“I’ve always been drawn to stories – not just what happens, but how the story is told. Stories are essentially about one person saying to another: This is who I am. This is how I see the world. Can you understand me?”

So says American author and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb, whose acclaimed 2019 TED Talk addresses the power of personal storytelling. Underlining the many ways that well-worn narratives can keep us stuck, she invites a shift in perspective: reclaim agency by assuming the role of author and editor of own’s life.

Inspiring individuals to break free from limiting beliefs and foster a pathway to profound self-understanding has been the bedrock of Gottlieb’s career. Through her bestselling memoir Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, weekly advice column in The Atlantic, and Dear Therapists podcast, she weaves personal anecdotes with professional expertise to offer actionable insights into human behavior, relationships, and psychological well-being.

Gottlieb shared some of her favorite books for boosting mental health in a recommended reading list for Goodreads. On the transformative power of stories to kindle compassion, connection, and reflection, she writes:

“I love to ‘prescribe’ books to my patients that I think will hold up a mirror to them and help through their struggles. We even have a term for this: bibliotherapy, and it can happen with a memoir, a novel, poetry, or straight self-help. In Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, I share four patients’ stories (well, five patients, if you count me!) because I’ve always felt that other people’s stories hold up a mirror to our own, revealing the universality of our experiences. Seeing ourselves on the page makes us ‘feel felt’: I am seen. I am understood. I am human.”

From Joan Didion to Roxane Gay, explore Gottlieb’s best books for bibliotherapy below, and complement with the life-giving reading lists of Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Glennon Doyle.

Lori Gottlieb’s Reading List

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Living Happy, Joyous and Free: Don’t Be Held Hostage by Other’s Self-destructive Behavior by Ruth Mitchell

Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety by Chloe Carmichael

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (also rec’d by Elena Ferrante, Kerry Washington, Martha WainwrightMichelle ZaunerSam Harris & St. Vincent)

The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe

The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Edith Eva Eger

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser

Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (also rec’d by Reese Witherspoon)

I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster

It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (also rec’d by Ann PatchettEmma WatsonJameela Jamil, Laurie Halse Anderson, Megan Rapinoe & Min Jin Lee)

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (also rec’d by Matt Haig)

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk (also rec’d by Phoebe Bridgers & Tarana Burke)

(via Goodreads; photo by Shlomit Levy Bard)

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Categories: Writers