Books – archive old

Book of the Month
by Martha Jackson Oppeneer, D.Min., LMFT

Martha will be reviewing 1 book per month.  Below is the most recent book.  On the right are previously reviewed books.

This Month's Book

Children's Books

Parenting Books

Previous Book Reviews

Children's Books

Title Author Summary
Breathe like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere Kira Willey This is an ideal resource for parents/caregivers and kids to do together. Drawing from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction discipline, this book offers mindful exercises and beautiful illustrations that will grab the attention of children, while also teaching them techniques for calming and soothing themselves.
What Does It Mean to Be Present Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler This is a delightful, well-illustrated children’s book that introduces kids to the concept of approaching activities mindfully: noticing when someone needs help, waiting patiently, learning to focus on what is happening right now. There are strong benefits to parents as well when we teach our children mindfulness. It challenges us to set aside our technological devices, our distractions, and our stress and learn alongside our children – mastering a technique that can reduce irritability, anxiety and stress.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo This was recommended by a client with two young girls, who is raising them to be strong and confident in a society that too often lacks healthy female role models – or that simply doesn’t pay enough attention to them. “Goodnight Stories” reinvents fairy tales, based upon the real life stories of queens, scientists, writers, dancers, boxers and more. The dynamic illustrations help bring these stories to life. In the words of one reviewer, “swap out Cinderella for Cleopatra tonight.”
Ruby Finds a Worry Tom Percival This is a book for children – a powerful, beautifully-illustrated exploration of feelings. The main character, Ruby, “finds” a worry, notices how it grows from day to day, and learns that everyone has worries. This is a book that helps parents and caregivers talk with children about how to manage their feelings in self-aware, constructive ways.

