One of my favorite books about mental illness is Get Me Out of Here, by Rachel Reiland. It is a memoir of a woman who has borderline personality disorder and seeks out psychoanalysis to help her overcome it. Some people find the detail / plot slow, but I found it fascinating, as she gives a sometimes play-by-play description of what goes on, both in therapy and outside of it. It fosters compassion for a person with borderline's plight, as it intimates quite well the difficulty of the inner situation. In my work at the farm, people with borderline personality disorder have been some of the most amazing and intelligent and wonderful people, but also some of the most dramatic and confusing and frustrating people. Most folk with borderline personality disorder have trauma history, and so there is often a very dark inner world that mixes with a very compelling way of being in the outer world. This book helped me have compassion and understanding, and I would recommend it to anyone seeking to learn more about either borderline personality disorder.
It was also my introduction to psychoanalysis as a concept, and I found it very helpful in that regard. Yes, psychoanalysis is the dr. taking notes and the patient lying on a couch, just as you probably imagine it. It is also usually 4 times a week, 1 hour each session. The idea is that by not facing the analyst, the person in therapy gets more of a chance to be free to share without inhibition and even to project other relationships onto the analyst. When the patient "goes a little crazy on" the analyst (as is bound to happen because of the intensity of analysis), the analyst and the patient get a chance to look at old patterns, to understand them together, and to find other ways to encounter them that aren't as destructive as the old patterns perhaps were. The Freudian bent means that analysis recognizes a subconscious that makes meaning of actions and reactions in a way that the conscious mind is not aware of. Psychoanalysis is a fascinating field of psychology, and Get Me Out of Here is a good beginner's introduction to it.
So that is your first psychology / mental health book review... I'll see if I can get my running cohorts to post some of their favorite books, as well... stay tuned.