My Top Ten Books of 2012

I love to read. It is food for my soul. This year my books are dominated with therapeutic and psychological themes. Imagine that.

Here is a list of my top ten books of 2012. These are books I read this year, not necessarily books that were published in 2012.

1. The Master and His Emissary—This book is very academic, and at times dense. But, it is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. The “Master” in this book is the right-brain and the “Emissary” is the left-brain. Iain McGilchrist presents a fascinating exploration of the differences between the brain’s left and right hemispheres, and how those differences have affected society, history, and culture. He draws on a vast body of recent research in neuroscience and psychology  to reveal that the difference is profound: the left hemisphere is detail oriented, while the right has greater breadth, flexibility, and generosity. McGilchrist then takes the reader on a journey through the history of Western culture, illustrating the tension between these two worlds as revealed in the thought and belief of thinkers and artists from Aeschylus to Magritte. Sally Vicker of the Guardian says “McGilchrist persuasively argues that our society is suffering from the consequences of an over-dominant left hemisphere losing touch with its natural regulative ‘master’, the right.”

2. A Moveable Feast—Hemingway tells a story like no other. And this fascinating look at his early life in Paris while living an artist’s existence in poverty while associating with peers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso. The narrative is filled with extraordinary insights on life, love and dreams.

3. Hold Me Tight—One of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. And chances are, you have never heard of attachment theory. Heralded by the New York Times and Time magazine as the couple therapy with the highest rate of success, Emotionally Focused Therapy works because it views the love relationship as an attachment bond. This idea, once controversial, is now supported by science, and has become widely popular among therapists around the world. Dr. Sue Johnson presents Emotionally Focused Therapy to the general public for the first time. Johnson teaches that the way to save and enrich a relationship is to reestablish safe emotional connection and preserve the attachment bond. With this in mind, she focuses on key moments in a relationship-from Recognizing the Demon Dialogue to Revisiting a Rocky Moment-and uses them as touchpoints for seven healing conversations.

4. AttachedThe book to follow up Hold Me Tight. We rely on science to tell us everything from what to eat to when and how long to exercise, but what about relationships? Is there a scientific explanation for why some people seem to navigate relationships effortlessly, while others struggle? According to psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Levine and Heller reveal how an understanding of adult attachment-the most advanced relationship science in existence today-can help us find and sustain love. Pioneered by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s, the field of attachment posits that each of us behaves in relationships in one of three distinct ways:

  • Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back
  • Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
  • Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving

In this book Levine and Heller guide readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow, offering a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections with the people they love.

5. The Lost Art of ListeningOne person talks; the other listens. It’s so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we actually are. Why do we so often fail to connect when speaking with family members, romantic partners, colleagues, or friends? How do emotional reactions get in the way of real communication? This thoughtful, witty, and empathic book has already helped over 100,000 readers break through conflicts and transform their personal and professional relationships. Experienced therapist Mike Nichols provides vivid examples, easy-to-learn techniques, and practical exercises for becoming a better listener–and making yourself heard and understood, even in difficult situations.

6. RagtimePublished in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow’s imagined family and other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler and a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence.

7. 11/22/63—Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away . . . but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke. . . . Finding himself in warmhearted Jolie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten . . . and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

8. Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals—Not to be read straight through, it is designed to be a daily guide. Helps people and today’s diverse church pray together across traditions and denominations. With an ear to the particulars of various liturgical prayer traditions, and using an advisory team of liturgy experts, the authors have created a tapestry of prayer that celebrates the best of each tradition. This convenient and portable book also includes tools for prayer scattered throughout to aid those unfamiliar with liturgy and deepen the prayer life of those already familiar with liturgical prayer. Those who desire a deeper prayer life–and those familiar with Shane Claiborne and New Monasticism–will enjoy the tools offered in this book as a fresh take on liturgy.

9. Treating the SelfA very informative look at why being ostracized hurts so much. This book, by one of Heinz Kohut’s closest collaborators, is an authoritative description of self psychology. Self psychology theory, which includes the discovery of the role of empathy in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and the fundamental experiential needs of the self, has led to a completely new understanding of how psychoanalysis and psychotherapy promote growth, change and health. It is a must-read for anyone interested in Kohut’s psychoanalytic self psychology.

10.(Tie) The Picture of Dorian GrayThis celebrated novel traces the moral degeneration of a handsome young Londoner from an innocent fop into a cruel and reckless pursuer of pleasure and, ultimately, a murderer. As Dorian Gray sinks into depravity, his body retains perfect youth and vigor while his recently painted portrait reflects the ravages of crime and sensuality.

10.(Tie) Something Wicked This Way ComesFew American novels written this century have endured in th heart and mind as has this one-Ray Bradbury’s incomparable masterwork of the dark fantastic. A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes — and the stuff of nightmare.

Question: What was your favorite book of 2012? 
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2 Responses to “My Top Ten Books of 2012”

  1. 11/22/63 was amazing. I went through the book 4 times this summer. Twice read (the first time in only 6 days) and twice audio. One of the best books I’ve ever read. I was so affected by Jake’s story when it was over, I wanted more.

    I plan on going through it again a couple of times next year too.

    I’ll check out the rest of the books on the list, Ragtime looks really good!

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