The most recommended books on abuse

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to abuse, and here are their favorite abuse books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of abuse book?


Book cover of Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Nadine Macaluso Author Of Run Like Hell: A Therapist's Guide to Recognizing, Escaping, and Healing from Trauma Bonds

From my list on trauma bonds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I also have my Ph.D. in somatic psychotherapy. In my clinical practice, I noticed how many smart, kind women were trapped in trauma bonds. So, I researched the topic and decided to write a book to help women understand the complex psychological process of trauma bonds and how to recover from coercive control and abuse. Also, my ex-husband is the "Wolf of Wall Street", so I have personal experience of a trauma bond as well.

Nadine's book list on trauma bonds

Nadine Macaluso Why did Nadine love this book?

This is the best book ever written about the psychology of the male perpetrator in a trauma bond.

In this book, I was able to see into the mind of an abuser and no longer make excuses for them. I love how the author described the different types of abusers and how he explained how to leave a trauma bond.

I refer this book to every one of my patients.

By Lundy Bancroft,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking bestseller, Lundy Bancroft—a counselor who specializes in working with abusive men—uses his knowledge about how abusers think to help women recognize when they are being controlled or devalued, and to find ways to get free of an abusive relationship.

He says he loves you. So...why does he do that?
You’ve asked yourself this question again and again. Now you have the chance to see inside the minds of angry and controlling men—and change your life. In Why Does He Do That? you will learn about:
• The early warning signs of abuse
• The nature of abusive…

Book cover of The Happiest Girl in the World

Elise Hooper Author Of Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team

From my list on inspirational women athletes.

Why am I passionate about this?

My novels explore women whose contributions to culture have been relegated to the footnotes of mainstream history books, and in few areas have women been more overlooked than in sports. Because of the achievements of today’s female athletes, ranging from the many athletic opportunities available to our young daughters to the professional success of women like Serena Williams, it’s easy to think that progress for women’s sports has come a long way—and in many ways, it has, thanks to legislative protections like Title IX—but these achievements reflect over a century’s worth of sacrifice by many unheralded women athletes. Here are five books that highlight this journey.

Elise's book list on inspirational women athletes

Elise Hooper Why did Elise love this book?

In this novel that feels ripped straight from the headlines, the life of a young woman training as an elite gymnast is upended when her best friend confides that their doctor has assaulted her. Not only is this story timely, but it provides a glimpse into the mind-boggling discipline and talent it takes to be an Olympic gymnast.

By Alena Dillon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Happiest Girl in the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Propulsive, transfixing, and disturbing. I could not set the book down. Harrowing and fearlessly honest, The Happiest Girl in the World is a haunting read because it couldn't have done justice to its subjects - fictional and real - any other way." -Popsugar

One of Good Morning America's Best Books of April!

From the acclaimed author of Mercy House comes a gripping new novel about a young woman's dreams of Olympic gymnastic gold-and what it takes to reach the top

For Sera Wheeler, the Olympics is the reason for everything. It's why she trains thirty hours a week, starves herself…

Book cover of Black and Blue

Ellen Y. Mueller Author Of Run Girl Run

From my list on surviving rotten families that you’ll never forget.

Why am I passionate about this?

The stories I write are fiction, but I’ve heard hundreds of tales about survival, and family drama. I’m the secret-keeper everyone confides in. From the time I was a teen, friends shared their secrets with me. Later, as a healthcare worker, patients often told me shocking true-life stories. What started these events? How did the victims overcome the horrors? I found their tales fascinating. I invent characters that face nightmarish challenges, and they must use the tools they have to persevere. Just like in real life. My novels shed light on darker, twisted topics. 

Ellen's book list on surviving rotten families that you’ll never forget

Ellen Y. Mueller Why did Ellen love this book?

I found the chase in this book exhilarating. Francess, the main character, married the wrong man. When she and her child are constantly living in fear of a beating, she’s compelled to take her son and escape. With precise planning and help, she runs.  

No longer able to work in her chosen field, nursing, she must accept a different job in a strange town while using a new identity. I was interested in seeing how she’d cope. She and her son must adjust to their unfamiliar life, while aware that her husband will never stop tracking them. 

