Books that I recommend (psychology, novels, and more)

I have often been asked to recommend books –psychology and novels and others — which I like or have found helpful on my life journey.  So I compiled a list, albeit an incomplete one, and a little explanation of why I found value in these books.  Also, I just want to add that I don’t necessarily agree with the entire philosophy or attitude expressed in all of these books.  Sometimes I strongly disagree with some of the things expressed — but still find the books valuable for various reasons.  Meanwhile, if you feel so inspired, feel free to post your own book recommendations in the comment section below!

The Drama of the Gifted Child (by Alice Miller):  Alice Miller, arguably one of the best published psychology writer to date, opens “The Drama of the Gifted Child” with this classic, timeless pearl:  “Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness:  the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood.”  An awesome book — its main flaw being that Alice Miller herself was deeply unconscious in so many ways, right to the end.  But still a key psychology book — and a classic.

For Your Own Good (by Alice Miller):  This is the book in which Alice Miller explicates the monster known as Adolf Hitler (by analyzing the traumas he experienced in his childhood) and thereby disproves that human behavior can be innately evil.  And although Alice Miller had a lot of personal shortcomings herself, this book, and especially the chapter on Hitler, is a must-read.  Hats of to her!

Thou Shalt Not Be Aware (by Alice Miller):  Thou Shalt Not Be Aware is one of the finest theoretical books demonstrating how parents betray their children and how devastating this is for the child.  Its weakness is that Alice Miller doesn’t apply this knowledge to herself (which all came out after her death with her son’s exposé of her), but even in spite of that this is one of the best psychology books out there.

Trauma and Recovery (by Judith Herman):  This book is brilliant – one of the best out there on trauma.  I read it in my first year as a therapist, when I was working with Vietnam combat vets.  And it helped me!  And I also realized what the author was writing about applied to me too — and ultimately to everyone.  Its only flaw is that it doesn’t recognize that trauma is a lot more widespread than the author acknowledges.  But still a fantastic book. 

Siddhartha (by Hermann Hesse).  This book profoundly affected me when I first read it in my early 20s.  It’s the story of a young, gifted man from a “good family” who leaves it all behind to follow his own inner path and go on a journey of his own:  into himself, into the world, into mistakes, and into more self-understanding.  Not that I agree with all the messages of this story, but I still think it’s a great book, and I’ve read it several times.  

Of Such Small Differences (by Joanne Greenberg).  This is the story of a romance between a deaf-blind man and a hearing-sighted woman.  It offers a deep and profound and often painful look – and whole-body experience – into a world to which so few have access.  This book is an absolute knockout, and if all books were this good I’d probably just pull back from the world and spend all my time reading!

In This Sign (by Joanne Greenberg):  This is the best portrayal of Deafness that I know.  I couldn’t put it down.  It’s a saga about life, about radical cultural misunderstanding and difference, and about the struggle to build hope and stability in an alienating, uncaring world.  And although the subject matter is Deafness, I found Deafness here to be a metaphor that applies to all of us who feel different, and particularly those of us who feel marginalized or stigmatized by our difference.

Goodbye Mr. Chips (by James Hilton):  Overall a wonderful book — the story of a lovable British schoolteacher of Latin in the early part of the 20th century — seamlessly and magically written and with phenomenal attention to detail..  The author wrote it in a single passionate week, and it reads that way.  All said, though, there are a few flaws I consider:  it’s something of a homage to mediocrity (the mediocrity that is killing our planet). And I disliked the occasional rationalization of abusive behavior toward children (i.e. constantly humoring of “thrashing” kids).  Nevertheless, a great book.

Roots (by Alex Haley):  The classic story of teenage Kunta Kinte being stolen from The Gambia by slave catchers in 1767 and brought to America.  I love Roots and think the whole world should read it.  It’s an important and vital book about American history, family history, and triumph over hardship.  I loved Roots the first time I read it more than thirty years ago, and I love it still.  If only Alex Haley hadn’t plagiarized parts of it, and called some of the fictional parts nonfiction.  But still a fantastic book, especially about the first 60%.  Absolutely worth reading — and it inspired me to travel to The Gambia!  (Meanwhile, like the previous book, this book does minimize the effects of child abuse — “thrashing” children and the like.) 

