Some psychology books are filled with valuable insights we can apply to our own lives. Others are uplifting. And still others make engrossing explorations into the human mind. Really, I’m not sure you can get a more meaningful or fascinating gift under $20.
Books are windows into new worlds and new wisdom. So whether you’re looking for an interesting read for a psychology buff or grad student or an inspiring book for someone going through a tough time, this gift guide may help.
This is Part 1 of a two-part holiday gift guide of books we recommend.
Of course, giving self-help books can be tricky. According to psychotherapist Ashley Eder, LPC, “Self-help books are appropriate gifts only when the recipient has a close relationship with you and has expressed a desire to learn more about the subject. It’s a good idea to say ‘I remembered that you wanted to learn more about this topic,’ so that your gift isn’t accidentally hurtful.”
Below, you’ll find reads on a range of topics, including ADHD, depression, self-acceptance, mindfulness and the link between mental illness and leadership.
Letters to a Young Therapist
by Mary Pipher
“This is an unusual book written by an unusually gifted writer and psychologist who is able to communicate in writing as if she is talking directly to you,” said Terry Matlen ACSW, a psychotherapist and coach. It’s written for therapists but also offers moving insights about people and their behavior. “It’s a quick read and I couldn’t put it down.”
by Brené Brown
“When it comes to gift-giving, I stick to books that are accessible and uplifting,” said Mara Glatzel, MSW, an intuitive coach and writer. She recommended Daring Greatly because it “spurs us to trust ourselves, delight in our imperfections and redefine our very notion of vulnerability.”
Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child
by John Gottman and Joan Declaire
“This is my favorite parenting book ever!” said Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, a therapist and relationship expert who pens the Psych Central blog Private Practice Toolbox. “It’s simple and practical, and focuses on building a strong emotional connection [between parent and child], which is the most important aspect of parenting.”
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
by Andrew Solomon
Candy Czernicki, a veteran journalist and managing editor at Psych Central, called this “the best book ever” on depression. In it, Solomon examines depression from cultural and scientific angles, and draws from his personal experiences with the illness. She especially recommended it to “those who have never been depressed, especially if you’re trying to understand someone who has.”
The Man Who Tasted Shapes
by Richard Cytowic
“Imagine hearing a car honk and seeing the color yellow, or reading the letter ‘B’ and tasting vanilla. This is what life may be like for someone with synesthesia,” said Aaron Karmin, MA, LCPC, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance. This book explores synesthesia and shares a series of essays on the importance of emotion over reason, he said.
“Cytowic explains concepts so that any person can understand them and offers compelling anecdotes to highlight the curious nature of how the mind works.”
“This book is a simple and straightforward way to start practicing mindfulness and develop emotional resilience,” said Hanks, also author of The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women.
Finding Your Way in a Wild World
by Martha Beck
“[This] is my favorite gift for the wild women in my life. Martha Beck’s book is brimming with inspiration for carving out your own path in the world and exercises to support you along your journey,” Glatzel said.
Women with Attention Deficit Disorder
by Sari Solden
“This is the book that changed my life,” said Matlen, author of Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD. “I read it as I was exploring my new ADHD diagnosis and learned more about myself and my ADHD than any other book out there on the topic.”
by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
“I’ve loaned my copy of Boundaries to more clients than I can count,” said Eder, who has a private practice in Boulder, Colo. It delves into creating physical, mental and emotional boundaries and provides real-life examples, such as putting everyone else’s needs above your own, she said.
It’s written from a Christian perspective, but readers who don’t identify as Christian can skip the parts that don’t resonate with them. “For folks who do identify as Christian, this book lends an interesting perspective on how clear boundaries are a Christian practice with evidence from the Bible that God endorses this act of self-care.”
American Mania: When More is Not Enough
by Edward Whybrow
“The central idea in Whybrow’s book is that American culture has become manic,” said Karmin, who writes the Psych Central blog Anger Management. He described the book as “a grounded, rational, scientific and humane analysis of America and its compulsive unhappiness and addictive behaviors.”
Continue on to Part 2 of this entry for more great gift ideas!
What are your favorite books to give for the holidays?