5 Books to Close Out Mental Health Awareness Month

Let’s talk mental health books.

Hey everyone! Happy Memorial Day weekend to my US friends, and for everyone else, happy end of May!

Today is the post I’ve been putting together for Mental Health Awareness month, and as I was reviewing the books on my list, I realized two things: 1) I have shared many of these books multiple times before, and 2) I need to read some new ones! So if you have new favorites you’d like to share with me, drop them below and I will add them to my list!

Anyway, here are 5 books I loved that deal with mental health topics (plus one of my own with mental health themes).

Valkyrie by Sophia Elaine Hansen

Sophia Elaine Hansen is one of my favorite contemporary poets. Every one of her poetry books has just gotten better, and it was her book soul like thunder that got me into reading poetry for fun!

Valkyrie, of course, does not disappoint. In my opinion, it is her best work. It deals with a lot of heavy topics, so be sure to read the content warnings if you need to, but they are such powerful, empowering words about difficult times, depression, and overcoming circumstances and past trauma. Highly, highly recommend!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This is one that I have shared over and over again. It’s one of those books that readers seem to either love or hate, but I connected to Cath so hard that I felt every peak and valley of the book. It’s got themes ranging from mental illness in a parent to social anxiety to coming of age, and all of them are handled masterfully, in my opinion. I will never stop loving this book!

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

This is another book I loved that gave me many of the same feelings as Fangirl did. It also deals with a creative person who suffers from anxiety, but it adds in a character with past trauma to be explored in the story as well. I also recently learned that the author sees Eliza as an asexual character, though not everyone agrees with the way she is presented and how it is not explicitly stated in the book.

Regardless, this is a delightful read full of emotional highs and lows, good relationships, and a solid discussion on mental health.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I’ve talked about this one before, too, as well as several other books by this author. This is, I believe, one of her best. It deals heavily with themes of PTSD and family with PTSD, and how deeply it can affect life. It was a heartfelt and intense read, and it is very much worth the time.

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Finally, one of my favorite mental health books is this one, and not just for its gorgeous cover. This is a very real, very moving look at the aftermath of a suicide attempt and the path toward healing. It doesn’t sugarcoat it; Stork does a good job of showing how it actually is, how difficult, how painful. There is no idealizing here. But it also leaves the reader with such a sense of hope and peace at the end.

Bonus: This Cursed Flame by Selina J. Eckert

And of course I want to discuss how Cursed Flame fits into mental health awareness month. Mental health is a hugely important topic to me, very close to my heart. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety throughout my life, and so it often makes its way into my writing.

In Cursed Flame, Janan struggles with some PTSD symptoms as well as intense anxiety that her friend, Safiyya, helps her to cope with… because Safiyya herself has been through similar. It shows how we can use our own pain and struggle to connect with and encourage other people, which is one reason I write.

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Your turn! Tell me what books you read this month with mental health themes or what books are you favorites. Did you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let’s chat in the comments!

My 5 Favorite Books About Grief

Let’s talk about grief.

Around this time last year, I released my first spring fairy tale retelling, and it was a story I didn’t really intend to tell. It centered all around a young woman who was dealing with the loss of a close friend and how it affected the relationships she had around her. It became a story of grief and rebirth, renewal and acceptance, a theme that I think was appropriate both for the season and for the state of the world.

So this year, for part of mental health awareness month, let’s talk about grief books. Next week, we’ll close out the month by talking about my favorite mental health novels.

All That Glimmers by Selina J. Eckert

Yes, I know I’m cheating with this one. But honestly, ATG is one of my favorite grief stories. It made me cry when I was writing it and editing it, it made my betas cry, and it still makes me cry when I hit a certain scene.

Plus, when a beta reader says they hope lots of people read it, not for my sake but for theirs, that means something.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

I’ve mentioned this book before, and I will keep shouting about it. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read dealing with the aftermath of a close death, in this case the main character’s mother, who died by suicide (so, content warning there). It is a real and raw exploration of the people left behind and coming to terms with the world as it is after that person is gone.

I highly, highly recommend this book.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

This one is grief of a different kind, and another book I absolutely love. It deals with the sister of a person who seriously injured a boy when driving drunk and her feelings of guilt around the situation. It’s grief for the change that occurred in her family following this incident – and the incarceration of her brother – and the process she took toward healing and finding herself. A truly beautiful story!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

If you want to talk about powerful books, this is it. This book deals with a LOT of difficult topics, but it is also a story of grief and rising to do something to make the world better because of it. It can be hard to listen to at times, but grief isn’t easy. Pain isn’t easy. And this book certainly does not take the easy way out.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

And finally, to round out the list a little (I shared a lot of young adult novels today), here is a nonfiction memoir of a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail following the death of the author’s mother. It’s a deeply introspective story of family, grief, and rebirth, and especially as a person who loves these kind of nature stories (I also loved Antarctic Tears and A Walk in the Wild…but we’ll save those for another day), this was a really fascinating and thoughtful read.

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So there you have it! I have more books I love that deal with different aspects of grief in different ways, but these are a few of the ones that moved me the most. They are all powerful stories of pain, growth, and self-discovery, and I love that about them.

But I’m interested to know your thoughts. Have you read any of these? Do you have other recommendations? Tell me your favorites in the comments!