Parenting Books

Title Author Summary
“How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” Julie Lythcott-Haims Parents are stressed. Kids are stressed. Yet, we continue to encourage and support methods of parenting that are exhausting and unsustainable, and that do not adequately prepare children for adulthood. Parents who over-function often report strained marital relationships, constant worry and little joy in life. Kids who have over-functioning parents are more likely to experience anxiety and/or depression, and to have poorly developed problem-solving, critical thinking and general life skills. This is a fascinating book, full of examples, research citations and recommendations for further reading.
“Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and you) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life” Dr. Stuart Shanker. There are no bad kids, there are only stressed-out kids. Dr. Shanker brings decades of neuroscience research together to help us better understand how to help our children (and even ourselves) reduce stress by learning to self-regulate, thereby engaging calmly and successfully in life and learning.
“Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain” Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. Dr. Siegel identifies 3 myths about adolescents that sabotage parenting styles and inhibit the positive growth experiences of adolescents: 1) Adolescents are immature; 2) Adolescent behavior can be explained by ‘raging hormones’; 3) Adolescence is a phase of life that must simply be endured. Because of the misunderstandings about adolescents, their lives are too often characterized by loneliness, distress and a lack of purpose. Drawing upon new research in the field of neuroscience, Dr. Siegel outlines the exciting opportunities for growth that can occur during this phase of life. This is a book written both for adolescents and parents that holds the promise of vastly improving the lives and experiences of both.\n
“The Whole-Brain Child Workbook: practical exercises, worksheets and activities to nurture developing minds,” Daniel Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. Based on their book of the same title, this is a practical workbook that helps parents understand their child’s developing mind and gain the tools they need to help children connect, emotionally regulate, and thrive in a very complex world. This workbook is also a wonderful survival manual for parents who, understandably, can feel overwhelmed by the pressures and dilemmas of raising children.\n
“The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired” Dan Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. One of the very best scientific predictors for how any child turns out—in terms of happiness, academic success, leadership skills, and meaningful relationships—is whether at least one adult in their life has consistently shown up for them. Using the latest brain and attachment research, Siegel and Payne demonstrate that showing up is a quality of presence that involves what they call ‘The Four S’s’: Safe, Seen, Soothed and Secure. This book offers powerful ways to build trust and help create a healthy, resilient child.\n
“Weird Parenting Wins: Bathtub Dining, Family Screams, and Other Hacks from the Parenting Trenches,” Hillary Frank Parenting expert Hillary Frank compiles hundreds of suggestions from parents in this helpfully entertaining book. While it does not offer a parenting road map, it will encourage you to be creative, using your imagination and your knowledge of your child to create new possibilities for addressing frustrating or entrenched problems.\n
“Bottom Line for Baby: From Sleep Training to Screens, Thumb Sucking to Tummy Time – What the Science Says” Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. Dr. Bryson is a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in the art and science of child raising. In this book, she addresses each issue using a three-step approach: an objective summary of the schools of thought (including commonly-held pros and cons), a clear outline of what the scientific research says, and a bottom-line conclusion. When the science doesn’t point you in a clear direction, she encourages readers to assess and apply this information in a way that is consistent with their family’s principles and their child’s unique needs.\n
“Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive” Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. Who we are, how we are, and what we have experienced profoundly shapes how we parent, whether we are fully aware of it or not. Siegel and Hartzell use new research in the fields of neurobiology and attachment theory to help readers better understand the impact their childhood experiences have upon their parenting styles and relationships with their children. Using strategies from this book, parents can help themselves heal, form secure and loving attachments with their children, and find the tools for raising compassionate, resilient children.\n
“The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age” Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD As the author notes, the digital world is here to stay. Technology has many benefits, but what have we lost in the process? Parents feel disconnected from their kids, kids feel disconnected from their peers (despite an abundance of ‘communication’), and loneliness is epidemic. Steiner-Adair draws upon both research and her own work to offer insights and advice that can help parents use technology in beneficial ways without having it dominate their lives (and set poor examples for their kids in the process). She also offers guidance on how to best protect children who lack the ‘filters’ and maturity to know when they are putting themselves at risk. Above all, she inspires her readers to gain the ability to put technology aside at times, and connect deeply with one another.\n
“Raising Critical Thinkers: a parent’s guide to growing wise kids in the digital age” Julie Bogart and Barbara Oakley We are all assaulted by so much information, it becomes difficult to distill what has merit and what may not only be false, but potentially hazardous. Imagine how daunting this process is for kids, whose brains are not fully developed, and who don’t ‘filter’ as well as most adults. This book is a valuable resource for parents (as well as grandparents, caretakers, teachers and others), as we help children wade through the wealth of information at their disposal. The authors offer many creative ways of teaching critical thinking; a process that includes identifying biases and beliefs, examining what we read and hear, nurturing openness, enabling thoughtful reflection and promoting empathy. While this book is directed toward helping children learn, it also offers important information and insight for adults, which can help up re-tool how we take in and process the glut of information that fills our world.\n
“Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child” John Gottman, Ph.D. From the brilliant psychologist and renowned couples’ researcher, John Gottman, comes this gem for curious parents. In addition to 40+ years of researching couples’ relationships, Gottman has spent the past 20 years studying parent-child interactions, developing a style of parenting he calls, ‘Emotion Coaching.’ Parenting is the most difficult task we will ever tackle, but Gottman offers both the theoretical background for emotion coaching and practical tips about how to help your child become more self-aware, well-regulated and self-confident. These are skills that can set children on a solid path for a lifetime of satisfying interactions and relationships. (Spoiler alert: learning these techniques isn’t just helpful for parents; it can improve ALL our relationships.)\n
“Living with Intensity: understanding the sensitivity, excitability and the emotional development of gifted children, adolescents, and adults” Susan Daniels, Ph.D. and Michael M. Piechowski, Ph.D. Gifted children and adults can too often be misunderstood, as others view their energy, intensity, persistence and imagination as problematic and annoying. This book offers practical strategies for understanding and nurturing the sensitive, intense, perfectionistic individuals in your life.\n
“How Children Succeed” Paul Tough Drawing upon decades of neuroscience research, the author demonstrates that the qualities that help children succeed have less to do with IQ than with character. He uses fascinating stories – of children and of schools – to create a refreshing model for how we might best prepare children for successful, productive futures.\n\n
“No Drama Discipline” Dan Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. This title is available in a book as well as an accompanying workbook. If you only have time for the workbook, that will provide much of the information you need. This parenting approach is based on an understanding of how neuroscience impacts a child’s behavior and a parent’s disciplinary decisions. It teaches parents peaceful, nurturing, research-based approaches to dealing with challenging issues.\n

