Best Fiction Books for Anxiety (15+ List)

This is a helpful list of the best fiction books for anxiety. The items listed here either talk about the experiences of characters dealing with anxiety. Or they describe periods of struggle and reflection that can prove to be inspiring. 

What are the Best Fiction Books for Anxiety?

Pick up any of these fiction books if you struggle with anxiety:

Novels to Read if You Have Anxiety

Reading books for the treatment of mental health issues is called bibliotherapy. Many studies have found that reading can help people struggling with anxiety. Research also shows that reading story books helps with health anxiety, nighttime fears, and exam anxiety.

Here, we’ve made a list of the best fiction books for people interested in bibliotherapy:

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage is Maugham’s autobiographical masterpiece. The Modern Library ranked this book 66 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It is influenced by the literature of the 1800s but sitting in 2021, you can still relate to Philip. 

The main character, Philip has undergone a lot of trials and tribulations but has come out learning something each time. In stressful times, reading about him would make you feel that you are not alone and will give you hope.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

This Salinger Classic will give you a great literary understanding of emotional disturbances that all of us suffer from, occasionally. This reading accentuated unresolved grief, family dysfunction, mental illness, and a lack of social connectedness of Holden Caulfield. 

The reader can easily make the connection that Holden suffers from depression, anxiety, etc. Salinger’s acute understanding of human nature lends an extraordinary sensitivity to his main character. This Catcher in the Rye offers a great representation of the overwhelming anguish that stems from untreated trauma and mental illness.

Harley Loco by Rayya Elias

Rayya Elias’s memoir charts four decades of a life lived in the moment. A path from harrowing loss and darkness to a place of peace and redemption, she creates a beautiful tale. Elias’s lack of self-pity in the face of extreme highs and lows make it a powerful read. 

It’s sure to appeal to you if you get inspired by others overcoming their personal struggles. This novel can serve as a source of power and inspiration if you have to deal with dread and negative thoughts on a daily basis.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney

Greg Heffley, the protagonist of this series may come across as a regular boy when you start reading. However, his quirky and sometimes fantastical outlook on his family, school and life, in general, make you root for him. The series is exciting and absolutely appealing for children and teens. 

Even though it does not explicitly provide lessons to its readers, there is a lot we can learn from him. Get inspired by how socially awkward Greg finds something exciting every day! It is light, hilarious and absolutely glorious to read.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Bilbo never wanted to leave his home, hobbits are not supposed to! However, he did. And went on the greatest adventure anyone could have imagined. This is a tale of heroism and courage and it will make you believe that you can be brave. 

People with anxiety often belittle themselves. They feel scared of taking up new projects and even leaving their homes sometimes. With Bilbo as your role model, we promise you will feel stronger to take on any challenge that may come your way!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

People Magazine described this book as “A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control.” Turtles All the Way Down puts you inside the head of someone who has a spiralling mental illness. 

Additionally, it does so with just an eerie amount of accuracy. It’s one of the most powerful and open books about mental illnesses that plague most people regularly. People suffering from OCD and anxiety would relate to the intensity of the disorders described eloquently by Green.

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

The Waves is widely regarded as one of Woolf’s greatest and most original works. It conveys the rhythms of life in synchrony with the cycle of nature and the passage of time. Following the life and subsequent development of six children, this book explores different passions and ambitions. 

It explores individual and collective identity and the observations and emotions of life. From the simplicity and surging optimism of youth to the vacancy and despair of middle-age, this book is a journey. A journey to understand what life is all about.

Ana on the Edge by A. J. Sass

Body dysmorphia can make feel so embarrassed, ashamed and anxious that you may avoid many social situations. Negative thoughts, fears and worries about how you will be perceived or dissatisfaction with social norms can be horrifying. This is something figure-skater Ana knows very well. 

Gliding through a competitive life with all eyes on Ana, doubts about self forms fast. However, with validating friendship, a lot can be conquered, can it not? This is a heartfelt coming of age story about a nonbinary character navigating a binary world.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince is multifaceted. On the one hand, it allows the reader to reflect on what is truly important in life but is invisible to the eye. On the other hand, its allegorical to the various adult trials and tribulations. 

