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A Fall reading list for your relational trauma recovery journey.

The other day before work I had to run an early morning errand. 

I walked out of the house, paused, felt the air, and immediately went back inside to get my sweater coat.

Throwing it on I went back outside, thrilled to feel the coolness in the air and the damp, leafy smell that heralds Fall.

A Fall reading list for your relational trauma recovery journey.

As I drove and completed my errand, I felt a surge of enlivenment from feeling the change of the seasons.

I’ve always loved Fall. 

I loved (and still love) school and anything related to learning. 

And don’t even get me started on my obsession with great office supplies!

Fall to me is a time of fresh starts and a time of the mind – losing myself in new books, and new subjects, and feeling the pleasant fatigue in my brain after learning hard things.

When the weather changes and Labor Day is in the rearview mirror, some people want pumpkin spice lattes and to break out their Ugg boots.

I want a package of Audible credits and a brand new Moleskine for my journaling…

So in honor of Fall and this season of learning and expanding our intellectual horizons, I wanted to make today’s post less an essay than a list.

A list of curated books that I dearly love and that have helped me enormously over the last 20 years on my own relational trauma recovery journey and that I share with my therapy clients and online course students today. 

I’ve arranged this list by topic area, much like aisles in a bookstore, so that you can browse and see what interests you based on your own personal history. 

If you can find even one pen and paper friend from this list, one work that makes you feel less alone and imbues you with a little more hope, more knowledge, and helpful tools, that will make me so happy.

So please, peruse the list and, if you don’t mind, in the comments of today’s post, please let me know what books you might add to this list that have been so helpful in your own relational trauma recovery journey.

This little website gets about 25,000 visitors per month so your contribution and comment might point someone in the right direction to a resource that helps them enormously. 

So thank you in advance for generously sharing.

Happy Fall and please take such good care of yourself. 

You’re so worth it. 

Warmly, Annie


A Reading List To Support Your Relational Trauma Recovery Journey

Top trauma books to explain the biological impact of childhood trauma:

Top trauma books to outline the healing pathway out of trauma’s grip:

Biographies and stories of estrangement, disownment, and abuse:

  • Educated by Tara Westover, Ph.D. One of the few books I can honestly say I’ve read four times (and will likely read once a year – I love it that much!), this blockbuster memoir is extreme and perhaps not relatable in the exact details of the family’s landscape, but does relatably illustrate what it’s like to come from a fractured family, split by members’ mental illness, and to experience the gaslighting, disownment and estrangement that sometimes comes as a cost when you begin to heal. I truly can’t recommend this book enough. (And if anyone on this knows Tara Westover, there’s no one else I’d rather get coffee with so please feel free to make a virtual introduction!) 
  • Shadow Daughter: A Memoir of Estrangement by Harriet Brown. Another fantastic, well-written book that speaks to the “unspeakable” – estrangement from one’s own parents. The author weaves her story with others in a compelling, honest, and, to be quite honest, refreshing way.
  • Estranged: Leaving Family and Finding Home by Jessica Berger Gross. This book might be particularly impactful for anyone who grew up in a family that looked “great” on the outside but on the inside experienced emotional and mental abuse. The author chronicles her journey and, so importantly, speaks about how her healing came in tandem with her decision to estrange herself from her family of origin.

Books if you grew up with personality and mood-disordered parents:

Books that speak to being part of a family system where there is addiction:

  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. A classic for those of us who come from addictive family systems who struggle with knowing where their business ends and another person’s business begins, a common symptom of being raised within an addictive family system.
  • Beyond Addiction by Jeffery Foote, Ph.D. and Carrie Wilkens, Ph.D. A great resource both for anyone with an addiction or for the family member of someone who struggles with addiction. Particularly useful for those who are off put by AA.
  • Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand. A raw, honest, humorous but serious memoir from comedian and actor Russell Brand, this book brings a human lens to addiction and might be helpful for the loved one of an addict to read in order to learn more about what the addict’s experience is like. 
  • In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté, MD. A more clinical book than others in this section, but nonetheless wise and helpful to the family member of an addict, Dr. Maté’s work reframes addiction and helps humanize the sufferer.  

Books to support living a life as meaningful as possible in the brief time we have:

  • I Will Not Die An Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion by Dawna Markova, Ph.D. At the end of the day, relational trauma recovery work’s final stage, after stabilization and processing/grieving, is sense-making and meaning-making, moving forward to build as meaningful and fulfilled life as possible. This book explores how one woman discovered her own meaning and purpose after a life-threatening diagnosis.
  • A Year To Live: How To Live This Year As If It Were Your Last by Stephen Levine. This precious book gently helps us face death by considering its omnipresence and, through a series of meditations and prompts, helps us to more fully live before we die. 
  • Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. The book that brought me into the field of psychotherapy, it will forever and always remain on any relational trauma recovery reading list I curate. This classic work uses poem, fable, tale, and psychoeducation to speak to the mind, yes, but also but it also bypasses the mind and speaks straight to the soul, kindling a spark and igniting a sense of enlivenment. I truly can’t recommend it enough.

Now, I’d love to hear in the comment below:

What are some of the best books that have supported you on your relational trauma recovery journey? 

Please leave a message so our community of 25,000 monthly website visitors can benefit from your wisdom.

And until next time, please take such good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie

*This post includes affiliate links and any purchases made through these links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost to you).

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  1. Lily says

    Pete Walker’s books have given me so much to work with. Two are CPTSD – from Surviving to Thriving and The Tao of Fully Feeling. I’m reading a new parenting book, using it to remother myself, Good Inside, by Dr. Becky Kennedy. It’s supporting the health of all my relatinships, especially the one with I have with myself.

  2. Anne says

    Thank you for this list!
    The book that’s helping me a lot right now is The Wild Edge of Sorrow by Francis Weller. I warmly recommend it!

  3. Chrissy says

    I have found “Running on Empty: Overcome your childhood emotional neglect” by Jonice Webb to be very helpful in my healing process.

    • Annie says

      Hi Chrissy,

      Thanks for this recommendation! I’m so glad it’s been helpful in your healing process. Take care.

      Warmly, Annie

  4. S says

    Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD is a user-friendly guide to complex trauma and recovery. Written in a chattier way than many therapy books (I used to be a therapist), I find it accessible and helpful.

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