All Quiet on the Western Front (by Erich Maria Remarque):  This World War One novel told from the German side has been called the great war book of all time, and I cannot disagree — though it could just as easily be called the greatest anti-war book of all time.  It’s also a story of perseverance, friendship, survival, strength, beauty, sadness, loss, trauma (a truly great book on trauma) — and of course the utter absurdity of war.

The Education of Little Tree (by Forrest Carter). An absolutely great and touching novel about a young part-Cherokee boy growing up in the 1930s in the backwoods of North Carolina with his Cherokee grandparents. Although this book’s author has a very screwed up history and was a rotten person in a lot of ways, I still recommend his book (and have written about this on my website).  Meanwhile, if you do choose to read this book I would recommend reading the book first and afterward hunting reading online about the author.  That’s at least what I did and it worked for me.

Uncommon Therapy (by Jay Haley). I found this to be the best book on Milton Erickson, who is one of the world’s more unusual psychotherapists (and many say the father of modern hypnotherapy).  Although I’m not a practitioner of Erickson’s style of therapy, and have some strong criticisms of him (and his style), I found book superb, and I learned a lot from it.

The Godfather (by Mario Puzo):  I debated putting this book on my list, because of the heavy violence and at-times perverse sexuality.  Not a book for kids, for sure.  Also, this book’s main character is someone who could or would likely be denoted a sociopath, however, it’s still an absolute classic of American literature and a fast and interesting read — and a great study in the destructive effects of power.  And also, if the Godfather is a sociopath, this book makes it pretty clear why he became that way — childhood trauma!

The Hobbit (by J.R.R. Tolkien):  One of my favorite books of all time, and I’ve read it over and over.  The story of a frightened and conservative little fellow (Bilbo Baggins) who gets called upon to go on the adventure of a lifetime — and, despite his internal resistance, says yes!  (And if you can get the version with Tolkien’s illustrations, then I think that’s the best one — his illustrations are magical!)

Brave New World (by Aldous Huxley):  This is probably the greatest dystopian novel ever.  What affected me most of all while reading it was absorbing the realization that the dystopia Huxley creates on paper is so incredibly parallel to the world we live in now:  a world of comfort-seeking, sex-seeking, medicated, thrill-seeking blindness, where truth takes a profound backseat to following the herd and keeping in line at all costs.  I also found it profound that this book gave me an opportunity to self-reflect the ways in which I compromise truth in order to follow the herd.  It’s so hard to be different from one’s peers and to forge a new way.  The pressure to conform is massive.  But, as Brave New World makes clear, conformity is sick.  Hard to believe this book was written in 1932:  it seems like it was written yesterday! 

Never Cry Wolf (by Farley Mowat):  A wonderful book of humans and nature, set in the north of Canada and written by a top (and some say “the” top) Canadian author.  I’ve read it multiple times and have always loved it.  I believe it was originally presented as nonfiction, and apparently that’s not quite true, but it’s a superb book anyway.

My Side of the Mountain (by Jean Craighead George):  The story of a 14-year-old boy who leaves his life and family behind to go off into the mountains in Upstate New York and life on his own in nature.  I first read this book when I was a pre-teen, and it inspired me — and perhaps helped lead me on the path that I’m still on today.  A simply lovely book — with great illustrations too.

The Black Stallion (by Walter Farley, 1941):  The story of a boy in, I believe, the 1930s, who gets stranded on an uninhabited island with an Arabian stallion, who becomes his great friend.  A lovely adventure that I first read when I was seven years old — and then reread decades later, only to find that it still stands the test of time!  A classic underdog-rises-above tale, and who can’t love that?

Love at Goon Park (by Deborah Blum):  Nonfictional story of psychologist Harry Harlow and his experiments on psychological attachment in monkeys.  A painful read (basically experiments on torturing monkeys), but provides a lot of insight into human attachment and the roots of human trauma, and also insight into the general stupidity of the larger psychology field.

The Catcher in the Rye (by J.D. Salinger):  I can’t help but love Holden Caulfield, the now-famous protagonist of this great novel, despite all his depression and misery and angst.  I don’t know if you’d call it a criticism, but everything about Holden is pre-conscious, yearning to get real and honest and become true to himself, but at the same time so lost and blocked.  And while the book isn’t exactly redemptive, I still find it a spectacularly lovely and truthful story.