His tale is ultimately a tender one–a heartfelt exposition of sadness and solitude. It will teach you how love is all-important and allows us to truly see to the heart and beauty of all things. However, if the same love becomes difficult and unhappy, you are allowed to leave.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy suffered from anxiety. His description of “despair, fear and terror, the like of which [you have] never experienced before” is not surprising. His characters in the novel feel anxiety, even though they come from different paths of life. 

How they overcome it, is what is worth note-taking. His powers of description are beyond comparison. The focus of his descriptive powers is often on the gesture, the look on the face, the social context of the event.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundra

In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, existence seems to lose its substance. Everything seems to occur but once. Hence we feel “the unbearable lightness of being.”

Milan Kundera’s magnificent novel of passion and politics, infidelity and ideas, encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy. It illuminates all aspects of human existence. Even the ones, we sometimes tend to forget amidst our fears and worries.

Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt

If you enjoy dark comedy, then this book is the finest suitor for you! Allow Hunt to take you on this exuberant funhouse ride through a week in the lives of the uncanniest characters. Suspend your judgemental and logical minds for a few hours and revel in this delightful tale. 

Hunt treats her heavy themes with a light, intelligent touch and writes with a distinctive blend of humour, and insight. This might be exactly what you need to keep the distressing thoughts and feelings away.

William, The What-If Wonder by Carol Wulff

William gets a lot of pestering what-if thoughts which make him feel nervous and scared.  But, wait!  What if the day turns out to be amazing? Even as adults, most of us forget to answer our what-ifs with positive responses. This children’s book is fun and teachable. 

A touching story with charming illustrations, this book will help children recognize the difference between worry and reality. Through the introduction of cognitive reframing, they will learn to see the same situation in a new view.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas, Cold Comfort Farm (1932) is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time. The main character, sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste, has a knack for organizing people! Does it sound weird or do you relate to her? 

The smart yet satirical tone of the book, along with its colourful characters, will keep you elated. Keep all your worries at bay for the evening by picking up this amusing book.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

This volume collects the full journey of Lyra to the north, and her rescue of the kidnapped children at Bolvangar. It also includes her escape via hot-air balloon and her crucial role in building a bridge to another world. 

The graphic novel adaptation of the celebrated book “The Golden Compass” is a treasure to read for all ages! Exciting and fast-paced, you will not be able to put it down. Once you get engrossed in Lyra’s adventures, you will barely have time to worry!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

This novel, first published in 1938, shows Miss Pettigrew, impoverished and desperate, seeking a position as a governess. It follows her through a fairytale-like day of dramatic encounters and unlikely events. 

The book’s tone is light and very sweet. Miss Pettigrew, entirely unaccustomed to kindness, is treated with kindness and appreciation and blooms in response. This story reminds us that change is possible anytime, even though that might seem impossible at times. It becomes an encouragement for people to seek out the “good” in their life.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusion

This was a helpful list of the best fiction books for anxiety. The items listed here either talk about the experiences of characters dealing with anxiety. Or they describe periods of struggle and reflection that can prove to be inspiring.

The best fiction books for anxiety are Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Harley Loco by Rayya Elias, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, Ana on the Edge by A. J. Sass, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Our list also included War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundra, Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt, William, The What-If Wonder by Carol Wulff, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson.

FAQs (Best Fiction Books for Anxiety)

Does reading fiction help with anxiety?

Reading a novel can help with anxiety in two ways. The first is that it provides a healthy distraction from anxious thoughts. The second is that sometimes, stories have characters that you can relate to. 

If the book features an anxious character, you can relate with them and feel less lonely. Finally, novels often provide us with courage and inspiration to deal with our own struggles.

What celebrities struggle with anxiety?

Here are some celebrities that struggle with anxiety or anxiety disorders:

  • Selena Gomez
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Adele
  • Missy Elliot
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Ryan Reynolds
  • Michael Phelps
  • Zayn Malik

Can you ever beat anxiety?

Despite what you think, anxiety is not a permanent condition and can definitely be cured. The most effective way to beat it is through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). You can access these techniques by consulting a therapist or trying a CBT workbook.

Other ways to beat anxiety symptoms are medication, adaptogens, supplements, and aromatherapy.

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