A therapist’s top three books for strong mental health

‘There is no friend as loyal as a book,’ Ernest Hemingway.

Here’s a shocking piece of knowledge for you: you can buy book reviews.

Perhaps you’re not shocked. Perhaps you’re wise to this and you’re rolling your eyes at my apparent naivety.

But for me, this was a ‘have they no shame?’ moment. ‘Books are sacred’, I protest. ‘Don’t pollute the book world. But no, cynical sales leveraging is everywhere.

Apparently, if you look on freelance sourcing sites you can employ people to write reviews for your book. Which they may or may not have read, and flood bookselling sites like Amazon with glittering praise you’ve paid for.

So in the spirit of pushing back the ‘know and trust’ tide, I’m taking a little time to recommend three books I read last year which are worth reading, will give you better insight into mental health and might just change your life for the better.

The Joyous Body: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman by Clarisa Pinkola Estes

This is the third in the series of four books exploring female archetypes by this extraordinary psychoanalyst who specialises in post-trauma recovery. For any woman past the first flush of womanhood and wise enough to know she’s now being sold a pup by a youth-obsessed culture, this book will be salve to your ears. Masterfully weavng myth, wise words, metaphor and truth into a womanifesto for claiming back power, every woman over 40 should take power from this book.

I have the audio, which is a wonder as the author has a beautifully soothing voice. And she has a podcast, I’ve just discovered. More manna.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Everyone I know who has read this book is a raving fan. If you’re stretched too thin, facing burn out, sick of your own patterns of overwhelm, read this book. It’s a keeper. You’ll come back over and over again. Yes, here are one or two moments when you realise he’s missed the point (the Concorde argument comes to mind) but this book is more than 90 per cent gold.

Conscious Living by Gay Hendricks

I read the Big Leap first, which is really about helping you understand why improving your lot can freak you out and is useful, but Conscious Living is a game changer. Here’s a man unafraid of being authentic. In a filter-obsessed world, Gay Hendricks is an elixir in the 21st century with an easy to digest guide to living life. In this book he tells his own story, his own mistakes and his journey to becoming a counsellor and Stamford professor. 

I’ve read many more books, but these are the best of my 2018 list. Many have been good, but would I, on reflection, pass on the baton? I enjoyed Johann Hari’s Lost Connections, and well written and researched though it may be, controversial and confrontational though it most certainly is, it doesn’t make my top three. Nor does Russell Brand’s Recovery. Maybe I’m just a little long in the tooth for brash young men who can’t resist waving their egos about with a ‘look at me, mummy’ sadness. Maybe you love them, millions do and they undoubtedly have views to add to the mental health debate.

So there are my top three from last year’s book pile. Which are yours? Which books were your rescue? I’d love to hear.

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