Best Books for Depression: Read Your Way Out

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How can reading help you fight your way out of depression? What are some of the best books for depression that can help you get out of a slump? 

When you’re depressed, reading books may be the last thing on your mind. But reading can have a substantial impact on your emotional health by exposing you to new ways of thinking and healing opportunities available to you.

Below is our roundup of the best books for depression to help you heal and cultivate a positive outlook. 

Best Books for Depression

When it comes to depression, antidepressants are an attractive option. But if your depression stems from a deeper place than a chemical imbalance in the brain, antidepressants are unlikely to be an enduring solution. That’s why antidepressants are often combined with psychotherapy, which aims to bring about a change of perspective.

However, psychotherapy is not the only way to glean a new perspective, not to mention that it’s not accessible to everyone. If you’re feeling depressed and hopeless, reading positive literature can help you gain a greater understanding of your situation and start working towards a resolution. To help you on your healing journey, we’ve rounded up the best books for depression from our library: 

An Unquiet Mind

Mental health disorders affect millions of people and often lead to the tragic loss of life through suicide. The pain and suffering that accompany mental illness are difficult for those unafflicted to understand. Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist living with manic-depressive disorder, has attempted to bring awareness to those experiences in her memoir. By divulging the violent, frenzied, and dangerous aspects of her disease, Jamison hopes to create more understanding about mental illness and more empathy for those who struggle to exist in the normal world.

TITLE: An Unquiet Mind
AUTHOR: Kay Redfield Jamison
TIME: 30
READS: 99.3
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: an-unquiet-mind-summary-kay-redfield-jamison

The Gifts of Imperfection

Released in 2010, The Gifts of Imperfection is a New York Times bestseller by researcher, speaker, and author Brené Brown. The book explores the theory and practices behind “Wholehearted living”: a concept Brown devised after years of research into shame, vulnerability, and self-worth. According to Brown, living Wholeheartedly will help you to cultivate worthiness: the conviction that you are good enough as you are and that you deserve to be loved.

TITLE: The Gifts of Imperfection
AUTHOR: Brené Brown
TIME: 42
READS: 112.4
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-gifts-of-imperfection-summary-brené-brown

The Power of Positive Thinking 

In The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith and a positive mindset. This self-help classic outlines the practical techniques of applied Christianity to help you take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them.

TITLE: The Power of Positive Thinking
AUTHOR: Norman Vincent Peale
TIME: 40
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-power-of-positive-thinking-summary-norman-vincent-peale
AMZN_ID: 743234804

The Art of Happiness

In The Art of Happiness, you’ll walk with the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize winner and spiritual leader of Tibet, down the Buddhist path toward happiness. According to him, you have the power to bring more happiness into your life by simply training yourself to be happier. We’ll discuss his four forms of happiness training, which will improve your outlook on life, interpersonal relationships, resilience in the face of suffering, and everyday spirituality.

TITLE: The Art of Happiness
AUTHOR: Dalai Lama
TIME: 37
READS: 78.6
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-art-of-happiness-summary-dalai-lama

The Fifth Agreement 

In The Fifth Agreement, don Miguel Ruiz and don Jose Ruiz describe five “agreements” to make with yourself that adjust the way you see the world and your place in it. According to the authors, these agreements are a series of intuitively common-sense principles we are all aware of, but which few of us actually practice. Those who have mastered the five agreements, the authors say, completely accept themselves as they are, and accept everyone else as they are—and the result is eternal happiness.

TITLE: The Fifth Agreement
AUTHOR: Don Miguel Ruiz
TIME: 37
READS: 72.7
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-fifth-agreement-summary-don-miguel-ruiz

Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance is a meditative practice wherein we acknowledge what we’re experiencing—positive or negative—and welcome it. Tara Brach, a practicing psychologist and devout Buddhist, discusses how we can use Radical Acceptance to live our lives more fully by always bringing our full attention to the present moment and accepting it for what it is. You’ll learn how we get trapped in the stories we tell ourselves, and how Radical Acceptance can bring us out of the trance.

TITLE: Radical Acceptance
AUTHOR: Tara Brach
TIME: 40
READS: 103.4
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: radical-acceptance-summary-tara-brach

Lost Connections

You may have learned that a chemical imbalance in the brain causes depression, but that’s only part of the story. Biology lays the foundation, but trusted sources like the World Health Organization agree that your life experiences and the society you live in are the biggest causes of depression. In Lost Connections, journalist Johann Hari investigates the psychological and social factors that contribute to mental illness (which he calls “disconnections”), as well as innovative social and environmental treatments for depression (or “reconnections”).

TITLE: Lost Connections
AUTHOR: Johann Hari
TIME: 45
READS: 66.4
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: lost-connections-summary-johann-hari

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond

Do you ever find yourself in stressful situations, rationally knowing you shouldn’t be stressed? Have you stopped wishing you’d think self-defeating thoughts, mustering more courage to do the things you’ve wanted to do? You might find elements of cognitive behavioral therapy to be useful. Cognitive behavioral therapy: Basics and Beyond is one of the best books for depression you can read: CBT has been found to be as effective as medication in treating many mental disorders. 