White Fang (by Jack London):  A wonderful adventure tale about a wolf-dog and a man, and I suspect a metaphor for the author’s inner life.

Of Mice and Men (by John Steinbeck):  I first read this in my early 20s — and have read it again and again.  A book of friendship, adventure, ethics, sadness, justice, and truth — all set in California in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.  Perhaps the best book by John Steinbeck (who won a Nobel Prize for his literature).

The Grapes of Wrath (by John Steinbeck):  Wonderful tale of a painful time and place in American history — the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Dust Bowl.  Fantastic characters and local color.  Some filler chapters (extraneous to the plot), but still a fantastic book.  And the character Preacher Casy was for a long time one of my favorite characters in all of literature. 

Watership Down (by Richard Adams, 1972):  Superb story, interesting characters, largely fast flowing plot, and a 70% good metaphor:  the metaphor of breaking from the herd, breaking from the old way, treating life as an adventure to be tackled, and taking risk and using ingenuity to accomplish a mission.

Rise Up Singing (by Peter and Annie Blood):  I’ve owned or seen hundreds of song books, and two are the most precious to me:  “The Fireside Book Of Folk Songs” (published in 1947) and this on.  “Rise Up Singing” is brilliant for these four reasons:  1) Topnotch choice of songs. 2) Great method of presenting chords (I learned how to play chord progressions on guitar from this book). 3) Excellent illustrations.  4) Each song is WELL referenced.  I have gained so much from this book over the years, on so many levels, that I could not leave it off this list. 

Helen Keller: A Life (by Dorothy Herrmann):  This is the definitive biography of a deaf-blind woman who was not just an American hero, but a human icon.  A fascinating tale that I found much better (though sadder) than Helen Keller’s autobiography (“The Story of My Life”), which was much more censored and sugar-coated.  It is very well researched, clearly and carefully written, often insightful, and doesn’t shy away from such taboo topics as sexuality, alcoholism, child abuse, and the disturbing relationship between Helena and her teacher-guardian Annie Sullivan.

Papillon (by Henri Charriere):  One of my favorite adventure stories.  Originally presented as nonfiction (though it seems to have been at least largely fictional), it is an absolutely riveting tale from beginning to end.  It is about an imprisoned man whose only thoughts were on escape — which he did again and again, at incredible personal risk.  Beautiful and fascinating — and inspiring. And yes, while he is macho, perhaps to a fault, there is a gentle side of him too.

Things Fall Apart (by Chinua Achebe):   The story of a remote Nigerian village in its deeply painful transition toward Christianity.  This is prime modern African literature, and I cannot recommend it enough.  I cried while reading it.  And as a perk from reading this book, I learned that anytime I’ve met someone from Nigeria I have a ready-made conversation.  They all know the book, love Chinua Achebe, and love to talk about it.  And since I do too, everyone wins.

Wild Swans (by Jung Chang):  An stunning nonfiction tale of three generations of women in China, their hardships and triumphs — all told in the backdrop of China’s wild history from the early to late-20th century.  I loved it, and it opened many windows for me into life in historical China.  And I actually read it for the first time when I was first in China, in 1994.  Another traveler gave it to me and I gobbled it up — then passed it along when I’d finished it.

Maus and Maus II (by Art Spiegelman):  These two books are absolute classics on the Holocaust and its post-traumatic effects on the family system — written in cartoon form, from the perspective of a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, with each nationality represented by a different animal.  Usually I’m not a fan of cartoon books, but these worked from me — and opened my eyes to what cartoon books can do for the imagination.  Great narrative, great characters, beautifully insightful and alive — both great reads.

The Norton Book of Modern War (by Paul Fussell):  From World War I to the Spanish Civil War to WWII to Korea to Vietnam, an amazing selection of writings of people’s experiences in war. If there’s any book that’s going to make you anti-war (well, this and All Quiet on the Western Front) here’s your book.  Absolutely important, though disturbing.

Lord of the Flies (by William Golding):  This novel is about a group of boys who get stranded on a fictional island in what seems to be the Mediterranean for several months during World War Two.  It’s all rational and organized at first, and then goes quickly downhill from there.  It’s a story of what happens when children with unresolved trauma have free rein to do whatever they want.  However, I really think this story is a metaphor (unconsciously so on the author’s part) for the reality of what actually does happen in so many family systems, with the wounded inner child of the parents in charge and no one to step in and stop them from acting out on their children.

