Best of Bibliotherapy 2021

Being an avid reader, and someone who has to semi-regularly drive long distances that provide valuable learning time via Audible, I usually have some sort of non-fiction, therapy-related book on queue both to increase my own clinical competence and to review for clients who could benefit from some bibliotherapy geared towards the particular issues they struggle with. 

Each year, I keep a reading log and I like to write about my favorite or most meaningful titles each year and this crosses several genres in the book world.

This year, however, I want to just highlight the most recommendable books I read in the realm of psychology or self-help. These aren’t necessarily the ones I benefited from the most on a personal level, but the ones that I think others could find very helpful and meaningful. Enjoy!

The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by Alex Korb is a very good and practical resource for people who struggle with depression. The reason I like this particular book is that it offers something for everyone. If you can’t generate the motivation to exercise for example, there is another starting point available that is an option.


The New Rules of Marriage by Terry Real. This book is a more thorough version of Real’s excellent talks captured in Fierce Intimacy. Yes, there are million marriage books out there—many that are great! But Terry Real approaches the concept of marriage in a very practical, down-to-earth, and strategic way for couples who just need to see some positive communication gains quickly. Highly recommended.


Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend. Like marriage, there are a million parenting books out there. And truth be told, I’ve probably read most of major players in this genre.  Many are wonderful. This one however, is superb. And I wish I’d read it 20 years ago. It teaches techniques for removing the power struggle between kids and parents by making the boundaries the enemy, and parents the ally. It’s worth reading more than once.


  Girls On the Edge: Why Many Girls are Anxious, Wired, and Obsessed—and What Parents Can Do by Leonard Sax. I truly got a lot out of this both as a mother and a clinician.  I sincerely wish parents everywhere would take time to become informed on the unique and pernicious struggles our emergent teens are facing in today’s world. Sax has a corollary title for boys on my bookshelf that I intend to read very soon.


Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages and Becoming Stepfamily Smart by Gary Chapman and Ron Deal. If only more people were intentional about this very real, very common issue in today’s world! Merging families in new relationships is such an extremely delicate thing and taking the time to do this with wisdom and proper information can go a long way towards making stepfamily  transitions as smooth as possible.   


Think Again by Adam Grant. I have long maintained that one of the most valuable skills for any human to cultivate is self-awareness. This book is designed to show some of the ways our cognitive biases impact our thinking. It’s not a book for people who “know a lot of things”; it’s a book for people willing to be curious enough about the world and themselves to rethink and relearn. Grant’s is one of my favorite social media accounts to follow…


 Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson. The long awaited sequel to Peterson’s record breaking first book was one of my personal favorites this year. I found it to be more in depth and  than its predecessor, which I loved. But know this: Jordan Peterson is not for everyone. He is not a concise, straight-to-the-point writer. He pulls from multiple disciplines to explore his material which can be thrilling for some readers (hi!) and very tedious for others. But if you like how he communicates… this is some of his best work.

 Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Like many people in our country, I’m someone who’s struggled to have a healthy relationship to food. I’ve not been much of a diet person though I adopt personal principles here and there but I was curious about this book because of some issues my clients were facing. I found the material to be interesting, helpful, and important. I don’t think this is a “cure-all” for people to correct what issues they may have, but I do think it is a very important contribution to the field of nutrition and dieting in general. Bonus: I believe it’s free on Audible right now. 

Emotional Success by David DeSteno is another Audible freebie right now. I liked this book because it offers a very different perspective from others I read that emphasize grit and willpower in order to achieve personal success in life. Look, I’m just not very gritty! And willpower is something I’m working on. But in the meantime, it’s great to know that there are other approaches out there that can help put you on a path to meaningful living.


 Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: a CBT Based Guid for Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive or Disturbing Thoughts by Winston and Self. The title says it all here. If you find that getting to a therapist isn’t possible right now and this is something you struggle with, you might be able to find invaluable relief in working through this book. I would note that while there is some overlap, intrusive thoughts are not the same as having OCD. This book might be helpful for some with clinical OCD, but it wouldn’t be my primary recommendation. 


 Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. Of all the books referenced here, this one is the least like a diy-therapy book. It is a something thoughtful and reverent as it reflects on the different seasons of grief or trial in life through personal reflections. I’m including it because I found it to be lovely and gentle and because I think particular kinds of solace are ultimately easier to find in literature rather than self-help books. 


 The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols. Is this a therapy related book? Not exactly. But it is an incredibly important book that if everyone should read would lead to more peaceful and productive states of mental health. The points made in this book were excellent and very sobering in light of our world and all the socio-political issues that are polarizing us. I wish very much that people everywhere would read this… 


So there you have it. Happy reading!


Other books I’m currently reading or are shortly on queue might have made this list if I’d have finished them on time, but life is busy!  🙂  Those books are Deep Work and Glow Kids.

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