Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Trial

Wednesday, October 4th, 2023 | Books

The Trial is a murder mystery novel by Rob Rinder.

I was briefly ensure about the overly descriptive language and characters announcing their beliefs in an Atlas Shrugged manner but this soon gave way to a fascinating narrative that provided intrigue, drama and human interest. I can’t wait for the next one.

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Monday, August 28th, 2023 | Books

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! is a book by Robert T. Kiyosaki.

In a lot of ways, I don’t recommend the book. It comes with an irritating self-help tone that fails to acknowledge the systemic oppression many people face. And seems rather insensitive to refer to his actual dad, rich in education and love for his family, as poor dad while idolising his friend’s dad.

That said, this book articulates something I have struggled to articulate for a long time. It is this: if you want to be wealthy, you need more money coming in than going out. That sounds obvious so let me break it down.

Most people in the working class (people who work for a living, like me and most of you) think that buying your own home is the most important thing to do in life. They talk about their home being an asset. But it is not an asset in a profit and loss sense, it is a liability. Your house costs you money. Even after you have paid off the mortgage, you have council tax or property tax, utility bills, maintenance work, etc.

When we don’t have any money coming in, we’re forced to use our last resort: selling our bodies and our time in the form of labour to pay our bills. We forfeit our liberty, and often our health, to make someone else rich just to try and cover our rent or our mortgage.

What a lot of people do is try and buy a house and build a small pension. Essentially, they are trying to minimise their liabilities (eliminating the mortgage) and hoping that they can live on the small amount of income their pension brings in because they have reduced their outgoings to a pittance. But by this point, we’ve already lost what youth we had, and our majority of time on this earth.

Instead, we should focus on building assets: businesses, property, intellectual property, stock and bonds. Things that generate money so that our income can match our outgoings.

There are a couple of counterarguments to this. First, is this a fair world and should we be subjected to the oppression of capitalism? I think we should build a fairer, more equal world. But I don’t know how to do that. Nor is there any political appetite to alter capitalism. Yuval Noah Harari goes as far as to say it might not even be possible. I don’t think the outlook is quite that bleak but I don’t know what to do in the short term.

Second, is it fair to say Kiyosaki ignores the very real effect of oppressions, and then suggests everyone can aspire to be a member of the bourgeoisie? I honestly don’t know, but I do know that from a personal perspective, this book might do a better job of explaining why I focus on starting businesses rather than buying a home.

Working at Relational Depth

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2023 | Books

Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy is a book by Dave Mearns and Mick Cooper that expands on Rogerian concepts of relational meeting and describes the idea of relational depth: a profound meeting on contact in the therapeutic relationship.

The author argue that relationship depth goes beyond the surface level of professional caring. They suggest that professional boundaries, while important, get in the way of really being with your clients in the encounter. Instead, they suggest we should allow ourselves to truly care for our clients and bringer a greater level of honesty, openness and immediacy into the room.

Eating disorders textbooks

Thursday, April 13th, 2023 | Books

Clinical Manual of Eating Disorders

Good overview of different eating disorders and the literature around them. It is very much written for doctors looking at medical management. There is a chapter on using psychotherapy but it just talks about what the literature indicates works rather than going int detail about anything.

Outpatient Management of Eating Disorders

This book is somewhat older. from 2001, but is a great read. It has a short introduction to the conditions but goes into detail about CBT and family therapy. There is a section on basic counselling skills that would make a great read for any health professional outside of psychology. It also includes chapters on nutrition and nutrition coaching.

Handbook of Adult Clinical Psychology

This has one chapter on eating disorders but it packs a lot in. There is practical advise on treating eating disorders with both CBT and interpersonal therapy. Oddly, the chapter on EFT is much harder to read.


Sunday, March 12th, 2023 | Books

Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America is a book by Scott Adams. In it, he makes the case that most of us make had decisions or fall into an array of thinking traps which he coins as “loserthink”. In the book, he looks at the lessons we can learn from studying psychology, engineering, history and science to escape our “mental prisons”.

