety and I have read it several times. I highly recommend it. It explains cognitive behavioral therapy methods and has a lot of wisdom to offer. It is particularly helpful for those in a mild to moderate depression. Other good books about depression by David Burns include:
- Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky. This is one of the best known books about depression. It provides clinically proven strategies to help manage your mind and the distress that can sometimes take over and cause havoc in your life.
- The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by Alex Korb. This book has been well-reviewed by critics and by people suffering from the illness of depression. Based on the latest neuroscience research, this book provides straightforward everyday tips for rewiring your brain and creating an “upward spiral” towards a happier, healthier life.
- The Depression Cure: The 6 Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs by Stephen S. Ilardi. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking medication when it is needed, this book offers some alternatives. To some people these will seem obvious and trite, but to others, they will be profound and life-changing. Ilardi basically suggests that there are six ancient lifestyle elements that we tend to be lacking in the frenzied pace of modern life and that by returning to those basics, we can overcome depression. There is quite a bit of scientific evidence to back this up.
- How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook by Lee Crutchley. This book about depression has a more whimsical approach to overcoming depression. It is described as “by turns a workbook, trusted friend, creative outlet, security blanket, and secret diary”. This is designed to help readers view things in a new way, and rediscover simple pleasures and everyday joy.
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Although technically, this is not a book about depression, this is an excellent resource for creative people who are depressed. In this now-famous book, Julia Cameron has come up with a way for artists to recover themselves one step at a time.
- The CBT Toolbox: a Workbook for Clients and Clinicians by Jeff Riggenbach. This one sounds technical, and in a way it is. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy to teach you how to overcome unhealthy life patterns, providing fresh and proven approaches to help overcome depression. Even though this book is not just about depression, I think it is one of the best books about depression because it is in a workbook format and it is when you get your “feet wet” actually doing exercises and writing that you start to really benefit from bibliotherapy. That is what this book encourages. Interestingly, people who read this site order this book more than any other one.
- Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lada McGinn. This is one of the books about depression that is geared mainly towards therapists, and it is a little more expensive, but it is packed with “tools for treating the most common clinical problems encountered in outpatient mental health practice”. Besides basic information on depression and the six major anxiety disorders, step-by-step instructions for evidence-based assessment and intervention are provided along with illustrative case examples. The book and CD also include reproducable handouts and forms.
Those are some very good books about depression. If you know of any other good ones, please write about them in the comments section below. There are, of course, many other books about depression, but I wanted to boil this list down to the very best books that would be most helpful to someone who is suffering from this illness. I hope they help.
Bibliotherapy: fiction for people who are depressed
As I mentioned earlier, another type of bibliotherapy is fiction that is light and enjoyable without glossing over life’s troubles.
There are really three types of bibliotherapy or books to help with depression. The first is what I suggest in this article, which is to read self-help books that are books about depression and how to overcome it. This can be a very productive way to help yourself emerge from a depression. Many of these excellent books about depression are available in audiobook format as well, so if you don’t feel up to reading, that is an option.
The second type of books to help with depression are books, whether fiction or non-fiction, about people who have gone through depression themselves. Some people find this to be extremely therapeutic while others find it even more depressing. To my way of thinking, this is good for the family and friends of those who are depressed because it helps them to understand what the experience of depression is like.
Lastly, some books help with depression because they have a cheering effect on the mind although they do not address depression directly. One such series is The Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith. I recommend it highly to anyone, whether you are depressed or not. There is something uplifting about this series. Reading books such as the ones in this series, books that lift your mood, is another form of bibliotherapy, and I will be writing an article about books such as these that help lift your mood in the near future.