True Story

Books for Mental Health Awareness Month

Hello and happy holiday Friday, nonfiction friends! I can’t wait to get out of town for the first official weekend of summer. I see books, booze, and a sparkling blue lake in my future!

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In 1978, Harper Lee’s fame had reached a fever pitch following the remarkable success of her debut novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, but she had written little of consequence in the nearly two decades since. She was searching for her next book when the perfect story landed in her lap. A call from back home in Alabama lit the match: A reverend — described as “six-feet-four-inches of majesty and dread” —  allegedly murdered five of his family members, without detection. Each time, he got rich off their life insurance policies but reaped no consequences. Vanity Fair’s special correspondent, Mark Seal, retraces the legendary novelist’s return home to Alabama to chase down a true crime mystery for the ages in THE DEVIL AND HARPER LEE.

But before that, I didn’t want to let Mental Health Awareness Month go by without taking a little bit of space to share some books that have been helpful to me in that area. There aren’t books about mental illnesses specifically, but instead books that I’ve turned to and can recommend as I’ve worked on some of my own mental health challenges.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski – This spring has been particularly stressful at my day job. About a month ago, I realized all of bad feelings I was having were connected… I was getting burned out. Like any good nerd, I turned to books to help find the answer. Burnout was a huge help. The book specifically looks at what stress is like for women, and offers concrete steps to address it in both the short and long term. Reading it felt like turning on a light bulb.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb – After life-altering breakup, Lori Gottlieb realized she needed some help, ending up on the couch of a therapist who seemed to come straight from central casting. In the book, Gottlieb talks about her experiences as a patient, her experiences as a therapist, and how therapists do their work to help others. This book is absolutely fascinating, and gives such a good peek into why we sometimes need an outsider to help us get a healthy perspective on our own lives.

Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self by Manoush Zomorodi – Like many smart people, I think that constant connection via our devices can have negative impacts on our mental health. This book is about a 2015 experiment Manoush Zomorodi conducted via her podcast, Note to Self, that encouraged people to “ unplug from their devices, get bored, jump-start their creativity, and change their lives.” The book goes through the different facets of the experiment and offers some applicable tips to combat busyness and find more space on life. It’s a great, concrete way to think about your device and the impact it has on your mental health.

Finally, I want to close out the newsletter with a few tidbits of nonfiction news:

Marie Kondo is writing two new books! She announced the new books on Instagram, then shared that the first one will be a children’s book that “ follows two best friends — Kiki, a collector, and Jax, a sorter — as they work through what it means when their friendship has to navigate things.” Totes adorbs.

Did you know there’s a Nonfiction Women Book Club on Instagram? I did not! It looks cool. You can check out an interview with the co-founders over at Book Riot.

Speaking of book clubs… there’s a club in Iowa planning to read all of the autobiographies written by Democratic candidates running for president. NPR’s Weekend Edition did a short piece about the club and their big project.

Patton Oswalt talked about Michelle McNamara and her book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, with the Los Angeles Review of Books blog to celebrate the paperback release of the book. I thought his answer about the hybrid nature of the book, part memoir and part true crime, was interesting.

That’s all for this week! You can find me on Twitter @kimthedork, on email at, and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Happy reading! – Kim