The best books on psychological trauma

3 authors have picked their favorite books about psychological trauma and why they recommend each book.

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Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.

By Joyce Carol Oates,

Book cover of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.

A powerful parent dies and each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways -- and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all. This is an “everything” book. It took over my life. It overwhelmed my brain and mind. The utterly believable characters so generously intermingled and interwoven, familial and dynamic in their pushing and pulling, loving and hating - ignited by a precipitating event so abrupt yet simple, with consequences that spin out of control. Reading this tale, you feel as if you are drowning in a fever dream - Joyce Carol Oates once again as she has since Them (1969), offering innumerable reasons for wonderment.

Who am I?

I have been a biographer going on five decades now -- from William Carlos Williams to Man Ray to Thomas Edison to Henry Ford to Martha Graham. I am above all else a student of the human condition as well as a devotee of narrative at its most burnished - the kind of narrative that imposes its voice upon me at the end of a long day of quotidian interaction when all I want to do is get into bed and “pick up where I left off”. Biography is, indeed, storytelling - but it is restrained, or perhaps I should say tamed, by factual fidelity, a point of pride with me as a conscientious practitioner of the craft. 


I wrote...

Man Ray: American Artist

By Neil Baldwin,

Book cover of Man Ray: American Artist

What is my book about?

The quintessential dada/surrealist figure of the 1920s arts worlds in NYC, Paris, and Hollywood, Man Ray (born in Brooklyn (yes, that’s right!), 1890; died in Paris,1976) appealed to me because his first invention was his own persona, the entree to his life’s work in photography, painting, film, sculpture, essays, assemblage, etc.

From outset to conclusion, his story is one odd, quirky, unexpected episode after another, strung together with anecdotal fibs, romanticised relationships, and obfuscating quotes with questionable provenance. I was willingly trapped by Man Ray and I want the reader to be as well.

In an Unspoken Voice

By Peter A. Levine,

Book cover of In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness

Peter Levine’s earlier works examined animal studies on nervous systems under stress. His latest book In an Unspoken Voice serves as the bridge between the scientific research and the practical realm of medical clinicians and alternative healers who work with PTSD and other trauma-induced illnesses. It looks in detail at the freeze response (think: fight/flight/freeze) and the biological rewiring that happens in the human body as the result of trauma and chronic stress. If you like dense, intellectual discussion of biomechanical details, you’ll enjoy the read. If not, skim to the parts about his program of exercises and simple movements that can restore body awareness and reset neurological malfunction.


Who am I?

I am an emotional intuitive with a background in psychology, five decades of hands-on experience, and a love and fascination for language. You could call me a Body-mind Translator or a Body Whisperer. I started systematically “listening” to bodies when I was seven, and have worked with thousands of bodies since then. In my books and in sessions, I have the words to translate the body’s messages so people understand what their body is communicating through tension and symptoms and make lasting improvement. My purpose and greatest joy are to catalyze deep healing where physical and emotional interconnect – directly in the body.  


I wrote...

Issues in Your Tissues: Heal Body and Emotion from the Inside Out

By Denise LaBarre,

Book cover of Issues in Your Tissues: Heal Body and Emotion from the Inside Out

What is my book about?

What happened to the energy of the tears you had to suck down as a kid? Or the anger you weren’t allowed to express? It accumulates in your body with like-energy to become pain, illness, and disease. 

Issues in Your Tissues is a practical, easy-to-read guide to exploring the unexpressed emotions you carry. My book offers the insights and tools you need to go into your own body, allow the energy to release, and get the healing answers you've been looking for. Its stories, cartoons, quiz, and exercises show you how you can reconnect to your internal communication system, shed your energetic “armor,” and heal the roots of even chronic illness. The health and aliveness you were born with are yours to reclaim with understanding and love.

Dreaming the Soul Back Home

By Robert Moss,

Book cover of Dreaming the Soul Back Home: Shamanic Dreaming for Healing and Becoming Whole

An expert in approaching your dream life with beautiful and imaginative consciousness, Robert Moss shows you how to use your dreams, both figurative and literal, as the backdrop for immense personal discovery and growth, and as a powerful tool in reclaiming yourself after trauma. 



Who am I?

