Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys
"No, don't smile. If you smile, he'll think you're trying to get off with him…Don't smile then, but look eager, alert, attentive...Run out of the door and get away...You fool, stand straight, look eager, alert, attentive...No, look here, he's doing this on purpose...Of course he isn't doing it on purpose...This is impossible.”
Rhys’ semi-autobiographical tale of a fragmented young woman’s time alone in Paris is bitterly funny and sympathetically tragic. Her social interaction is perplexing and disjointed at best, coupled with a wild and furious internal dialogue of personal insights and intense self-admonition, and when words don’t come at all, she resorts to tears. An enlightening and distressing introduction to the anxious mind.
Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
“I tell you solemnly, that I have many times tried to become an insect. But I was not equal even to that. I swear, gentlemen, that to be too conscious is an illness – a real thorough-going illness.”
The Russian master of misanthropy’s iconic underground man experiences anxiety over everything from his physical wellbeing to his engagement with old friends. Spiralling out of control, these preoccupations drive him to a removed, hermitic lifestyle. Excruciatingly funny throughout; one memorable delusion leads to a surreal and long-standing feud with a policeman.
White Noise by Don DeLillo
“When I read obituaries I always note the age of the deceased. Automatically I relate this figure to my own age. Four years to go, I think. Nine more years. Two years and I'm dead. The power of numbers is never more evident than when we use them to speculate on the time of our dying.”
Jack Gladney and his wife Babette are both consumed by a fear of death, and are willing to pursue extreme treatments to eradicate this. Against a postmodern backdrop of consumptive culture and vacuous living, the worry of mortal impermanence is brought all the more painfully into relief, furthered by a growing national obsession with the possibility of imminent disaster.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
“I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that.”
This is the quintessential text on teenage disquiet, and carefully negotiates the onset of adult mental health concerns. A source of comfort for any introverted teen, and a sweetly nostalgic story for adults, Chbosky’s recently film-adapted novel plays out against a backdrop of classic cultural references, promoting creativity as a positive outlet for psychic instability.
Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker
“Your conception of who you are has always, at least partially, depended on how the people around you behaved towards you... You don't know. How can you know anything? How can you know anything? You begin to go crazy.”
This little-known gem charts the radical unraveling of a young girl’s mind, precipitated by a childhood replete with trauma and unconventional relationships. Haunted as she is by turbulent memories, Janey makes a string of extreme and self-destructive life choices, beset by an overwhelming paranoia clouding her judgment. A whirlwind of dialogue, poetry and drawings from a chaotic mind.