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Recommended books and tapes

Here are some books and audio tapes I recommend for my patients. For your convenience, I've included a link to the Amazon web site, so you can learn more about a particular book and, if you'd like, purchase it there.

If there are any books or tapes you've found especially useful, please let me know. I may add them to this list.

General medicine

The L.A. Shape Diet: The 14-Day Total Weight Loss Plan by David Heber. Publisher: Regan Books; (March 16, 2004). ISBN: 0060737387. As I describe in the article Rational Weight Loss, to me, Dr. Heber's approach is the first someone didn't just make up -- it's scientifically based. I think you'll find a lot of good ideas here. By the way, my patients have had trouble finding this book in local stores and have had to order it online.

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What Color Is Your Diet? by David Heber. Publisher: Regan Books; (June 18, 2002). ISBN: 0060988622. This book describes the variety of phytonutrients that you get with fruits and vegetables of different colors, and why this matters. It's a good source of information about putting together a balanced, healthy diet.

Personal growth and emotional healing

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (Inner Workbook) by Julia Cameron. Publisher: Jeremy P. Tarcher; 10th Annv edition (February 28, 2002). ISBN: 1585421464. (Be sure to get the original Artist's Way and not the many "Sons of Artist's Way" books Ms. Cameron has written since.)

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It's hard to describe how much I like this book and why I so often I recommend it to my patients. The author contends that creativity is the most genuine and profound aspect of our humanity. Each of us, in our own way, is an artist, but many of us are too embarrassed to express our creativity unless we could somehow be professional quality. Here is a series of exercises for opening up your creativity and making it work for you. After all, the whole point of creativity is to express yourself for your own satisfaction. If someone else likes your work, that's okay, but it's basically irrelevant.

The Artist's Way is a great way to open up your creativity, but mostly I recommend it for another reason entirely: "Morning Pages." This is Julia Cameron's term for a daily journal, covered in the first chapter. She describes with particular clarity how to write down whatever arises in your mind (I call this a "mind dump"). For many people, this is as nearly as powerful a technique of emotional healing as psychotherapy.


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Changing for Good by James O. Prochaska, John Norcross, Carlo DiClemente. Publisher: Perennial Currents; Reprint edition (September 1, 1995). ISBN: 038072572X. Most people think that to change (end a bad habit or begin a new, desirable course of action), you just need will power. Of course, everyone else who needs to change simply has to be convinced how important it is.

This approach rarely works and mostly frustrates you.

Here's how change really works and why. And how to do it.


Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself From the Judge Within by Byron Brown. Publisher: Shambhala; 1st ed edition (December 1, 1998). ISBN: 157062383X. Many of my patients are pursued and tormented by an all-knowing, punitive "Inner Critic," who in fact is an internalization of the worst aspects of your parents when you were a child. Unending shame is a powerful deterrent to growth. This book provides tools with which to fire the critic.

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For Your Own Good : Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence by Alice Miller, Hildegarde Hannum (Translator), Hunter Hannum (Translator). Publisher: Noonday Press; 3rd edition (November 14, 2002). ISBN: 0374522693. Dr. Miller is a Swiss psychoanalyst most famous for her Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self. She's written a number of seminal works on the pervasiveness of child neglect and abuse in our culture. This is my favorite. Read it if you've ever wondered if child abuse was an issue in your upbringing. This is powerful stuff: she argues persuasively that abuse is inherent in our society. For instance, she quotes the "Dr. Spocks" of the 1700s and 1800s about how to torture children into submission.

Men's issues

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco; Reprint edition (August 16, 1991). ISBN: 0062506064. As Warren Farrell argues in The Myth of Male Power, men have traditionally worn the mantle of power in our culture while often having little influence over what matters. (Susan Faludi is even more emphatic about this point in Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. But she so hyperventilates, she drove me crazy.)

Currently we are seeing the resurgence of patriarchy in extremist Islam, but patriarchy is by no means dead in Western culture. Why? Patriarchy is an extreme expression of the immature male. It injures and demeans men and women alike. Ultimately, male violence is childish and impotent. What's the alternative? Truly empowered men are wise and gentle. We need to grow up! But that's hard to do without genuinely mature men willing to train younger men. This book's perspective is Jungian-style archetypes, which guide but provide no step-by-step directions. Still, it's useful. (See the Sounds True tapes listed below for how to do it.)

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Beyond the Hero, by Allan B. Chinen, MD, New York: Putnam: Xlibris Corporation; (December 1, 1993). ISBN: 0738851566. The Hero is the predominate myth of young men. With clear vision of myself and what I offer, I conquer all! Actually, what I do is overthrow the old guy, the tyrant. Everyone is so thrilled he's gone! But then -- oops! -- I become the tyrant. I'm rigid, patriarchal, and power-hungry. Actually this isn't fun at all.

Here's the alternative to the endless cycle of Hero and Tyrant, and it's not what you'd expect. I suspect many men younger than 30 or 40 won't get it: I go I know not wither and find I know not what. Powerful and great fun, also from a Jungian perspective.


Pain medicine

Stretching: 20th Anniversary by Bob Anderson, Jean Anderson. Publisher: Shelter Publications; 20th Rev edition (June 1, 2000). ISBN: 0936070226. If you've ever had a pain problem, you need this book. If you exercise more than occasionally, you need this book. It's thirty years old, but it's still the best stretching book on the market. You need this book.