TITLE: Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond
AUTHOR: Judith S. Beck
TIME: 27
READS: 22.6
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: cognitive-behavior-therapy-basics-and-beyond-summary-judith-s-beck

Eat Pray Love

Elizabeth Gilbert’s life imploded after she filed for divorce from her husband when she was 30 years old. She was still reeling from their contentious separation when she fell in love with someone else. But when this love ended, she fell into a deep depression. She knew something drastic needed to happen to save her life. She decided to embark on a year-long journey to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find pleasure, spiritual guidance, and harmony in her soul. Eat Pray Love depicts Gilbert’s journey of survival and transformation. It is the story of her learning to move out of the darkness and into the light.

TITLE: Eat Pray Love
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Gilbert
TIME: 47
READS: 54.9
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: eat-pray-love-summary-elizabeth-gilbert

Emotional Intelligence

Do you constantly get swept away by your emotions? Would you like to learn how to control your emotional reactions at home or at work? Or maybe you’re uncomfortable with emotions, and don’t understand why you or anyone else feels them? Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is a comprehensive look at what emotions are and why we have them, how we can get better at managing them, and why the well-being of humanity might depend on us doing so.

TITLE: Emotional Intelligence
AUTHOR: Daniel Goleman
TIME: 52
READS: 50.6
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: emotional-intelligence-summary-daniel-goleman

The Happiness Trap

In The Happiness Trap, therapist and life coach Russ Harris argues that humans are hardwired to relentlessly pursue happiness. We’re caught in a happiness trap, where the harder we try to be happy, the less happy we become. Harris contends the answer to happiness and fulfillment is practicing the techniques of ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The techniques—rooted in behavioral psychology and mindfulness—help you escape the happiness trap by accepting painful thoughts and emotions as part of life, while clarifying and living your values.

TITLE: The Happiness Trap
AUTHOR: Russ Harris
TIME: 68
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-happiness-trap-summary-russ-harris

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson argues that we are frustrated in life and feel like failures because we value and prioritize the wrong things, pursuing emotional highs that don’t lead to lasting happiness. The solutions are counterintuitive and include: be wrong, fail, tolerate feeling bad, accept pain, and practice rejection. Because we can’t care equally about everything, we need to carefully choose what we give our f*cks about.

TITLE: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
AUTHOR: Mark Manson
TIME: 30
READS: 38.4
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-subtle-art-of-not-giving-a-f-ck-summary-mark-manson

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

In this bestselling classic, Dale Carnegie offers timeless advice and practical methods for cultivating a happier, more worry-free mindset. Carnegie explains the cause of worry and why it’s important to take control of it, and walks you through his methods for eliminating it from your life. You’ll come away knowing how to overcome worry by focusing on the present, come up with constructive solutions to your problems, and prevent criticism, work, or finances from triggering worry.

TITLE: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
AUTHOR: Dale Carnegie
TIME: 33
READS: 127.9
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: how-to-stop-worrying-and-start-living-summary-dale-carnegie

The Power of Now

The Power of Now proposes that the only way to reach true peace and fulfillment is through being completely present in each moment you experience. There is a part of our mind, called the ego, that derails us by ruminating on the past, speculating about the future, and clinging to our painful experiences, and insisting that we will be happy and fulfilled if we can just achieve this goal. Eckhart Tolle reveals that inner peace and happiness can’t be found in anything external, but rather must be found within by being present. 

TITLE: The Power of Now
AUTHOR: Eckhart Tolle
TIME: 28
READS: 30.1
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-power-of-now-summary-eckhart-tolle

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind

In the self-improvement classic The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Joseph Murphy claims that all of your life experiences are the result of the interaction between your conscious and subconscious minds: Your subconscious mind creates your life experiences according to your habitual conscious thoughts and ingrained beliefs. Murphy argues that you can dramatically improve your life experiences by using your conscious mind to imprint positive thoughts and beliefs upon your subconscious mind.

TITLE: The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
AUTHOR: Joseph Murphy
TIME: 37
READS: 91.9
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-power-of-your-subconscious-mind-summary-joseph-murphy

The Happiness Equation 

Happiness has many benefits—it positively impacts your attitude, your chances of success, and the circumstances that play out in your life. Despite knowing this, many people find it difficult to feel consistently happy. In The Happiness Equation, best-selling author Neil Pasricha claims you can overcome this difficulty by training yourself to feel happier. He explores common obstacles to happiness and provides solutions that help boost your enthusiasm for life.

TITLE: The Happiness Equation
AUTHOR: Neil Pasricha
TIME: 14
READS: 62.8
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-happiness-equation-summary-neil-pasricha

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is a parable centered on Julian, a hotshot-lawyer-turned-monk, and his former colleague John. Julian shares with John what he’s learned from studying with a near-mythological group of monks in India who know the secrets to enlightenment. His lessons teach how to live a simple, fulfilling, and happy life.

TITLE: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
AUTHOR: Robin Sharma
TIME: 38
READS: 102.9
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-monk-who-sold-his-ferrari-summary-daniel-j-siegel-and-tina-payne-bryson

Final Words

Depression is more than just having a bad day—It affects your whole life, draining your energy, dampening your motivation, and sucking out all hope. When you are depressed, you may feel like there is no escape: Depression narrows your perspective, making you think there’s no point in even trying.

One way to start regaining a positive outlook is to read. Reading the best books for depression can help spur a change in your perspective through a relatable story or faith in a higher power. Some books also teach practical reframing strategies used by mental health counselors and professional psychotherapists. 
If you want to check out our guides to the best books for depression listed above, head over to our library. And if you have any book suggestions to add to the above list of the best books for learning, let us know in the comments!

Best Books for Depression: Read Your Way Out

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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