menu icon

The 17 best summer reads on psychology and mental health

by Sarah Graham
Thursday 06 August 2015
588 1144

Whether you're jetting off or planning a staycation this summer, you'll no doubt want to make the most of the holidays to catch up on some reading. Whether you're after a self-help book, or inspiring memoir, to help you plan some changes for your post-holiday return to 'reality'; an intellectually stimulating read on the latest developments and research within the field; or a bit of psychology themed fiction, we've put together a list of the 16 best summer reads on psychology and mental health, using recommendations from RSCPP therapists.

Shoot the Damn Dog - Sally Brampton

There are two books about depression that I would recommend. Both are memoirs written by two very different people who have had depression so really know what its like. 'Shoot the Damn Dog' by Sally Brampton is written by a female journalist who suffered from severe depression. She writes about her own experiences, her family, how she coped (or not) with depression, and how she came through the other end. The book is compassionate, thought provoking and inspiring.

Registered Psychologist Jennifer Marshall


Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig

I could use the same words to describe the second book, by Matt Haig, called 'Reasons To Stay Alive'. This is written by a young man who first suffered from depression in his early twenties. He writes about about his experiences, he uses humour and compassion, and again discusses the things which he has found helpful - literally his reasons for staying alive. 

Although both books are written about depression, they are not 'depressing' reads. For someone experiencing depression, they feel like a friend who understands, and if you have someone in your life who is suffering from depression, they are an insight and a voice for some of the things the person you love may be unable to articulate.

Registered Psychologist Jennifer Marshall


The Power of Focusing - Ann Weiser Cornell 

 This is the most accessible self-help book on emotional healing that I have come across so far, and I recommend it to all my clients. Ann outlines some amazing research by Dr Gendlin, on how successful clients in therapy could be spotted in the first two sessions. These clients tended to slow down their talking, sense into their bodies, and get a sense of whether the words matched their 'felt sense' of the issues they were talking about. These clients begin to feel better and make constructive changes to their lives. Ann then takes you through a step-by-step basis of how you can do this as well, and gain real release from your emotional hurts and pains. Ann uses wonderful stories, to illustrate the process, and introduces 'focusing' in a way that is understandable and safe. There is also a chapter for those in therapy, who want to introduce focusing to their therapist and their therapy sessions. As a focusing-oriented, person-centred and integrative therapist, I have no hesitation in recommending this book.

Accredited Counsellor John Threadgold


Schopenhauer's Porcupines: Intimacy and its Dilemmas - Deborah Anna Luepnitz

This is a great book - educative, inspiring, and compelling, especially if you're into psychotherapy and analysis.

Accredited Counsellor Peter Doyle




Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers

This is a super book to read if fears are holding you back. It's an easy read, and simple, practical exercises are included too. I like it as a lot of it seems to be the common sense we have but don't always pay attention to!

Registered Counsellor Amanda Croft



The Five Love Languages - Gary Chapman

Want to improve your relationship with your partner? Find out what love language they speak and how to improve your communication. Relationships have been rekindled and deepened through this book.

Registered Counsellor Amanda Croft


Love's Executioner/The Schopenhauer Cure/Every Day Gets A Little Closer - Irvin D. Yalom 

American psychiatrist Irvin D. Yalom was a popular choice for a couple of our therapists. 

I would definitely recommend anything by Irvin D. Yalom, particularly 'Love's Executioner', 'The Schopenhauer Cure', and 'Every Day Gets A Little Closer'. His books can be read like novels, but they also give very interesting information about his practice and he writes with a lot of insight and humanity.

Registered Psychotherapist Sue Crofton

'Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy' by Irvin D. Yalom is not a self-help book but wonderful fictional short stories based on Yalom's practice. If you've ever wondered what brings clients to the therapy room and what takes place then this will give you an idea. Yalom's humanity and compassion shine through, an inspiration to us all.

Registered Counsellor Amanda Croft


Mindsight - Daniel J. Siegel

This is a very interesting book about Siegel's treatment of some of his patients, using his own style of mindfulness-based therapy.  He explains the relationship between mind and brain, and how he applies it in his work. Fascinating case histories and a surprisingly fluid read.

Chartered Psychologist Marina Claessens


Brainstorm - Daniel J. Siegel

A brilliant book about parenting teenagers and how teenagers' minds work - and, on top of that, a good read.

Registered Psychotherapist Peter Cockersell




Descartes' Error - Antonio Damasio

An interesting exploration of the relationship between thinking and emotion, by the leading neuroscientist Antonio Damasio.

Chartered Psychologist Marina Claessens


Transformation and Healing - Thich Nhat Hanh

If you are interested in mindfulness, this is an absolute must. A practical guide and an inspiring read.

Chartered Psychologist Marina Claessens


Finding Peace in a Frantic World - Mark Williams and Danny Penman

The title describes perfectly well why this book is worth reading.

Chartered Psychologist Marina Claessens


Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain - Sue Gerhardt

Another popular choice for RSCPP therapists.

This is a wonderful book about one of the most important subjects. It is accessible and clear, and communicates how very important our earliest relationships can be in shaping our experience in life. I also found it redemptive in its suggestion that love and attention can be healing when received in later life.

Accredited Counsellor Ian Tromp

'Why Love Matters' explains why and how loving relationships are important to brain development in the early years, and how these early interactions can have lasting consequences for future emotional and physical health in adults. This is an essential book, not only for parents but for anyone who would like to get a better understanding about how their emotional and mental world, as an adult, has been shaped. It is a well-written book, and easily understandable.

Chartered Psychologist Kyriaki Iordanidou


At Last a Life - Paul David

This is an interesting and valuable look at anxiety from an autobiographical perspective. It's easy to read and simple to digest, without jargon, and recommended for those suffering with anxiety.

Accredited Counsellor Jules McClean



Counselling for Toads - Robert de Boarde

Very often I find myself recommending 'Counselling for Toads' as a great introduction to the way I work with transactional analysis. It is a very clever and readable book - I wish I had written it myself! It is based on the characters of Kenneth Graham's 'Wind in the Willows'. The basic story is that Toad of Toad Hall gets depressed, and his friends Badger, Ratty and Mole, notice. He's not going out anymore, staying alone in Toad Hall with the curtains drawn, and he's starting to drink. His friends want to help him and finally Badger declares that there's only one thing for it - he has to have counselling! So together they march him off to see Heron. The story is of very effective short-term work. Toad's thinking is engaged, as well as contacting his feelings and history. He responds well to the sessions with Heron, learning all sorts of things about himself and about how basic transactional analysis theory can help him make changes in his life.

Registered Psychotherapist Celia N Simpson


Are there any other must-reads that you'd recommend? Let us know on Twitter @RSCPP or via our Facebook page.

Finding support

If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

Find a Therapist

Advanced Filters

Updated 03 September 2015