The best books by Irvin Yalom

Will Meyerhofer Author Of Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy
By Will Meyerhofer

Who am I?

I am a psychotherapist, with a private practice, and the author of several books. Like me, Yalom is a psychotherapist as well as an author, and the best of his writing takes place in that heightened zone where emotions seem to crackle because two people are sustaining an authentic contact, actually being “there” with one another – like the very best, life-changing moments in psychotherapy. I dreamt last night about Irvin Yalom. So yeah, Yalom can get into your head, in a good way.


I wrote...

Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

By Will Meyerhofer,

Book cover of Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

What is my book about?

This book is a guide for discovering joy, the simple pleasure of living each day. I am a psychotherapist, with an office in New York City. As I work with patients and listen to their stories, I search for themes that define the human condition. These themes have melded into a philosophy centered upon living with joy... No book can substitute for the process of psychotherapy. But I hope these ideas will introduce you to the work of self-discovery at the heart of that experience. 

The books I picked & why

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The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Book cover of The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients

Why this book?

Probably the best place to start with Yalom, this book is a must-read for therapists, and I recommend it regularly to anyone getting started in the business, or even contemplating pursuing a career in psychotherapy. The hardest guide to write about psychotherapy is the book about “technique” - not the highfalutin theory laced with opaque language book, but the hands-on, “this is what you say when someone says this” or “here's what you can do when you run into someone in this sort of situation” book.  This is that book, and only Yalom, with his immense experience and humility, could pull off this slender guide, packed with the wisdom of decades of working, alone, in a room with another human being in pain.  I return to this book regularly and always find something new and useful in his words.

The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gift of Therapy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Gift of Therapy is the new book from the bestselling author of Love's Executioner. The culmination of master psychiatrist Dr Irvin Yalom's forty-five years' work as a therapist, this book illustrates through real case studies how patients and therapists alike can get the most out of therapy. Presented as eighty-five 'tips' for 'beginner therapists', Yalom shares his own fresh approach and the insights he has gained while treating his patients. Personal, and sometimes provocative, Yalom includes some unorthodox suggestions: - Let the patient matter to you - Acknowledge your errors - Create a new therapy for each patient -…


The Schopenhauer Cure

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Book cover of The Schopenhauer Cure

Why this book?

This is my favorite of Yalom's four novels. There are two others that also weave events in the lives of philosophers into their plots, as this one works the life and work of Arthur Schopenhauer into a story concerning the vicissitudes of a psychotherapy group and its leader, a man named Julius who is loosely based (in certain respects) on Yalom himself. If you love this book as much as I did, by all means read the ones about Friedrich Nietzsche and my other favorite, concerning Baruch Spinoza. You'll learn a lot about these philosophers, as the real human beings they were, but also gain deep insight into the process of psychotherapy, all delivered with Yalom's crisp, bracingly honest, not-a-single-word-wasted style. And yeah, the fourth novel, Lying on the Couch doesn't feature a famous philosopher, but it's really good, too.

The Schopenhauer Cure

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Schopenhauer Cure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the internationally bestselling author of Love's Executioner and When Nietzsche Wept, comes a novel of group therapy with a cast of memorably wounded characters struggling to heal pain and change lives

Suddenly confronted with his own mortality after a routine checkup, eminent psychotherapist Julius Hertzfeld is forced to reexamine his life and work -- and seeks out Philip Slate, a sex addict whom he failed to help some twenty years earlier. Yet Philip claims to be cured -- miraculously transformed by the pessimistic teachings of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer -- and is, himself, a philosophical counselor in training.

Philip's…


Momma and the Meaning of Life: Tales of Psychotherapy

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Book cover of Momma and the Meaning of Life: Tales of Psychotherapy

Why this book?

I love Yalom's books of what might, in lesser hands, be termed “case studies.” I say that because Yalom is constantly writing about his work with his patients, but they never feel like a “case study” - something plodding and formulaic and one-sided. In Yalom's hands the case studies are never mere discussions of the pathologies of his patient, but rise into a magical interplay between two equals, two human beings yearning for a way to connect and heal through authentic presence, honesty, and love. If there is “classic Yalom” it is probably these books. Creatures of a Day and Loves Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy are superb as well, and frankly, I tend to think of them all as parts of a whole, one big book of Yalom's shorter pieces in which he explores his work one-on-one with the hurting human beings who show up at his door.

Momma and the Meaning of Life: Tales of Psychotherapy

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Momma and the Meaning of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Using the medium of six case studies, Dr Irvin Yalom reveals the intricacies of pyschological landscapes and the unique dynamics of clients and therapists.


Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Book cover of Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir

Why this book?

An absolutely gorgeous autobiography that never for a moment bogs down in the details, but soars above the timeline of Yalom's life by concerning itself chiefly with glimmers of insight, events that have lived on in his unconscious and formed him into the healer he became. Like all of Yalom's best work, I found myself reading it slowly, savoring every word. The honesty, if you open yourself to it, and accept that he really is telling you the honest to god truth, smacks you in the face like few authors I've ever encountered. I kept thinking, if I do enough psychotherapy for long enough, I might be able to pull off this degree of self-knowledge.

Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Becoming Myself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'When Yalom publishes something - anything - I buy it, and he never disappoints. He's an amazing storyteller, a gorgeous writer, a great, generous, compassionate thinker, and - quite rightly - one of the world's most influential mental healthcare practitioners' Nicola Barker, Guardian Best Books of 2017

'Wonderful, compelling and as insightful about its subject and about the times he lived in as you could hope for. A fabulous read' Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

Irvin D. Yalom has made a career of investigating the lives of others. In Becoming Myself, his long-awaited memoir, he turns his therapeutic…


A Matter of Death and Life

By Irvin D. Yalom, Marilyn Yalom,

Book cover of A Matter of Death and Life

Why this book?

Yalom will turn 90 in June of 2021. In 2019, at the age of 88, he discovered his beloved wife of 65 years, Marilyn Yalom, a celebrated historian and feminist author and professor, was dying of cancer. She insisted, perhaps out of concern for Irv, that they write one final book together, each contributing alternating chapters. The result is a book of searing honesty, an honest account of profound love as well as a profound and painful loss. Irv isn't perfect – he's human, and he's getting old himself, dealing with memory loss and neurological problems. He doesn't dress anything up, but tells the truth about struggling with his own depression and despair and helplessness faced with his dread of death as well as the reality of losing the only woman he has ever loved. I read portions of this book in tears, and it pairs well with Yalom's book about confronting death, and the terror of one's own demise, in a psychotherapeutic context, "Staring into the Sun".  It was after reading A Matter of Death and Life that I dreamt of Yalom. I was sitting with him, struggling to find a way to offer him comfort, and realizing the only path forward was to open up about my own aging process, my own struggles with loss and fear of disappearing into the past. We need one another to heal. Nothing drives home that lesson better than reading the works of Irvin Yalom, especially this late work from the final years of his life.  

A Matter of Death and Life

By Irvin D. Yalom, Marilyn Yalom,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Matter of Death and Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A year-long journey by the renowned psychiatrist and his writer wife after her terminal diagnosis, as they reflect on how to love and live without regret.

Internationally acclaimed psychiatrist and author Irvin Yalom devoted his career to counseling those suffering from anxiety and grief. But never had he faced the need to counsel himself until his wife, esteemed feminist author Marilyn Yalom, was diagnosed with cancer. In A Matter of Death and Life, Marilyn and Irv share how they took on profound new struggles: Marilyn to die a good death, Irv to live on without her.

In alternating accounts of…


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