Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm Blogging FOR Mental Health: Bibliotherapy and Beyond May 2011

There's nothing like a good book to learn what's new in psychology and how to apply it towards improving your life.

The quality and readability of psychology books intended for a general audience has vastly improved over recent years.  These books provide a practical but comprehensive summary of recent advances in the field without having to pore over basic research findings or dense journal articles.  Many of these titles are also available as audio books, which can be downloaded to your iPod or MP3 disks you can pop into your car’s audio system so you can multitask and learn while you drive.   I particularly enjoy listening while I garden, cook or do household chores.  Here are some of my recent favorites:

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee PhD and Randy Frost PhD is a compassionate discussion of hoarding and recent advances in treatment of this common disorder.  Warning, while most of the book is not gratuitously sensationalistic a few of the case examples will curl your toes and make you want to go take a long hot shower and scrub yourself clean.

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, PhD: The word chilling features prominently in many of the reviews written about this book, which presents a frank discussion of everyday sociopathy and its shocking impact on us non-sociopaths who have to share their world.

On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee PhD: Jeff Hawkins is not a psychologist but he is the architect of the PalmPilot and the Treo.  Along with Dr. Blakeslee, he presents a fascinating framework integrating recent findings in cognitive neuroscience and computer design to revolutionize our understanding of intelligence and how it functions.

The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientists Quest for What Makes Us Human by V.S. Ramachandran MD:  You can never go wrong with Dr. Ramachandran.  His skill at making complex concepts interesting and approachable is matchless. 

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Siegel MD describes an innovative system of psychotherapy that integrates research in neuroanatomy, cognitive neuroscience, mindfulness practice, developmental psychology and neuroplasticity to treat psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Sleights of Mind:  What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions by Stephen l. Macknik, PhD, Susana Martinez-Conde, PhD and Sandra Blakeslee, PhD.: Dr. Blakeslee is highly skilled at helping psychologists with great ideas write books that are so interesting you don’t want to put them down.  Drs. Macknick and Martinez-Conde are a married couple who explore how neural adaptation, afterimages, occlusion, perspective, saccades, inattentional blindness and other neuropsychological processes contribute to our delight in magic tricks.  We also enjoy a birds eye view of their odyssey from cognitive neuroscientists to magicians auditioning at the famed Magic Castle.  This is a rare book that combines hard science, provocative inquiry, a little suspense and excellent writing in a way that is just plain fun!  How often can you say that about nonfiction?

I hope some of these suggestions pique your interest.  Stay tuned for more in my next blog post and until then, happy reading!