The most recommended books on self-compassion

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to self-compassion, and here are their favorite self-compassion books.
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The Empathy Effect

By Liz Neporent, Helen Riess,

Book cover of The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, and Connect Across Differences

Richard E. Boyatzis Author Of Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

From the list on building leadership skills through models.

Who am I?

As a professor and scientist, using my Intentional Change Theory (ICT), I have studied sustained desired change of individuals, teams, organizations, communities, and countries since 1967. I have authored more than 200 articles and 9 books on leadership, competencies, emotional intelligence, competency development, coaching, neuroscience, and management education (including the international best-seller, Primal Leadership with Daniel Goleman and Annie McKee and the recent Helping People Change with Melvin Smith and Ellen Van Oosten). I run several Coursera MOOCs, including Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence which has over a million enrolled from 215 countries.

Richard's book list on building leadership skills through models

Why did Richard love this book?

Of all of the competencies that repeatedly predict effective leadership and creating and maintaining of key relationships, is empathy. At the heart of any relationship and perhaps the only antidote to rampant narcissism in our society is empathy. As a prominent psychiatrist and scholar, Helen chronicles decades of research and explains the neural mechanisms that enable us to relate to others, build better relationships ad even inspire others. Her personal stories and those of patients and colleagues make the research come alive with compassion and meaning.

By Liz Neporent, Helen Riess,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"We are all connected on a neurobiological level far more than we have previously realized. Consciously or not, we are in constant, natural resonance with one another's feelings. When we are engaged in shared mind awareness, the possibilities for mutual aid and collaborative problem solving abound."
-Helen Riess, MD

A Revolutionary Guide for Understanding and Changing the Way We Connect

Empathy is undergoing a new evolution. In a global and interconnected culture, we can no longer afford to identify only with people who seem to be a part of our "tribe." As Dr. Helen Riess has learned, our capacity for…

Journey to the Heart

By Melody Beattie,

Book cover of Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul

Rebecca E. Williams Author Of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress, and Anger That Trigger Addictive Behaviors, 2nd Edition

From the list on ridiculously simple self-care in addiction recovery.

Who am I?

I’m a psychologist, an award-winning author, and a yoga and meditation devotee. Growing up in the Bronx, New York I saw firsthand the devastating impact addiction can have on individuals and families. That is why I have dedicated my professional life to understanding and supporting people recovering from addiction, mental illness, and life's challenges. I’m also the co-author of The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction, which offers lots of strategies to manage daily stressors. I wholeheartedly believe there is a path back to wellness. It takes a foundation of self-compassion and daily focus on your healing. You deserve to be healthy and happy.

Rebecca's book list on ridiculously simple self-care in addiction recovery

Why did Rebecca love this book?

I stumbled upon a terrific life companion in Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart book. I read a few gentle meditations every evening before bed, and feel both inspired and relaxed. There is definitely a way back to self-compassion and mental well-being and Melody has cleared the rocky path for us. All we have to do is walk it with her. If you have just one book by your bedside as you heal from addiction, this should be the one.

By Melody Beattie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Journey to the Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the spirit of her bestselling "The Language of Letting Go", America's most beloved inspirational writer guides us on a sacred journey as we learn to expand our creativity, embrace our powers, and open our hearts. Writing with the same warmth, honesty, and compassion that has attracted such a loyal following, Melody Beattie now charts a new path toward spiritual growth and renewal. In 365 insightful and delightfully warm daily reflections, "Journey to the Heart" will comfort and inspire us all as we begin to discover our true purpose in the world and learn to connect even more deeply with…

The Courage to Be Me

By Nina Burrowes, Alexander Bertram-Powell (illustrator),

Book cover of The Courage to Be Me: A Story of Courage, Self-Compassion and Hope After Sexual Abuse

Meg-John Barker Author Of Sexuality: A Graphic Guide

From the list on comic books about sexuality.

Who am I?

