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!


  1. Hi Jill, Congratulations on your new blog! Thank you for this reading list. You and I share common tastes in books, so I am thrilled you posted this list. I have The Sociopath Next Door in my Audible library. I will be "reading" that one next. Well done!

  2. Thanks for this list! I'm off to find myself a copy of Mindsight now...!

  3. I just finished The Sociopath Next Door. What a scary book! The book was very well done and made me consider some of the people I have known in life. This book explains a lot. Thanks for the great recommendations!

  4. Hi Jill,
    Great content in your blog! Thank you for you generous descriptions of some great books to guide those of us eager to learn about what is new in psychology and help us to apply it towards improving your life.

  5. Borderline Personality Disorder is the most difficult to understand and diagnose mental illnesses. As a consequence there is little awareness of its existence in the general public. If there were greater awareness, more resources would be brought to the table to help these people. I believe the biggest problem is its name. "Borderline" means nothing in helping us understand the condition. I have proposed that we change the name to Faultfinding Personality Disorder based on the most important diagnostic criterion - chronic finding of fault with themselves and others due to their black-and-white thinking which leads to disturbed interpersonal relationships. To back this up I wrote the book "Faultfinders: The impact of borderline personality disorder." I explained the condition using examples of numerous famous people to make the symptoms memorable. I would be interested to hear what others think about a possible name change.