Book talk: All the Sad Places (on books and the power they have to get you through some of the worst days)

Disclaimer: This column originally appeared on

Books might not be able to completely cure depression, but they do get you through some of the worst times.

Emptiness. Numbness. Endless sadness. Never-ending feelings of apathy, malaise and melancholy.

These are just some of the feelings that many of us associate with depression.

It’s feelings most of us are familiar with and emotions we all need to talk about. But we often don’t because we’re either, a) not sure how to broach the subject or, b) scared that we will be made to feel ashamed of the way we’re feeling.

One of the most recent books that I’ve read is a book called All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It’s a novel that tackles the subject of mental health problems, with a strong focus on suicide and depression.

It’s a novel that’s drawn both praise and criticism; adulation for its unflinching and no-holds barred approach to the reality of what depression really does to a person, and disapproval because the tone of the book, in many parts, seems to make light of it.

I elaborate and address this issue in my review a little more, so I won’t be going into too much detail here.

What I can tell you is that this novel got me on so many levels.

Yes, it’s a book that doesn’t get it 100% right, but any book that can make you look beyond its flaws and leaves you feeling as if your life has just been made a little better for it (simply because you feel like someone understands), is a book that’s worth being one of my favourites of 2015.

One of the quotes that have stayed with me ever since:

“It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”

That passage sums up everything about my battle with depression. It’s a feeling of hopelessness that travels around you because you’re sad for so many different reasons.

You feel sad and guilty and you want to make it easy on the people around you, but can’t because, you don’t understand your own illness yourself.

I love this book because it shows that you can put up a normal front and still be dying from the inside. I love it because it depicts the good days and the bad. But mostly, I love it because it’s honest enough to tell us that sometimes the battle is so hard that it never seems like you’re ever going to win.

This book hit me hard, but I’m glad, because in many ways it brought me comfort, the way so many books that don’t touch on the topic of depression, already do.

And that’s the thing about books like All the Bright Places and books in general. As long as they keep me reading, then I know that I can get up and face another day.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect day, just as long as it’s another day. Because the day that I know that I can’t pick up a book to read, is the day that would mean I’ve given up completely.

What books have helped you through difficult times?