I’ve tried to keep this list manageable, though there are so many great resources out there it’s hard to contain myself. These books are the among the cream of the crop in their respective areas. They are all readable, packed with insights and practical value, and most based on solid research. Books are listed alphabetically within category so my clients can quickly find titles to which I refer them.
And Baby Makes Three
John Gottman, Ph.D.
Essential reading for new parents–I give it out to all my couples with babies or babies on the way. Also a good primer on Gottman’s brilliant stuff for couples, but it’s really aimed at the baby crowd.
The Essential Difference
Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D.
A fascinating theoretical book about “systemizers” versus “empathizers.” Of special interest to Asperger folks (systemizers that they tend to be), Baron-Cohen also cites lots of interesting research and case studies on male/female differences. Included are some self-assessments on systemizing and empathizing.
The Gifts of Imperfection
Brene Brown, Ph.D.
Brene Brown is one of my favorite teachers. Her TED talks (shown in several of my blog entries) are both spellbinding and brilliant. And her book is a similarly wonderful expansion of her hard-won, excellent and potentially life-changing ideas about vulnerability, shame, and living fully by embracing our essential humanity.
Hold Me Tight
Sue Johnson, Ph.D.
By the creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, one of the most empirically validated forms of couples (or any!) therapy to date. Sue Johnson & John Gottman have lots of theoretical overlap and agreement, but their implementations are quite different. This is a very palatable rendition of EFT and many clients have found it super-helpful to enrich and supplement their couples therapy.
The Journal of Best Practices
This is a lovely memoir by a splendid writer about how he and his wife came to grips with his Asperger’s. The book is as appropriately quirky as its title, which refers to a journal he kept to remind himself of “neurotypical” relationship skills in order to revive his marriage. Many guys could benefit from Finch’s tips, and couples with one or both Aspie partners may find the book especially helpful. A few caveats: One, Finch appears to have applied his systemizing focus with extreme dedication to his relationship – not everyone will be able to follow his example to that degree. Two (and related to One), his wife, despite their low moments, appears to be a very secure, patient, loving partner, hanging in there through twists and turns with him, which is also a hard act to follow. Nonetheless, a very sweet book with lots of good lessons.
Don’t be thrown off by the slightly odd title, which comes from Ghandi. I give this book most of my couples as a useful background framework. It’s clear, easy to read, well organized, and describes a great way to minimize judgment and blaming, and get to the underlying feelings and needs that really matter. For most couples it would make a huge difference if they could thoroughly integrate just this one system into their communication.
Not “Just Friends”
Shirley Glass, PhD
There are tons of books on affairs, some rise to the top, and of all the ones therapists often recommend this is by far my favorite. It is unbiased with respect to the unfaithful vs. the faithful partners, full of useful information, experience, and perspective (much of it based on Dr. Glass’s own research), and extremely thorough. Incidentally, Shirley Glass (now deceased) was the mother of Ira Glass of NPR, and their cousin is Phillip Glass, the composer. Talented family!
Rage: A Step-By-Step Guide
Ronald Potter-Efron, PhD
This and the following Self-Compassion book could arguably go on my Individual resource page, but they’re so important for couples I’ve put them here. Recommended by an anger specialist, this is the best book I know of on anger. If you know you have trouble managing your expression of anger, you frequently say or do things in anger that you later regret, or your partner has expressed concern about your anger, this is a great place to start. Details a number of categories of rage and gives specific suggestions and steps to work on them.
Kristin Neff, PhD
Contempt – and its lesser sibling judgement – are the birthplaces of blame and some of the most destructive attitudes in relationships. Compassion for your partner (and others) is the antidote. It all starts with self-compassion, and this is a crucial book for learning how to treat yourself with loving kindness. This can bring peace not only to all your relationships, but to yourself. There are a number of books on this topic (another great one is Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection,” where I found out about Dr. Neff’s book), but this is the best I’ve encountered.
Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage
John Gottman, Ph.D.
Gottman has a slew of books (Probably over 40 at this point!) on relationships and I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them. Dan Siegel (listed above) has said that John Gottman should be designated as a national treasure. Gottman’s research has created the foundation for a whole new understanding of relationships and what makes them work or not. And if you ever get a chance to hear Gottman speak in person, go! (Ditto for Sue Johnson or Dan Siegel — all scintillating and fascinating speakers).