Jerry Pinto’s remarkable book, Em and The Big Hoom, won the Windham-Campbell prize earlier this year. It explores mental health in an intimate setting and leaves behind a deep impression.
We need more books like Em and The Big Hoom in order to spread awareness about mental health which is spiked by a lot of stigma and preconceived notions, even today. Things are changing; Pinto’s win is proof.
Here’s tracing some of the best books on mental health over the years, both fiction and non-fiction–
1. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
This book got converted into a major motion picture starring Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller. And for good reason. The Perks of Being a Wallflower deals with a teenager’s battle with depression as her tries to successfully navigate through the lanes and bylanes of high school life. It covers feelings of anxiety and conquering low self-esteem and psychological defense mechanisms. It is Charlie’s story and is deeply moving, you’ll find yourself going back to it again and again, for its depth and poignancy.
2. The Curious Incident Of The Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
“Sometimes we get sad about things and we don’t like to tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes, we are sad but we really don’t know why we are sad, so we say we aren’t sad but we really are.”
An absolutely delightful book, the 2003 mystery novel will give you a lot of food for thought. While no specific disorder has been stated in the book, it explores looking at the world with a different set of eyes, about being different and feeling like an outsider. A lot has been discussed, ideas have been tossed around. Most people feel that The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time examines Asperger’s syndrome or autism.
3. Em And The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
“Love is never enough. Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself. You can only stand outside it as a woman might stand outside a prison in which her lover is locked up. From time to time, a well-loved face will peer out and love floods back. A scrap of cloth flutters and it becomes a sign and a code and a message and all that you want it to be. Then it vanishes and you are outside the dark tower again.”
This is a gripping novel with such lingering sadness; you’ll be drawn to it immediately. Set in Mahim, the plot examines the lives of the Mendeses. A family of four, they try to raise each other up when mental illness comes calling. There are dark moments, and beautiful moments you’ll re-read simply because you didn’t want to forget. It’s a sensitive and brutally honest portrait of mental illnesses, a must-read.
4. Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho
“Collective madness is called sanity …”
Paulo Coelho is perhaps best known for The Alchemist but this one is a hidden gem. It tries to answer the difficult questions most of us are plagued by, at some point in our lives. What is the purpose of our lives? The protagonist has it all but yet, she feels a strange kind of emptiness. She attempts to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. The story unfolds after that and makes you feel everything and nothing. It’s thoughtful and extremely insightful.
5. Looking For Alaska by John Green
“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”
This one comes from a genre that has gained a lot of attention in the last few years – Young Adult. It’s funny, honest and filled with paragraphs you’ll want to mark as keepsakes. Teenage angst, escapism, depression – it traverses through a dark territory full of unknown dangers. It is the story of Miles and Alaska, an adorable, insightful story of love and loss.
6. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
“The only way to beat my crazy was by doing something even crazier. Thank you. I love you. I knew it from the moment I saw you. I’m sorry it took me so long to catch up.”
A major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as well as a fascinating novel – The Silver Linings Playbook is emotionally challenging. It deals with a separation; Pat and his wife are estranged. He’s struggling to cope with everything life’s throwing at him. It’s convoluted, witty and charming. Brace yourself for a roller-coaster as you delve into Pat’s mind, trying to decode a plethora of things at the same time.
7. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
“Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified. If you ever told a lie and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child forever.”
A best-seller that won many accolades, Susanna Kaysen’s memoir looks at her experiences as a patient in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s. She was admitted for borderline personality disorder. Kaysen managed to get her file at the hospital after asking a lawyer to intervene. Her story was told on celluloid, a movie starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. Evocative and unapologetically truthful, you’ll take a lot back with you after putting this book down.