A Baker's Dozen of the Most Helpful Titles I Know
Favorite book for boosting Self-Acceptance!
Brach, Tara (2003). Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha
This is the title I most commonly recommend to individuals who struggle with self-doubt and harsh inner criticism (most clients). Tara Brach, psychologist and dharma teacher, offers stories from her own life, buddhist teaching and clinical work. The "voice" of her writing (and recordings) is, itself, an induction into soothing self-talk and soothed self-states. Exercises and practices enhance this kindness and teach mindfulness skills. Caveat: This book has a clear Buddhist frame, yet it has seemed accessible to a wide range of readers. Don't worry if Brach's descriptions of self-criticism in the first chapter seem "worse" than your own; the tone changes as you read further.
Favorite book for Couples!
Johnson, Sue (2008). Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
Many couples have benefited from this book in terms of Sue's Adult Attachment paradigm combined with practical exercises for understanding and deconstructing the cyclical patterns so common to couples. The book is validating, inspiring and instructive. Caveat: the book lacks diversity of LGBTQ and non-traditional couples. However, Sue does work with a wide variety of clients, including same-sex partners.
Rosenberg, Marshall (2003). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
The most expansive view of communication I've encountered, this book is as much a spiritual experience as an intensely practical skill-building book. Marshall looks at objectivity/subjectivity in communication, how to identify both feelings and needs, and optimal ways to make clear requests. This brilliant work is steeped in empathy and clear-seeing. Caveat: Some complain that the method is too rigid or unwieldy. I'd say that if you implement 10% of what is offered, without doing the "four parts" perfectly, you'll feel the impact in your communication and in yourself.
Greenspan, Miriam (2003). Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear and Despair
Deep and useful. Moving from the individual to the collective over the course of the book, Greenspan writes with enough sophistication and accessibility to make your reading worthwhile. She weaves her ideas with "skills and steps" to work through painful material, ending with "33 Emotional Exercises" that offer more than one "something for everyone." No Caveat, one confession: Recommended to me by a client.
Romano McGraw, Patricia (2004). It's Not Your Fault: How Healing Relationships Change Your Brain and Can Help You Overcome a Painful Past
A fairly easy read with just the right amount of trauma neuroscience and attachment theory to illustrate the basics of developmental trauma and it's impact on relationship, as well as how and why relationship heals. Caveat: In one of the final chapters, the author becomes "religious." Also, her clinical case study is limited to one woman's journey. Hate to leave out one of the best trauma books of the 90's: Judith Herman Trauma and Healing, still one of the best and most compassionate.
Siegel, Daniel and Mary Hartzell (2003). Parenting From the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Undertsanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive
Beautiful, articulate, warm and human look at the complexity of parenting with the neuropsychology, mindfulness and growth perspectives. One of the most comprehensive looks at the interface between our own "stuff" as parents, and the development of our kids. Caveat: The neuropsychology sections, though included as "optional" sidebars, can feel overwhelming to some (and the most thrilling parts for others.)
Hannibal, Mary and Judge Ina Gyemant (2003). Good Parenting Through YOur Divorce: How to Recognize, Encourage and Respond to Your Child's Feelings and Help Them Get Through Your Divorce (2002) Also in paperback (different subtitle)
This book was written by staff of Kid's Turn, a popular and often court-ordered educational program for families facing divorce. Kids attend age-grouped classes, while the parents attend separate groups. As the program and book titles reveal, the focus is on how to protect and nurture kids through the separation and divorce process. Caveat: It's hard to pick one book on this topic. Ricci: Mom's House, Dad's House is a classic, for straight couples, and Dinosaur's Divorce is great for even older elementary age kids.
Frankel, Estelle (2004). Sacred Therapy: Jewish Spiritual Teachings on Emotional Healing and Inner Wisdom
"Sacred Therapy" is one of the most important and optimistic books I have read, as a woman, a therapist, a Jew, a human being. Whether the reader arrives at this writing with explicit spiritual knowledge and practices, or simply a deep longing for understanding and peace, Estelle's graceful blend of wisdom and heartfulness inducts each of us into a direct experience of wholeness, of the Divine. Estelle does not skirt around issues of pain and suffering, nor the practical, rather, she dives headlong into the darkness with us, with Torah and simple tools, and, magically, we resurface with more hope and a greater ability to respond to Life as it truly is. For psychotherapists, Jewish or otherwise, Estelle offers a language and a context which urges us to "remember" our Selves large enough to hold our clients and to offer them a well to drink from, too. Through rich stories of Jewish history and spirituality, and with the support of guided meditations, Estelle invites us to know our Selves individually and in connection, through the eyes of God, even if we don't believe in God. Again, no caveat, one confession: This is the review I wrote when the book was published.
