Depression: 10 Books Which Aid Understanding

We’ve written posts about videos and illustrations which aid understanding of depression, and now it’s time for the humble ol’ book to make an appearance.

We love books – they allow us to digest information at our own pace. To bookmark, highlight, re-visit, share with a friend and cherish.

Books Which Aid Understanding of Depression with text

We asked our Peer Support Group and our Reading Group, to share with us the books which helped them to understand depression better.

1. I Had a Black Dog*, by Matthew Johnstone

Blurb: There are many different breeds of Black Dog affecting millions of people from all walks of life. The Black Dog is an equal opportunity mongrel.

  1. It was Winston Churchill who popularized the phrase Black Dog to describe the bouts of depression he experienced for much of his life.

Matthew Johnstone, a sufferer himself, has written and illustrated this moving and uplifting insight into what it is like to have a Black Dog as a companion and how he learned to tame it and bring it to heel.

  1. Gilly Bolton I had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone is my all time favourite because it explains everything so clearly. Some of the cartoons are heart rending. It’s a good one to get others to read because of the clarity of the message.

  1. 2. Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression*, by Sally Brampton

Blurb: Shoot the Damn Dog blasts the stigma of depression as a character flaw and confronts the illness Winston Churchill called ‘the black dog’, a condition that humiliates, punishes and isolates its sufferers. It is a personal account of a journey through (and out of) severe depression as well as being a practical book, offering ideas about what might help. With its raw, understated eloquence, it will speak volumes to anyone whose life has been haunted by depression, as well as offering help and understanding to those whose loved ones suffer from this terrifying condition.

  1. Becky Jones Shoot the damn dog by Sally Brampton. It’s a personal memoir of her experiences of depression but not just a story of her. I liked her style of writing as it was like being spoken to. She really shows that she understands what depression is like, she offers hope, understanding, some practical advice and it’s easy enough to read too with the occasional quote from others as well x

  2. Naomi De Vries It was very honest and real. Some parts were quite sad and i almost wanted to shout; You will be ok, just accept help, look after yourself!! Some parts i was nearly in tears and some parts i did skip, but overall it was good.

  3. Hayley Glenister It was the only book I’ve ever read that I felt like it was someone who really knew how I felt. It wasn’t full of medical jargon or false hope. It was a realistic view of depression.

  4. 3. Reasons to Stay Alive*, by Matt Haig

Blurb: Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

“I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.”

  1. Bryony Nelson Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig would be my favourite. He goes through his experience brilliantly, tells the reader what worked for his recovery and what didn’t and remained positive through the whole book. Great for anyone struggling with mental health.

Gilly Bolton Such clarity in the writing and because the chapters are short, you don’t get overwhelmed by too much text. I have bought copies for friends.

  1. 4. Furiously Happy*, by Jenny Lawson

Blurb: For fans of David Sedaris, Tina Fey and Caitlin Moran comes the new book from Jenny Lawson, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Let’s Pretend This Never Happened…

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has – quite literally – saved her life.Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. Furiously Happy is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. And who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

    1. Jo Savage Furiously happy by Jenny Lawson was a real inspiration to me to own my depression and prompted me to write my own blog 🙂 It made me think about my depression differently, instead of letting it take me over, I started to embrace it and allow myself to have the bad days and not feel bad about them. It was a totally different way of looking at it for me, and helped me embrace what I call my ‘crazy’ too! It made me feel much less alone with it all and that’s what prompted me to share my experiences.

  1. 5. Counselling for Toads: A Psychological Adventure*, by Robert de Board

Blurb: ‘Toad’, the famous character in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is in a very depressed state and his good friends Rat, Mole and Badger, are ‘worried that he might do something silly’…

First they nursed him. Then they encouraged him. Then they told him to pull himself together… Finally, Badger could stand it no longer. That admirable animal, though long on exhortation, was short on patience.

‘Now look here Toad, this can go on no longer’, he said sternly. ‘There is only one thing left. You must have counselling!’

Robert de Board’s engaging account of Toad’s experience of counselling will capture the imagination of the growing readership of people who are interested in counselling and the counselling process. Written as a real continuation of life on the River Bank, Toad and his friends come to life all over again.
Heron, the counsellor, uses the language and ideas of transactional analysis as his counselling method. Through the dialogues which make up the ten sessions, or chapters of the book, Toad learns how to analyse his own feelings and develop his emotional intelligence. He meets his ‘rebellious child’ and his ‘adult’ along the way, and by the end of the book, as debonair as ever he was, is setting out on a completely new adventure. As readers learn about Toad, so they can learn about themselves and be encouraged to take the path of psychological growth and development.

Best-selling author, Robert de Board says: ‘Toad’s experiences are based on my own experiences of counselling people over a period of twenty years. Counselling for Toads is really an amalgamation of the many counselling sessions I have held and contains a distillation of the truths I have learnt from practice.’

Appropriate for anyone approaching counselling for the first time, whether as a student or as a client, or for the professional counsellor looking for something to recommend to the hesitant, Counselling for Toads will appeal to both children and adults of all ages.

  1. ANON Love, love, love this book. Basically an intro to transactional analysis…a fantastic pastiche of Kenneth Graham, it explains counselling as a method of processing psychological distress with Toad as the depressed client and Heron playing the role of counsellor

    I couldn’t put it down!

  2. ANON Oh, I’ve read this. Years and years ago. I used it to help me get my head around TA when I was training in integrative psychotherapy.

