Whether you live with bipolar or love someone who does, you can find comfort, wisdom, and strategies (maybe even a good laugh!) in these inspirational books.
We can lose ourselves in the power of the written word, compelled by the raw emotions, deep insights, and humorous takes offered by others like us—people who share our experiences with bipolar but come from different walks of life and have their own unique perspectives.
The books below range from the first-person memoir of one man’s sudden psychosis, his bipolar diagnosis, and his journey to stability, to a Pulitzer Prize finalist’s journalistic approach to understanding his son’s bipolar and unraveling the legal and mental health industries.
When we need a glimpse of our peers’ successes and challenges to fuel our ambition, build resilience, and inspire us to keep moving forward and triumph with bipolar, these are the authors to turn to. With them, we learn and take to heart that we are not alone, and there is always a reason to hold onto hope.
Broken Open and A Better Life
By Craig Hamilton (Bantam Books, 2004; Allen & Unwin, 2012)
On the eve of the biggest event of his career, covering the Sydney Olympics, Australian ABC sports broadcaster Craig Hamilton experienced a “break.” He never made it to the Olympics and was later diagnosed with bipolar. In his first book, Broken Open, Hamilton details the experience—the warning signs he had missed, insights into his mind, and his gradual journey toward stability. His tale continues in the inspiring follow-up, A Better Life. Focusing on the vitally important shifts Hamilton made to his lifestyle to manage bipolar and overall health, A Better Life is, at its core, a story of hope. A story of finding yourself at the bottom of a deep, dark pit, then finding your way back.
Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, is an accomplished woman with academic credentials who works as a professor of psychiatry at the prestigious John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Jamison’s bestselling memoir An Unquiet Mind is a raw and honest story of her own battles with bipolar, including a diagnosis that came after she joined the UCLA faculty as an assistant professor of psychiatry and her own resistance to treatment.
Wishful Drinking is an autobiographical collage that originated as a highly praised one-woman performance by the late Carrie Fisher. Then it became an HBO special, and it was published in book form in 2008. Through her books, her avid social media presence, and in her shows, Fisher used her much-loved humor and honesty to offer hope and healing for many in the bipolar community.
I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying: Essays
By Bassey Ikpi (Harper Perennial, 2019)
This “mind-bending” collection of essays by Bassey Ikpi, a Nigerian-American writer who lives with bipolar II disorder, is described as brave, honest, and “real,” as she gives voice to the experience of bipolar like no other. Ikpi’s book can change the way you view mental health conditions like bipolar and prompt you to think more deeply—to question how, or even whether, anyone can trust their own senses and stories. I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying captures the unreality of living with a brain-based disorder that affects one’s perception of reality, with the searing highs of mania and the darkest depths of depression … in short, what it’s really like to live with bipolar.
Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life
In this New York Times bestseller named one of the best books of the year by NPR, Fortune, and others, celebrity chef David Chang details his journey from feeling like a failure and struggling with depression, anxiety, and intense anger to making a name for himself in the kitchen and around the world. After anxiously founding Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City’s East Village in the early 2000s, the restaurateur and his groundbreaking cuisine found rapid success, earning two Michelin Stars and multiple James Beard Awards. Though his diagnosis of bipolar is fairly recent, Chang has not let it hold him back. Ever the creative go-getter, he is also a podcast personality (“The David Chang Show”), TV host (The Mind of a Chef), and series creator, executive producer, and star (Ugly Delicious and Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner). Known for supporting local, sustainable farmers and businesses, Chang became the first celebrity winner of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in late 2020—soon after the release of his memoir—and donated the proceeds to a crisis-relief organization, the Southern Smoke Foundation.
Crazy: A Father’s Search through America’s Mental HealthMadness
By Pete Earley (Putnam, 2006)
Award-winning journalist and author Pete Earley earned the title of Pulitzer Prize finalist with Crazy. In it, he provides a father’s account of his experience with his college-aged son who is diagnosed with bipolar. Earley takes a hard look at the mental health and legal systems, and he shares the frustrations and helplessness faced by many parents.
Manic: A Memoir
By Terri Cheney (Harper, 2009)
Once a successful entertainment attorney representing the likes of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, Terri Cheney has chronicled her lifelong journey with bipolar in this New York Times bestseller, Manic: A Memoir. In it, she recounts her despair, roller-coaster episodes, and reckless flirting. Cheney’s latest book, Modern Madness: An Owner’s Manual, is a collection of personal essays that blends her own story with practical guidance that breaks down bipolar into reader-friendly concepts, like “Instructions for Use,” “Troubleshooting,” and “Maintenance.”
Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac: The True Story of a Man and the Dog Who Saved His Life
The bestselling Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac has received wide praise for its inspirational and humorous look at how pets—in Bruce Goldstein’s case, a black Labrador retriever puppy—can soothe our souls with their unconditional love. This former New York City ad executive tells of how caring for his canine pal, Ozzy, gave him a sense of purpose and helped him get out of bed each day.
While hospitalized with a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, Terese Marie Mailhot began writing Heart Berries: A Memoir, which became a New York Times bestseller. A series of essays, the book looks at growing up on the Seabird Island First Nation reservation in British Columbia, abuse, motherhood, mental health, and healing. Mailhot, a Tecumseh Postdoctoral Fellow at Purdue University, says that she has accepted the imbalance of her life, as trying her best is what counts.
On the heels of her Pulitzer Prize–nominated memoir, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (1998), Marya Hornbacher shows a triumphant effort to refocus her life’s narrative through the lens of her diagnosis. With Madness: A Bipolar Life, she once again considers her erratic behavior, crippling depressions, fits of rage and joy, and her battle with an eating disorder, but with new clarity and greater insight.
