morgan randall

Counselor Morgan Randall's blog, bookstore and more. A place to explore the paradigm shift to systems thinking that views body and mind as one

Recommended Reading


has been, and will always be, a tool in my backpack to build and maintain strong resilient mental health. Reading provided me access to the knowledge of hundreds of wise elders. But most important, it helped me learn how to comfortably be with myself exponentially increasing moments of contentment. 

The below list is alphabetically arranged by author last name. These books are ones I recommend to patients in their pursuit of a happier, healthier life.

Please know there are two wonderful used bookstores in Skagit County that may have these on their shelves. Easten’s Books is a few steps from the Bodymind Counseling office on the NW corner of S1st and Pine streets, (360) 336-2066. Sunny Pelican Bay Books with its yummy coffee snack bar and side walk tables is located on the SW corner of 6th and Commercial in Anacortes, (360) 293-1852.

As Benedictine nun Joan Chittister says, “Good writing demands good readers. Great personal growth requires the inquiring mind.” So dig in and learn. Read (or listen) yourself to greater physical and mental health!

Scott C. Anderson

The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection

Anderson, a journalist, wrote this book with probiotic researchers John F. Cryan, PhD and Ted Dinan MD. These docs began their research into the gut/brain connection the same year I began experimenting with probiotics and changing my diet to support the aerobic microbial life in my intestines. I’m thrilled to read that the medical world is finally catching onto a healing paradigm I’ve been sharing since 2004. (Read my free document here.) A big reason I obtained a masters in psychology in 2006 was to share what I had discovered about mental health’s link to intestinal health and the body. Surprisingly, the most effective psychological treatment I found in my 20-year search for good mental health was a probiotic protocol. Who knew?!? Depression and panic disappeared and anxiety reduced in severity by a large percentage. Cryan and Dinan have done some top notch research and Anderson has written a simple to read explanation of the principles at work.

Eric Barker

Barking up the Wrong Tree

Barker teaches up how to cope with the events of our lives in a hilarious and effective way. Check out his website here. And buy one of this PhD psychologist/comedian’s book for a good laugh at yourself!

Byron Brown

Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within

Brown teaches readers how to wriggle free of the judgmental voice in their heads, so emotional and psychological growth can occur as we learn to live life on our own without its judgment. The “superego” sounds like your voice, but it’s actually the internalized voice of your caregivers—a psychological structure that was put there by nature to help you survive if you wandered out of sight of the family when you were a little kid. It’s super helpful if you are eight, not so much if you are 38. Sooner or later, one must grow up to live a fulfilling personal life.

S.H. Buhner

The Lost Language of Plants

Reading this book, I learned that resistance to antibiotics does not reside in my body. It resides in bacterial populations around the world that have evolved to resist antibiotics no matter who takes them. In my lifetime, a quarter million generations of any given type of bacteria will have passed, so a whole lot of evolution has taken place. More amazing, bacteria “talk” to each other “teaching” others how to resist various kinds of antibiotics and pass this knowledge on to their offspring! One more good reason not to rely on pharmaceuticals to heal us after we’re sick, but to prevent disease before it happens through good health habits. Another point strictly related to mental health is that a struggling immune system manifests as a struggling emotional system. Again underscoring that it’s impossible to separate body from mind.

Betty Carter and Joan Peters

Love, Honor and Negotiate: Building Partnerships that Last a Lifetime

Marriage and family therapist Carter helps people see the effect of the Golden Rule on their marriages– “whoever has the gold makes the rules.” Her insights and practices help couples create a more balanced process of family decision making. She guides readers through freeing themselves from the patterns they each learned in their original family, so they stop trying to recreate their parents’ marriage in theirs. Readers learn how to negotiate honestly and fairly to resolve disagreements and help both parties get their needs met. This dissolves resentments allowing love and happiness to flourish.

Pema Chödrön

When Things Fall Apart

Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun who has written dozens of simply-beautiful, straight-forward books not only on how to cope with life in this difficult world, but how to set one’s soul ablaze with joy.

Joy Davidson

Fearless Sex: A Babe’s Guide to Overcoming Romantic Obsessions

An exploration of successful relationship strategies in the first half of the book shifts rather abruptly, but appropriately, into how to feel good about yourself in the second. Highly recommended to babes of all genders!

