Literature has the power to make us feel seen, even in the darkest of times. Through the power of words, we can escape, we can travel, we can laugh, and we can cry. There is every type of human emotion conveyed within a book.

Reading can also be an excellent form of self-care. It can help you to unplug from the world, rest and recharge your mind and potentially even learn something new!

In honour of National Reading Day 2021, we have selected six books that deal with the topics of mental health, suicide and self-care for anyone out there looking to get out of a reading slump and is interested in exploring or understanding mental health further. Let’s work together to help start an open and honest conversation so that we can continue to #SmashTheStigma around mental health and suicide.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Themes: Trauma, Sexuality and Mental Illness.

The novel is a beautiful tribute to what it is to be young, idealistic, and alive. It takes the form of a series of letters which document the titular ‘wallflower’ Charlie’s attempts to navigate through the uncharted territory of high school after losing his best friend to suicide. He writes to us about his first encounters with dates, sex, drugs, and provides some stellar song recommendations that perfectly capture his journey through the novel.

101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna Wiest

Themes: Self-Care, Wisdom, and Advice.

This book is a compilation of the deeply moving and philosophical writings of Brianna Wiest. It features pieces on why you should pursue purpose over passion, embrace negative thinking, find wisdom in daily routine, and become aware of the cognitive biases that are creating the way we see our life. The advice is not patronising and doesn’t promise magical and unrealistic solutions to problems. It simply speaks words of wisdom, that are raw, true and sensible.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Themes: Life and Death, Mental Illness and Friendship.

The novel follows Miles Halter’s relationship with Alaska Young and brings to light all the things that we can never completely understand, in how someone with a mental illness feels inside. The beauty of the book lies in its honesty, it showcases an unfiltered look at what young love and growing up is like. How the characters communicate, their relationships with each other, their pasts and the pleasure that comes with being a bad kid is compelling, something that may help other young readers assess their place in the world and how they deal with one another.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Themes: Wisdom, Advice and Self-Help

At the age of 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He was experiencing significant depression and could see no way to go on living. The book is Matt’s true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Themes: Suicidal Thoughts, Psychiatric Medicine and Gender Roles

Written in the early 1960s, the story follows Esther from winning an internship at a New York fashion magazine to spiralling into depression and eventually attempting suicide. She grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women’s aspirations seriously.

Plath was so concerned about the closeness of her novel to her own life that she published it under a pseudonym, Victoria Lucas (just as in the novel Esther plans to publish her novel of her life also under a pseudonym). It only appeared under Plath’s real name in 1966, three years after she died by suicide.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to be Calm in a Busy World by Haemin Sunim

Themes: Mindfulness, Wisdom and Advice

In this guide to mindfulness, Haemin Sunim, a Buddhist monk, shares some wonderful nuggets of wisdom and advice on everything from handling setbacks to dealing with rest and relationships. The book combines Sunim’s teachings with calming illustrations for you to paint or colour in – time to unleash your inner artist! Sunim’s message is simple, he speaks directly to the anxieties that have become part of our modern world and reminds us of the strength and joy that can come from simply slowing down and pressing pause.

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Reading can provide a fantastic mode of escape, which is particularly needed in these trying times. Whilst we know it’s tempting to get everything on next day delivery using your Amazon Prime account, if possible, why not buy your next book from an independent bookshop?

Like many small businesses, independent bookshops are struggling with falling customer numbers as a result of the coronavirus crisis. With the new lockdown restrictions, they have been forced to move to an online-only service. This could be your perfect opportunity to perform an act of kindness and support your local bookshop.

The Bookshop website is a socially conscious alternative to Amazon that allows readers to buy books online while supporting their local independent bookseller. The website sells books under the flag of more than 150 independent UK booksellers.

We hope you find these suggestions of value, but please remember our selection is not intended to be the final word. There are many other good books out there that discuss the themes of suicide, mental health and self-care and in any case, we recognise that what is helpful for one person is very subjective and often depends on personal circumstance. But perhaps the best way to close the book on 2020, would be to open up a new one, so why not start today?

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