Want to understand depression? Here are the ten books I recommend most strongly:
- Manufacturing Depression: The secret history of a modern disease. Greenberg, G. (2010). An excellent book on how the diagnosis of depression has evolved. It’s a sharp, and often funny, critique of the biomedical approach to depression.
- The Happiness Trap: How to stop struggling and start living. Harris, R. (2008). A great self-help book, which presents the perspective of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I am generally skeptical about self-help books, so I don’t recommend it lightly!
- The Antidepressant Era. Healy, D. (1999). A fascinating and authoritative history. If you want to understand how antidepressants were discovered and marketed and the scientific and economic forces that entrenched antidepressants as the mainline treatment for depression, read this book.
- The Loss of Sadness: How psychiatry transformed normal sorrow into depressive disorder. Horwitz, A. V. & Wakefield, J. C. (2007). This presents the thesis that the epidemic of depression is not real but rather results from a broadened diagnosis of depression. I recommend it as a stimulating read even though I disagree with the thesis.
- An Unquiet Mind: A memoir of moods and madness. Jamison, K. R. (1995). This is still the best memoir about bipolar disorder, written by a leading bipolar disorder researcher.
- Speaking of Sadness: Depression, disconnection, and the meanings of illness. Karp, D. A. (1997). A brilliant sociological account of what it means to be a depressed person in the modern world, told through interviews with 50 patients.
- The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the antidepressant myth. Kirsch, I. (2011). Presents compelling analyses showing that antidepressants only have modest efficacy. If you want to understand the science of clinical trials, read this book.
- Rethinking Depression: How to shed mental health labels and create personal meaning. Maisel, E. (2012). Bold presentation of an existentialist perspective on depression. You will never think about depression the same way after reading it.
- The Noonday Demon: An atlas of depression. Solomon, A. (2002). A beautifully written compendium that integrates personal, cultural, and scientific perspectives on depression.
- Darkness Visible. Styron, W. (1992). Still the best memoir about depression. It contains searching and haunting descriptions of the descent into depression by literary master William Styron.
Does my book The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic belong on this list? Time will tell. I am certainly biased, so please check out the opinions of PT Bloggers Kashdan, Pruchno, and Bergland. Ultimately, people like you will decide.