Books have the power to help us understand ourselves and the world around us. They can help us cope with our internal and external experiences. They entertain, distract and inspire us. They open doorways to new worlds, thoughts and experiences, to help us make sense of the world around us and shift our perspectives.

I only include books that I have read on these lists and feel may resonate with others. I also want to acknowledge that there are too many books on this list (and most lists created by mental health professionals) written by cisgendered, heterosexual, white people. I am actively working to read and include more diverse voices, including those of the global majority and the LGBTQIA+ community. This list is a living document and I will continue to add to (and sometimes subtract from) the collection.

I hope you find some books on this list that connect with you and help you on your journey.

On Trigger Warnings: Please assume that any book on this list could contain content that is potentially triggering. I encourage you to do additional research as appropriate, take care of yourself and what you need, and also know that you never have to finish a book that you’ve started. 

Books for when you need a reminder that it’s not you, it’s the world we live in...

Stolen Focus

by Johann Hari

I think about this book all the time. Joahnn Hari explores all the ways our modern world is constructed to steal our focus and the ways we can get it back.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

by Susan Cain

If you’ve ever identified as an introvert or had a part of you that just wanted to stay home and watch a movie on a Friday night, this may be worth the read.

Why We Sleep

by Matthew Walker

Sleep disturbance is one of the most common symptoms I hear about from clients. I find this book to be so helpful in understanding the science behind why we sleep, systemic issues contributing to our lack of sleep and the why behind those sleep hygiene strategies.

Books for when you want to deconstruct your relationship with your body...


by Roxane Gay

This is technically a memoir but I include it here because it was a game changer for me. It is a fierce, unapologetic, beautifully written, heartbreaking and important book.

The Body is Not An Apology

by Sonya Renee Taylor

A joyful call to action for everyone in a body. I loved this book and it feels like a book that everyone should read. I wish my teenage self could have read this one.

Books for when you want to deconstruct systemic racism...

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

by Dr. Joy DeGruy

I read this one in graduate school and it shifted everything about how I view race and trauma. Trauma is not just something that has happened to us. It is also societal, generational and deep in our bones and history.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

by Isabel Wilkerson

This is such an important book. In order to understand the suffering and trauma of today, it feels crucial that we understand the systems that perpetuate that suffering and begin to dismantle them so that we can all begin to heal.

Books for when you’re on a spiritual journey or want to develop a mindfulness practice...

The Miracle of Mindfulness

by Thich Nhat Hanh

If you’re looking for somewhere to start for a mindfulness practice, this would be my recommendation.

Waking Up

by Sam Harris

This book makes a very solid case for mindfulness and spirituality – no matter what your religious beliefs – and if you’re skeptical of spirituality and mindfulness practices, this may be the book you need to read.

When Things Fall Apart

by Pema Chödrön

I first read this book when everything in my life felt like it was falling apart. It shifted everything and not in the way I expected. I highly recommend anything she’s written and am currently working my way through Start Where You Are.

M Train

by Patti Smith

I talk a lot about this one. Read my blog post about it here.

Man’s Search for Meaning

by Viktor E. Frankl

This is a classic and a book that had a profound impact on me. I am in constant awe of our innate human capacity to experience the darkest of dark and still find the light.

Books for when you want to deep dive into trauma and mental wellness...

Touched with Fire

by Kay Redfield Jamison

Explores the connection between mental health and creativity. Written in the early nineties, some of what we know and how we talk about mental health has shifted. It is still a captivating book about the power and beauty of feeling things intensely.

Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy

by David Sheff

Clean explores the systemic issues that contribute to addiction and, while it doesn’t go as far as I would like at times, it provides a compassionate framework of addiction that we need desperately.

The Body Keeps The Score

by Bessel Van der Kolk

This is frequently recommended and becoming a classic of trauma literature. It took me a while to make my way through it as it can be dense at times. It’s a solid option if you want to know more about the science of trauma and the paths to recovery.

Books for when you want a memoir...

The Two Kinds of Decay

by Sarah Manguso

A beautifully written memoir about a journey through diagnosis and treatment of an autoimmune disease. It’s fierce, brave and one that stayed with me long after reading.


by Kristen Johnston

There are memoirs about addiction and then there is Kristen Johnston’s Guts. It’s funny, irreverent, and darkly honest in a way that feels refreshing and hopeful.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

This feels like one of those books that everyone should read. I’ve read it several times and it never fails to break my heart and then mend it back together.

Books for working on relationships...


by Jessica Fern

The first half of this book has the best explanations of attachment styles I’ve read so far. It also explores some really beautiful ways to develop secure attachment with yourself and with others. I recommend this book to everyone – no matter if you identify as polyamorous, polycurious, monogamous or anything else – there is something in here for you.

Facing Codependence

by Pia Mellody

This book offers a more trauma-focused lens on codependence. Be prepared for a better understanding of why we exhibit symptoms and behaviors that can be categorized as codependent with not much exploration into how to shift them. This may be a good one to discuss with your therapist or supplement with attachment and trauma work.

Books for when you’re ready to pack up your things and move to a cabin in the woods (or live the van life or join a Buddhist nunnery, etc.)...


by Cheryl Strayed

This one feels a bit obvious as it continues to be a hugely popular book and movie starring Reese Witherspoon. I included it on this list because I think there is something very powerful and healing about reading books about people following their own path so that we know we can do the same.

In the Shadow of Islam

by Isabelle Eberhardt

I read about this book in Patti Smith’s M Train and picked it up immediately after. These are the writings of a 20 year old woman who left her life in Geneva in 1897 to travel to the desert and live in the land of Islam. It is inspiring, beautiful and haunting – one of the books that changed my life.

The Stranger in the Woods

by Michael Finkel

Most of us are not meant to live the way society tells us to. We seek out different ways to function and sometimes, some of us choose to live a completely different way. This is the story of a man who lived by himself in the woods of Maine for 27 years and how our society responded to his need for solitude.

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” ― George Bernard Shaw

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