Best of Bibliotherapy: 2023

Here is my 3rd annual list on *just some of* the books I found to be most helpful in the realm of mental health. There are other books I read which were powerful enough to warrant an entire post on just them, but for now… here are at least some that were significant enough to catalyze deeper thinking or better thinking for me that I consider them beneficial to growth and health as well. Enjoy!

2022’s list

2021’s list

Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder by Gabor Maté. I’m a Maté fan in general so this has been on my TBR list ever since it came out but I’ve seen enough uptick in my own practice and in culture of people discussing this diagnosis that I knew I needed to learn more. This book is excellent. Reverent almost, in its discussion on the origins of AD(H)D and I stopped my audiobook many times to scribble down thoughts and quotes as I went through this. I found it extremely helpful in understanding not just many people that I know, but one of my own children as well.

Atomic Habits by James Clear. I finally jumped on the bandwagon and made a point to read this book. I’m glad I did; I learned many new things and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t just regurgitating all the info we all already know about habit formation and maintenance. I want to reread it in fact a bit more slowly to try and deepen my understanding on this.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker. There are likely millions of people walking around this country who have C-PTSD and have no idea. Childhood trauma includes more than just physical or sexual abuse. It also includes serious emotional neglect which impacts the biological structure of the brain and impacts how people function in this world. This book was extremely clear and well done for both professionals and lay people.

The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout. Sociopaths seem far more pedestrian than the Hannibal Lectors of the world… this book debunks some of the myths of this personality disorder.

On Self Hatred by The School of Life. This is a very short, very small, very readable book. It will not cure everything for everyone. But it’s a refreshing take on the matter of self worth because it approaches it philosophically, rather than clinically. It will not replace necessary trauma focused therapy, but can supplement it nicely.

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. The value in this book is that it’s full of all the wisdom and observations from a clinician who actually specialized in working with abusive men. Most therapists are adept at treating survivors of abuse but few work competently with perpetrators or abusers. The insights gained in this are important for anyone even remotely connected to domestic violence and it’s understandable why it’s practically considered a classic now.

Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships by Nedra Tawaab. I am an admitted Tawaab fan and the reason why is because she gives very practical, immediately useful tips for people who struggle with boundaries. This book is not an in depth exploration of Family Systems Theory, but it is more like a grab-and-go guide for what to say or do in tricky family situations. Everything from in-laws, blended families, addiction and onward is addressed.

Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict by Joshua Coleman. So many people are desperate for a path forward with their estranged kids and I think this is one of the more delicate areas of family work to navigate with people because the wounds go so deep. I don’t think this book necessarily acts as the hope and salvation for sorrowful parents, but I do think it offers a way to begin thinking about and functioning in the dysfunction.

What to Do When You Worry too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner. There are plenty of mental health books directed towards children nowadays and many of them are drivel. This one is not. I found it useful and now recommend it to clients. 

As I’ve always maintained, I honestly think it’s through my formation as a reader and lover of literature that I am able to do the beautiful, hard, meaningful work of therapy. It is in books where I first explored human hearts and minds very different from my own and it is through books that I’ve grappled with the darkness and light of the human spirit. Without the written word, my craft would be an impoverished one indeed and I am thankful to be surrounded by so many wise mentors, living and dead, in pages of both fiction and non-fiction.

Here’s to the curiosities that 2024 will have me exploring!