Though I’ve featured novels with psychiatric/mental illness themes before I have never dedicated an entire post to them. The human psyche is so interesting because of how fragile it truly is. Below are a selection of my favorite novels and memoirs about mental illness and those who treat it.
Dreaming for Freud by Sheila Kohler
A retelling of Freud’s famous Dora, Dreaming for Freud is riveting and disarming. Getting into the head of Freud and Dora puts the case in a whole new light. Plus, anything blurbed by Joyce Carol Oates and Amy Tan is good enough for me!
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Creepy, voyeuristic and impeccably written, The Virgin Suicides is an interesting representation of life after suicides. The book has all the sensuality of Sofia Coppola’s film with more story and substance.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Long before Gone Girl became a sensation, I picked up Sharp Objects and fell hard for Flynn’s writing. I even did a featuring her for my high school creative writing class! Sharp Objects is a mystery but with a twist, the detective suffers from a mental illness. As the mystery unfolds you begin to realize the book is much more an unraveling of the narrator’s mystery than it is a solving of a crime.
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
I’ve spoken elsewhere about this novel, but it’s hold on psychology warranted a mention. Every Psych 101 student hears about the strange Sybil case and learns to debate diagnoses by going through its rocky history.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Last but certainly not least is the book that is beloved by high school and college girls everywhere. Plath captures the frenzy and despair of being young and suffering in her remarkable prose. Every time I read this novel I find myself discovering new meanings and nuances — on my top ten favorite books of all time!