As geeks, many of us love learning, and strive to understand ourselves and the world we live in.
Therapy is great for helping us on that journey of discovery, and it can be even more effective when combined with other resources. While “self-help” books have gotten a bad rap over the years, there are so many that offer fantastic information and skills.
Fortunately, I’ve done the work of vetting some that are actually worth your time! Here are a handful of my most recommended books for working on a variety of issues, with a special focus on topics that are common for my geek clients.
In alphabetical order.
Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
As adults, most of us can recognize on some level that our parents did the best they could. We can also recognize that we didn’t get our needs met, and even experienced a lot of pain and harm due to our parents’ behaviors. That can be even more true if our parents were emotionally immature and unavailable to us. This book is great for those who want insight and healing around those relational wounds.
If you’re going to read any book on this list, this might be my top recommendation. It’s great for folks who want to know the science behind mental health. We’re on the frontiers of medicine, and it’s upending how we understand and treat mental illness, and other chronic conditions, like autoimmune diseases, dementia, fibromyalgia, and so much more. It’s quick and engaging, with wide-reaching ramifications. When I read it, I literally said to my partner, “This book is going to change the course of my life and career.” And it has.
Sex can be a difficult topic. There are entrenched societal messages that can lead to intense shame, and if you add in our personal traumas, family lessons, relationship dynamics, power structures, etc., exploring and owning our bodies, pleasures, and sexuality can get difficult (to say the least). If you want to go on an affirming, validating, transformative, and eye-opening journey around sexuality, with a solid basis of science, dive in to this book!
Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Peter Walker
This is an amazing book that I consider a must read for any and everyone. Though the title implies a focus on PTSD, I almost view this as a user’s guide to humans. The book offers insights, well researched information, and practical skills. Even if you don’t think you have complex PTSD, you probably know someone who does, and this book is worth the investment.
Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts by Karen Kleiman & Amy Wenzel
Intrusive, or scary thoughts are common for most new parents, and they can be jarring and distressing. This book demystifies the cycle of unwanted thoughts, and de-shames them through education, reassurance, and skillful tips. A must read for those who are pregnant/recently new parents, and are experiencing scary thoughts, or those who know someone struggling with perinatal/postpartum challenges.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson
Many therapists recommend this book to clients, and I absolutely agree with them. It helps people introspect on themselves and their relationships, and offers tools to understand, connect, and grow with your partner. Sue Johnson is a pioneer in developing Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, which is a highly effective technique for repairing and expanding relationships.
More Than Two by Franklin Veaux & Eve Rickert
This well-known tome introduces information and skills to engage in meaningful and ethical polyamory in ways that won’t ruin your relationship(s). It’s a practical and valuable tool if you are interested in exploring this world of possibilities.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg
This book challenges us to rethink our way of being and communicating, recognizing how we sabotage ourselves and our relationships through unintentional actions. It’s helpful for all arenas, including personal and professional life. It offers real examples, and thoughtful and thorough explanations for all of the techniques and approaches suggested.
Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma, and Consensual Nonmonogamy by Jessica Fern
If you are poly or practice ethical or consensual nonmonogamy, please read this book! It offers information on Attachment Theory, including attachment styles, and how our emotional experiences influence our relationships. Attachment is usually talked about in terms of monogamy, and is the basis for one of the most prominent and effective couples therapy methods. However, attachment is so helpful for everyone to understand, and the author offers six strategies for improving multiple relationships.
Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect by Jonice Webb
Many people do not realize that they experienced emotional neglect when they were young, and balk at the idea by saying things like, “But my parents loved me. I had a great childhood!” Sometimes our parents love us, and were still not there in the ways we needed. This is another great book for increasing insight and healing those types of long-lasting wounds.
If you have ever said, “Part of me feels this way, and part of me feels this other way,” then you already grasp the foundation of the concepts in this book. I often talk with my clients about their various parts, and this book does a great job of helping explore, understand, visualize, and work on healing parts that have been hurt, or that are impacting how you show up in the world. There is also a companion workbook that is worth your time.
Stop Walking on Eggshells by Paul T. Mason & Randy Kreger
This book was written for people who have a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder. Though my thoughts on that diagnosis are complex, I recommend this book to clients who report they are dealing with what they consider difficult people and personalities. It offers useful skills for setting boundaries, and navigating complicated communication and relationship cycles.
The Gender Quest Workbook: A Guide for Teens and Young Adults Exploring Gender Identity by Ryan Jay Testa, Deborah Coolheart & Jayme Peta
This workbook is made for teens and young adults, and helps sort through all kinds of personal, family, and relationship feelings and experiences as they relate to gender identity and expression. It asks helpful questions, provides valuable information, and is written in a way that is straightforward and easy to understand.
Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin
I have recommended this book to many clients, and those who’ve read it come back raving and thanking me for suggesting it to them and their partners. It offers useful insight and practical tips to understand how to love and be loved in your relationships, through the lens of brain science and attachment (but not in a boring way!).