Good Minds Suggest: David Leite's Recommended Books About Mental Illness

Posted by Goodreads on April 1, 2017
David Leite

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For more than two decades David Leite has been known as a food writer, cookbook author, blogger, and web publisher of Leite's Culinaria. His first book, The New Portuguese Table, explored the foods of his heritage.

His second, Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression, picks up the narrative behind the recipes, telling the story of being the son of Azorean immigrants and growing up in the middle of America's biggest Little Portugal: Fall River, Massachusetts. But his gregarious, food-filled childhood was cut short by early-onset bipolar disorder—starting at 11.

Throughout the book Leite writes with honesty and humor about cooking and eating and the comfort they offered, grappling with his sexuality identity (even going so far as to join a cult to "turn straight"), and fighting for 25 years until he was finally properly diagnosed and treated for manic depression. Here are a few of his favorite books about mental illness.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
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"Having suffered for more than 25 years, I had given up hope as to ever understanding what was wrong with me. After reading the introduction to An Unquiet Mind, I knew with an assailable certainty that I was manic depressive. Reading the book gave me the courage to get properly evaluated, treated, and supported. Jamison's years as a psychiatrist give her story a chilling and sobering accuracy, but it's her talent that elevates the writing, making it deeply personal, relatable, and ultimately unforgettable."


Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher
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"Exhausting. Unrelenting. Painful. Astonishing. What makes Hornbacher's book so important and so essential is her writing. It captures the rhythms, patterns, justifications, denials, deceptions, and seductive self-talk of the illness, which in her case is rapid-cycling bipolar 1 disorder. One of the most unvarnished memoirs about mental illness I've ever read."


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
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"This story of the power of the individual to incite action, even in a place as dehumanizing and punishing as Nurse Ratched's psychiatric hospital, has been a classic since it was written in 1963. But it's the questions Kesey poses to the reader about the abuse of authority, the treatment of the mentally ill, and, especially, what exactly is mental illness that make this book so important now, in the days of a broken health care system."


Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
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"It took me only a few hours to read Styron's essay, but its effect has lasted more than two decades. His clear-eyed, unsentimental way of chronicling his descent into suicidal depression, his treatment, and, later, recovery are breathtaking. The lean prose only heightens the sense of isolation and futility while at the same time pointing up the absurdity of his situation. A rare feat."


I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
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"No book better describes the devastation of mental illness on a family than Lamb's masterpiece. The narrator, Dominick, tells a multigenerational saga, the heart of which is his conflicted relationship with his schizophrenic identical twin, Thomas. Lamb lays out all the anger, resentment, guilt, humiliation, and pain in this outside-in perspective on mental illness. Of course, Dominick has his own hell, because of and in spite of his brother, that he finally has to face. Lamb's narrative covers much ground but always rings true."



Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.



Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Wonderful life of recommendations, thank you.


message 2: by David (new)

David Leite You're more than welcome, Erin.


message 3: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Hansen These are wonderful recommendations, David. Thank you. I can't wait to read your book too! I enjoy receiving emails from your blog and saw previews of Notes on a Banana a few times, wanting the book already, before I made the connection with the name. I have struggled mightily with bipolar II since I was a very young girl and your book already owns my heart. Peace and blessings, darling...


message 4: by Ela (new)

Ela Simon I read An Unquiet Mind before we wrote our first book The Bi-Polar Express: Ride the Life and Death Roller-coaster of Mania and Depression with Mother and Daughter. It really helped us to realise we were not alone.


message 5: by Helga (new)

Helga Karl I read a book long ago on mental illness. Brilliant: I never promised you a rose garden by Joanne Greenberg


message 6: by Traci (last edited Apr 11, 2017 12:37PM) (new)

Traci I was nearly ecstatic to find your recommendations for books about mental illness. A couple of them are already on my "Want to Read" list and now all of them are. I suffer from a variety of alphabet soup (PTSD, GAD, BPD - you get the idea) and reading the experiences of others is often so helpful because you can tell that the author is someone who understands you like you wish the rest of the world could. I appreciate, again, your recommendations.

I also look forward to reading your book, "Notes on a Banana...", I am embarrassed to say I hadn't heard of it until just today but am glad to be able to say that today, I did discover it.

Take care!


message 7: by Traci (new)

Traci Helga wrote: "I read a book long ago on mental illness. Brilliant: I never promised you a rose garden by Joanne Greenberg"

Hello, Helga.

"I Never Promised You A Rose Garden" is on my 'Want to Read' list of books and I am glad to see your good review. It makes me more inclined to get to it before the million other books I 'Want to Read'. Thanks for your comment!


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