Nonfiction November: Be the expert

This week’s prompt is hosted by The Thousand Book Project — “Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).”

I chose to “Be the expert” on a topic I’ve been reading a lot about lately: trauma, especially childhood trauma, the psychological damage it causes, and new methods of healing that are informed by our emerging knowledge about the brain and how it processes experience. I find this to be one of the most fascinating and important challenges for our time — because even if you have not personally experienced childhood trauma, your life is affected by those who have, and our society has to learn how to heal itself before it rips itself apart.

So in addition to In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which I reviewed on Sunday, I’d like to recommend the following terrific books, with deep gratitude for all I learned from them. I hope they might help you on your journey of learning and healing too.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk: Published in 2014,, this is already a much-cited classic in the field. Dr. van der Kolk explains how trauma impacts our bodies and our brains, and how body-based therapies are showing much promise in healing what has proven intractable for talk therapy and medication alone.

The Boy Who Was Raised by a Dog by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz: Subtitled “and other stories from a child psychiatrist’s notebook,” this tells the story of Perry’s evolution as a child psychiatrist along with what he learned from his clients — a fascinating journey into the mysteries of the body and the mind.

I Don’t Want To Talk About it by Terrence Real: The patriarchy hurts everyone, with its devaluation and suppression of our vulnerable, feeling side. This often leaves men prone to “covert depression” that in turn leads to dysfunctional relationships and further hurt to partners and children. With case studies from his practice as a couples therapist, Real gives convincing evidence that there is another way to live and to relate to one another, beyond the gender wars.

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22 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Be the expert

  1. I thought The Body Keeps the Score was older than 2014, it is treated like a classic. People talk about it as pretty intimidating. Agree this is an important topic, even if you’re not healing yourself, someone you know probably is.

    1. I think the ideas were so groundbreaking and so well presented that it became an instant classic. It took me time to go through it because there was so much information, but I found it very clearly written and understandable for the layperson (which I definitely am.) Really essential if you are interested in the topic.

  2. Twice this year I have tried to get to The Body Keeps the Score. It is such a heavy read. I think I made it through 150 pages the first time? It was too much to try on audio for the three weeks I got access via the library. But I’ve now bought a copy and I am committed to reading it. Maybe not over the holidays though?
    Agree with Laura, was surprised that this one is only from 2014, it’s had such a major impact.

  3. I don’t tend to read books like these, but in reading your comments about them I am thinking that I am missing a whole area that is interesting and could be very powerful and positive in the long run. In particular, The Body Keeps Score sounds like the right place to start.

    Thanks for sharing this collection of books.

    1. I’d actually recommend The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog to start with. (Although I read it later.) Each chapter is a narrative about a particular case / patient, in chronological order, through which one gains a larger story of how understanding and treatment was evolving during the time of Dr. Perry’s career. The stories are very involving and so the research is easier to take in along with them. But The Body Keeps the Score is also brilliant.

  4. I appreciate you encouraging us to read about trauma, even if we’d not had it ourselves, because surely some of those around us have. I’m adding “The Body Keeps the Score” to my tbr now. Thanks, Lory!

    1. It’s much more common than we think. The Body Keeps the Score is great for helping us understand how pervasive and influential it is.

  5. I’m always fascinated by professionals who write books about their careers, especially when it comes to healthcare—and more specifically, mental health. So The Boy Who Was Raised by a Dog is an easy add to my TBR pile. Great selection of works all around!

    1. That’s a good one to choose – I find it refreshing when an authority shows us the process by which he learned something, rather than pretending to be perfect and know everything.

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