Ora North is the author of I Don’t Want To Be An Empath Anymore: How to Reclaim Your Power Over Emotional Overload, Maintain Boundaries, and Live Your Best Life, and the upcoming book Mood Magick: Wellness Spells and Rituals to Find Balance in an Uncertain World. A seasoned spiritual teacher and healer, she helps people unpack their emotional trauma and work with it in a creative and regenerative way. 


I wrote...

I Don't Want to Be an Empath Anymore: How to Reclaim Your Power Over Emotional Overload, Maintain Boundaries, and Live Your Best Life

By Ora North,

Book cover of I Don't Want to Be an Empath Anymore: How to Reclaim Your Power Over Emotional Overload, Maintain Boundaries, and Live Your Best Life

What is my book about?

I Don't Want to Be an Empath Anymore is a gift for the jaded empath searching for authenticity in spirituality, and spirituality in being authentic--something beyond the clichéd, positive affirmations that seem to invalidate our anger, sadness, and pain. When we feel broken--and when real damage has been done, it's not always helpful to ignore our feelings and tell ourselves that we are perfect and whole.

In this refreshingly honest guide, shamanic practitioner Ora North offers practical exercises to help you navigate your intuition and empathic sensitivities, create much-needed boundaries, and build confidence. You'll also learn to balance your emotions and energy, and harness the strength of your shadow side to embrace your whole self and live your best life.

The Deepest Well

By Nadine Burke-Harris,

Book cover of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity

Dr. Harris is a world-changer. In her pediatric practice in an at-risk neighborhood in San Francisco, she saw young patients suffering challenges and illnesses that did not appear to be linked to any physical condition. She dug deeper, and discovered Adverse Childhood Experiences and the deep impact they can have on young lives. It is now her mission to educate doctors, who have not typically been trained in trauma or social and emotional challenges. Her book (and her TEDtalk on the same topic) is fascinating, exacting, and hopeful. Nadine Burke-Harris is now the first-ever Surgeon General of the State of California, and continues to educate parents and professionals about trauma and healing.


Who am I?

I have spent most of my professional career as a therapist and educator, working with children who have experienced trauma and parents who want to do a better job. Trauma affects every aspect of human development and relationships. With support and understanding, trauma and its impacts need not be permanent: change and healing are always possible. The sooner the process begins, the better. The first five years of a child’s life are so important, and most parents are both overwhelmed by a glut of information and missing out on the most important parts of parenting. My hope is to make this information available to everyone who might benefit from it.


I wrote...

Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years -- Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful

By Jane Nelsen, Cheryl Erwin, Roslyn Duffy

Book cover of Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years -- Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful

What is my book about?

Positive Discipline for Preschoolers offers parents (and early childhood educators) practical, science-based information about how to build a healthy connection with a young child, as well as how to encourage the development of critical social and emotional skills, which are essential to healthy relationships and academic learning later in life.

You will learn to understand your child’s development and temperament, why children behave the way they do, and how to respond in ways that teach character and life skills. And you will learn the value of connection and encouragement in raising a capable, confident young person. Positive Discipline is trauma-informed, has been translated into several languages, and is being taught in more than 70 countries.

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

By Bruce D. Perry, Maia Szalavitz,

Book cover of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing

Despite its sobering title, this book is both uplifting and inspiring. Bruce Perry has worked with traumatized children for most of his professional career, and has trained hundreds of therapists and other professionals. These stories are both fascinating and hopeful, and provide a template for helping children who have been wounded by life and by those they trusted—and unfortunately, there are many such children in this world. Whether you’re a parent, a professional, or simply someone who wants to understand what happens to us along the road of life, this book is a valuable read.

Who am I?

I have spent most of my professional career as a therapist and educator, working with children who have experienced trauma and parents who want to do a better job. Trauma affects every aspect of human development and relationships. With support and understanding, trauma and its impacts need not be permanent: change and healing are always possible. The sooner the process begins, the better. The first five years of a child’s life are so important, and most parents are both overwhelmed by a glut of information and missing out on the most important parts of parenting. My hope is to make this information available to everyone who might benefit from it.


I wrote...

Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years -- Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful

By Jane Nelsen, Cheryl Erwin, Roslyn Duffy

Book cover of Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years -- Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful

What is my book about?

Positive Discipline for Preschoolers offers parents (and early childhood educators) practical, science-based information about how to build a healthy connection with a young child, as well as how to encourage the development of critical social and emotional skills, which are essential to healthy relationships and academic learning later in life.

