One of the things you’ll get from me as a client in counseling — or as a friend, lover, family member or professional colleague — is the recommendation to read great books and great articles. My interests are broad, and I may eventually end up posting readings that diverge some from the subjects of psychology and health, but I want to make a quick one-stop shop where you can find out what I’ve read myself and recommend to others. (Titles sometimes change for marketing paperback editions, as links will occasionally indicate.)
Taking the time to inform yourself, directly, as opposed to taking my word or someone else’s word on things, is part of the path to becoming the steward of your own psychological health. Question everything!
Barber, Charles. Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation (2008). If you’re someone who finds all those ads on TV for psycho-pharmaceuticals somehow enticing, beware! This book flays open the profit-minded motives of Big Pharma and reveals how they are trying to market mental illness in the U.S. and abroad.
Frattaroli, Elio. Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain: Becoming Conscious in an Unconscious World (2001). This may be of more interest to professionals than to lay readers, but if you’re interested in the debate between psychotherapy and psychiatry — in the art of treating human beings vs. “the medical model” — this is a wonderful exploration of “why medication isn’t enough.” Frattaroli is an MD and a psychiatrist who advocates that his colleagues look up from their prescription pads now and then and not give up on art of counseling.
Smith, Daniel B. Muses, Madmen and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination (2007). Several years back, when I unwrapped this book as a Christmas gift, it seemed unlikely to interest me that much. But Smith’s background is as a journalist, not a psychiatrist, and he has written a brilliant, easy-to-read work of non-fiction here that manages to illuminate the changing perception of personal experiences and altered states, such as “hearing voices,” in North American society. In doing so, he shows just how damaging the “medical model” of mental health can be for people who have unusual experiences of the world.
Schulz, Mona Lisa. The New Feminine Brain: How Women Can Develop Their Inner Strengths, Genius and Intuition (2005). Written by an MD, a psychiatrist and a “brain scientist,” this is an informative primer on the inner emotional-neurological life of women.
Grief & Loss / Death & Dying
Levine, Stephen. Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart (2005). This is a phenomenally lovely, easy-to-read, practical and honest “self-help” book on grief & loss. I can’t say enough good things about it.
Levine, Stephen. A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if It Were Your Last (1997). This is a great, and brief, practical guide to in using death awareness as motivation to live more fully in the present moment and to heal relationships.
Ashenburg, Katherine. The Mourner’s Dance: What We Do When People Die (2002). This is an excellent work of cultural anthropology about Western attitudes and practices around death and dying, such as emergence of the modern-day cemetery. What makes this work important is the examination of cultural rituals around death, many of which seem to have fallen by the wayside as North American society has become more fragmented.
Health and Psychology
Campbell-McBride, Natasha. Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression and Schizophrenia (2010). There’s hardly a soul I’ve met who wants to hear that changing your diet — especially eliminating those barely digestible grains like corn — is a great step toward psychological healing. But for many people, that’s true! It’s also cheaper, and better for you and your First Body (especially your liver), than taking handfuls of psycho-pharmaceuticals every week. You gotta eat anyway.
Northrup, Christiane. The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change (2006). No woman likes to hear that “it must be that time of the month” when it comes to explaining mood fluctuations, but if you’re a woman at mid-life and you’ve still got your ovaries and/or uterus (and perhaps even if you don’t), this is an indispensable resource for understanding what’s changing and what you can do to help yourself age gracefully — without clawing anyone else’s eyes out in the process.