Fiction and Nonfiction Reads To Support Mental Health in the New Year

By Tessa Hamilton, Educators and Schools Outreach Specialist
January 6, 2022

During these challenging times many people have experienced a drastic change in their mental health. However, many are finding ways to stay healthy and positive through exercising, art, music, and reading. With people heading back to work and kids back to school after the holiday break, The New York Public Library has an array of fantastic literature to support mental health and wellness for students, parents, and educators to use throughout the new year. 

Here are some great titles to help you on your mental health journey:



Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst; illustrated by Ray Cruz

On a day when everything goes wrong for him, Alexander is consoled by the thought that other people have bad days too.


What If Samantha Berger; illustrated by Mike Curato

A child who likes to draw and write stories imagines what would happen if there were no pencils, paper, or other tools for being creative.


Hector's Favorite Place by Jo Rooks

Hector is a shy hedgehog who does not want to venture out of his safe and snuggly home, but with the help of his friends, Hector finds the courage to face his worries and have fun outside.


The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

Unable to celebrate the holidays in the wake of his older brother's death in a gang-related shooting, 12-year-old Lolly Rachpaul struggles to avoid being forced into a gang himself while constructing a fantastically creative LEGO city at the Harlem community center.


My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss; illustrated by Steve Johnson with Lou Fancher

This rhyming story describes each day in terms of a particular color which in turn is associated with specific emotions.


Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

A moving picture book celebrating essential workers and the community coming together to face the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic.


I Believe I Can by Grace Byers; pictures by Keturah A. Bobo

An empowering tribute to the limitless potential of children from every background that conveys messages about believing in themselves. 



Teen Guide to Mental Health by Don Nardo

Today’s teens face and are expected to deal with a wide array of personal, social, and other issues involving home-life, school, dating, body image, sexual orientation, major life transitions. This volume examines how many teens have learned to cope with and survive these often stressful trials and tribulations of modern youth.


How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow

Tiger, sixteen, has been pushing away from her overprotective mother, but when her mother dies suddenly Tiger must learn to live when it feels she is surrounded by darkness.

Book Jacket

The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time by Dzung X. Vo

In this powerful book, a pediatrician specializing in teen and adolescent medicine offers a breakthrough mindfulness program to help teens deal with stress in healthy ways, improve communication, and reduce conflicts with family and friends.


Mental Health Information For Teens

Provides basic consumer health information about the causes, warning signs, and symptoms of mental health disorders, along with facts about treatment approaches and tips for teens on coping with stress, building self-esteem, and maintaining mental wellness. 


Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Clinically-depressed Darius Kellner, a high school sophomore, travels to Iran to meet his grandparents, but it is their next-door neighbor, Sohrab, who changes his life.



Control Yor Mind and Master Your Feelings by Eric Robertson

We often look towards the outside world to find the roots of our problems. However, most of the time we should be looking inwards. Our mind and our emotions determine our state of being. If those aspects are left unchecked we can get easily overwhelmed and are left feeling unfulfilled every single day. 


Feelings: A Story In Seasons by Manjit Thapp

The illustrator of The Little Book of Feminist Saints charts her emotions throughout the course of a validating year spent mindfully examining the correlation between the seasons and her personal manifestations of anxiety, joy, pain, and creativity.


Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life by Gary John Bishop

Shows how people can empower themselves and thrive by overcoming negative self-talk.


What Happened To You? Conversations On Trauma, Resilience, And Healing by Bruce D. Perry, and Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey, sharing stories from her own past, and renowned brain development and trauma expert discuss the impact of trauma and adversity and how healing must begin with a shift to asking, “what happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?” 


8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise by Christina G. Hibbert

Citing studies that link routine exercise to the alleviation of stress and anxiety, this guide shares step-by-step strategies for sticking to fitness goals and maintaining an exercise program specifically designed to bolster mental health.


 Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happinessby Dr. Qing 

An immunologist at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School offers this guide to the therapeutic Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, which promotes healing the mind, body and spirit through spending mindful, intentional time around trees.

*If you would like to try forest bathing visit the New York Botanical Garden. They are offering a guided tour as well as a meditative audio experience that you can do on your own. As a New York City resident, the Garden provides passes on Wednesdays for free. If you can’t visit on a Wednesday, library cardholders have access to Culture Pass!