Books Explain Abuse and Recovery

I can do this!

These books and their authors have transformed how abuse, neglect, trauma, and recovery are defined and treated.  Links take you to Amazon where you can read more about the authors, the books, and honest reviews by readers.  Many are available from a public library, in e-reader or audio formats, or used at a reduced price. 

Coercive Control: How men entrap women in personal life by Evan Stark, Oxford University Press, paperback 2009.  Evan Stark, founder of one of America’s first battered women’s shelters, shows how “domestic violence” is neither primarily domestic nor necessarily violent, but a pattern of controlling behaviors more akin to terrorism and hostage-taking.

Evan Stark Interview  This 27-minute video is the best introduction to current research and thinking about domestic violence we know of.  Professor Stark explains the concept of coercive control, why it affects women disproportionately, and lays out the hidden harms of coercive environment which are not on the radar of either society or the justice system. 

Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror by Judith Herman, M.D., Basic Books 2015. 

Mindsight – The new science of personal transformation by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Bantam Books 2011. This book is an introduction to the scientifically proven ways a person can become stronger and more resilient even in the face of great adversity.  Videos and much more information available online at his website:

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., Delacorte Press 2011.  Simple handbook for understanding your child and the child in you. 

Waking the Tiger: Healing trauma by Peter A. Levine, North Atlantic Books 1997. 

In an Unspoken Voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness by Peter A. Levine, PhD, North Atlantic Books 2010.  This book systematically and engagingly initiates us into the ways of the body and the nervous system that animates it: how it works, what makes it tick, how to make friends with it, how to understand it, how to communicate with it and, last but not least, how to treat it and release it (and with it, us) from the hold of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). No longer unspoken, all that is held in the body-–in trauma and in health, in psychosomatic illness and in resilience—is described, articulated and made coherent. The result is a masterful, fluent book that seamlessly moves between evolution, science, Polyvagal theory, mind-body practice, impassioned defense of our animal natures, self-disclosure and specific step-by-step guide to treating trauma and restoring resilience. 

Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine, PhD.  This small book with graded exercises aimed at healing the effects of trauma includes a CD with Levine reading the exercises to you. 

Deep Survival: Who lives, who dies, and why by Laurence Gonzales, W.W. Norton & Company 2003. 

When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping your children heal the wounds of witnessing abuse by Lundy Bancroft, Berkley Books 2004.

Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft, 2003.  This is a good place to start if you feel overwhelmed and underinformed.  

The Body Never Lies: The lingering effects of hurtful parenting by Alice Miller, W.W. Norton & Company 2006.

The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships by Randy J. Paterson, Paperback, 2000.  Effective, cognitive behavioral techniques to help you become more assertive. Learn how to set and maintain personal boundaries without becoming inaccessible. Become more genuine and open in relationships without fearing attack

 Scared Sick:  The role of childhood trauma in adult disease by Robin Karr-Morse with Meredith S. Wiley, 2012.  Explains how the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study was developed and how to understand the implications of the information it provides.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts:  Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate and Peter A. Levine, 2010. Dr. Maté presents addiction not as a discrete phenomenon confined to an unfortunate or weak-willed few, but as a continuum that runs throughout (and perhaps underpins) our society; not a medical “condition” distinct from the lives it affects, rather the result of a complex interplay among personal history, emotional, and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction.

When the Body Says No:  Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection by Gabor Mate, MD, 2011.  An international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, When the Body Says No promotes learning and healing, providing transformative insights into how disease can be the body’s way of saying no to what the mind cannot or will not acknowledge.

The Body Keeps the Score:  Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, MD.  The author uses modern neuroscience to demonstrate that trauma physically affects the brain and the body, causing anxiety, rage, and the inability to concentrate. Victims have problems remembering, trusting, and forming relationships. They have lost control. Although news reports and discussions tend to focus on war veterans, abused children, domestic violence victims, and victims of violent crime suffer as well. Using a combination of traditional therapy techniques and alternative treatments such as EMDR, yoga, neurofeedback, and theater, patients can regain control of their bodies and rewire their brains so that they can rebuild their lives. The author uses case histories to demonstrate the process. He includes a resource list, bibliography, and extensive notes. This accessible book offers hope and inspiration to those who suffer from trauma and those who care for them.