Ralph De La Rosa

The Monkey Is the Messenger: Meditation and What Your Busy Mind Is Trying to Tell You

Love this book. And it connects you to streamed relaxing meditations such as this one. I could listen to De La Rosa’s voice all day…

Roberta Gilbert

Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of Thinking About Human Relationship

A human being’s reality is made up of physical brain inputs, mental inputs (thoughts) and relational ones. Our brains affect our minds and our relationships. Our minds affect our brains and relationships. And our relationships affect our brains and our minds. Understanding the effect of relationships on your mind is the purpose of this book. Dr. Murray Bowen, the father of family therapy, was the first to say that the family, not the individual, is the primary emotional unit. Understanding this point of view can change the way you see your life. Author Gilbert was one of Bowen’s students and explains this critical point very well.

Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

How to live more functionally and effectively in daily life. You can’t behave as if you’re as smart as you are, no matter how high your IQ may be, if your thoughts are chronically hijacked by your emotions.

Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

A brilliant analysis of why the subjects of politics and religion are so divisive and how we can work to heal the breach in our families and society at large.

Sheila Heen, Bruce Patton and Douglas Stone

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most

A step-by-step approach on how to have important conversations with less stress and more success at home or work.

Harville Hendrix

Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples

The first half this book explains why we keep falling in love with the same type of person over and over. The face changes, but the relational problems do not. This is an old book (it assumes a couple is heterosexual), but its truths are perennial and its recommendations highly useful. The second half can be skipped if you are not actively working with a partner to repair a relationship in the moment. Tired of the same old dysfunctions yet?

Jon Kabat-Zinn MD

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness

Dr. Kabat-Zinn explains the power of paying attention, how to do it and why. The whys include healing from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses and the reduction of anxiety and pain. This classic bodymind bible is as relevant today as when it appeared 30 years ago.

Jack Kornfield PhD

A Path with Heart: A Guide through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

Dr. Kornfield is not only a professor of Buddhist psychology, but an American psychologist who has helped many thousands of people reduce their existential suffering with training in meditation. Any of his titles are recommended, but the above is a particularly sweet and useful read.

Dr. Iain McGilchrist

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World 

Dense reading, but in evolutionary and cultural terms, this important book explains how we have come to our post modern view of reality and why we will not be content until we expose the way we think as responsible for the emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual poverty this perspective creates.

Dr. Emeran Mayer

The Gut-Immune Connection: How Understanding the Connection Between Food and Immunity Can Help Us Regain Our Health

Finally, allopathic docs are beginning to understand that a healthy microbiome is the key to good physical and mental health. Learning this 20 years ago is what motivated me to become a mental health counselor. I felt folks needed to know that all the psychotherapy and psych meds in the world won’t help much if the microbiome inhabiting the small intestine is off balance. Read and celebrate that real help is on the way!

Pia Melody

Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes From, How it Sabotages Our Lives

Oddly, I don’t think this book will tell you what codependence is like it says in the title, but no big deal. The reason I recommend Facing Codependence is I’ve never found a better explanation of what constitutes child abuse and how it affects a personality. While the 12-Step system’s viewpoint from which this book was written is not the paradigm through which I focus my practice, there is no doubt its programs have helped more addicts than any other and that its practitioners’ discoveries about the nature of mind can be useful to folks outside “the program.” Melody outlines what child-rearing practices nurture the growth of psyches capable of loving relations and appropriate behavior and which ones are destructive. If you are wondering “why am I so unhappy,” find a therapist who can help you sidestep funky behaviors you learned growing up that get in your way.

Michael Moss

Salt, Sugar, Fat

The phrase “we are what we eat” means our bodyminds are created by what goes into our stomachs. Many Americans are suffering from lack of joy and vitality, but don’t understand why. We literally think and feel what we eat. Drug pushers come in many guises, including corporations who stock your local grocery store with addictive substances that lack nutrition. Real food is available, but it’s up to you to “just say no” to junk, kick your addictions and choose the life you want to live by changing your diet. Reading this book is a good place to start!

Iris Murdock

Here is an excellent review article of an Iris Murdock collection of essays. The article talks about Murdock’s moral imperative of “being understanding.” It is something at which we could all improve particularly if we wish to improve our relationships.

Go to original

James Nestor

Breath: The new science of a lost art

Health is not created solely by what goes in your mouth or ears, but in your nose too! If you choose only one book from this list to read, make it this one. Learning to breathe efficiently and effectively is something we all should have learned as children but, due to evolution into a big brained critter and our modern life style, we sadly have not. Breathing effects our mental and physical health in so many ways, I’m not even going to start listing them here. How we breathe can be the foundation for increasing good health or the cause for spiraling poor. Please don’t wait. Read this book as soon as you can lay your hands on a copy!

