These are some of the books that have inspired, challenged and informed me over the years. In my recommendations you will catch a flavour of me as a therapist. I have deliberately excluded technical works on therapeutic methodologies and psychology, and instead chosen books that are of wider or general interest and accessible to all.
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber This is the book that sparked my interest in psychology: the true story of the psychoanalysis of a woman suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. Reading this as a teenager I was stunned by the concept that our 'conscious self' may not be the whole of our personality. This account is fascinating, horrifying and astonishing.
Families and How to Survive Them by Robin Skynner & John Cleese When I first read this in the 1980s I found it very illuminating, and it remains a very readable book, written in everyday language as a question-and-answer dialogue between family therapist Robin Skynner and his former client, comedian John Cleese. For anyone new to personal therapy, it's a great introduction to the psychological dynamics of relationships and the social development of children.
Lucy - growing up human by Maurice Temerlin This another book that fed my early interest in psychology. This is the true story of Lucy, a chimpanzee brought up from birth as a member of the Temerlin family (psychotherapist Maurice, wife Jane and son Steve) who treated her as far as possible as they would a human child. Covering her first 10 years, it is a fascinating look at our closest animal relative, and gives much insight into what we as humans are and are not, what we have gained and what we have lost since our distant ancestors wandered the African veldt. To me it is also profoundly sad, and I'm not at all sure I approve of the ethics of this venture, but it's a wonderful read.
Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes Essential reading for all women. This is the book on how women can reclaim their creativity, energy and power. It combines both traditional folk-tales and contemporary casework to illuminate how female power has been been repressed for millennia - and, more importantly - how to reclaim the energy of the wise 'wild woman'.
Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia A profound book in which Camille Paglia charts the development of attitudes towards sexuality in western civilisation by reference to art, literature and mythology. Essential and challenging reading for anyone with a personal, therapeutic or social interest in sexuality and sexual politics.
Iron John by Robert Bly In modern times fathers have become increasingly sidelined, and post-feminism the whole concept of masculinity seems to have fallen into disrepute. Robert Bly examines male wounding and draws on mythology and Jungian psychology to establish a new paradigm for masculinity that is neither weak nor abusive.
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran A spiritual discourse on love and marriage, joy and sorrow, reason and passion, beauty and death. A beautiful and simple book where every line seems to offer opportunity for thought and reflection.
Aphrodite by Isabel Allende In this part memoir, part multicultural history and art cookbook, Isabel Allende takes a slow sensual stroll through "the love of food and the food of love." A timely counterpoint to a world where newspapers juxtapose articles about the dangerous rise of obesity, the novel eating disorder orthorexia, and the issue of size zero catwalk models.