  3. 6. Boy Meets Depression: A Memoir*, by Kevin Breel

Blurb: Note to Self: When you feel f&*ed up: Stop. Breathe. Talk to someone. Tell them stuff. Stop being an a*shole and thinking you’re going to get through it alone. Problems are like broken pipes: they need a person to fix them. Oh, and clean your room, you filthy animal.

Kevin Breel burst into the public’s awareness when at 19 his TED talk became a worldwide phenomenon. Through the lens of his own near suicide, he shared his profoundly vulnerable story of being young, male and depressed in a culture that has no place for that. BOY MEETS DEPRESSION is a book that explores what it means to struggle and tells an honest, heartfelt story about how a meaningful life isn’t found in perfection, it’s found in our ability to heal and accept the dark parts of ourselves.

  1. Annabelle Holder Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Live by Kevin Breel is really inspiring and very well written. I think he’s also a comedian which helps add some humour to quite a dark subject.

  2. 7. Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong (3rd Edition): Volume 3 (Overcoming Common Problems)*, by Tim Cantopher

Blurb: This book has helped many thousands of those who have depression. This new edition, written by a leading consultant psychiatrist, explains that depression tests the strongest of us. Dr Cantopher guides the reader through the nature of depression, its history, symptoms, causes and treatments. He covers the latest information on medications, new guidelines as to the management of depression, and stresses that no one should be to blame for succumbing to depression.

  1. Gilly Bolton Another one which is a bit more text booky is Depression: The Curse of the Strong by Tim Cantopher. First thing I read which made me feel a bit less of a failure. Really clearly written, some science that is well explained and not too long either. Again…I have given copies to friends…

  2. Jayne Hardy That’s the first book I ever read about depression and it helped me to see it as an illness rather than my fault.

    8. Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing*, by Vidyamala Burch and Dr Danny Penham

    Blurb: Pain, suffering and stress can be intolerable – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Mindfulness for Health reveals a series of simple practices that you can incorporate into your daily life to relieve chronic pain and the suffering and stress of illness. Clinical trials show that mindfulness is at least as effective as the most commonly prescribed painkillers such as Tramadol and codeine. A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience demonstrated that it is more effective than morphine. Mindfulness can also significantly reduce the anxiety, depression, irritability, exhaustion and insomnia that can arise from chronic pain and illness.

    This new book shares the secrets of the Mindfulness-based approaches to pain and illness therapy, developed by Vidyamala Burch at the Breathworks centre in Manchester and which has its roots in the groundbreaking work of pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn from the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre in the US. The Breathworks Centre and its affiliates around the world have helped thousands of people cope with pain, illness and stress. Its pioneering approach is praised by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Professor Lance McCracken of King’s College London.

    1. The eight-week programme at the heart of this book takes just 10-20 minutes per day. It is particularly effective for the biggest causes of pain – back problems, arthritis, migraine and diabetes but works equally well for cancer (and its associated chemotherapy), heart disease, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS, labour pain and even tinnitus. You will be surprised by how quickly your suffering melts away, leaving you able to live life to the full again.

    Naomi De Vries As well a book that is really helping me on the road of recovery is Mindfullness for Health by Danny Penham. It helps me understand me more about pain and thought processes. I still use the guided meditation everyday and it seems to help me. I still have pain and sad days, but can deal and recognize it better.

    9. Saved by Cake*, by Marian Keyes

    Blurb: Learn to bake with Britain’s favourite women’s fiction author, Marian Keyes – author of Watermelon and Anybody Out There – in her startlingly honest cook-book Saved by Cake.Saved by Cake gives an extremely honest account of Marian Keyes’ recent battle with depression, and how baking has helped her. A complete novice in the kitchen, Marian decided to bake a cake for a friend and that was it – she realized that baking was what she needed to do in order to get her through each day. And so she baked, and she wrote her recipes down, and little by little the depression started to lift, along with her sponges…

    With chapters on cupcakes, cheesecakes, meringues and macaroons, chocolate cakes, fruit cakes and favourite classics, Marian’s recipes are aimed firmly at beginner bakers, offering hints and tips to help along the way. Never patronizing, always honest and witty, accessible and full of fun, the bakes and cakes that Marian serves up in this cookbook will put a smile on your face and make you happy. From her Consistently Reliable Cupcakes and Very Chocolately Macaroons, to the ease of her Fridge-set Honeycomb Cheesecake, you will want to have a go at making all of Marian’s recipes. The shoe and handbag biscuits particularly. Very covetable. Very Marian.

    ‘Medically speaking, there is no such thing as a nervous breakdown. Which is very annoying to discover when you’re right in the middle of one. Whatever was going on with me, I had to wait it out. I had to find ways of passing the time until I was restored to myself again. So I baked a cake – a chocolate cheesecake, as it happens. And I enjoyed making it so much that I baked another. And another’ – Marian Keyes.

    1. Phillippa Pagett This is a weird one, but I have got Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes. It is actually a recipe book which she wrote to help her recover from depression, but there is a lovely intro which explains her experiences, and the recipes are a practical way to help recovery x

      10. Rising Strong*, by Brené Brown

      Blurb: The physics of vulnerability is simple: If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. This is a book about what it takes to get back up and how owning our stories of disappointment, failure, and heartbreak gives us the power to write a daring new ending. Struggle can be our greatest call to courage and Rising Strong, our clearest path to deeper meaning, wisdom and hope.

      Lisa Hallifax ‘Rising Strong’ by Brené Brown. It offers such a beautiful explanation on the nature of courage and vulnerability.

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