- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - Mrs. Dalloway is a novel set over the course of a single day, following high-society woman Clarissa Dalloway as she finishes final preparations for a party, and reflects on her life choices, and the day of First World War veteran Septimus Smith as he struggles with depression and PTSD after witnessing the death of his friend.
The duality of Clarissa and Septimus is believed to show the difference between her inner thoughts, represented by Septimus, and the self she presented to the world, Clarissa. Woolf suffered from Bipolar disorder from the age of fifteen and described her own mind as “buzzing, humming, soaring, diving and then buried in the mud”. Themes of mental illness are often explored in Woolf's works, with Mrs. Dalloway being one of her most famous.
* Mrs. Dalloway has also been adapted into a movie and inspired The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
Note: This novel includes frank discussions and themes of suicide and death.
Find Mrs. Dalloway at the library.
- Watership Down by Richard Adams - Originally told as stories to his two young girls on long car rides, Watership Down follows the journey of two rabbit brothers, Fiver and Hazel, to Watership Down, a hill in the north of Hampshire, England, near the area where Adams grew up. From the summary, it probably sounds like a wholesome story, but it's anything but. The novel opens with Fiver, an anxious rabbit who suffers from visions he sees during epileptic seizures, witnessing a vision of the warren's imminent destruction by humans. After he and Hazel fail to convince the chief rabbit of the validity of Fiver's vision, the two leave for Watership Down and encounter other rabbits and animals along the way who struggle with their own personal issues, as well as with issues within their society.
* Watership Down has also received a movie adaptation, TV series, miniseries, and even a roleplaying game named "Bunnies & Burrows."
Note: This book includes graphic descriptions of violence and animal death.
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- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys - A feminist and anti-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea describes the background to Mr. Rochester's marriage from the point-of-view of his mad wife Antoinette Cosway, a Creole heiress who is dubbed the "madwoman in the attic" in Brontë's novel. The novel follows Antoinette from her childhood and being forced to marry a rich Englishman who forces her to become a maid to save the family, as she grows up and is slowly driven "mad" by the situation she has been confined to in the attic.
* Wide Sargasso Sea has received multiple adaptations, including a film and a song by Stevie Nicks.
Note: Wide Sargasso Sea includes themes of abuse, mental illness, and misogyny.
Find Wide Sargasso Sea at the library.
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - Told from the perspective of Esther Greenwood, a woman who gains a summer internship at a magazine in New York City, but finds herself unhappy and disoriented rather than excited, as she felt she would be. Upon returning home to Massachusetts, she finds herself continuing to struggle emotionally and academically. The novel follows Esther as she struggles to get the help she needs to move forward and heal mentally.
* The Bell Jar has received multiple film adaptations.
Note: The Bell Jar contains discussions of suicide, sexual assault, and medical abuse.
Find The Bell Jar at the library.
YA and Children's Literature
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - This book follows the life of Christopher John Francis Boone, a fifteen-year-old boy who is implied to be on the autism spectrum. He lives with his father and is still processing the death of his mother when he discovers the body of his neighbor's dog, Wellington, speared with a garden fork, and comes under suspicion for the dog's murder. Taking it upon himself to investigate Wellington's death despite the anxiety, depression, and social difficulties he is struggling with and discovers that getting justice for Wellington will mean uncovering more secrets than he ever imagined.
* The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has also been adapted for the stage, and a movie adaptation is planned, but has not been produced as of 2020. A Bengali-English adaptation of the novel has been filmed by Sudipto Roy called "Kia and Cosmos." The gender roles of the characters are reversed, and it centers around the killing of a cat called Cosmos.
Note: This book includes graphic descriptions of animal death, as well as depictions of emotional and physical abuse.
Find The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the library.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - Told in letters addressed to an unknown friend, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows 15-year-old Charlie as he struggles with the suicide of his only friend from middle school and the death of his favorite aunt, as he tries to help his two friends, Patrick and Sam, with their own personal issues, and tried to come out of his own shell.
* The Perks of Being a Wallflower has also been adapted into a film.
Note: The Perks of Being a Wallflower includes descriptions of suicide, PTSD, sexual abuse, child abuse, drug use, homophobia, and institutionalization.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is available via Inter-Library Loan
- Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume - Intended as the male coming-of-age companion to Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, Then Again, Maybe I Won't follows twelve-year-old Tony Miglione as he struggles with the stress of his parents moving from their average, working-class life to one of much higher stature after his father sells an invention. He watches his parents change fundamentally and feels neglected, as he struggles to understand changes within his body and mind. To make matters worse, he discovers his new friend, Joel, isn't exactly the well-behaved kid he appears to be in front of grown-ups, and he finds himself developing feelings for Joel's big sister. An empathetic and realistic look at both puberty and at the realities of how much damage anxiety can do to an adolescent, Then Again, Maybe I Won't is an excellent read for those going through a difficult transition in their life.
