This list will admittedly contain many books surrounding the topic of psychology, as it was my specialist. It will also be heavy on the autobiographies, as I used to be solely a non-fiction reader, however I have recently branched out.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat & Other Clinical Tales ~ Oliver Sacks
My favourite book of all time. This is a book which any abnormal psychology professor will recommend. It is a collection of short stories from Sacks’ experience working as a neurologist. He shares interesting anecdotes from his clients and their strange symptoms, depicting the complexity of the human brain. The stories are fascinating and at times humorous. Aside from being incredibly brilliant, Sacks is a wonderful writer and has managed to speak of a very cerebral topic in a way that makes sense and is never confusing, or overwhelming to the lay person. Although this is a book anyone interested in psychology and abnormal psychology should read, it is a book that anyone can enjoy.
Outliers ~ Malcolm Gladwell
A graduate of my alma matter, the University of Toronto, Gladwell distills psychology statistics into fascinating reads about society. In Outliers, Gladwell identifies what creates an Outlier, someone who stands out in their field of expertise. A very interesting look into what is sometimes sheer luck and being born at the right place, at the right time.
The Time Paradox ~ Philip Zimbardo
A psychology professor, made infamous for his Stanford Prison Experiment, in this particular book Zimbardo strays from his usual topic and focuses on how our perception of time can affect our success in life. Again, this is an interesting book from the standpoint of research in psychology, but I recommend it for anyone. I truly believe it can assist you in being successful in your life, just by looking at how you perceive time and how you can manipulate that to your benefit.
The Zodiac ~ Robert Graysmith
Three years ago I became absolutely obsessed with the story of The Zodiac, a serial killer in The Bay Area, during the late sixties, who taunted the police. There is also a movie which I loved, but read the book first. The killer was never caught, which makes the story all the more fascinating as he seemed to almost hide in plain sight. In 2014 I visited many of the murder locations in California, you can read about it in This is the Zodiac Speaking.
A Game for all the Family ~ Sophie Hannah
This is the last book I read and I highly recommend it. I did not want to put this book down, every available second, all I wanted to do was read my book. It’s a mystery, so I don’t want to give much away, but it involves two stories, which weave in and out together throughout the book, one of them being a fiction within the fiction. Very dynamic and very intriguing, a great read for the summer, something you can just get lost in on the porch, or by the pool.
The Girls ~ Emma Cline
Another book I read recently which was quite captivating. This is essentially a fictionalized version of the Charles Manson story, told from the eyes of a teenaged girl who stumbles into the cult. Though we all know the story and how it ends, that doesn’t prevent this book from gaining and maintaining your attention. This is another great, easy read for summer days.
Stick Figure ~ Laurie Gotlieb
My second favourite book of all time. I read this book for the first time when I picked it up from my school library in grade 12. A very short and easy read, the diary of a twelve year old girl’s year-long bout with anorexia. I think maybe this book came to me at a time in my life when it was particularly prominent and relatable to me and that is why I still love it and have read it over and over again.
Girl, Interrupted ~ Susana Kaysen
I read this book after seeing the movie, but it is the reason I went on to study psychology. Kaysen describes her year-long stay in Maclean Hospital, just outside of Boston, where she was treated for Borderline Personality Disorder. We hear about what it’s like to live in a mental health hospital and more importantly, how you’re treated once you leave. I believe this may have also sparked my initial interest and love of Massachusetts and New England. I visited the hospital in which Kaysen stayed during the time of the memoir, this was also where Sylvia Plath was treated. Read about it here Girl, Interrupted.
Catcher in the Rye ~ J. D. Salinger
This book is mandatory for grade 11 English in Ontario. Again, I think this book happened to come to me during a time in my life when it had the ability to make an impact. Told from the perspective of an adolescent boy, Holden Caulfield, where he describes many of the feelings I believe a lot of us, at least I felt, growing up during those years.
To Kill A Mockingbird ~ Harper Lee
This was the mandatory read for grade 10. I would love to reread this book as an adult, as I think I would enjoy it just as much and probably get even more out of it. It is the story of a young girl growing up in the south and deals with the issues of race.
Sybil ~ Flora Rheta Schreiber
The biography of a woman with multiple personality disorder. It is a running controversy whether, or not the disorder actually exists. In the book we learn of her blacking out for weeks at a time, during which another personality has taken over her body. She eventually comes to understand her disorder through the help of a therapist, who is able to speak to the personalities and bring them on at will by asking for them. Her personalities also become aware of each other and she is able to harness them, to be able to live with her disorder. Sybil allegedly had 16 separate personalities living inside of her.