Mary Oliver

Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse

Poetry writing supports emotional processing, inner knowledge, self-expression, spiritual and psychological growth and healthful relaxation. This well-loved poet presents a concise and engaging introduction to sound, rhyme, meter, scansion and why they matter. “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance/As those move easiest who have learned to dance,” wrote Alexander Pope. Includes an anthology of 50 poems representing the best metrical poetry in English. Pick a poem and write one in its form. You’ll love learning to dance!

Satchin Panda PhD

The Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy, and Transform Your Health from Morning to Midnight

Humans are diurnal critters. That means for good mental and physical health, sleep at night and be active during the day. Most people do not realize how much damage they are doing to themselves by eating after 6PM, not going to bed by 11PM or getting 7 or 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The screen of your device after 8PM is a problem too. It can mess up your Circadian rhythm by fooling your brain into thinking it’s still day, when in fact it’s time to curl up in low light and drift off to sleep. Shift workers beware! You may need a really big raise to compensate you for the loss of good health or functional family life.

David Perlmutter MD

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs and Sugar

A Harvard neurologist and nutritionist explains a primary cause of both obesity and brain disease–his brilliant father died from Alzheimer’s. He exposes the bias exerted by the pharmaceutical and the food-like commodities industry to spread myths and specious research about their causes. Presents a compelling case for upping unprocessed fats and protein and reducing processed carbs. Highly recommended!

Karen Pryor

Don’t Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training

Here is the knowledge you’ll need to learn how to change the behaviors of yourself and others without yelling, threats, force, punishment, guilt trips or shooting a hormone-driven teenager.

Jalaluddin Rumi/Coleman Barks

The Essential Rumi

My favorite translation of the poetry of the 12th century Sufi mystic. While adhering to the exact meaning of a word in English, some translators miss the poetry. Here Barks reigns supreme with his exquisite renderings. More to the point of psychotherapy, Rumi coined the term Sohbet which means mystical conversation. This is the conversation between you and God, you and yourself, you and your best friend, lover or therapist and, I must add, you and Rumi when you read a poem in this book. Each of these may be read dozens of times with new meanings gleaned each read. Highly recommended for those with a spiritual bent who are seeking holistic healing, i.e. the integration, of body-mind-soul. My 1997 hardcover version is tattered. Its brown-edged pages falling out…

Don Richard Riso

Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery

The Enneagram is a universal psychological behavioral system, a description of consciousness. Although its development goes back thousands of years, it is remarkably consistent with modern psychological theory. The nine personality types of the Enneagram provide a starting place for personal inquiry into behavioral patterns each of us are born with. One of my favorite Enneagram authors, Don Riso, provides insightful descriptions of each personality type as they manifest at different levels of consciousness. Most Enneagram books focus on dysfunctions, but Riso exalts the unique and beautiful human spirit.

Shambhala on Audible

Shambhala Publications publishes books on mindfulness, meditation and Buddhist psychology. The Buddha, a prince named Siddhartha, was NOT trying to start a religion, he was trying to help people not suffer so much. He developed psychotherapy techniques and ways of thinking about life to do that. Over 2500 years ago, no one knew about the subconscious and how to train it to be calm and happy so when he came up with a way, he became a great teacher. People followed him around in droves. When asked, “what about god?” he would reply, “this has nothing to do with god” thereby causing the confusion that Buddha didn’t believe in god. We really don’t know. After his death, a religion formed around his teachings and spread around the world. I’ve always wanted a statue of the Buddha slapping his forehead at the irony. This link will take you to Audible, where you can find Shambhala Books on CD, a relaxing way to learn from the first psychotherapist.

Daniel Siegel MD

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation

Explains the science of the brain in a clear, concise and useful way. Once you realize how your brain works, you’ll see that recovery from mental illnesses or dysfunctional behaviors is truly possible. Then, he goes on to tell you how. A prolific writer, any book written by Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Siegel is straight forward and helpful. Read Mindsight first, but after you get accustomed to his voice, another deeply transformative title by Siegel is Aware!

Ronald Siegel

The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems

An excellent starter book to learn about mindfulness. Read it slowly, a few pages a day and do each little exercise. If you take it to heart, you may not need a therapist at all.

Gary Taubes

Why We Get Fat And What to Do About It

While I believe that there is much more to the title than can be presented in this book, Taubes does do a good job explaining why fresh clean protein is something missing from even the organic American diet. Biologically, homo sapiens are omnivores, not vegetarians. By refusing to believe this scientific fact, people risk brain and other organ damage. As a psychotherapist, this concerns me, to say the least. Sadly, the strictest vegans I have met have been patients with eating disorders. They use vegan beliefs and philosophies to rationalize compulsive behaviors.

December 12th, 2019 | Permalink

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