Sybil (by Flora Rheta Schreiber):  This is the first book I ever read on that thing called Multiple Personality Disorder (also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder), and I think it’s the best.  Although it isn’t exactly nonfiction as presented (and my later readings on the therapist showed she had some significant boundary issues of her own), the book is brilliant nonetheless.  It’s the story of Sybil, a girl with a horribly abusive childhood who spends a fair chunk of her adult life trying to recover from it with the help of a dedicated therapist.  Yet it also shows how amazingly creative Sybil as a child had to be, unconsciously, to avoid becoming absolutely crazy.  Also, Sybil’s mother is probably the ultimate evil mother in literature — and a clear example of how a vile, perverse parent can shatter a child’s psyche.

A Day No Pigs Would Die (by Robert Newton Peck):  The short tale tells of a boy, his father, and a pet pig in Vermont in the 1920s.  It struck me that this book had been percolating in the author’s mind for around five decades, and clearly burst out when ripe.  I was drawn to the book by its rather odd title, and I was hooked by page one — and cannot recommend it enough!  The writing is beautiful, interweaving fine modern prose with dialogue in odd but readable post-World War One Vermont farmer and Shaker dialects.  And the main character is a juxtaposition himself, a boy on the cusp of adolescent and on the cusp of leaving behind obsolete Shaker ways.  Truly a great novel.

Hiroshima (by John Hersey):  This book lays on the line the horror of what the atomic bomb was like from the perspective of several different residents of Hiroshima who were there on August 6, 1945.  Although the book is dry, it’s a clear, well-written account of that horrible day, and if there’s any book that’s going to make you against nuclear weapons this is it.

Nilda (by Nicholasa Mohr):  A powerful coming-of-age young adult novel of a poor New York-born Puerto Rican girl, Nilda, hitting her adolescence during World War 2.  It is a tale of love, pain, fear, discrimination, poverty, abuse, narrow-minded immigrants, relationship problems, puberty, low-level depression, and desire for upward mobility — yet none of it told in the sensational or overly dramatic way of so many young adult books.  It’s simple, to the point, and discreet, and reminds me of that statement some famous movie director said, I believe, about Alfred Hitchcock, which I will paraphrase: “He showed us more with a closed door than most directors do with an open zipper.”  P.S. I would also recommend Nicholasa Mohr’s “El Bronx Remembered” — another great book!

Breaking From Your Parents (by Daniel Mackler):  Although it feels a bit weird to put a book of my own in here, I felt this book of mine is unique enough to warrant some of my own positive feedback.  I would have loved this book when I was younger and striving to become independent from my confusing, often boundariless, and at times traumatizing family of origin, but since it didn’t exist, and there were no books I found that even remotely satisfied what I was seeking, I wrote it myself, and I think it serves its purpose.

From Trauma to Enlightenment (by Daniel Mackler and Frederick Timm):  I put in one more book of mine, this one co-written with my friend and fellow therapist, Frederick Timm.  This guide to self-therapy — presented in 12 steps — follows the path of self-healing that both Frederick and I have taken, and are still taking.  I put this book on this list because I feel it is succinct, powerful, and unique — and accurate.  There are also strong sections on tools for self-therapy and other methods for self-help.

My Life (by Leon Trotsky):  Love or hate Communism, Bolshevism, and the Soviet Union (my feelings happen to lean toward the negatives), this is one of the most gripping and unusual autobiographies I have ever read.  Leon Trotsky is an intellectual, world traveler, army general, political leader, brilliant speaker, social commentator, social theorist, polyglot, prolific writer, and 20th century icon, and his book about his life (minus the last 11 years) is unforgettable. 

The Diary of a Young Girl (by Anne Frank):  I consider this book, written by a teenage Dutch Jewish girl trapped with her family in an attic in Amsterdam during World War Two, to be one of the finest books ever — and one of my favorites.  It’s a story of adversity against enormous odds, conflict in the family system, love and beauty, frustration, terror, and ultimately hope.  If I ever were to write a book this powerful I would feel my life was complete!

A few other worthy books about mental health:  

Toxic Psychiatry (by Peter Breggin).

Anatomy of an Epidemic (by Robert Whitaker).