Thich Nhat Hanh (2002 3rd ed.). Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames
TNH is one of the most extroardinary beings of our time, in my opinion. You can read anything he has written, as each book takes you to the same place: compassion and truth (a la the teachings of the Buddha). This book offers touching stories, powerful insights and practical suggestions for dealing with anger. Like all the teachings of TNH, this book is deeply rooted in Buddhist principles. Caveat: While TNH is well-loved internationally, his style is not for everyone. About Thich Nhat Hahn
Hanson, Rick with Richard Mendius (2009). Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom
Simply put, this book invites you to change your brain by changing your mind. Based on current neuroscience research, the authors offer a variety of practices and tools that rewire the brain toward increased calm, joyful and compassionate states, quelling the more reactive (Reptilian) survival responses. Some of the suggestions are uniquely simple. Caveat: This is the type of book that can leave one judging themselves for not working harder or being "better" and being a good person. Hanson is a pretty happy guy. Check out his "Just One Thing" newsletter.
Taylor, Jeremy (2009). The Wisdom of Your Dreams: Using Dreams to Tap Your Unconscious and Transform Your Life
A visionary "dream-whisperer" who has has pioneered and seeded a powerful, respectful model for peer-led dream groups as a means of social change. Check out: Basic Dreamwork Tool Kit . Caveat: I've actually only read the previous (1992) edition, but I trust this revision is just a further evolution of what was great.
Deena Metzger (1992). Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds
This is a gem if you are drawn to use writing as a healing tool, and even if it has never occurred to you. She makes it easy, first by validating what's so important about writing our own narratives, then by offering a compassionate way to hear our own words, and, then, by offering a great buffet of practices to choose from. She's an amazing writer and person. I liked this review of the book: "Deena Metzger's book is generous, spiritual, pragmatic and inspiring. Her exercises and prompts may lead you to deep areas within yourself that are surprising and she is a constant, understanding guide." Caveat: A bit more work to access than Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" or "Wild Mind," but worth it.
Burns, David (rev. 1999, 1989). The Feeling Good Handbook
A thorough and clear presentation of the best of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with many tools and exercises. I find CBT to be more circumscribed than "Embodied Psychotherapy," yet, when I have recommended this book, many clients have reported benefit, particularly from the section on "untwisting" thought distortions. Caveat: It's CBT. Also, Burns has updated his approach to one that integrates empathy and spirituality.
A smattering of titles that deserve mention:
Lawrence Cohen: Playful Parenting
Jane Nelson: Positive Discipline (Clear, accessible. Teaches "family meetings." 700,000 copies in print.)
Patty Wipfler: Hand in Hand Parenting Booklets ("Parenting by Connection" Approach)
Selma Fraiberg: The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood
Laurene Brown: Dinosaur's Divorce (for elementary age children)
Hal and Sidra Stone: Embracing Your Self (Subpersonality work from Jungian Perspective)
Embracing the Inner Critic
Pat Allen: Art is a Way of Knowing: A Guide to Self-knowledge & Spiritual Fulfillment Through Creativity
Jett Psaris and Marlena Lyons: Undefended Love
Elayne Savage: Don't Take it Personally: Transform Rejection into Self-Acceptance
Breathing Room: Creating Space to be a Couple
Janis Spring: After The Affair
Do I Have to Forgive
Hal and Sidra Stone: Embracing Each Other
Margo Anand: The Art of Sexual Ecstasy: The Path of Sacred Sexuality for Western Lovers
Renate Stendhal: Love's Learning Place: Truth as Aphrodisiac in Women's Long-term Relationships
Sam Keen: To Love and Be Loved
Laurel Parnell: Tapping In: A Step-by-Step Guide to Activating Healing Resources...
Judith Herman: Trauma and Recovery (first published 1992, still one of the best books on trauma)
Staci Haines:The Survivor's Guide to Sex:...Have an Empowered Sex Life After Childhood Sexual Abuse
Tirzah Firestone: The Receiving: Reclaiming Jewish Women's Wisdom
Pema Chodron: anything she has written
Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield: Seeking the Heart of Wisdom--The Path of Insight Meditation
Mark Epstein: Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart (Buddhism and Psychoanalytic Thought)
Stephen Levine: Who Dies (or anything else he has written)
Anne Brener: Mitzvah and Mourning: A Guided Journal for Walking the Mourner's Path...to Healing
Judy Tatelbaum: The Courage to Grieve (Good basic book on facing loss)
Disclaimer: This page lists some of my favorite books, titles that many clients and colleagues have found useful, healing and inspiring. Of course, I do not agree with every view expressed in the publications listed, nor do I recommend all of the exercises or practices described. I offer these titles as resources to be used with wisdom. If in doubt, please discuss with your therapist, doctor or other healing professional. May you find ease and healing!