Best of Bibliotherapy: 2022

I had so much fun with my last year’s list, I decided to make this an annual post. I’ve kept a Reader’s Journal for almost ten years now and it’s been gratifying to notice certain trends and patterns throughout my life. A disproportionate amount of my current reading is in the realm of non-fiction these days, but… there is a season for all things.

They say that to be an effective writer, one ought to read broadly and deeply. I feel like this is pretty applicable for the work of psychotherapy as well. I am comfortable confronting the human condition in all its darkness and weakness because— as a reader— part of me has always been here. The minds and hearts of so many different people have been spilled open to me through the power of ink on paper since I was a very, very young girl. For the year of 2022, these are the best books I read in the realm of mental health and are worthy of your attention. 🙂

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay Gibson. This is at the top of my list for a reason. I bought it upon recommendation from a therapist-friend. Devoured it. Found myself talking about it with many different clients. Gave it as a gift to a couple people I know. Recommended it so often that I bought a handful of them to give away to clients in session who needed it. Found it at a thrift store for 49 cents and bought it again. Just because. The problem people have with this book is the title; they’re embarrassed that their mother or father might find it on their shelf and then what?! Here’s a reality that is challenging to accept: your parents may have been wonderful people who did “the best they could”— and it also may not have been enough for what you needed as a child.  Go to therapy or read this book to find out more… hide it under your mattress if you need to!

Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death by Irv Yalom. Nearly every single person on this planet has some degree of anxiety about dying. This is natural. But experiencing full-blown panic over the thought of our mortality is not natural. This book can help. It won’t completely take away the fear. But it will help infuse some normalization and light into it through the one of the foremost existential doctors of our generation. Note that Yalom is not religious, so this topic is not addressed with much consolation regarding an afterlife; but I think it still could be useful for nearly anyone.

Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking our Kids by Nicholas Kardaras. After I did a training on digital addictions by Dr. Kardaras, I made a point to read this book. It’s important. Please read it. He has a newer title for adults and I realize that many want to roll their eyes at what seems like an alarmist title. I get it. I use social media and my smartphone more than I’d care to admit, just like the rest of you. But I refuse to dismiss something that has such clear science behind it just because it’s inconvenient to my lifestyle were I to learn more. I want something better for myself and my family and this is an area of social sciences about which I am particularly passionate.

School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton et al. I loved so much of what School of Life puts out that I went on a hunt for who was behind this organization and what was the driving ethic behind it. Alain de Botton is one of my favorite, living philosophers. I wonder if he would turn up his nose at his book being on a therapy booklist but I trust that the people reading this are humans and have a vested interest in leaning into the particular emotional ailments that the journey brings. This book can help, and with quality wordsmithing to ease the medicine.

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention– And How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari. Disclaimer: I’ve read all of Hari’s books and was already feeling favorable toward this one before I even cracked it open. Part of what I like about him is that his books aren’t “self help” books. They are investigative journalism driven by interesting, universally human questions. ADHD affects less than 3% of the population according to the DSM V. But it seems that every other adult nowadays is suddenly ‘discovering that they have this disorder.’ (Thank you TikTok.) Surely, some will find relief by being able to have a construct by which to understand their experience; I’m grateful for awareness! AND: these folks are in the minority. The rest of us are just suffering from a chronic distractibility that has been significantly driven by our electronic lives. Hari explores that here in this book.

Set Boundaries Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Tawaab. Until I read this book, I consistently referred people to the classic Boundaries series by Cloud and Townsend, which is excellent. (I especially love the Boundaries with Kids book.) But Cloud and Townsend write to a Christian audience and from a Christian perspective, which is great for so many people… but not everyone. And the topic of Boundaries is too important to allow it to exist only in the realm of Christianity. Nedra Tawaab is the answer. I highly recommend this book.

The Way Out: A Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven Approach to Healing Chronic Pain by Alan Gordon. I don’t suffer from chronic pain (except a consistent tension in my shoulders— that’s where my stress sits.) but I love and also work with people who do. (How many people do you know who “have a bad back” for example?) So I read this book to understand better. It would be disingenuous of me to pretend that this book is the silver bullet for your decades-long agony. But I think it’s important because it pokes holes in what our cultural script says about pain— what it is and how to deal with it. It teaches about neuroplasticity and offers some alternative ways to manage or even eliminate pain.

No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear) by Kate Bowler. I’m a Kate Bowler fan. And hers is one of the very few podcasts I regularly tune into. I can’t help it… she’s just so refreshingly… human. This book was one I read from start to finish in one sitting. It is always lovely to feel like you meet a kindred soul through ink on paper. Her words have been balm for me. And I always appreciate at just how much she rolls her eyes at the fact that her books can be found in the self-help section…

The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Gr0wn-Ups by Leonard Sax. I developed a respect for Sax when I read Girls on the Edge: Why So Many Girls are Anxious, Wired and Depressed and I have a copy of his  Boys Adrift on my shelf, patiently waiting for my attention. But in the meantime, I was surprised to get some fresh nuggets of wisdom from his general book on parenting. I feel like I’ve read 900 parenting books by now and heard it all. But this one was appreciated for what it offered to me.

For You When I Am Gone: Twelve Essential Questions to Tell a Life Story by Rabbi Steve Leder. I think this was the most important book I read this year. Yes. I know so. Important. Have you ever written an ethical will? Me neither. But I just finished this book yesterday and will do so within the next couple weeks. I wish I had one from my late father… and I’m trying to figure out how to tactfully ask my living mother for one. But I want my kids to have one from me. Very, very much. If you’ve had a storied life, your kids would benefit from having your ethical will too…

 

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ―  Henry Ford