I often get asked what books I recommend for people on their journey of healing. There are a few in the two Resources pages on this website, but here is a somewhat longer list:
Some of the first books I read in this vein were by the psychiatrist and teacher M. Scott Peck, and they are still classics and a great starting point for many. Start with The Road Less Traveled – and then go on to read A Different Drum – a wonderful book about community; and People of the Lie – a classic work about the nature of evil. Basically I’d recommend anything he has written, and it is very approachable and readable.
A few other classics
Homecoming by John Bradshaw – a great course in working with the inner child
Healing the Shame that Binds You – also by John Bradshaw, and while we are on this author, check out also Creating Love: The Next Great Stage of Growth, and Family Secrets – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.
Bradshaw passed away in 2016 after leaving a great legacy. The modern writer who has picked up his themes of healing shame and valuing vulnerability is Brene Brown. She’s written several books but I’ve only read one: Daring Greatly – How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent and Lead – and I thoroughly recommend it.
On love, I really got a lot out of A General Theory of Love by three psychiatrists: Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, which goes into the brain science of love while also retaining the poetic and spiritual sense of love.
For a very different treatment of love by a Jungian psychologist who uses ancient myths to illustrate the archetypal themes of his subject, check out We – Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert A. Johnson. It’s a short read, but dense and worth a lot of reflection. Other books by Robert A. Johnson worth a read are his classics He – Understanding Masculine Psychology and She – Understanding Feminine Psychology, as well as Owning Your Own Shadow.
In a similar Jungian, vein, John A. Sanford’s classic book on relationships is Invisible Partners – How the Male and Female in Each of Us Affects Our Relationships. Well worth a read.
Another great book on relationships is Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, which introduces the idea that we are attracted to partners who fit an image (imago) formed by our own childhood relationships with our parents.
If you want to go further down the rabbit hole, I strongly recommend Silently Seduced – When Parents Make Their Children Partners by Kenneth M. Adams – a great book on the thorny topic of emotional incest, which I suspect affects the majority of people.
When it comes to the practice of relationships, some basic skills in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) are a great asset. There’s a heap of free training videos on YouTube so you can learn a lot from there, but the classic book to read would be Nonviolent Communication by Marshal B. Rosenberg
When it comes to understanding Trauma and the healing of trauma, there are two great healers who have written on this subject. One of them is Bessel Van der Kolk whose book The Body Keeps the Score should be regarded as a kind of bible for trauma work. The other author is Peter Levine, whose books include Waking the Tiger – Healing Trauma; Healing Trauma – a Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body; Trauma and Memory; and In An Unspoken Voice – How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.
When it comes to understanding emotions, take a look at Molecules of Emotion: The Science behind Mind-Body Medicine by Candace Pert.
When it comes to understanding neuroplasticity (how new neural pathways are created etc) a good place to start is The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
When it comes to understanding that our genes don’t, by themselves, determine outcomes, and that the choices we make affect which genes get switched on and off and how those choices get passed on, the book to read is The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton. It’s a good introduction to the field of epigenetics.
On spirituality, I love the work of Thomas Moore, in particular his classic Care of the Soul. He has authored many other books including Soul Mates, The Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love; Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals; and A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You were Born to Do.
I’ll end with my favourite work of fiction which is also a masterpiece of psychology and spirituality: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. There is so much in this book, and I was helped to get more out of it by reading two books by Donald Nicholl: Triumphs of the Spirit in Russia and The Beatitude of Truth: Reflections of a Lifetime. Both of these books have a chapter on Dostoyevsky (and Karamazov in particular)
That’s enough for now. I may add more to this list over time. Please let us know what books you have learned and grown through?