I’m a queer writer who is passionate about getting good awareness of gender, sexuality, relationships and mental health out there into the world. I create comics, zines, blog posts, and self-help style books to try to reach as wide an audience as possible, bringing together the work of activists, scholars, therapists, and creators - and drawing on a diverse range of knowledge and experiences - in the hope of helping us all understand ourselves and our world better.

Meg-John's book list on comic books about sexuality

Why did Meg-John love this book?

Post #metoo there’s a lot more awareness around sexual abuse and assault, but still few books to help readers to understand why it impacts them the way it does. 

In The Courage to Be Me, cartooning psychologist Nina Burrowes presents what we know from the science of sexual trauma, and tells the stories of a group who support each other around their experiences. 

Having several different stories, all illustrated by different comic artists, emphasises the diverse forms that assault and abuse can take, and the ways in which they hit us all differently. Despite the tough topics covered, this is an uplifting book which helps the reader to see their experiences reflected, and to learn some skills for how to look after themselves around what happened with the kindness they deserve.

By Nina Burrowes, Alexander Bertram-Powell (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Courage to Be Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How do you rebuild your life after sexual abuse? Join a group of women as they share their stories of courage, self-compassion and hope. Find out how meeting each other and learning about recovery helped them find the courage to be themselves. The courage to be me combines science, storytelling and illustration to send a message of hope to the millions of people who are living with the impact of rape or sexual abuse. Written by psychologist and researcher Dr Nina Burrowes

What Do You Do With an Idea?

By Kobi Yamada, Mae Besom (illustrator),

Book cover of What Do You Do With an Idea?

Tina Koopersmith Author Of What Am I?

From the list on young children to build self compassion.

Who am I?

Children feel all their emotions, but I learned to suppress many emotions to avoid criticism. The youngest, I learned to not trust my intuition. I was taught that the mind was the path to success. In my chosen medical profession, physicians use intellect to heal bodies. The interconnection of thoughts, emotions, energy as well as interconnections between people and the environment are ignored. This separation from all of me was sapping me of the joy of living a full life. During my self healing integration journey: I uncovered limiting beliefs, reconnected with my heart, and dove deep into the source of my pleasure. Bringing this awareness to light should be healing.

Tina's book list on young children to build self compassion

Why did Tina love this book?

This book encourages young children to believe in their thoughts, their ideas, their inner knowing.

This book encourages creativity, self-compassion, motivation, and action. It encourages young children to persevere and not give up hope, even if others cannot appreciate their ideas and their goals. It reminds children that a “NO” is not a failure, but just an opportunity to pivot or change tactics.

By Kobi Yamada, Mae Besom (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Do You Do With an Idea? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Best Seller and award-winning book, What Do You Do With an Idea? is for anyone who's ever had a big idea. This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child's confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who's ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It's a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space…


By Kristin Neff,

Book cover of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Lauren Cook Author Of Generation Anxiety: A Millennial and Gen Z Guide to Staying Afloat in an Uncertain World

From the list on how to cope and live with anxiety.

Who am I?

I’ve lived with anxiety for most of my life. Whether it’s been with emetophobia (a phobia of vomit) or an intense bout of panic attacks, I know the story well. Now, as a psychologist, I’ve seen up close what works and what doesn’t. I love helping my clients and the audiences that I work with learn how to accept their anxiety, rather than try to make it go away. This is often counterintuitive at first but we can still live an empowered life, even with the anxiety present. When we do this, we’ve unlocked a whole new level of liberation where we can show up fully, worries and all. 

Lauren's book list on how to cope and live with anxiety

Why did Lauren love this book?

This book is a staple in the field of psychology and mental health and for very good reason.

So many of us struggle with being kind to our mind and we worry that we’ll truly fall apart if we are compassionate to ourselves. Dr. Neff brings the evidence-backed research to prove that self-compassion is the antidote to anxiety and it has incredibly restorative potential to help us not only get back to baseline, but truly feel better.