Rosemary’s Baby ~ Ira Levin
This is one book that I believe the film does justice to the story. For those not familiar with the story I won’t ruin it, but it is very well written and a little eerie at times. The story of a young couple living in New York City and their involvement with their older neighbours. Mia Farrow plays Rosemary in the movie and her character will forever remain a style inspiration to me.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s ~ Truman Capote
Another book where I saw the movie first and actually probably enjoyed the movie even more than the book. This is a very quick read and the movie follows pretty much down to the word, one could read this in an afternoon. I’m sure most people know the story, of Holly Golightly, the girl who ran away to New York City, to find glamour and money and ended up finding love. Can you believe my boyfriend hadn’t seen it until we met, it didn’t take long for me to fix that.
The Virgin Suicides ~ Jeffrey Eugenides
I saw the film first, when I was seventeen and didn’t read the book until my trip to the United Arab Emirates seven years later. I was surprised to find that it was written by a man, as Sofia Coppola really made the story her own with the film (though this post is meant to be about the books, I’d like to say that I just adore Sofia Coppola, she’s like a little fairy, sprinkling pixie dust and everything she touches turns to glitter and gold). Though it is touched on in the film, the book really is told from the point of view of the boys, so I guess it makes sense that it was written by a male author.
Orange is the New Black ~ Piper Kerman
I read this while on vacation in Mexico, if there’s anywhere you want to have a good book, it’s at an all-inclusive resort. I read it after seeing the first season of the Netflix Original. The show follows the book pretty closely at the beginning and then takes obvious deviations, as we know Piper in the show doesn’t leave after a year. A very interesting story of a WASP winding up in prison and the difficulties she faces, when she finds herself a minority for the first time in her privileged life.
The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical novel is some of the most beautiful writing this world will ever see. There were times when she was describing a situation, where the words filled me with such emotion because she managed to describe an exact feeling I have had that I had never been able to put into words myself. A book every young girl should read.
The Glass Castle ~ Jeannette Walls
Walls is an incredible writer. This memoir follows the nomadic life of Walls childhood, at times sad, at times hilarious and always intriguing.
Seductive Poison ~ Deborah Layton
The fascinating memoir of a woman who joined Jim Jones’ church and escaped in time to tell the tale. The famous saying, “don’t drink the Kool-Aide” (a term which, for the record I absolutely despise and cringe at how incredibly crass anyone could be to make light of such a tragedy), referring to the nearly one thousand American’s who joined Jim Jones and People’s Temple in Guyana and were forced, at gun point to drink cyanide laced Fun Aide and told to ‘die with dignaty’. Layton describes how she became involved with People’s Temple and how she managed to escape when the utopia that was Jonestown turned out to be a torture camp deep in the jungles of South America, run by a lunatic. The last chapters of the book are heartbreaking beyond words and arouse the same kind of adrenaline reaction as a thriller, or horror movie.
Intensity ~ Dean Koontz
The beginning scene of this book was described to me by an English teacher in grade 8, as a way of demonstrating how to conduct a book report and I don’t think I slept well for a week later. Having grown up in the country, with a long driveway, where my next door neighbour lives acres away, my house would be the ideal setting for the opening scene, in which the killer takes the lives of several family members while they sleep. The book then follows the house guests who managed to escape the murder and her mission to avenge their death. This is the scariest book I’ve ever read, not a great option if you’re sleeping in a big house alone. Koontz is a great writer though and if you don’t mind being a little jumpy for a few weeks, I would just recommend not reading right before bed.
The Ghost ~ Robert Harris
Contrary to the title, this book is not a horror, though a bit of a thriller/mystery. I really ended up enjoying this book, though it is completely different from my normal literary preference. Admittedly, I chose this book for it’s location, that being Martha’s Vineyard, as I had just returned from a vacation there and had residual wanderlust. The Vineyard actually doesn’t play a large role in the story and definitely not in the sense that I would be drawn to it, as the book takes place over the winter, while everyone knows The Vineyard is a destination best enjoyed in July and August. The book follows the Ghost Writer (hence the title) of the ex-British Prime Minister, taking over from the former writer who had recently passed away. Slowly though, the Ghost begins to uncover some mysterious information and begins to question how he ended up in this place and what happened to his predecessor. The endings is one of the best I’ve read, I find an issue with writer’s is that the writing and story can be so strong in the beginning and middle, but many writers struggle to maintain that strength in concluding a mystery. Though the book throughout is well written and interesting, I almost feel the ending is the best part. My boyfriend and I watched the movie a couple of months ago as well, the book is far superior, you could skip the movie in my opinion.