You will learn to understand your child’s development and temperament, why children behave the way they do, and how to respond in ways that teach character and life skills. And you will learn the value of connection and encouragement in raising a capable, confident young person. Positive Discipline is trauma-informed, has been translated into several languages, and is being taught in more than 70 countries.

Trauma and Recovery

By Judith Lewis Herman,

Book cover of Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

When I was trying to understand my own childhood trauma, Dr. Judith Herman's trauma and recovery made the most sense to me. The study of trauma, she wrote, has a curious history. Not only individuals, but entire societies have alternated between periods of remembering and periods of forgetting. Judith Herman was trained as a physician and came into contact with patients who had been sexually abused as a psychiatric resident. Her ability to integrate history, medicine, psychology, feminism, and literature into her book was indispensable to me.

Shame, secrecy, and silence, she wrote, were the deadly trio that prolonged the effects of trauma. But that trio was often rendered inoperative when trauma was experienced collectively, as happens during a war or natural disaster or an event during the world trade center attack on 9/11, which is witnessed, documented, and validated in hundreds of public ways. Trauma experienced by just one…


Who am I?

I am a longtime American journalist and former New York University Professor of Journalism who has written 10 books of non-fiction, several addressing issues of trauma. I was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia to two survivors of the Holocaust and was a baby immigrant to the U.S. after the Communist take-over of 1948. Although I have written a lot about the arts (music, books, and theater), I have also had a long-term interest in the psychological effects of psychic trauma in survivors of racism, antisemitism, sexism, genocide, war, illness, and natural disaster. My upcoming book is The Year of Getting Through It about being diagnosed with and undergoing treatment for endometrial cancer during COVID.


I wrote...

The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma

By Helen Epstein,

Book cover of The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma

What is my book about?

As a journalist and the daughter of two sole survivors of the Holocaust, I wrote a trilogy of books about the transmission of trauma between generations. The first was Children of the Holocaust, which was followed by Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation, and many other “second generation” books. The last is The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma, which looks at how the sexual and intimate ramifications of trauma played out in my family.

Holocaust literature does not generally delve into issues of love and sex, though these aspects of life did not disappear either during the Holocaust or afterward. I write about what happened in my survivor family of Czech Jews and the long psychotherapy that helped to unravel its mysteries.

It Didn't Start With You

By Mark Wolynn,

Book cover of It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle

Looks further back than the previous book and how the trauma of previous generations can be passed down the line. The first half is full of examples of how even unknown incidents are reflected in the problems of Wolynn’s patients today. The second half is about how to use these insights to heal. I use it a lot with my clients and they are full of praise for the book. It is particularly helpful to understand how your grandparents impacted your parents. I used this book to throw light onto how the First World War and my Great Uncle’s death on the Somme still affects my family one hundred years later.


Who am I?

I am a marital therapist with thirty-five years of experience helping couples fall back in love and deal with the fall out from infidelity. I trained with RELATE – the UK’s largest couple counselling charity – and have a private practice in Berlin and lead a team of therapists based in the UK. I have heard over a thousand couples argue – more often than not – about their children. So I am always looking for books that will give a wider perspective and practical advice on how to be a parent without exhausting your marriage and forgetting to still be lovers.


I wrote...

I Love You, But I'm Not in Love with You: Seven Steps to Putting the Passion Back Into Your Relationship

By Andrew G. Marshall,

Book cover of I Love You, But I'm Not in Love with You: Seven Steps to Putting the Passion Back Into Your Relationship

What is my book about?

Translated into over twenty languages this self-help classic has sold over 100,000 copies. Why do people fall out of love? The answer will surprise you. Of course, if you neglect or hurt someone there will be a drip, drip effect but the number one cause is avoiding arguments. We think we're helping our relationship by not making a fuss, but by switching off our annoyance and anger we eventually end up switching off all our feelings.

Parents are particularly likely to avoid issues – in order not to upset their children – but that means nothing really gets REALLY sorted or one partner thinks everything is fine and the other is sinking into despair.

Hideaway

By Nora Roberts,

Book cover of Hideaway

Nora Roberts is the absolute queen of romance. She is often the first author anyone recommends in the genre, and as such, I am a huge fan. Hideaway has a scrappy heroine, but the real reason I love this book is Dillon. He’s hard-working and protective and just right for Cate.