Note: Then Again, Maybe I Won't includes discussions of underage drinking and dangerous behavior as well as voyeurism.
Then Again, Maybe I Won't is available via Inter-Library Loan.
- The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt - A children's novel told from the point of view of Dolphin Westward, a young girl who believes her quirky, tattooed mother Marigold is "the most magical mother in the world." Her older sister, Star, however, feels differently. Marigold's erratic behavior, a drinking problem, and wild tattoos embarrass Star, who knows this isn't normal. When Star's father comes back into the picture, she jumps at the chance to live with him and invites Dolphin to come, but Dolphin stays local to her magical mother, even as she falls apart due to the loss of Star.
The Illustrated Mom has been commended for accurately depicting Bipolar disorder, particularly through the eyes of a child who isn't able to fully understand what is happening. Additionally, Dolphin is struggling with depression due to bullying and dyslexia that cause her social isolation at school.
Note: The Illustrated Mum contains an implied suicide attempt as well as discussions of child abuse and neglect.
The Illustrated Mum is available via Inter-Library Loan.
Mysteries and Thrillers
- Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - This novel centers around Libby Day, a woman struggling with PTSD, depression, kleptomania, and with drug use after the murders of her mother and sisters as a child in the 1980's, of which her brother, Ben, was convicted. He was convicted in part due to the Satanic Panic surrounding child abuse and violence in the United States around the time of the murders, as he was a teenager interested in metal and gothic styles who hung around with "the wrong crowd." The novel is told through the perspectives of Libby Day, in the present, as well as through her mother and brother's perspectives in flashbacks.
In need of money, Libby joins a group of amateur sleuths who offer to compensate her for looking further into the murder, believing that her brother is innocent. In agreeing, she is forced to confront her worst memories but is also provided with a way she can move on, get closure, and the proper support for her difficulties.
* Dark Places has also been adapted into a film.
Note: Dark Places contains graphic depictions of violence, as well as discussions of dangerous behavior, drug addiction, child abuse, and bleak descriptions of poverty. Dark Places is likely the most disturbing book on this list, and it is strongly recommended that it be approached with caution.
Find Dark Places at the library.
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - Told from the perspectives of three women, Rachel, Anna, and Megan, all of whom have their own secrets and struggles. Rachel is an alcoholic who is having difficulty adjusting to being single after her husband leaves her for Anna. Each day, she takes a train ride past her old house, where Anna and her ex Tom, now live with their child Evie. She also fantasizes about the daily lives of a couple she sees a few doors down, Megan and Scott, whose lives she images to be perfect, until one day, she sees Megan kissing another man. Shortly after, Rachel blacks out and comes to injured, and learns Megan has gone missing, and she becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about what happened to Megan, and whether or not her blackout is connected to the events.
* The Girl on the Train has also been adapted into a film.
Note: The Girl on the Train contains heavy discussions of alcoholism and drug use, domestic abuse, adultery, and child abuse.
The Girl on the Train is available via Inter-Library Loan.
- Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett - This novel follows the life of Jessa-Lynn, a Floridian taxidermist hiding her depression and grief as she tries to keep her family, and family business, afloat following the suicide of her father. In addition to this, Jessa and her brother are also processing the voluntary disappearance of her brother Milo's wife, Brynn, who they were both in love with. While it may sound a bit bleak, Mostly Dead Things is considered a dark comedy, laced with humor, memorable characters, and the hope of new love.
Note: Mostly Dead Things includes a graphic depiction of suicide, as well as elements of PTSD, a mental breakdown, drug addiction, adultery, and sexual activity.
Mostly Dead Things is available via Inter-Library Loan.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - Told from the perspective of Eleanor, a finance clerk and social misfit dealing with past trauma, instability, and a manipulative mother. Even though it is obvious that she is struggling and having a difficult time adapting, she insists she is "completely fine." Eleanor also develops an obsession with Johnnie Lomond, the lead singer in a band she won tickets to see, convinced they are destined to be together, and begins to follow him on social media, even as a real-life connection starts to develop with a colleague.
Note: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine contains discussions of child abuse, stalking, suicide, and alcohol abuse.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is available via Inter-Library Loan.
- Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty - Nine Perfect Strangers follows nine guests from very different walks of life, such as a famous romance novelist and an average married couple, who have decided, for their own personal reasons, to attend a 10-day "Mind and Body Total Transformation Retreat" at a resort called the Tranquillum House run by an eccentric woman named Masha. As the retreat begins, guests start to notice that something about the retreat is "off," and become unsettled. Throughout the retreat, each guest's past is revealed, as well as their reasons for coming, and each begins their own healing journey amid the bizarre circumstances they have been thrust into.
Note: Nine Perfect Strangers contains discussions of drug abuse, suicide, severe depression, and alcohol abuse.
Nine Perfect Stranger is available via Inter-Library Loan.
Note: If you are not on campus and would like to request an eBook or print version of a book on this list that is only available on campus, you can request the book via Inter-Library Loan