7 of 25
By Susanna Kaysen
192 pages; Vintage

Because she made it okay to talk about mental illness.

Kaysen was only 18, and depressed, when a doctor who'd met her just once sent her to a psychiatric hospital. The year was 1967, and she spent the next two years there. In her memoir, she lifts the shade on the hidden world of the ward for young women. Some of the patients she befriended were seriously mentally ill, others seemed sane but slid into madness, and one tragically committed suicide. With humor and humanity, Kaysen asks us to consider what's "normal," and how we come to terms with the struggles that are part of every life. — Dawn Raffel