And a few other great novels:

The Great Brain series (by John D. Fitzgerald).

The Little House on the Prairie series (by Laura Ingalls Wilder).

Tuck Everlasting (by Natalie Babbitt).

71 thoughts on “Books that I recommend (psychology, novels, and more)

  1. Hello Daniel. Wanted to thank you for these reccomendations. I read many of them after reading this post. Recently I am going thru The Great Brain series. And its incredible! I am laughing and crying almost after every chapter. These books show me how different the family can function. How parents can relate and listen to their kids. Its not perfect family(silent treatment), but far more respectfull and loving that mine was. So I can put my experience in perspective. Thanks for introducing me to Tom, J.D. Sweyn and their family.
    Others that I found interesting: Anatomy of an Epidemic, Siddhartha, All Quiet on the Western Front, all Alice Miller books(they brought me to your work), the Hobbit, Trauma and Recovery. Looking forward to reading more of them!

    • I would forget about mentioning your books! Of course I also put great value on them. They are sometimes hair raising, but very valuable. Maybe my brain want to forget in a way what they contain. I am going thru From Trauma to Enlighment with my friend at the moment. I also read Breaking from your parents. In the past I also read How to deal with your family after you were diagnosed with Mental Issues. I found them all valuable.

  2. Hi Daniel! Could you consider making a similar list on movies (or tv shows) that you recommend? It would be so precious to me and I’m sure to your other readers!

    • Hi Summer,
      I think it’s a good idea!!! I’ll start making a list. I’m not sure what I’ll come up with, though, or how long it will take…
      Warm greetings,

  3. Hello Daniel,
    where could I purchase your book: “ From Trauma to Enlightenment”. I’m really curious about it’s content. Do you maybe have it in electronic format?

    Thank you for all your work!!

  4. I’d like to comment on the highly recommended essay of Alice Miller.

    Alice Miller became known to me nearly twenty years ago, through her essays available on the net. I read just a few of them. They left me a positive and deep impression, but not feeling much appetite for psychological literature, and sensing a looseness of rigor in her argument, my reading of Miller stopped right then.
    So, when I read your best recommendation of Alice Miller above, her essay on Hitler, I realised that I haven’t read it, my mind’s lips wetted, and I eagerly went to read that ‘must-read.’

    In the opening, Alice Miller quotes Joachim Fest. Fest is slightly dubious in my view.
    Anyway, in the second paragraph, she explicitly and without argument rules out any spiritual factors, and clearly relies on conceptions of life that are strictly biological and materialistic.
    I wonder: How can we possibly take a sensible attitude toward the excessive materialism of the world that surrounds us, by denying any spiritual aspect to any human phenomena?

    Moving further, in the third paragraph, we read:

    “Hitler …… was the survivor of a machinery of annihilation that in turn-of-the-century Germany was called “child-rearing” and that I call “the concealed concentration camp of childhood,” which is never allowed to be recognized for what it is.”

    It strikes me as exactly wrong.

    For one, Hitler spent almost all his childhood in Austria, not Germany. But, more importantly, me being moderately exposed to Germans and German culture by living in Southern Europe, the implication that Germans are especially cruel to their children, goes against my general impressions… as well as by what I have read from a serious historian :

    Carroll Quigley : Tragedy and Hope, second edition (1974 ) – from carrolquigleynet:
    “Germans …. Their neurological systems were a consequence of the coziness of German childhood, which, contrary to popular impression, was not a condition of misery and personal cruelty (as it often is in England), but a warm, affectionate, and externally disciplined situation of secure relationships. After all, Santa Claus and the child-centered Christmas is Germanic. This is the situation the adult German, face to face with what seems an alien world, is constantly seeking to recapture….. “

    Suppose for a moment that that is right. How could the Germans with such upbringing, become subservient to people like Hitler? Easy, is my initial answer. In my childhood, unlike my peers, I was treated pretty much as in the quoted description above. And, you know what? At school, until age 14, I was literally always the most obedient, and earnestly loyal kid.
    A coincidence?
    Maybe. But, somewhere, – sorry, no reference – I’ve read that it is well-known that the parents that manage to control their children the most, are the parents that are most gentle in their manners as parents.
    And : the quoted historian Quigley himself provides a systematic explanation of how such childhoods lead to _more_, rather than less authoritarian societies, in the part of the book from which comes the above quote, page 414 onward, chapter “Germany from Kaiser to Hitler.”