Relationship Books

Title Author Summary
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence Esther Perel, Ph.D. Renowned psychologist and Certified Sex Therapist, Esther Perel, does a brilliant job of highlighting the tension between our desire for domesticity in marriage and our longing for excitement and eroticism. The ideal solution does not lie in affairs or multiple marriages, but in recognizing and nurturing both desires within one relationship. Dr. Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire, mapping a course toward a more lasting, satisfying marriage.
Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love John Gottman, Ph.D., Julie Schwartz Gottman, Ph.D., Doug Abrams & Rachel Carlton Abrams, M.D. Researcher and clinician, John Gottman, is widely regarded as a world expert on the topic of what makes relationships work. Teaming up with three other researchers, they have written a fun, easy-to-read book that can build depth and greater satisfaction in any relationship. This book includes information, stories, conversations for couples, and suggestions about activities that can help build a stronger foundation for your relationship.
Will I Ever Be Free of You? How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family Karyl McBride, Ph.D. While this book should probably come with a cautionary note to avoid diagnosing another person – especially a spouse or ex-spouse – with narcissism, the author provides critically important information about navigating a high-conflict divorce from a difficult/toxic person. This book has been an invaluable resource to my clients who are going through this experience, especially those who admit they’re “feeling crazy…doubting my own perception of reality.” The author offers tips on what might occur in the divorce process (and possibly for years to come), how to set boundaries even if the other person does not honor them, how to communicate clearly even when another person is “gaslighting” and how to protect kids from the impact of a high-conflict divorce.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love Susan Johnson, Ph.D. Susan Johnson is a renowned couples’ therapist who has created an approach that enjoys a remarkably high rate of success. In “Hold Me Tight,” Dr. Johnson teaches readers that the best way to improve – or save – a relationship is to learn to be open and responsive to each other. She recognizes that what we desire most in our intimate relationships is attunement and nurturing. This book offers stories, practical information and structured conversations that can provide couples with the insight they need to make healing changes.

