5 Classic Mental Health Books You Should Own

There are thousands of books “for dummies” out there covering a wide range of skills and topics.  Ranging from early 20th Century fare too much more serious accounts of mental fortitude, rebellion, and survival, these books are the foundation for some of the more recent works in the category.  As any Alpha will tell you, every day is another chance at self-improvement so while we are not going to advocate you scour the web for self-improvement books, we do think you should check these classics out as they are in a league of their own.

As A Man Thinketh

This book is over a hundred years old and written by James Allen in 1902 and he has described it as “It shows how, in his thought-world, each man holds the key to every condition, good or bad, that enters into his life, and that, by working patiently and intelligently upon his thoughts, he may remake his life, and transform his circumstances. …and it can be carried in the pocket.”  This is a must-have due to its longevity, its timelessness, and the fact that it is only $2.  

Man’s Search for Meaning

Not for the faint at heart, this book was written by Viktor Frankl in 1946. During the 3 years he spent in Nazi death camps, Frankl essentially talks about how a person’s ability to visualize his or her destiny positively could impact the outcome regardless of how peril a situation he may find himself in.  There are 2 distinct parts to the book, with the first focusing on Frankl’s experiences in the camps and the second one focusing on his idea of “meaning.”  


We get it.  You are probably thinking “Great, what is this, 6th grade lit again?”  But that’s a great point.  At least for many of the generation, we were forced to read this book when we weren’t ready to and when we couldn’t understand the life lessons it was talking about.  This novel was written in 1922 by Hermann Hesse and is the only work of fiction on our list.  

The novel takes you on a journey with a young man who has focused much attention on obtaining enlightenment.  His initial way of doing this is intellectual, through possessions and pleasures, and pain.  It takes Siddhartha quite some time to realize but ultimately, the path to complete consciousness is through all of the experiences of a well-lived life combined, not through any singular event or methodology.  There are several lessons in this near century-old book and it’s a shame many of our 12-year-old selves could not see them back then.  But, you can now. 

The Gulag Archipelago

Perhaps made more famous over recent years by Jordan Peterson, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s narrative of life inside Soviet prisons helped to take down the façade of the Soviet Union and expose its treachery.  While some may wonder how this could be considered “self-help,” there are very few people who will read this book and not be moved by it.  It embodies the idea of exposing those who abuse their power and the suffering and struggle that occurs because of it. 

Striking Thoughts

We struggled whether a book written by the late Bruce Lee is yet old enough to be considered a classic, but, ultimately it is just too good and relative to exclude.  This is the epitome of a classic guide to life and you can only choose one book from the list, make it this one.  72 topics and 825 aphorisms (sayings) covering everything from the principles of life to being involved in the arts.  Bruce Lee was a master at many things but with most of the focus on his movie career, perhaps we missed his biggest contribution which was his way of life. 

Final Thoughts

This is only a taste of the books on our shelves but a very good place to start.  Humans have been looking for answers for a long time.  The questions may have changed but the philosophies and struggles of history remain very relevant today. 

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