Books Like The Bell Jar

Books Like The Bell Jar

Photo credit: Denys Nevozhai


Nowadays, everyone knows how important mental health is for our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. However, for many years, mental health was not given much priority, which meant that it affected the quality of life for a lot of people. Deteriorating mental health has been a popular topic for authors, too, with many writing from their own experiences. For example, The Bell Jar is the only novel written by Sylvia Plath and is a semi-autobiographical account of her own struggles with her mental health. For more novels where the mental health of the women protagonists takes center stage, check out the following books like The Bell Jar.  

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

By Otessa Moshfegh



My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a 2018 novel by Otessa Mosfegh about an unnamed protagonist who, at first glance, appears to have everything. She is young and attractive, graduated from Columbia, and has an easy job at a hip art gallery. Even her Upper East Side of Manhattan apartment is paid for by her inheritance, just like everything else she needs. However, both her parents died in tragic circumstances. She doesn't like the way her boyfriend treats her, and she has a sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend. All this leads her to believe she needs some rest and relaxation. However, in her mind, the best way to get it is to spend as little time as possible awake. To accomplish this, she finds an incompetent psychiatrist who has no qualms about prescribing her a variety of sleeping pills and other medications.  

The Yellow Wallpaper

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman


yellowwallpaperThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is set during the Victorian Age and takes the form of various journal entries narrated in the first person. The journal belongs to a woman married to a physician who has forbidden her from working or writing after the birth of their baby. To ensure she is able to recover from what he calls temporary nervous depression, he rents an old colonial mansion and confines her to the upstairs nursery. Unfortunately, this leaves the woman with nothing to do other than stare at the peeling yellow wallpaper in the room, which causes a drastic decline in her mental well-being. 

The Vegetarian

By Han Kang




The Vegetarian by Han Kang is the story of Yeong-hye, a homemaker living in modern-day Seoul with her husband, Mr. Cheong. The two live an ordinary, controlled life until one day when Yeong-hye starts having nightmares full of blood and brutality. These dreams prompt her to renounce eating meat in an effort to purge her mind. Unfortunately, this small act of independence slowly causes her life to spiral out of control as the people closest to her seek to reassert their control over her.   


By Laura Sims


Looker Book cover

Looker by Laura Sims follows the life of an unnamed woman who finds herself living alone in a run-down apartment following a separation from her husband. The marriage fell apart due to the heavy emotional and financial toll of their battle with fertility. Feeling like she's stuck in a dead-end job and has nothing to live for, the woman becomes fascinated by a famous neighbor living a few doors from her. Her actress neighbor lives a seemingly charmed life with a handsome husband and three adorable children. Unfortunately, her mental health continues to deteriorate as her obsession with her celebrity neighbor grows, leading her down a dark and disturbing path. 

Girl, Interrupted

by Susanna Kaysen 


Girl Interrupted Book Cover


Girl, Interrupted is a memoir by Susanna Kaysen, who, at the age of eighteen, attempted to commit suicide and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and spent time in McLean Hospital, which is the same facility where Sylvia Plath was previously a patient. Kaysen describes her stay at the hospital and reflects on the nature of her illness as well as her fellow patients in the ward for teenage girls. Girl, Interrupted received a film adaptation in 1999, starring Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder. 

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

By Cho Nam-joo


Kim Jiyoung Book Cover

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo, is the story of the titular protagonist who lives in an apartment on the outskirts of Seoul where she spends her days caring for her infant daughter. However, when Kim Jiyoung begins exhibiting strange symptoms, like impersonating the voices of other women, her husband becomes concerned and sends her to a psychiatrist. The story then switches to the story of Kim Jiyoung's life and the events that contributed to her mental breakdown.   

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

By Joanne Greenberg


joannegreenbI Never Promised You A Rose Garden is a semi-autobiographical novel by Joanne Greenberg that was originally published just a year after Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. It is the story of Deborah Blau, a sixteen-year-old who is diagnosed with schizophrenia after making an attempt on her own life. Blau uses the imaginary Kingdom of Yr as a refuge from her problems but is sent to a psychiatric hospital for three years, where her psychiatrist attempts to help her find a way back to her normal life. The book covers the impact of her condition on her life and her relationships with her doctor, friends, family, and other patients. 

Nobody is Ever Missing

by Catherine Lacey


Nobody Missing Book Cover

Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey is the story of a woman named Elyria, who turns her back on her stable life in Manhattan and takes a one-way flight to New Zealand. Elyria doesn't tell anyone about her plans, including her husband, who scrambles to figure out what happened to her. Elyria continues to take risks in New Zealand, such as hitchhiking and sleeping in fields, forests, and public parks, as she encounters the people and wildlife of the country. These risky and surreal encounters propel her deeper into her deteriorating mind, leading her to question if she is even alive.