A Few Books to Read When You’re Depressed That Aren’t Self-Help

As far as depression goes, there’s a lot more of us suffering than we sometimes feel.

If it’s anything like mine, you’ve made a few trips to Google to ask “how to stop being depressed” or to let the internet know that “no one understands.” 

If you’ve done this, you know the search results aren’t very pleasing. Saying positive things to the mirror and drinking copious amounts of water aren’t actually fix-alls. 

Adopting new perspectives is already hard, and therefore much harder when you’re stuck in the tunnel-vision of depression. With that said, I have the great and terrible fortune of loving to read. It will never make me money, but it has shown me some stories that have gently shifted my perspective when I needed it most.

Here are just a few books to read when you’re depressed that aren’t annoyingly self-helpy.

1. The Midnight Library

Our regrets take a big toll on our mental health. Oftentimes, we catch ourselves imagining what our life could be like had we made one different choice. For me, that looks like if I had just applied myself more and hustled through college, or if I had kept my mouth shut in more than a few situations. 

But what if we didn’t just imagine these possibilities? If we could have a taste of the lives we could’ve lived with different choices?

In The Midnight Library, Nora gets to do just that. In a decisive moment, she finds herself between life and death, able to pick for herself which version of her life is worth living.

The whispered messages about living with our regrets are gently mind-shifting. This book has offered me a huge perspective change, and taught me a bit about quantum physics, somehow, along the way.

2. A Man Called Ove

This one is a literary favorite of many. A Man Called Ove transports you inside the mind of the type of bitter old man we all love to hate. 

This book helped me be a bit nicer to myself, as well as to others. After all, you never know how life is treating someone behind the rough exterior you’re able to see. You learn to love Ove, and feel a bit less lonely in the process. There’s nothing like the contradictory feelings of wanting to be alone and feeling overwhelmingly lonely at the same time to define the nuances of depression– and this dear old man knows exactly how it is.

3. Britt-Marie Was Here

Britt-Marie Was Here is written by the same author as A Man Called Ove. Coincidentally, (or not) Fredrik Backman is my favorite author. This book starts with a cheating husband and the wife he’s held back for countless years. Britt-Marie carries regret and a wish to really matter to someone in a way we can all relate to.

Britt-Marie is harsh, nagging, and a bit annoying. She manages to piss a lot of people off. At the same time, however, she learns a lot about who she can be and who she can love.

This book will make you laugh and yell at the pages at the same time. The answers for Britt-Marie seem so obvious to the reader– and might be more applicable to real life than you think. 

4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I know, all too common of a recommendation. This book was so acclaimed that I refused to read it for a while just because it was getting so much hype. When I finally picked it up, I quickly understood why it deserved so much attention.

Eleanor Oliphant is wacky and out of touch. She dissociates completely from the things that hurt. She steps out of her comfort zone sometimes, and completely spirals at others. She fixates on what she should feel, and doesn’t always notice what she really does.

Eleanor is relatable to a depressed person in a very strange way, and it’s completely lovely. Experiencing her slow but sure healing process is a beauty in its own right, and really helped me out of my own bad place.

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