15 Insightful Books About Suicide

Life can sometimes be so hard that there may come a breaking point where we feel as though we just want to end it all. Suicide is a rather dark subject but sometimes we just seem so low in the world that there doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The temptation of ending it all can be quite strong for those who only have doom and gloom bombarding their minds. Thankfully, there is help out there for those who are feeling that life isn’t worth it anymore. Sure, there are suicide hotlines and those are incredibly important but a good book can also convince one not to take that lethal step. This can come in any form of literature depending on who you are but if you’re seeking something more specific on the topic of suicide, these books, both fiction and non-fiction, approach the topic with earnestness and comfort to stay informed and maybe feel better about ourselves.

Reasons to Stay Alive

written by Matt Haig
Published in 2015
272 pages

This memoir of Matt Haig touches on the topic of depression. In this inspiring book, he details how his progression in writing and the love of his girlfriend-turned-wife Andrea led to him gaining a new appreciation for his own life. Matt writes with great care and honesty about his dealings with depression that are so open his tale is inspirational for anyone facing a similar struggle. He also infuses his memoir with humor and hopes to be worth reading towards the end for anyone who is seeking something to keep them hanging in there to appreciate all of the beauty that is our time on this planet.

The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order

written by Joan Wickersham
Published in 2008
316 pages

Joan Wickersham had to deal with the shock of learning that her father had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. What made it such a shock is that Joan didn’t figure her dad was suicidal or displayed any signs that he would do so. Seeking to learn more, she spent years digging around to learn more about how one goes down such a path. She interviews friends, doctors, and talks with those who were suicidal and managed to survive to tell their tales of how they overcame the darkness. Her writing is quite philosophical and deep but also quite amusing to make one smile a bit through the tears of this epilogue to her father’s life.

Tragedy Plus Time

written by Adam Cayton-Holland
Published in 2018
256 pages

We all deal with tragedy differently. Adam Cayton-Holland, being a comedian, used a bit of comedy in his amusing writings to cope with the loss of a loved one to suicide. While he pursued a life of stand-up comedy, his sister Lydia wasn’t quite sure just what she wanted to do with her own. She was witty, funny, and had a love of The Simpsons. Not only that but she helped Adam out when he felt at his lowest with depression. So when Lydia committed suicide, Adam found himself bitter about not being able to return the favor. Through his poignant book, he comes to terms with her passing and tries to remember the good times in this tear-jerker of an elegy.

Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

written by Kay Redfield Jamison
Published in 1999
432 pages

Best-selling author and doctor Kay Redfield Jamison takes a look at the big picture of suicide and how it’s a common cause of death for a disturbingly large range of people of various ages. Jamison also speaks from experience as she battled with manic-depression to the point of nearly committing suicide herself. She digs deep into the scientific and historical data on the troubling subject to make just about anyone understand the suicidal mind and just how serious an issue it is to combat in modern society.

A Long Way Down

written by Nick Hornby
Published in 2005
368 pages

Nick Hornby’s fourth novel in his best-selling run of fiction tells the tale of four individuals who converge on New Year’s Eve in London. The characters, three of them English and one American, have different backgrounds of TV talk show host, musician, teenage girl, and a mother. They also share one grim aspect in common: they want to end their lives. What follows is a provocative and nail-biting drama of unique souls seeking something to live for instead of taking a dive off the roof. It’s brimming with both affection and humor as a touching take on taking a second chance on life.

Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves

written by Jesse Bering
Published in 2018
272 pages

Jesse Bering may have been a successful psychologist in his 30s but he was seriously considering ending it all. He eventually pulled himself back from the brink but came away from the experience with deep contemplation about what he had gone through. He started to think about just where these suicidal thoughts came from when he was doing so well. Sure, he defeated them this time, but would they return someday? His book, Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves, covers a lot of these dark questions and finds some thoughtful answers extracted from scientific studies and personal stories on the issue.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

written by Ned Vizzini
Published in 2006
444 pages

In this young adult drama, teenager Craig Gilner is driven to find his way into fruitful adulthood. But trying to make it in New York City is no easy task for an ambitious high schooler. As Craig pushes himself further and further, he finds himself not only skipping meals and putting off sleep but contemplating the big sleep. It is only when he is checked into a mental hospital that he finally feels comfortable enough to understand his problems and calm his anxieties. Perhaps he’ll able to find a road to happiness that doesn’t lead off a cliff.