By Anna Quindlen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Black and Blue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The first time my husband hit me I was nineteen years old.'

For eighteen years Fran Benedetto kept her secret, hid her bruises. She stayed with Bobby because she wanted her son to have a father, and because, in spite of everything, she loved him. Then one night, when she saw the look on her ten-year-old son's face, Fran finally made a choice - she ran for both their lives.

Now she is starting over in a city far from home, far from Bobby. She uses a name that isn't hers, watches over her son, and tries to forget. For…

Book cover of Assassin of Reality

Sita Bennett Author Of She Who Rose From Ashes: Legend of the Mystics

From Sita's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sunrise ocean swimmer Truth and freedom seeker Neuroscience enthusiast Philosopher Chronic illness survivor

Sita's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Sita Bennett Why did Sita love this book?

One of my favourite books of all-time, Vita Nostra, is a smartly-crafted work of dark Ukrainian fantasy that explores a young woman's awakening of consciousness through a combination of philosophy, science, and magicwhich is based on language and transcends certain metaphorical language structures. It is absurd and strange, but the story's originality and punchy prose made it profoundly impactful to me.

The sequel is equally mysterious and captivating. While very abstract, I found the unrelatability to the Protagonist’s journey surprisingly relatable. Her sense of distance from society while walking a path that ordinary people rarely follow aligned with elements of my experience walking a path of ‘truth’ and transcending ego-centric existence. Challenging, but the reward is astronomical.

By Marina Dyachenko, Sergey Dyachenko,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The eagerly anticipated sequel to the highly acclaimed Vita Nostra takes readers to the next stage in Sasha Samokhina's journey in a richly imagined world of dark academia in which grammar is magic-and not all magic is good.

In Vita Nostra, Sasha Samokhina, a third-year student at the Institute of Special Technologies, was in the middle of taking the final exam that would transform her into a part of the Great Speech. After defying her teachers' expectations, Sasha emerges from the exam as Password, a unique and powerful part of speech. Accomplished and ready to embrace her new role, she…

Book cover of Zong!

Carole Boyce Davies Author Of Caribbean Spaces: Escapes from Twilight Zone

From my list on Caribbean reparative justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Caribbean-American literary scholar who has spent many years studying, lecturing and writing about the interrelated fields of African Diaspora literature and culture, meaning the creative and theoretical productions of writers from Africa, the United States, Latin America, Brazil, and the Caribbean. I teach a variety of these subjects and enjoy the combinations of politics, creativity, and cultural expression that they contribute. These books provide you with a good cross-section of what is available in the Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora.

Carole's book list on Caribbean reparative justice

Carole Boyce Davies Why did Carole love this book?

A historical/legal/poetic examination of the way that African bodies were treated and disposed of in the context of transatlantic slavery and how the author simultaneously advances a process of reclamation. NourbeSe provides a meditation in which silence and space advance our understanding of the gravity and horror of the subject which in no way compares with what the unnamed victims experienced.  She recalls them and names them into existence.

By M. Nourbese Philip,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In November, 1781, the captain of the slave ship Zong ordered that some 150 Africans be murdered by drowning so that the ship's owners could collect insurance monies. Relying entirely on the words of the legal decision Gregson v. Gilbert-the only extant public document related to the massacre of these African slaves-Zong! tells the story that cannot be told yet must be told. Equal parts song, moan, shout, oath, ululation, curse, and chant, Zong! excavates the legal text. Memory, history, and law collide and metamorphose into the poetics of the fragment. Through the innovative use of fugal and counterpointed repetition,…

Book cover of I Am Not a Number

Nhung N. Tran-Davies Author Of Ten Cents a Pound

From my list on to spark conversations between generations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author, physician, mother of three, and an advocate for social justice in education. I came to Canada as a refugee from the Vietnam war when I was a young child. I love to write children's stories that convey the humanity in our lives. My books have been shortlisted for the Alberta Literary Award, Red Maple Award, and Blue Spruce Award.

Nhung's book list on to spark conversations between generations

Nhung N. Tran-Davies Why did Nhung love this book?