    As for Alice Miller’s essay, I just left it there.

    – from your very regular listener

  5. Hello Daniel, I’ve only just come across your work, having found your video ‘Why I Quit Being a Therapist’ after googling ‘quack psychotherapy’ for a book I am writing. I appreciate our lives are finite and there’s not enough time to read all the great books but I wonder whether you might have found comfort in the writings of the British clinical psychologist, David Smail, a colleague and friend of mine who died in 2014. Among his books are ‘Taking Care: An alternative to Therapy’ and ‘How to Survive Without Psychotherapy’. David founded a group I am part of – the Midlands Psychology Group, here in the UK ( Watching your video was timely as I am currently doing a lot of thinking about a friend in the group who has recently left and quit the clinical psychology industry too. Keep up the great work!

    • Hi Penny,
      Yes, David Smail was excellent. I never met him (sadly) but I have heard a lot about him and read some of his work. And I checked out the Midlands Psychology Group website some years back — it was recommended to me in 2013 when David was still alive. Thank you for your kind words, and warmest wishes! Daniel

  6. I would really love it if you were to comment on the ‘gates family dynamic’ seen in the you tube video called Bill Gates With Wife and Daughter and Her Boyfriend at The Monte Carlo Jumping International
    I just can’t get over how desperately uncomfortable he looks.. almost like a child in a romanian orphanage rocking backwards and forwards.. Id love to hear your take on this.. But I understand if you don’t want to.. Just looked like such a messed up family to me.. The others look like they are all on eggshells. His daughter wisely staying out of the way..

  7. completely forgot to say thanks for publishing the book list. Ive started reading life and i love the directness. and I’ve added others from the list to my Kindle.. education of little tree I read a while ago. ..good book. I find the books by Ingo Swann very interesting at the moment. A very understated New Yorker who avoided the limelight, but spent a large chunk of his life trying to make sense of his work and communicate what he knew to the public.. having to go the self published route because nobody would publish his work.
    I discovered the trailer for that dreadful fonda film has some of the worst bits in it.. Hollywood movies just are so disappointing. But I’ll definitely have a look at these titles.. thanks again

  8. I found the analysis very on point on the Amy Schumer critique YouTube you did recently. I totally get the abuse there. Maybe it’s because of that video that I’ve been noticing this more. In particular a horrible movie made in 2014 called this is where I leave you. Jane Fonda plays this over sexualised mother who crosses all kinds of inappropriate boundaries with her grown son.. there are some clips on YouTube. it’s particularly disappointing, I have very low expectations of somebody like Amy Schemer, but I had higher expectations of Jane Fonda. I’m not sure why. Possibly because she claims to be so self-aware. But this performance and the role involved is so completely offensive and crosses the line. It’s possible that it was the director’s idea, but at the same time it’s a horrible scene to watch. if you know about emotional incest. there are so many creepy inappropriate representations and films. But this one is pretty awful. there is a clip called gold silk robe Jane Fonda on YouTube with some of the worst clips.. Thanks for ploughing ahead with exposing the multifaceted representations of child abuse. Keep up the good work.

  9. Good list. Those interested might also be interested to read “For Her Own Good” by Barbara Ehrenreich and Dierdre English. The chapter called ‘The Century of the Child’ is probably most relevant, as it addresses the eventual intrusion of the industrial mindset into the raising of children. It kind of set my mind on fire, and I can see in this the rise of many problems we have today. Particularly the rise of pharmaceuticalized childhood — and the compliance of parents in such.

  10. A nice collection of books. Thanks for sharing your interests Daniel. Although I have not read Catcher In The Rye for decades I think Salinger captures perfectly the voice of children. Surely this book is a true Drama of a Gifted Child.

    • Also I recommend any of the Moomintroll books by To be Jansenn. I especially recommend “The Invisible Child” which in “Tales from Noon on Valley.” This story is about an abused child who was so frightened they became invisible and silent but whi with love became visible and found there voice again.