Trauma Books

Title Author Summary
“The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. In 1998, a landmark study was published, identifying 10 ‘adverse childhood experiences’ (ACE’s) that negatively affect both brain and biological development. More recently, pediatrician Nadine Burke-Harris has synthesized decades of research on this issue, concluding that people with ‘ACE scores’ have a significantly higher risk of mental disorders or related difficulties that negatively affect day-to-day functioning. What was surprising to the psychological and medical communities, however, has been her discovery that, even accounting for lifestyle factors that people with ACE scores are susceptible to (smoking, alcohol/drug abuse, poor diet), people who have experienced ACE’s are at a much higher risk of developing inflammatory diseases (e.g., asthma, heart disease), autoimmune disorders, and other serious health problems. They are also more likely to die prematurely. One goal held by Dr. Burke Harris is to have medical professionals who work with patients, mental health providers and educators administer ACE inventories to determine who within their population is at risk and would benefit from more intense interventions. If you are working with, raising or mentoring children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences, this is an invaluable tool. I recommend this book to my clients who have experienced adverse childhood experiences because it frees them from the cycle of blame they feel when their functioning is compromised, and offers them hope that they can begin the healing process.
“Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life” Susan David, Ph.D. The path to wellbeing is not to sweep things under the rug, deny our feelings or act tough and impervious. It is to move into our experiences with curiosity, understand how they are affecting us, identify the negative narratives that may keep us stuck and discouraged, and begin facing our challenges with courage and self-compassion. Emotional agility does not protect us from pain and hardship, but it does enable us to navigate our inner world and the world around us more successfully. Psychologist Susan David has spent decades studying emotions, happiness and achievement, and has created a book that is both fascinating and useful.
“You Are Not Your Pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Restore Well-Being” Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman This book is written two experts in the Mindfulness field who themselves have struggled with severe pain after sustaining serious injuries. This is an eight-week program that introduces the concept of Mindfulness and guides the reader (or listener, since it’s available on Audible) through meditations and other techniques that have been proven to be highly effective for those who suffer from pain and the chronic stress and distress this experience can cause.
“Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself” Kristin Neff, Ph.D. The mental health community got it wrong when we embraced the importance of self-esteem, and we are rapidly walking it back. Self-esteem is based on the premise that we are each special, even superior, and are thus worthy of admiration and praise. High self-esteem, in its unhealthiest form, has been linked to behaviors such as narcissism, bullying, exclusivity and a lack of empathy. As we are discovering, the key to building good relationships with self and others lies in self-compassion. Research in the field of self-compassion indicates that people who are compassionate toward their failings and imperfections experience greater well-being than those who repeatedly judge themselves. They are also better equipped to exercise compassion in their interactions with others. Psychologist Kristin Neff leads readers through both her theories and exercises that will help us build the capacity for greater self-compassion.
“The Compassionate Mind,” Paul Gilbert Our minds have developed in a way that makes them highly sensitive to perceived threats. This fast-acting system can trigger anxiety, depression and aggression. This is an incredibly difficult and stressful way to exist. Psychologist Paul Gilbert uses groundbreaking research to illustrate how developing kindness and compassion for others can calm our ‘threat’ systems, help us learn to soothe ourselves and increase feelings of contentment and wellbeing. Gilbert guides readers through basic mind training exercises that can bring great benefit to our lives.
“Braving the Wilderness” Brene Brown, Ph.D. If you would like to live your life in a more reflective way, there is no better author than Brene Brown. In this book, she addresses the pain of isolation and perfectionism and the erosion of civility and meaningful discourse that so many are experiencing in our culture. Brown offers both ideas to consider and spiritual practices that can help us better connect to ourselves and each other.
“Prisoners of Our Thoughts” Alex Pattakos, Ph.D. and Elaine Dundon Drawing on the work of Viktor Frankl, renowned psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, psychologists Pattakos and Dundon outline 7 core principles for living an authentic and meaning-filled life, even in the midst of turmoil and tragedy. In a way that is never shallow or trite, they explore Frankl’s ideas about what it means to “choose our attitude” and how it is that we might live our lives in a more holistic and integrated way.
“The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” Norman Doidge, M.D. Scientists once thought the fully-developed adult brain was unchangeable.  This has not turned out to be the case.  The science of ‘neuroplasticity’ is demonstrating that our brains have the ability to change and “reorganize” throughout our lives. Developing new neural pathways enables us to change the ways we think, feel and respond, hence allowing us to become more adaptable.  Neural plasticity helps us learn and grow, rather than becoming rigid or stagnant.  This is a very engaging examination of how we create a ‘growth mindset’ that can transform our lives and alter the way we age.
“The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom” Jonathan Haidt Jonathan Haidt is a brilliant and engaging Social Psychologist who combines ancient wisdom with scientific research to study how the mind works. Have you ever wondered why you have difficulty sticking to the plans you make? Have you wondered why all the activities or accomplishments you strive for don’t actually bring happiness? Have you ever wondered how to live a more meaningful life? Dr. Haidt delves into these topics and so much more in this book. If you don’t have time to read, check out YouTube, where you can find his TED talks and other lectures. He is both interesting and very humorous.
“The War for Kindness: Building Empathy In A Fractured World” Jamil Zaki This book weaves science and stories together, examining why we struggle to understand people who aren’t like us, but find it easy to hate them. Research on the phenomenon of empathy has demonstrated that we are less caring than we were even 30 years ago – yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Empathy is not a fixed trait. We’re not either born with it or lacking it. It is a skill we can learn and strengthen over a lifetime. This book offers invaluable insights about how to develop and strengthen our capacity for empathy, and the tremendous benefits we will reap as a result.