Mental: Lithium, Love and Losing My Mind
By Jaime Lowe (Blue Rider Press, 2017)
In Mental: Lithium, Love and Losing My Mind, Jaime Lowe, who is a frequent contributor to national publications, details her story of facing a manic episode and the treatment that helped her find stability. Looking at the history of bipolar with an inquisitive mind, she interviews scientists, psychiatrists, and patients. In a book review, one psychiatrist wrote that they learned more about bipolar from this book than from any textbook.
Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner
By Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, PsyD (New Harbinger Publications, 2012)
Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder is a thoughtful self-help guide for anyone whose partner’s bipolar symptoms are affecting their relationship. Writer and coach Julie A. Fast, who lives with bipolar, offers guidance for helping your partner manage mood swings and impulsive actions, while also taking time for yourself. All with the aim of helping you create a more balanced, fulfilling relationship.
Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love
A former Brooklyn public defender turned writer/speaker, Zack McDermott (the Gorilla) details his freefall into psychosis, his struggle to regain his identity, and his mother (the Bird), who refuses to give up on him. Gorilla and the Bird is an honest and darkly humorous account of rebuilding a stable life. In 2018, HBO announced plans for a TV series based on the memoir.
Within six weeks of her “once brilliant and passionate” husband’s diagnosis of bipolar, Sheila Hamilton lost him to the painfully real threat of suicidality that accompanies bipolar. All the Things We Never Knew is both a memoir and a guide for families in crisis, with dozens of resources to help anyone figure out where to turn for care and treatment.
When Someone You Love Is Bipolar: Help and Support for You and Your Partner
By Cynthia G. Last, PhD (Guilford Press, 2009)
Internationally known clinical psychologist Cynthia G. Last, PhD (who also lives with bipolar) shares stories and solutions both from her own experience and the couples she has treated, in her book When Someone You Love Is Bipolar. She provides practical direction to help loved ones come to terms with a diagnosis, get the most out of treatment, and reduce or prevent future mood episodes—all while also taking care of yourself.
Daughter of the Queen of Sheba: A Memoir
By Jacki Lyden (Houghton Mifflin, 1997)
Jacki Lyden, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent, chronicles her life growing up with a mother who struggled with bipolar disorder, in Daughter of the Queen of Sheba. During manic episodes, Lyden’s mother took on the personas of either Marie Antoinette or the Queen of Sheba. Although it had been frightening for Lyden as a child, she now marvels at her mother’s creativity in her mother-daughter memoir.
Yellow Tulips: One Woman’s Quest for Hope and Healing in the Darkness of Bipolar Disorder
By Helen Joy George (Cheerful Word, 2019)
In Yellow Tulips, a story of inspiring perseverance, Helen Joy George writes her raw and painful story about the “ugly truth” that is the mental healthcare system, while weaving through beautiful threads of family, hope, and resilience. Throughout her story, readers are offered gifts on how to both love and better understand those around us.
Sound Mind: My Bipolar Journey from Chaos to Composure
By Erika Nielsen (Trigger, 2018)
In Sound Mind, professional cellist Erika Nielsen (who has played with Grammy Award–winning Kanye West, among others) takes readers through her discovery of her bipolar diagnosis and her insight into learning how to manage her day-to-day symptoms. Sound Mind is also the recipient of the 2019 Canada Book Award, a 2019 Nautilus Award (gold), and a finalist for an Indie Book Award.
The Bipolar Expeditionist
By Keith Alan Steadman (iUniverse, 2008)
In the page-turner The Bipolar Expeditionist, author Keith Alan Steadman takes us through every level of mania, right up to a full-blown episode and including the flipside of depression. Filled with optimism, this is an inspiring and informative read for everyone: medical professionals, caregivers, and those living with bipolar.
Spiders, Vampires and Jail Keys: Bipolar Disorder: A Story of Hope, Recovery and Inspiration
By Brooke O’Neill (self-published 2019)
Author Brooke O’Neill was pursuing her career in nursing, was recently married, and had given birth to a daughter just five days before her symptoms of bipolar started to unfold. With a mix of humor and honesty, in Spiders, Vampires and Jail Keys, O’Neill takes the reader through her 13-year battle with bipolar—covering diagnosis, manic and depressive episodes (and their aftermath), and, finally, acceptance and stability.
The Up and Down Life: The Truth about Bipolar Disorder—the Good, the Bad, and the Funny
By Paul E. Jones (TarcherPerigee, 2008)
A stand-up comedian, Paul E. Jones aptly uses humor and honesty in The Up and Down Life to offer guidance about living with bipolar, covering every aspect from diagnosis, career, social life, and home life—all from his own hard-learned lessons. Jones also imparts advice for family and friends about the importance of understanding and support.
Tanya Hvilivitzky has spent almost 30 years in the communications field—a career that has included stints as an investigative journalist, magazine managing editor, corporate communications director, and researcher/writer. She has been with bp Magazine and esperanza Magazine since 2016, serving in roles such as interim editor and, currently, the features editor. She also writes for the bpBUZZ section of bphope.com, where she synthesizes complex information into a format that both inspires and informs.
As an award-winning writer/editor, she received the Beyond Borders Media Award for her 2012 investigative exposé about human trafficking. Her work on this important topic also earned the Media Freedom Award “Honouring Canada’s Heroes” from the Joy Smith Foundation to Stop Human Trafficking.
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