We as a nation and society are on the road to truth and reconciliation. Critical to that journey are stories such as I Am Not a Number. The book tells the heartbreaking story of Irene, the author’s grandmother, and her brothers who were taken away from their home on Nipissing First Nation to live at a residential school, very far from home. At the school, names are not used. All students are known by numbers. This story will inspire important conversations that will help younger generations understand the horrors so many indigenous children endured in the residential schools. It is a dark part of our history, kept secret by past generations, that is only now coming to light through these powerful stories.

By Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer, Gillian Newland (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Not a Number as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school and who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene's parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. But where will they hide? And what will happen when…

Book cover of Cleaning Nabokov's House

Regina Buttner Author Of Absolution

From my list on women taking back their power from controlling men.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in a loving but strict Catholic family in the 1970s, when girls like me were still expected to grow up to become traditional wives and mothers, rather than go to college and pursue a career. In a Pre-Cana class intended to prepare me and my fiancé for marriage (it didn’t work so well, as evidenced by our rancorous divorce twelve years later), I learned the concept of “family of origin,” and the profound impact a person’s upbringing has on them as an adult. I became fascinated by the psychic baggage each of us carries around, and how it affects our personal relationships and life choices.

Regina's book list on women taking back their power from controlling men

Regina Buttner Why did Regina love this book?

I was afraid this book might be too depressing at first, and kept yelling at the heroine, Barb, to quit feeling sorry for herself and do something already to get her kids back from her domineering ex-husband. But the author’s wry voice drew me in, and this quirky novel is now one of my all-time favorites. Throughout the low times in my life, I’ve found humor to be the best tonic, and bumbling Barb delivers it here. I love how she rises above her seemingly hopeless circumstances by devising a highly questionable but totally kick-ass hilarious scheme to raise some quick cash and reunite with her children. The zany characters and spot-on descriptions of small-town life are guaranteed to boost your mood. 

By Leslie Daniels,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cleaning Nabokov's House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“I knew I could stay in this town when I found the blue enamel pot floating in the lake. The pot led me to the house, the house led me to the book, the book to the lawyer, the lawyer to the whorehouse, the whorehouse to science, and from science I joined the world.”

So begins Leslie Daniels’s funny and moving novel about a woman’s desperate attempt to rebuild her life. When Barb Barrett walks out on her loveless marriage she doesn’t realize she will lose everything: her home, her financial security, even her beloved children. Approaching forty with her…

Book cover of In the Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan Railroad and the Tragedy of French Colonialism

Edward Berenson Author Of Heroes of Empire: Five Charismatic Men and the Conquest of Africa

From my list on the impact of European colonialism on Africa and Africans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent most of my career teaching and writing about French history. In the 1990s, it became belatedly clear to me and other French historians that France shouldn’t be understood purely as a European nation-state. It was an empire whose imperial ambitions encompassed North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Indochina, and India. By the twentieth century, and especially after 1945, large numbers of people from those colonial places had emigrated to mainland France, claiming to belong to that country and asserting the right to live there. Their presence produced a great deal of political strife, which I wanted to study by looking at France’s colonial past.

Edward's book list on the impact of European colonialism on Africa and Africans

Edward Berenson Why did Edward love this book?

JP Daughton tells the horrifying story of the Congo-Océan railroad, a massive, ill-conceived construction project (1921-34) whose French overseers doomed some 20,000 African workers to die. This story, revealing as it does France’s imperial hubris and callous disregard of human suffering, should have been told a long time ago. But it has been buried by bureaucrats, overlooked by historians, and made invisible to those who chose not to see. We owe Daughton a great debt for bringing it to light and for masterfully adding a new chapter to the tragic history of Central Africa under European colonial rule.

By J.P. Daughton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Forest of No Joy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Congo-Ocean railroad stretches across the Republic of Congo from Brazzaville to the Atlantic port of Pointe-Noir. It was completed in 1934, when Equatorial Africa was a French colony, and it stands as one of the deadliest construction projects in history. Colonial workers were subjects of an ostensibly democratic nation whose motto read "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," but liberal ideals were savaged by a cruelly indifferent administrative state.