I also really enjoyed the other background characters and relationships. So many times romance novels focus only on the two leads (with good reason!) but it’s always nice when the characters have outside relationships, especially good ones. Dillon’s relationships made me smile and love him all the more as a romance hero.


Who am I?

I love writing my steamy, happily ever after romance novels. Billionaires are my Prince Charmings and they have a lot to offer the heroines I write. However, none of my heroines are weak. They are strong and they love the billionaires for who they are, not what they offer. I want a world full of romance, steam, and happily ever afters, so that’s what I love to write. My books are perfect for a relaxing day on the beach that will leave you feeling good.


I wrote...

Saltwater Kisses

By Krista Lakes,

Book cover of Saltwater Kisses

What is my book about?

When small-town girl Emma LaRue won a vacation to an exclusive tropical island, she never meant to get pretend married to the handsome man she met there. She certainly never meant to fall in love.

But she did. And the man was none other than New York's most eligible billionaire bachelor Jack Saunders. When the press finds out about their pretend marriage, it suddenly becomes real and Emma must choose between her dreams and the man that she met on the beach.

Ripple Effect

By N.A. Cooper,

Book cover of Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect has the perfect title as it shows how the things that happen in our past ripple through into our adulthood. N. A. Cooper does such a superb job of telling the story of Erin who had an affair with a teacher when she was only fifteen years old. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, her past starts to haunt her after she is attacked in the park and left notes about what happened all of those years ago. 

Haunted by her past and unable to allow herself to be happy Erin gets in her own way. Can she learn the truth about what really happened? I loved this book.


Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by people and I love stories. All we are is who we are to each other. Our childhoods are such a formative time and they echo into our future. We never really leave them behind. If we have a childhood wound we have to fix it. Childhood trauma and recovering from it is such a fascinating topic. Psychology has always intrigued me. We can suppress memories and then, boom!, they hit us and we have to deal with the fallout. I have read so many books on the topic and I look forward to reading more in the future. 


I wrote...

Ember

By Catherine Yardley,

Book cover of Ember

What is my book about?

Ember is a novel about how our childhood stays with us throughout our lives. We can go through our lives thinking it's not affecting us but sometimes it stays below the surface. Natalie’s life spins out of control when her younger sister gets married before her and announces her pregnancy at the wedding dress fitting. Their father walked out on them when they were children and now he is coming to the wedding. 

Ember is a love story set against a backdrop of family drama and toxic family members. Our childhood trauma never really leaves us. What's important is how we deal with it and move on. If you don’t heal your wounds you bleed over people who never cut you. That is what Natalie has to learn in Ember

The Daughter

By Liz Webb,

Book cover of The Daughter

This book had me completely gripped. It is absolutely brilliant. Hannah’s mother was murdered when she was younger and now she’s not sure her father didn’t do it. Her father has dementia and as she starts to resemble her mother more the truth starts to come out. She is estranged from her television star brother and caring for her father. She is scarred from her childhood and has never reached her potential. 

She becomes determined to find out the truth about what happened to her mother. As childhood trauma goes, your mother being murdered is right up there and this book is so compelling and beautifully written. I could not put it down. It’s perfect.


Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by people and I love stories. All we are is who we are to each other. Our childhoods are such a formative time and they echo into our future. We never really leave them behind. If we have a childhood wound we have to fix it. Childhood trauma and recovering from it is such a fascinating topic. Psychology has always intrigued me. We can suppress memories and then, boom!, they hit us and we have to deal with the fallout. I have read so many books on the topic and I look forward to reading more in the future. 


I wrote...

Ember

By Catherine Yardley,

Book cover of Ember

What is my book about?

Ember is a novel about how our childhood stays with us throughout our lives. We can go through our lives thinking it's not affecting us but sometimes it stays below the surface. Natalie’s life spins out of control when her younger sister gets married before her and announces her pregnancy at the wedding dress fitting. Their father walked out on them when they were children and now he is coming to the wedding. 

Ember is a love story set against a backdrop of family drama and toxic family members. Our childhood trauma never really leaves us. What's important is how we deal with it and move on. If you don’t heal your wounds you bleed over people who never cut you. That is what Natalie has to learn in Ember

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