It’s OK that you’re not OK

written by Megan Divine
Published in 2017
280 pages

Megan Devine has become a bit of an expert in grief for working as a therapist but also for having watched her partner drown. She writes earnestly about grappling with loss in this gentle read of learning to accept death rather than trying not to think about it. Megan shares a wealth of advice, therapy, and spiritual wisdom to help guide readers who may have dealt with someone that has committed suicide, along with practical tips on how to handle the stress and anxiety of such tragedy.

If You Feel Too Much

written by Jamie Tworkowski
Published in 2015

Jamie Tworkowski’s previous book, 2006’s To Write Love on Her Arms, dealt with helping someone through the dark woods of drug addiction, depression, and self-injury. It was such a powerful book that led a non-profit organization of the same title being established to specialize in suicide prevention. If You Feel Too Much is the wholly necessary follow-up book that stresses the power of hope and wonder, as well as the importance to admit to being in pain and seeking help when we need it most.

My Father Before Me

written by Chris Forhan
Published in 2016
320 pages

Chris Forhan has been an award-winning poet that bears all in this honest and heartfelt novel that Library Journal declared the best memoir of 2016. Perhaps the most tragic part of his life is when his father committed suicide in 1973, right before Christmas. He ruminates years later about ways he is similar and not similar to his father, realizing his family has had a history of tragic events. His tender and honest admittance of his legacy is a sobering and engaging read of how to grapple with suicide in the family.

Everything I Never Told You

written by Celeste Ng
Published in 2014
292 pages

Celeste Ng’s novel focuses on a Chinese family living in 1970s Ohio. The favorite child of the family is Lydia and her parents of Marilyn and James Lee are hopeful she’ll achieve great things. Those dreams are dashed when Lydia’s body turns up at the lake. What follows is a family struggling to make sense of it all in the wake of such tragedy, written with moving passages and enticing reveals. It’s an emotional look at just how suicide can devastate loved ones to such a degree, making the road to acceptance a hard one to travel.

History of a Suicide

written by Jill Bialosky
Published in 2011
252 pages

Jill Bialosky went through one of the worst experiences for a sister. She lost her 21-year-old sibling, Kim, in 1990. She was found in the garage with the car turned on after recently having a fight with her boyfriend. For the longest time, Bialosky couldn’t accept it but aimed to come to terms with it in this book that details her sister’s history and what led to such events. She also taps into doctors and psychologists for further insight as well as examining the family bond that may be a crucial part in preventing suicide.

Darkness Visible

written by William Styron
Published in 1990
84 pages

American writer William Styron penned this best-selling book on his unsettling slip into a depression that almost led to his own suicide. Styron hides nothing in this open and vivid novel about how hard it is to navigate your life with such psychological issues that push one further towards ending their own life. He also details the path out of the darkness and into recovery, making this as much a relatable book for the suicidal as well as one that can provide better solutions to situations. For such important and powerful writing, Darkness Visible has been considered Styron’s most influential books for touching on such topics.

Veronika Decides to Die

written by Paulo Coelho
Published in 1998
210 pages

Paulo Coelho, the best-selling author of The Alchemist, takes a darker and more philosophical bent in this novel about one woman deciding to end everything. The titular Veronika is a 24-year-old who seems to have a lot going for her, what with her immaculate beauty and exciting job. But there’s just some strange void in her life that she can’t quite explain that leads to her deciding to commit suicide via sleeping pills. It doesn’t work exactly. She awakens in the hospital where the doctors inform her the sleeping pills have damaged her heart and she has days to live. It’s just enough time to better contemplate life’s true value in this somber and poignant questioning of what matters most in life that would make us want to cut our own existence show short.

The Savage God

written by Al Alvarez
Published in 1971
320 pages

English poet Al Álvarez poses a unique theory about suicide, that it has permeated Western culture like a dye that cannot be washed out. The Savage God: A Study of Suicide takes an earnest look at how such actions come about in the modern age. It’s a fascinating look at how such a taboo subject matter has risen as a more common form of expiration, noted in numerous aspects of literature and media. Álvarez not only draws from other figures, such as the memoir of Sylvia Plath, but even recounts his own experience of once attempting suicide. It’s a remarkable read for anyone who was more curious about the nature of suicide and how it starts to form in the mind.

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