TSS: Crazy...I was crazy once.

I've always been fascinated with how mental illness in patients, especially those who's environment is (at some point) in a mental facility/institution/asylum.(1)  Having my own personal experiences with mental illness as well as then going to grad school to study the area of psychology in detail, my passion only grows.  And although I feel as though my place RIGHT now is in the classroom, it has crossed my mind to eventually work in the mental health field as a second career move.  Ultimately I would like to combine my expertise with adolescents and inquisitiveness with mental illness into some permanent career. 

But this is a BOOKISH post and I'm in the mood to research soooo, I thought I'd annotate a list of books where fictional characters come to terms with their illnesses OR the environment is set in mental institutions  as well as non fiction works that explore the historical and social climate of asylum care.


1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Um, how have I not read this book yet?  I saw the film back in college (and many times since then and it's freakin' BRILLIANT). For those not in the know, Randle is a very vivacious man who tries to create freedom within the restraints of the mental institution he is convicted.  The film was heartbreaking; I imagine the book will be too.

2. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson - I remember when this book came out, and in fact I thinkI might even OWN it.  Narcissistic man who is boozing it up ends up in the burn unit after a self inflicted tragedy hits.  While there he is visited by Marianne, a schizophrenic, who has escaped from the psych ward. He is intrigued by her as she claims to have known him for the past 700 years.

3. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - Grace has been charged with the murder of her employer and his housekeeper.  It's the 19th century and Dr. Simon Jordan is on the case having the most experience with mental illness.  From what I gather this is pretty revolutionary, that mental illness can cause crimes,

4. Asylum by Patrick McGrath - S'okay.  I actually at one point OWNED this book.  But have since managed to lose it.  It also came out as a film a while back, but I think it bombed.  Anyways, wife joins husband who is a psychiatrist at a city insane asylum.  Whilst there she finds herself attracted to a patient who had killed his wife is a psychotic rage.  

5.  Asylum (The Birch Harbor Series) by Kristen Selleck - This one I stumbled upon while researching books.  Its a .99 kindle book so I'll probably pick it up.  I mean, why not, for a dollar.  From what I can gather Chloe goes across the country to start over.  She doesn't want anyone to discover her mental illness.  Yet, happenstance be, she ends up moving to a town with hidden secrets surrounding its own asylum.  Creepy things happen.  And there's a boy.  Who drinks.  A lot.

6. Shadows in the Asylum: The Case Files of Dr. Charles Marsh by D.A. Stern - Ummm, so firstly someone reviewed this book and said the words: if you liked The Twilight Zone and secondly, mixed media peeps!  From what I can tell, this isn't a book as much as an experience.  The story is set up from the vantage point of Dr. Charles Marsh, but we get to read his field notes and interviews and see his pics, etc., to determine if his patient is indeed psychotic or not.  Hello unreliable narrator.  Squee!


7. Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America's Most Premier Mental Hospital by Alex Beam - I love the notion of this nonfic.  It's a BIOGRAPHY of a PLACE.  Seriously.  McClean hospital is doesn't quite look like an asylum, which totally makes sense since it is the home to many celebrities' brief stays, including Sylvia Plath, Ray Charles, and James Taylor.

8.  Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum by Mark Stevens - This is a short (100 pages) FREE kindle book that discusses the history of England's first criminal lunatic asylum.  The synopsis is brief but after having read the reviews, it appears as though Stevens is passionate about the history of Broadmoor and continues to research more findings.  Also, Broadmoor might ring a bell if you've read The Professor and the Madman.

9. Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly - It appears as though Bly was well beyond her years in journalism and the women's movement.  It's the 1880's and Bly fakes out insanity so she could get committed and write an expose.  Can I tell you that this woman kicks much arse as well?  She evidently traveled the world, much like Julius Verne, and wrote about that too.  Yes please.

(1) The wordage changes based off of the time period and what is pc.
(2) This list will consist of books that I want to read. IE it will not include books that I have.


  1. I recently finished Regeneration by Pat Barker, which is all about how shell shocked officers were treated in WW1. It's a fascinating book and it says so much about how our conception of mental illness has evolved over time. Anyway, thank you for this list! The only one I've read was Alias Grace, which is my favourite Atwood to date.

  2. Oh myyyy gosh, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is sooo good. Like, SO good. And the film is awesome, but the book may even be a liiittle bit better (still have to imagine Jack Nicholson as McMurphy though!)

    Also may I recommend (you might have read these already, so feel free to ignore me) Girl, Interrupted; The Bell Jar (OBVS) and Poppy Shakespeare, which is set in the English kind of mental health system-y thing, and which is sort of odd but very good.

    Yeah, I like books about mental illness too. And I just don't know why!

  3. Gracefully Insane is an excellent title!


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