If you're like me and acquired a love of books from your middle school English teacher, you have probably heard the saying “reading opens up a portal to a new world.” In middle school, the books I read opened up a portal to a fantasyland consisting of witches, castles, and dragons. Though I still indulge in the occasional story about evil dragons, lately, my favorite books have opened up a portal to the world of mental health. Keep reading to see members of the Boston College community recommend their favorite mental health-oriented novel or memoir and explain why it is worth the read.
1- Good Morning Monster by Catherine Gildiner
In Good Morning Monster, therapist Gildiner recounts the therapeutic experiences of five of her “most memorable” patients. Two of the "heroes" Gildiner includes in her novel are a man of Native American origin who was deculturalized by the Canadian government and a woman whose mother greeted her by saying “good morning monster” every single day. Recounting her conversations with these patients and their life experiences, Gildiner explains the hurdles each person faced on their road to recovery. As a reader, I found bits and pieces of my personal struggles in all the patients discussed. This book is rated 4.5/5 on Goodreads, but it truly deserves a perfect score.
2- Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who's Been There by Tara Schuster
Schuster calls herself the “ninja of self-love,” which is well reflected in her novel full of mantras that she has used to change her life. This self-help book emphasizes values of gratitude, shaping your beliefs, and creating a life you love, and everyone can benefit from reading it. Teresa Knestout, LSEHD ‘24, says her favorite part of Schuster's novel is her emphasis on creating a “vision board." Knestout reports that after reading this book, she has been encouraged to “think about where my self-esteem comes from, and things about myself that I want to come true.” Knestout claims, “I love the personal way the author wrote this. It felt like a friend chatting over coffee.”
3- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Recommended to me by a children's clinician, this memoir by Lori Gottlieb is the most honest account of mental health I have ever read. Gottlieb explains how every therapist has “a hard patient,” and how in her own path to recovery, she realizes that she is “the hard patient” for her therapist. This book is charming and hilarious; it reveals that even people who appear to have their lives together still struggle tremendously.
4- Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasglow
This novel follows the story of Charlie, a teenager who is placed in a group home for girls who self-harm. This book is full of twists and turns and shows that the path to recovery is not linear. Jasmine Zhang, CSOM ‘24, states that “this book tackles hard truths. It is a story of learning to be gentle with oneself.” If you liked this book, check out Glasglow's other novels, How to Make Friends With the Dark, and You’d be Home by Now!
5- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Niven brings readers to full-on sobs in her novel All the Bright Places. The plot follows the friendship and love of Finch and Violet— two teenagers who meet on the ledge of a bell tower. As the characters spend time together, the story that leads them to the bell tower unfolds. Sofia Lind, LSEHD ‘24, states that this story is the “perfect book for self-reflection, and displays the need for humans to lean on others when they are struggling.” Though you will need a box of tissues if you decide to pick this up from the library, I promise you it is worth the read.
In books surrounding mental health topics, we can view characters as versions of ourselves who are struggling to become the best versions of themselves. Open up the portal, and try out one of these books. We promise, you won’t regret it.
If you or a friend is struggling with mental illness and are seeking resources on campus, read about BC provided services here. You are not alone.