African workers were forcibly conscripted and separated from their families, and subjected to hellish conditions as they hacked their way through dense tropical foliage-a "forest of no joy"; excavated by hand thousands of…

Book cover of While the Locust Slept: A Memoir

Cayla Bellanger DeGroat Author Of The Real History of Thanksgiving: Left Out of History

From my list on the power of Indigenous stories, identity, and histories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an avid reader, lover of history, and newly-published author of The Real History of Thanksgiving (with more projects in the works!). I'm a mother of two and come from a large family at Gaa-waabigaanikaag, White Earth Reservation. I'm enrolled citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. I'm also an Oneida descendent with Irish, French, and Black ancestry. Much of my journey as a writer has been exploring the threads of our humanity and histories. It's powerful to think that we are still here, through time, distance, love, pain, and survival. There is immense beauty in being human and being Indigenous, and these books have been a source of connection and learning in my journey.

Cayla's book list on the power of Indigenous stories, identity, and histories

Cayla Bellanger DeGroat Why did Cayla love this book?

In college I majored in American Indian Studies and became very familiar with the term “survivance”. First used by Anishinaabeg writer Gerald Vizenor, survivance, defined is survival that transcends victimhood, that resists generations of oppression, and carves meaning out of great pain.

Peter Razor embodies survivance in his autobiography, which recounts his childhood as a ward of the State of Minnesota in the 1930s. His story is one of many that shines a light on a dark period when many Native American children were taken from their homes and families, forced to uproot their identity and existence to the unforgiving world of white America.

By Peter Razor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked While the Locust Slept as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through transcendent prose, an Ojibwe man chronicles his survival of abuse and bigotry at a state orphanage in the 1930s and the brutal farm indenture that followed.

In stark, haunting prose, first-time author Peter Razor recalls his early years as a ward of the State of Minnesota. Disclosing his story through flashbacks and relying on research from his own case files, Razor pieces together the shattered fragments of his boyhood into a memoir that reads as compellingly as a novel.

Abandoned as an infant at the State Public School in Owatonna, Minnesota, Razor was raised by abusive workers who thought…

Book cover of Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

Charles Wohlforth Author Of The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change

From my list on the dark, gritty, beautiful truth of Alaska.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've never been anything but a writer, despite growing up and spending my first 50 years in Alaska. Alaska has been my major topic—what else could it be in that overwhelmingly powerful place?—but it has also been my frustration, because Alaska is a real place that exists in most readers’ minds only as a romantic vision, and they resist any other version. Like the real Eskimos in my book, whose world is melting from climate change as they pump millions of barrels of crude oil from their homeland. The writers I chose are all Alaskans, like me, who tell those stories about the magical, terrifying place that lies behind the Disney version you already know.

Charles' book list on the dark, gritty, beautiful truth of Alaska

Charles Wohlforth Why did Charles love this book?

Kizzia’s prose and reporting are unequaled, but this dark, Gothic tale is hard to read because of the real-life horror it exposes. The Pilgrim family came to Alaska in 2002, wrapping themselves in fundamentalist Christianity and fighting with the federal government like true pioneers in the wilderness—they became a cause for the right because of how they seemed to fulfill Alaska’s frontier myth. But it turned out the patriarch of the family had created a weird prison of rape and abuse for his uneducated children, which Kizzia was able to get inside with vividly told scenes. And that truth tells us even more about Alaska, which has the worst rate of rape in the nation and a shocking level of child abuse. 

By Tom Kizzia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pilgrim's Wilderness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Into the Wild meets Helter Skelter in this riveting true story of a modern-day homesteading family in the deepest reaches of the Alaskan wilderness—and of the chilling secrets of its maniacal, spellbinding patriarch.
When Papa Pilgrim, his wife, and their fifteen children appeared in the Alaska frontier outpost of McCarthy, their new neighbors saw them as a shining example of the homespun Christian ideal. But behind the family's proud piety and beautiful old-timey music lay Pilgrim's dark past: his strange  connection to the Kennedy assassination and a trail of chaos and anguish that followed him from Dallas and New Mexico.…