It’s a solid popular psychology read with a lot of good stuff in there.

The Food of Sichuan

Saturday, March 11th, 2023 | Books, Food

I’ve been working my way through The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop. Elina bought it for me for Christmas. But probably the previous one and it has sat around waiting to be used for a while. Well worth the wait: there is some delicious recipes in it!

Gong bao chicken

Duck with cashews

Dry-tossed beef

Love’s Executioner

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023 | Books

Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy is a book by Irvin Yalom. It presents ten cases from his work as a psychiatrist in story form.

By story form, I mean it is written as a narrative. Each case is based on a real client and their real story, but many of the details have been changed to protect their identities. Yalom writes in a compelling way that attempt to teach psychologists something but has also earned the book a great deal of popularity with the general public and would be highly accessible to everyone who wants to read some interesting stories.

None more so than the story from which the book takes its title, Love’s Executioner, which almost reads like a thrilling Agatha Christie mystery. For me, none of the other stories quite matched the first but each was interesting and I was excited to pick up the book each time.

The Body Keeps the Score

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023 | Books

The Body Keeps the Score is a book on trauma by Bessel van der Kolk. van der Kolk makes the case that trauma is the most pressing public health crisis. It is everywhere, affects a huge number of people and is the number one treatable condition that can improve people’s mental health, give millions of people a chance to live a better life and reduce intergenerational abuse.

He discusses both PTSD, which occurs when someone experiences a traumatic event or events as adults, and childhood trauma, which affects the individual’s development, attachment style and ability to form relationships. Memories of the event(s) are often frozen in time with the individual unable to process it. By process, we’re talking about our ability to form a coherent narrative, with closure, that allows the memory to fade into the background and allow us to move on with our lives even if the scars remain.

He discusses the limitations of talking therapy, though somewhat focusing on CBT over more humanistic approaches, and explores what other evidence-based approaches may work. Notably EMDR, but given the need to physically rewrite the body, also the possibility of using yoga, theatre and other lived-out approaches.

King of the Vagabonds

Friday, January 6th, 2023 | Books

King of the Vagabonds is the second book in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, following on from Quicksilver. When I say “following on” the story is unrelated but just the next in the series. It follows the adventures of a commoner, Jack Shaftoe, and his adventures around Europe and the world.

The Coddling of the American Mind

Thursday, January 5th, 2023 | Books

The Coddling of the American Mind is a book by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. It makes the case that people are “anti-fragile” and that by protecting people from ideas they disagree with, we are actually doing them harm.

The book focuses on the limitations of free speech being introduced across university campuses and the idea that everyone should feel safe. This is antithetical to the way CBT works. If a client comes to therapy and says “I don’t feel safe because I think I will be killed by a tiger” we would look for the evidence around how many tigers live in their local area and whether they typically attack humans. But on many university campuses, and wider society, people are using the idea of “feeling unsafe” to try and shut down freedom of speech. This is bad foe society but also for the individual because we amplify their anxiety.

The book also argues that it creates divisions in society. It argues that teaching things like micro-aggressions and consent workshops is currently done on the basis of negatively, encouraging people to give the least charitable rather than most charitable interpretation of ambiguous actions and therefore creating a negative interpretation bias (which again is something we would try to do the opposite of in therapy).

It also touches on the idea of trigger warnings. Again, in therapy, we would typically talk about how avoidance can be a maintaining factor in mental health problems. Removing avoidance in the safety of a therapeutic alliance is somewhat different to randomly doing it in real life, but it should at least give us a moment to stop and pause and consider how many of the strategies we think are helping people are actually making things worse.

The arguments and nuances in this book are complex and it is not possible for me to do it justice in this blog post. But I would encourage you to read the book yourself because it would be fascinating to hear other informed opinions on it.