  11. Oh — I just remembered another absolutely great book — one of the best on race relations in America: “Black Like Me,” by John Howard Griffin. Published I think about 1959…

    • My own favorites:

      Play Therapy, Virginia Axline

      Dibs In Search of Self, also by
      Virginia Axline

      Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Carl Jung (his autobiography)

  12. Dear Daniel,
    Thank you for such an interesting and diverse list of books.
    Here are some books I found absorbing, compelling and moving:
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
    Black Boy by Richard Wright
    Bittersweet by Susan Strasberg
    American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton
    Comming Attractions: A Wonderful Novel by Fannie Flagg

      • More books:
        – The I Ching or Book of Changes: A Guide to Life’s Turning Points: The Essential Wisdom Library by Brian Browne Walker (audio version)
        – A Night To Remember by Walter Lord
        – Felita by Nicholasa Mohr, Ray Cruz
        – What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love by Carole Radziwill
        – One of several books about Rosemary Kennedy (and the horrors of lobotomy and birth trauma)
        – The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder by David J. Morris (about war trauma)

        • – Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
          – Giant by Edna Ferber
          – So Big by Edna Ferber
          – Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik
          – Stuart Little by E.B. White
          – Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White
          – The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
          – The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

          • – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
            – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
            – Pride and Prejudice by Charlotte Bronte
            – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

            • – Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
              – Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
              – It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw
              – Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

                • – Giant by Edna Ferber has a movie adaptation (1956) well worth watching and —
                  – A Man For All Seasons: A Play in Two Acts by Robert Bolt also has a movie adaptation (1966), also well worth watching –

                  — None of my suggestions are politically or religiously motivated —

                • – The Way I See It by Patti Davis
                  – Pat Nixon: The Untold Story by Julie Nixon Eisenhower
                  – Conversations with Kennedy bt Benjamin C. Bradlee

                  — None of my suggestions are politically motivated – these just happened be around the house and so I read them. I found them all to be written with unusual depth and sensitivity, as well as keen and kindly insight; this helped me better understand my own life.
                  I think all my suggestions show how much our lives are affected by the circumstances into which we each are born, and the times in which we live(d).

                • Something interesting –
                  – According to Wikipedia, author Charlotte Bronte has been called “the first historian of the private consciousness” which I think explains why I find reading her works such a revelation –
                  – Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady by Mary C. Brennan offers a more complex understanding of her extraordinary life –
                  Again, none of my choices are politically or religiously motivated – I just find myself drawn to read about people who’ve been overlooked and unfairly judged.

                • – According to, literary critic Daniel Burt “claims Charlotte Bronte was the first historian of the private consciousness” –

                • My Antonia by Willa Cather –
                  The Theme section of Sparknotes is well worth reading.

            • — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith has a film adaptation well worth seeing – I find the 1945 version to be especially good –

  13. Thank you so much, very valuable! A book that has made a great impression on me when I was just 11 years old was a book about Ghandi, unfortunately I cannot remember the author.

    For any parent – The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success by Walter Mischel.

    If you have ever been in an abusive relationship and wondered, here is the answer to all your “why”s – Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.

    If you are above 30 years old – Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up by James Hollis.

    Totally must have is a The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman. I plan to re-read it several times.

    Insanely well written and heartbreaking are two books by Barbara Ehrenreich, the first one is Nickel and Dimed; the second Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America.

    If you are struggling to eat more veggies, quit smoking or just want a healthier life, this book has helped me tons: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I became a practical expert in tweaking my life! 😉

    I have read tons of fiction books and it would be difficult to pick a favorite. As a little girl, I read a book about Hiroshima that was not dry at all and I recommend that you give this reading to kids. If more kids would read it, more pacifists would populate this world, I assure you. The books title is Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

    I otherwise recall liking: A Thousand Splendid Suns (its better than The Kite Runner, but both to be considered) by Khaled Hosseini, The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich, Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams, Five hours with Mario (Delibes), Blindness (Saramago), Neuromancer by William Gibson, Herztier and The Land of Green Plums (Muller), Natalie Nothomb, Vernon God Lilttle (DBC Pierre), La Repudation by Rachid Boudjedra, Defying Hitler, Canetti, Houellebecq, The Mule’s Foal, Dreaming of Palestine (Randa Ghazy), Thomas Bernhard, Calvin and Hobbes …

  14. Great list, thanks. Also a good psychology book is Theresa Sheppard Alexander’s, “Facing the Wolf: inside the process of deep feeling therapy.”

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