By Kristin Neff,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Self-Compassion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Kristin Neff offers practical, wise guidance on the path of emotional healing and deep inner transformation.' Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Acceptance

Kristin Neff PhD, is a professor in educational psychology, and the world's expert on self-compassion. A pioneer who established self-compassion as a field of study, Kristin offers a powerful solution for combating negativity and insecurity - the symptoms of living in a high-pressure world.

Through tried and tested exercises and audio downloads, readers learn the 3 core components that will help to heal destructive emotional patterns…

Book cover of You Are Not a Sh*tty Parent: How to Practice Self-Compassion and Give Yourself a Break

Jessica L. Borelli Author Of Nature Meets Nurture: Science-Based Strategies for Raising Resilient Kids

From the list on people who want to connect with their child.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by relationships since I was a kid. I grew up a keen observer of the relationships in my own family, mostly focused on the way in which the dynamics were difficult for me. This led me to develop a strong interest in psychology, a passion I pursued in my undergraduate education. I became acutely intrigued by an idea a professor exposed me to early on – that experiences of safety and security within attachment relationships are essential in order for children to thrive, and that without safety/security, they can experience chronic struggles. This early interest paved the way for what developed into my career as a psychology professor and therapist.

Jessica's book list on people who want to connect with their child

Why did Jessica love this book?

Dr. Naumburg’s books, including this one, offer a fresh perspective on parenting.

In this book, she compels parents to practice radical self-compassion. I find her message comforting and welcome, especially in an era when parents get messages from literally everywhere about all of the things they need to do better. Ironically, our feelings of guilt and anxiety about parenting can actually get in the way of good parenting, so finding a way to tune out these voices is important.

Dr. Naumburg is here to tell parents to accept that we are human, that parenting standards are impossibly hard, and that we should be more understanding of ourselves. This just feels really good to hear, especially on the heels of the pandemic, and I think we all need this message.

This is the kind of book I frequently recommend to friends and clients. 

By Carla Naumburg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Are Not a Sh*tty Parent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Life is chaotic, parenting is hard and many of us know that what we're currently doing just isn't working for anyone. Most of the time we just end up feeling like we're doing a sh*t job.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Social worker, parent coach and mum Carla Naumburg presents her own experience of self-compassion to show how this simple evidence-based practice can transform the way you parent. From navigating difficult emotions and dealing with everyday stresses, You Are Not a Sh*tty Parent shows how a bit of self-compassion can lead to a more engaged style of…

Book cover of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions

Cory Reese Author Of Stronger Than the Dark: Exploring the Intimate Relationship Between Running and Depression

From the list on decreasing the mind funk of depression.

Who am I?

In the past, I had written a few books about running ultramarathons. After being diagnosed with a chronic health condition, the sport I felt so much passion about began to slip away. I noticed myself falling into depression. Even though I’ve worked as a social worker for nearly 20 years, there was so much about depression that I didn’t completely understand until I experienced it myself. My path toward healing became the storyline for my book Stronger Than the Dark, and increased my desire to advocate for the importance of mental health.

Cory's book list on decreasing the mind funk of depression

Why did Cory love this book?

I happened to listen to The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion around the time that I first started seeing a therapist. So much of the coaching from my therapist was mirrored by the messages in Germer’s book. He provides specific tools we can use to increase self-love, including an emphasis on the value of meditation. 

By Christopher Germer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Buck up." "Stop feeling sorry for yourself." "Don't ruin everything." When you are anxious, sad, angry, or lonely, do you hear this self-critical voice? What would happen if, instead of fighting difficult emotions, we accepted them? Over his decades of experience as a therapist and mindfulness meditation practitioner, Dr. Christopher Germer has learned a paradoxical lesson: We all want to avoid pain, but letting it in--and responding compassionately to our own imperfections, without judgment or self-blame--are essential steps on the path to healing. This wise and eloquent book illuminates the power of self-compassion and offers creative, scientifically grounded strategies for…