“The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma” Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D. Trauma is a fact of life. Most lives are touched trauma to some degree. This book explores the ways in which trauma literally reshapes both the body and brain, limiting the ability of survivors to experience pleasure, self-control, engagement and resilience. Dr. van der Kolk outlines innovative ways to find healing and live more satisfying, whole lives.
“Healing and the Mind” Bill Moyers In this companion volume to the PBS series, television journalist Bill Moyers explores the fascinating, complex, powerful connection between mind and body in human health. Ancient medical science told us our minds and bodies are one. So did philosophers of old. Now, modern science and new research are helping us to understand these connections. Moyers talks with physicians, scientists, therapists, and patients -- people who are taking a new look at the meaning of sickness and health – as he discusses their search for answers to perplexing questions: How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing? This is a powerful book that could influence how you think about sickness and health.
“The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness: a 4-step plan for resilient living” Amit Sood, M.D. Dr. Sood is a specialist in stress and resiliency who has spent decades studying the factors that help people develop a greater sense of wellbeing. Based on neuroscience and psychology, this book offers a 10-week plan that can help readers reduce stress, anxiety and pain, and enable them to move toward an improved sense of strength and contentment.
“Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World,” Vivek H Murthy, M.D. (Surgeon General of the United States) Even when surrounded by people, and bombarded by endless stimulation, humans can often still feel lonely. The hidden impact of loneliness is the negative effect it has upon our mental and physical health, as well as upon the healthy functioning of families, organizations and our society as a whole. Dr. Murthy highlights our desire to connect and form community, and shares strategies that will help us do so. We are truly better together!
“The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World,” Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu A frequent topic in my therapy sessions is forgiveness: Should we forgive another? How do we do that in a meaningful way? What happens if we don’t/can’t/aren’t ready? The late Archbishop Tutu and his daughter, Rev. Mpho Tutu offer one of the most insightful books I’ve read on this topic. Their wisdom is well-earned, having been an instrumental part of the path toward reconciliation and forgiveness in South Africa. This book outlines four steps we can all take as we struggle to heal ourselves and repair relationships in our own lives.
“The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams If you only read one book this year, this is the book I would recommend. It is one of those rare resources that I will read over and over because it contains too much wisdom and inspiration to grasp in one reading. (Or in one “hearing,” if you prefer the Audible version.) This book features a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu in what was the last face-to-face meeting of their lifetimes. Using the central message that you must have joy if you are to bring joy to others, these spiritual masters and Nobel Peace Prize winners offer a wealth of wisdom on how to live abundantly in the face of adversity, as well as insights about how to cultivate virtues such as humility, forgiveness, compassion, and generosity. They are wise, funny and utterly down-to-earth, creating a book that is as easy to read as it is enjoyable and inspiring.
“Truth and Repair” Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. Psychiatrist Judith Herman is one of the most respected voices in the area of trauma – especially sexual violence. While our opinions are often shaped by anger and the desire for revenge, she notes the ways in which victims are often left without a voice, or without any recognition of the harm done to them. Only 20% of sexual violence acts are ever reported, and only 5% of those ever result in a conviction. Victims are either put on trial or rendered powerless by those who are trying to “save” them. In the process, WE fail to ask what THEY want, and what will help THEM heal. Dr. Herman brilliantly illustrates both the importance listening to survivors and asking them what they want. She also stresses the importance of creating a model for community accountability, and a process for helping victims find healing within the larger community, rather than perpetuating a system that renders victims voiceless and invisible.
“How To Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen” David Brooks I do not make New Year’s Resolutions. They too often rely on impulsive wishes, and result in feeling inadequate when our goals are not perfectly met. Instead, I focus continually on personal growth goals. This book was the perfect start to my year, and one that I recommend to anyone who shares the same passion for growth.

Health Books

Title Author Summary
Secrets From The Eating Lab Traci Mann, Ph.D. Psychologist Traci Mann of the University of Minnesota teams up with nutritional experts to study issues such as self-control and dieting. She challenges the assumptions that have caused so much misery in our society (from “fat shaming” to the idea that diets work), and highlights a saner, more practical path toward healthy eating and living – one that highlights our strengths and incorporates Mindfulness.
The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, and Elissa Epel, PhD. This groundbreaking book is coauthored by the Nobel Prize winner who discovered telomerase and telomeres' role in the aging process, and a health psychologist who has done original research into how specific lifestyle and psychological habits can protect telomeres, slowing disease and improving life. It explains how we age at a cellular level and how we can make simple changes to keep our chromosomes and cells healthy.
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams Matthew Walker, Ph.D. Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, Matthew Walker, uses his groundbreaking research to address the importance of sleep. This book covers a multitude of issues about sleep, including its impact on mental health, physical wellness, and longevity, and provides insights on improving "sleep hygiene".
Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism Barry M. Prizant, Ph.D For anyone whose life has been touched by autism, this book offers a profound and compassionate glimpse into the world of those on the autism spectrum. The author provides practical advice for understanding and effectively relating to people with autism, highlighting their unique strengths.

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