Round Up: 3 Books That Can Help You Face Adversity and Mental Health Challenges

We all face some forms of adversity in our lives. We all lose jobs, get sick, break-ups, and deal with the deals of people we love. For neurodivergent or mentally ill folk, adversity can be an everyday experience. Just getting up in the morning can be a real struggle.

Something that really helps me when I’m battling life is reading books. I’ve compiled the titles few books that focus on facing adversity. These books are not specifically targeted to people with mental health conditions, but they all focus on human struggles. Each book takes a vastly different approach, but they all share the common thread of growing from experiences of adversity or hardship. I hope you enjoy reading these titles.

  1. The Book of Joy – Lasting Happiness in a Changing World – His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

This book focuses on a meeting between old friends Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama. They came together for a week to create this book and celebrate the Dalai Lama’s eightieth birthday. For the uninitiated, both have faced tremendous obstacles, and are Nobel Peace Laureates. Douglas Abrams narrates the book, as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu discuss their spirituality, and how we can find joy in the face of diversity.

This is book is an easy read, but also incredibly thought provoking. This is a book can be enjoyed regardless of the reader’s faith. One of the biggest things I learnt from this book was the distinction the two spiritual leaders draw between joy (long lasting sense of inner peace that can be present regardless of circumstances) and happiness (a fleeting emotion that you only feel in positive situations). The book delves into the extreme hardships the two leaders have felt through their lives, and weaves their stories and spiritual guidance with scientific research. This is truly a life-changing read.

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson

This book has been dubbed as an ‘anti-self-help’ book, or, as stated on the cover, it provides “a counterintuitive approach to living a good life.” Manson calls for readers to face up to their struggles and negative emotions, and kick them in the guts. In a world where we are often encouraged to think positively and put on a happy face, Manson deliver’s a real wake up call.

Manson’s writing style is humourous, honest, and matter-of-fact. But, he is also vulnerable, and knows what it feels like to hit rock bottom. He intertwines his personal accounts of his life with the stories of others. He urges readers to focus on what really matters to them, forgoing entitlement, and finding pleasure in ordinary life. This brash title is a liberating read, and gave me the wake-up call I needed.

  1. Option B Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

This book centres on Sheryl Sandberg grieving the loss of her husband, and how that experience changed her as a person. This is almost an about-face from her hyper-confident liberal feminist bestseller, Lean In. As Sandberg writes in this new title, “Lean in? I could barely stand up.” Her account is raw, and her vulnerability is something almost unexpected from the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Sandberg’s story is connected with other stories of adversity and scientific research.

One of the key themes in this book is the experience of post-traumatic growth after a harrowing event. Sandberg and Grant stress that resilience is not something that you acquire, but a muscle that you build. This message is delivered without a focus on ‘positive thinking’ or ‘optimism’ that usually plagues self-help books. Rather, Sandberg and Grant want people to find meaning in adversity. Even though there is a large focus on grief after a traumatic event, this book still provides useful tools for people with mental health conditions, who can face traumatic circumstances and adversity on an everyday basis.

By Brooke Murphy

Brooke Murphy completed her Bachelor of Laws (Honours Class I) at the University of Newcastle in 2014. She is currently completing a PhD (Laws), and practices as a solicitor in Newcastle. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books and making collages.


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