When one of our more thoughtful followers posts a request for book suggestions on the forum, it is a sign that the way we have been reviewing and referencing books is not working (they are to be found in some posts, but by no means all).

This page is an attempt to an attractive an easy to use guide to books relevant to MoodSurfing. Since it is a first try, please let me know what you think, and we will modify it based on your suggestions.

On this page we are going to post reviews of books on topics that are really central to living with moods creatively. We will create some blog posts (which we will have links to from this page) for other books.

Bipolar Books

A good place to start is with the books of Kay Redfield Jamison. We have written a summary of those in the blog at this link.

We also like the Bipolar for Dummies book. David Miklowitz’s Bipolar Survival Guide is in a new second edition. Some of our readers have found it a bit basic, but the family aspect may be of particular use in working with your spouse, or other family members with concerns about your bipolar.

If you are young, or young at heart, you might want to consider Welcome to the Jungle by Hilary Smith. The information is good, the tone informal and a bit jaunty. We wrote a short review on the blog.

The classic work on bipolar in the field is also by Kay Jamison (and Fred Goodwin who is one of the most respected psychiatrist experts in bipolar) and is called Manic-Depressive Illness. It is also in a second edition. I mention it not because you are likely to want to read it (unless you are the kind of person who liked reading encyclopedias)… it is very dense… but it is your best place to start with any serious question about bipolar.

The exact opposite of MDI are the books of Tom Wootton. They are easy reads, but some have suggested that it is hard to figure out what is Tom’s opinion and what is a well supported idea. The idea from Tom that most resonated with us (and has shaped our thinking significantly) is the notion that a big problem in psychiatry is the “tyranny of low expectations” that sometimes seems to shape our work with people with mood disorders. Probably the best of his books on bipolar is Bipolar in Order.

If you are wrestling with the question of “is this really bipolar depression” our go to book is by Tom Phelps and is entitled Why am I Still Depressed? The book is also filled with practical advice. It is, in fact, the book that we most often recommend to people in our clinic.

A blog reader who is a good judge of books, and has taken on the task of reading one book about bipolar a month, offered this suggestion –

From the ones I read so far and that might be worth being on this list is The Bipolar Handbook by Wes Burgess. I like the simplicity of the format. A psychiatrist answers real-life questions from patients.

The books in the New Harbinger series are quite good. Usually well organized and filled with practical advice (although there is a bit of an “anti-medical” bias sometimes). We think that the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) workbook for Bipolar is quite useful.

Other books to consider are Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder by Julie Fast (like Tom, a book written from the perspective of someone who has been there, and also a book that can be at times very helpful and other times a bit misleading.

Food for thought, and a bit of controversy, is to be found in two books that suggest that this country was built by people with bipolar. John Gartner’s book was the first, catchily titled The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a little) Craziness and (a lot of) Success in America. It was quite controversial when it was first released. Perhaps biased by my years working with very successful internet startup millionaires with bipolar, I must say I don’t find it quite as controversial as others do and did.(See more about the book in this post). Another book in the same vein is Nassir Ghaemi, an extremely well respected psychiatrist, and is entitled A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness. Although I think this book was less controversial, I find some of what he has to say fascinating but also disturbing. Some of his very successful leaders were clearly people you wouldn’t necessarily want to spend too much time with…

To be honest, my favorite book in this genre is by Kay Redfield Jamison and is entitled Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. As with all her books, it is thoughtful and well written, and very well researched.

We have only just gotten warmed up on the topic of books on bipolar. Please email me with your thoughts, and your favorites, and I will be sure to include them in the future (

Depression Books

There are even more books about depression than there are about bipolar, so our quick review is bound to only touch the surface.

Good general books on the topic aren’t that easy to find. We like Understanding Depression: A Complete Guide to Its Diagnosis and Treatment (although it is a bit old and probably a bit weighted on the medical side of things).

One of the classics on the topic of what can you do about depression, is Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. The second book by David may be even more helpful, it is written as more of a workbook – The Feeling Good Handbook. A book that many people like better (the layout is easier to follow) doesn’t have quite as much information, but might be easier to use – Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think.

We have been very intrigued by the successes we have seen from approaching depression with mindfulness practice. We quite like the book The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, and it is probably one of the books we most often recommend to people we see with depression. It is laid out in a somewhat strange way, there is a very long and somewhat wordy nine chapters devoted to why this should work, but the actual program is to be found in the tenth chapter… So while you are working your way through the first part of the book you may also want to jump ahead to that chapter and start the practices. The included CD is very good, and almost worth the cost of the book.

Mindfulness is a key aspect of one of the “hottest” therapies these days, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and we quite link the New Harbinger workbook (although it has one of the longest titles we have ever run into) – The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Move Through Depression and Create a Life Worth Living. Another book that is quite an easy and engaging read is by Russ Harris, one of the best recognized ACT experts, it is called The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living.

We haven’t read Talking to Depression: Simple Ways To Connect When Someone In Your Life Is Depressed: Simple Ways To Connect When Someone In Your Life Is Depressed, but a couple of folks we know have recommended it. The topic is certainly important – how best to talk to someone who you love who is very depressed. This can be a big challenge, and a good book on the topic is a big plus. Another book on the same topic is How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed: Living and Coping with Depression Fallout. It is a bit less direct and explicit in its advice, which you may like, or may find not as helpful as the more direct Talking to Depression.

Interestingly, there seems to be less written on the topic of protecting kids when a parent is depressed… and yet this topic is (to us) more important than the issue of helping a spouse deal with a depressed partner. Kids almost inevitably assume that a parent’s depression is their “fault” and, without thoughtful work, depression can have a big impact on a child’s future life. We think that the best book on this topic is also one of the first ones written – When a Parent is Depressed: How to Protect Your Children from the Effects of Depression in the Family. It is one of those books that we can’t recommend enough.


For those of you not living in the iPad and iPhone world, these books are contained in the two carousels below. [They use Flash so iPad and iPhone users won’t be able to see them].


  1. Heart, my Psychiatric Service Dog

    I suggest that you add some books on the brain in all its majesty. Here’s one that does just that: THE BRAIN by Ken Ashwell. It includes detailed discussion of psychiatric disabilities. It is as up-to-date as a book can be (August, 2012). It reads/looks pretty well like a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC book ….

  2. LA

    I also suggest adding some books on anxiety. For instance, “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund J. Bourne is an excellent tool for working on anxiety and stress and the things that reinforce them.

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