10 Books that Showcase Mentally Ill Characters - Reading List

10 Books that Showcase Mentally Ill Characters

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

10 Books that Showcase Mentally Ill Characters - Top Ten Tuesday List on Reading List

Over the years there have been many genres I've read, and then walked away from as my taste change. And in some genres, there are patterns of writing, the type of character authors use to tell their stories are different in most genres. But on "type" of character that needs to be represented more, especially in this era of focus on diversity, are those with mental illnesses.

There are so many different mental illnesses around, and the severity even more wide-ranging.  While many are quick to say they know about mental illness, many do not understand- mostly because it is an area of the science and medicine that is always under study and research.

I keep going back to books that portray at least one character with a mental illness in a light that is close to reality - I have shared Running Lean and The Memory of Light in past years if you are curious... but today I'm putting together a wide variety of genres that truly show of mental illnesses in all its varied forms...

10 Books that Showcase Mentally Ill Characters - Top Ten Tuesday List on Reading List

While I know that many of these books might have trigger points for some people, that doesn't mean they should be avoided.  Mental health and mental illness can easily be brushed aside while one is healthy and happy.  But the most important aspect of reading, and reading a ton, is learning to experience aspects of humanity through a different lens.  A good author will give the reader a glimpse into a life that the reader would never see... or a glimpse into their own life that they try desperately to hide as they are sure they are the only one with such a view.

Since reading diverse books is all the rage right now, don't forget that diversity also includes mentally ill.

10 Books that Showcase Mentally Ill Characters

  1. The Memory of Light by Francisco X Stork  - Vicky is the main character in this, and she is suicidal, truly... The story follows her struggle along with a cast of others who are struggling with different mental illnesses in a modern setting.  
  2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas - While Feyre appears to the true heroine from A Court of Thorn and Roses, this book clearly portrays her struggle with PTSD in a truly fictional, fantasy world.  While this one isn't as real as some on the list, it's current, and for some who are struggling to pull through traumatic events, these stories can give comfort in a promise of a future of joy.
  3. By Your Side by Kasie West - Autumn struggles with anxiety - not to the level that calls attention to her every moment of the day, but enough that she misses out on normal high school kid activities.  Kasie West does a fine job of sharing an illness that impacts many teens, yet they all walk around fearing they are the only ones.
  4. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg - Deborah suffers from schizophrenia... the story follows her time spent in a mental health institution after her parents no longer know how to care for her in their own home.
  5. The Artisan's Wife by Judith Miller - Ainslee is the main character, but her interest in a local mental hospital adds depth to this story, especially once she realizes Levi's brother is in the hospital.  This book is more of a glance into how far medical care of the mentally ill has come in the last few decades.
  6. Under a Million Stars by Rita Branches - Charlotte, Charlie, suffers severe depression through this book. Rita Branches pulls the reader right into the midst of true depression over the loss of loved ones and starting life over again.
  7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - Melinda, a high school student, returns to school after surviving a horrible rape during a school party... the story follows her inability to voice her experience, and how the classmates turn on her as she stops speaking.  The use of art as outlet is wonderfully portrayed in this raw emotional story.
  8. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner - This story often gets a bad rap as it opens with a section by Benjy Compson - who has many obvious disabilities and cannot express his thoughts like one would expect, as a result many readers put this book down and walk away.  But this is a wonderful portrayal of how hard times and mental illness compound the issues and a whole family can suffer.  While each of the Compson kids has their own mental issues, Quentin should be the focus, as his spiral down only ends when he ends it all.
  9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - It is clear that Hazel is suffering from terminal diseases... but she also clearly describes her struggle with anxiety because of her illnesses.  This extreme set up is a wonderful glimpse into the lives of one who struggles with poor health all around.
  10. Harry Potter by JK Rowling- This one might be a stretch, but many agree... Luna displays many signs of autism. And while she is a minor character, the fact that Harry and his friends make friends with Luna, even in her uniqueness, speaks volumes of this mental illness.  

BONUS-   Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - It doesn't take long while reading Mrs. Dalloway to realize that Clarissa is full of her own unique personality traits, don't miss Septimus- and the fact that this classic is still so highly regarded speaks volumes.

Call out to hosts

Thank you, The Broke & the Bookish for this fun weekly prompt and chance to interact with the Bookish Blogger community. 

Many of these, like I said earlier, have triggers... it comes with the territory of writing a story that showcases an aspect of humanity that isn't perfect or pretty.  But most of these books allow the reader to see into a world they might never see otherwise.

10 Books that Showcase Mentally Ill Characters - Top Ten Tuesday List on Reading List

Alright, I know I missed some... who would you add?  Have you read any of these? What did you think?

**If you are considering purchasing any of the books mentioned on this post, please consider using the Amazon affiliate link- it doesn't cost you anything extra, and it would simply make my day!!  In fact, just click through any of the book images and do your shopping, even if you decide not to get this particular book- know that these links do not cost you money and will provide me with a small kickback. TIA

You Might Also Like


  1. This is a popular topic today and rightly so -- there definitely should be more books about people with mental illness. I always learn something from these types of books. Empathy, if nothing else. Great list!

    1. Empathy is such an important attribute that so many do not have - books do teach it marvelously

  2. Mental illness is something I have suffered with for a very long time, so I love seeing it done well in books. Some recent faves: How to Disappear by Roat (anxiety), The Art of Feeling by Tims (depression), A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Sutherland (multiple), Love and Other Alien Experience (anxiety) -- to name a few. And It's Sort of a Funny Story really resonated with me.

    1. Hi Sam, thank you for adding to my list! I love seeing more books that can display these illnesses for others to learn from

  3. I'd like to read more books that focus on or showcase mental health issues too. By Your Side looks like a great one as many people might read it and realize they're not alone, like you say. Nice list.

    1. Exactly - I like seeing main stream books include a true aspect of even the less obvious side of mental illness so the discussion can happen in new circles if nothing else. Thank you


I love comments!!

Let me know what you thought of this one... don't forget to share your blog link so I can stop by!

Like me on Facebook