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The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain by John E. Sarno. Publisher: Warner Books; (October 1, 1999). ISBN: 0446675156. Dr. Sarno is a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at New York University. This is the book many pain medicine specialists wished they had written. (I wish I'd written it.) It's a detailed description of myofascial pain, which he terms "tension myositis syndrome." Why is it so hard for doctors to find the cause of the pain? What can you do about it? Dr. Sarno details the critical role of anger in causing and prolonging pain. He provides exercises you can use to get rid of it. A sizeable minority of my patients with chronic pain have healed their pain by working through this book.


Managing Pain before It Manages You by Margaret A. Caudill. Publisher: Guilford Pr; (December 2, 1994). ASIN: 0898622247. This is the best workbook for patients with chronic pain. It's widely prescribed by pain management classes. A useful resource for working on your own at home.

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Spirituality and healing

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The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by Ernest Kurtz, Katherine Ketcham. Publisher: Bantam ; Reprint edition (December 1, 1993). ISBN: 0553371320. This book presents one of the many reasons I'm so impressed and moved by the power of the spirituality in the 12-step tradition (especially Alcoholics Anonymous). It combines teaching stories from many religious traditions with discussion about using your problems and imperfections as the focus of spiritual growth. Extraordinary.


Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (April 1, 1997). ISBN: 0684842971. Over 100 years old, this is still one of the best overviews of human spirituality. It's an ideal and gentle introduction for those who still believe spirituality is irrelevant. A classic.

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The following tape sets are published by Sounds True Audio, my favorite source for all things spiritual. Most are available in audio CD format for about $10 extra. They are usually a third cheaper if you buy from the Amazon links, but if you order from the Sounds True website, you have a lifetime guarantee in case you don't like it. Here's what Sounds True says:

"Every audio learning course purchased at this web store is 100% guaranteed for as long as you own it. If you are not satisfied with your purchase -- for any reason, at any time -- simply return it to Sounds True for a full refund or exchange, whichever you prefer. Return information will come with your order."

I think it's as hard to learn spiritual matters from a book as it is to learn golf or master guitar just by reading. Sure, it's best to have a good teacher, but the extra contextual information in the spoken word helps a lot, and you can gain from a variety of perspectives. Sounds True has an enormous collection of spiritual tape sets from a wealth of traditions. Highly recommended.

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Shambhala Warrior Training: How to Manifest Courage, Authenticity, & Gentleness in Every Situation of Your Life by Cynthia Kneen. Publisher: Sounds True; (March 1, 1997). ISBN: 1564553841. (Here's the Sounds True link if you prefer.) This is one of my favorite tapes. It discusses the spiritual warrior tradition common to many cultures. It has no theological content, though the original source was a Tibetan lama, the late Chogyam Trungpa. This is no theoretical dissertation: it's a hands-on, here's-how-you-do-it-now-get-going course.

My favorite quote is that fearlessness isn't the absence of fear but the willingness to be afraid. How do you pull this off? This tape set shows you how.


Noble Heart: A Self-Guided Retreat on Befriending Your Obstacles by Pema Chodron. Publisher: Sounds True; 6-cassette edition (April 1, 1998). ISBN: 1564555763. (Sounds True link.) Pema Chodron is a Caucasian woman raised in the West, and also an ordained Tibetan lama. This is training in Buddhist meditation. If that sort of thing appeals to you, it's awesome. Much of the focus is on overcoming painful emotion and developing compassion for yourself and others.

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Kosmic Consciousness by Ken Wilber. Publisher: Sounds True; Unabridged edition (September 1, 2003). ISBN: 1591791243. (Sounds True link.) I love Ken Wilber. Sure, it may be because his approach is wholly intellectual and doesn't make me do any actual work. And you could say his attempt to integrate every spiritual tradition is Pollyannish, particularly in light of his belief is that everybody and every religious perspective is right; you just have to figure out how it all fits together. Nevertheless, he helped me adopt a broad, inclusive outlook that feels right. I learned a lot from this series of tapes/CDs.


Anam Cara: Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O'Donohue. Publisher: Sounds True; (July 1, 1996). ISBN: 1564553760. (Sounds True link.) John O'Donohue is an Irish Roman Catholic priest with great wit and wisdom. This audiocassette series is an absolute delight. Nothing heavy, but inspiring and great fun. I haven't met anyone who hasn't enjoyed it.

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The Transpersonal Vision: The Healing Potential of Nonordinary States of Consciousness by Stanislav Grof. Publisher: Sounds True; (September 1, 1998). ISBN: 1564556077. (Sounds True link.) Dr. Grof is a Czech psychiatrist who became intimately involved in research into psychotherapeutic uses of LSD early in the 1960s. After LSD was outlawed, he transferred his techniques to deep breathing techniques he calls Holotropic Breathwork. I've never worked with him, but I know others who have, and they are among the most mature, loving, productive people I know. This tape set is denser than the others and requires sustained attention. Don't get this if you've had serious psychiatric illness. I would recommend it only for health professionals and those who have worked long and hard on their personal growth.


Last updated Fri, Jun 19, 2015

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©2011, James Gagné, MD