Topic Specific Lists
I do not make any money off of referrals to Amazon or Audible. The links are provided for convenience only. This post is also an archival post of a list started in 2015, last updated in 2020.
Definitive Book of Body Language, The (book)
Emotional Intelligence (audio | book)
Rethinking Narcissism (audio | book)
*Nonviolent Communication (audio | book)
Quiet (audio | book)
Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, The (audio | book)
5 Love Languages (audio | book) by Gary Chapman is the seminal idea that we express affection in different ways and that we each of us prefer receiving and expressing in specific ways (buried in offensive and absolutist misogyny and Christianity). I don’t usually recommend this book but if you really like understanding context like I do, you might enjoy it.
Art of Asking, The (audio | book) by Amanda Palmer is a raw, authentic, transparent search for worthiness, meaning, connection, and love. It is so characteristically Amanda Palmer. The audiobook is read by the author with musical interludes from her discography as an artist. I view the book itself as a piece of her art and it will always hold a place close to my heart. Sometimes I see my search for connection, love, and intimacy in Palmer’s though I worry it’s self aggrandizing to do so. Yet I believe that was exactly the point of the book: to see ourselves in her – for her art to capture an essential piece of who we are.
Bad Feminist (audio | book) by Roxanne Gay is a feminist work on many topics with one major theme being that all of us are flawed humans and that being intelligent or making criticisms of systems that oppress us does not make us invulnerable to those flaws; that we must find a less disposable way of managing our influences than discarding every one that says something problematic. Remember “all your faves are problematic.”
Gay asserts here that she is a bad feminist right now and that we don’t have to wait for her to slip up or say something we disapprove of to decide so. In seeing our role models as inherently flawed, Gay suggests we accept and live with the things on which we disagree rather than excluding thinkers who mostly provide excellent ideas but get some things wrong.
Body Keeps Score, The: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (audio | book) by Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk MD is on my reading list but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Over 100 reviews at 5 stars makes it sound like excellent additional reading if you’re looking to do some deep work, especially on traumatic stress, it’s probably a good guy. Again, there’s an audiobook version.
Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone (audio| book) by Brene Brown is a book about loneliness, community acceptance, vulnerability, and intimacy. Brown compellingly brings her usual authentic, forthcoming, and well-researched self. While I highly recommend her earlier book (find it below titled Gifts of Imperfection), this book was formative in how I have come to view the importance of tolerating dissent in communities and the role acceptance during dissent plays in every member of the group feeling safer and more secure. Healthy communities don’t feel conditional on your opinions.
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology (audio | book) by Donna Jackson Nakazawa helped me find some meaning and camaraderie in my early traumatic experiences. If you experienced childhood trauma, I encourage you to get the book. It goes over research connecting physical and psychological issues and suggests strategies on healing. It even provides the Early Childhood Adversity survey and helps you interpret the results.
Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair (audio | book) by Sarah Schulman is a discussion about how to avoid overstating harm, scapegoating, divisive strategies in communities, and bully behaviours. Further, it makes a distinction between what defines conflict and what defines abuse. It is at various points problematic and is highly controversial, but it’s valuable in what a departure it is from conventional thinking. It begins from a second wave queer feminist perspective and in my opinion diverges from popular thought early. Having said that, despite all of the many things I disagree with in this book, it’s incredibly valuable in the ways it challenges the right of the state; the power of police; the priority our society places on victims as worthy of compassion or empathy above others; and the similarity between Supremacy culture and some Trauma responses, with a focus on how they attempt to control the environment and narrative sometimes to the exclusion of others. Again, this book may be at times upsetting or even dead wrong, but to me this was a necessary book in the evolution of my thinking around accountability and conflict resolution.
Definitive Book of Body Language, The: How to Read Others’ Attitudes by Their Gestures (book) by Allan and Barbara Pease is an older book that despite have its issues is a good overview for capital W Western societies and their attitudes towards body language and gestures. It covers facial expressions and various non verbal communication methods – things we do without thinking about them. It’s a great first book for trying to figure out what socialization you might have missed during your childhood.
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (audio | book) by Daniel Goleman is a well researched, compelling book that makes the case that Emotional Intelligence exists, that it’s critically important for our success in life with relationships and business, and that it’s something we can choose to grow and build in ourselves provided we invest the necessary time and effort.
Ethical Slut, The: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love 3rd ed. (audio | book) by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton is a great introductory book to open relationships and polyamory. It introduces a lot of core concepts including sex positivity and compersion. It doesn’t uncouple the gender binary or take a relationship anarchist approach, dismantling what I view to be unhelpful relationship structures – but this is also precisely why it’s a great first book.
Gifts of Imperfection, The (audio | book) by Brené Brown is about the way we “hustle” for worthiness and validation from others. Full of meaningful truths and scholarly research, Brown’s treatment of the ways we find meaning and worth really resonated with me. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are familiar with the experience of worthlessness. Brown is authentic, true to herself, honest, and interesting.
Happiness Advantage, The (audio | book) by Sean Achor is a great first or second book on changing your internal monologue. All those thoughts you think or phrases you quote “say to yourself” hold power over your reality. This book helped me change just a couple of the many things I was thinking that were self abusive. I would encourage you to keep an open mind if you’re a self-identified pessimist and simply ignore the things you dislike to hopefully grasp one or two things you can reasonably go and apply. It can be as simple as just substituting “could” for the word “should.”
Healing the Shame that Binds You (audio | book)
by John Bradshaw is a book recommended by Gloria Jackson Nefertiti, a shame expert and educator from episode 17. It focuses on how shame is internalized and the difference between healthy shame and toxic shame. It deals with shame-based identities, lifelong pain, and what Bradshaw calls “soul murder.”
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love (audio | book) by Dr. Sue Johnson is a monogamy-centric, het-normative discussion of love, but I still found value in it. It’s probably a better resource for Monogamous, Swinger, Lifestyle, or Hierarchically Polyamorous relationships. I don’t usually recommend it for non monogamous folks.
*More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory (audio | book) by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert is a book I loved and have purchased for most of my partners. I recommend it as a book for absolutely anyone practicing non monogamy. One of my partners lost the copy I leant to her when she leant it to one of her other partners who kept it to lend to one of his other partners. While it meanders a lot, each chapter is themed and while some blow through the book quickly, others stop each chapter and work diligently where they are stuck. Useful for monogamy, this book shines for those considering or practicing open relationships or other forms of non monogamy.
New Bottoming Book, The (audio | book) by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy Is one of my favourite starter BDSM resources. It’s a great 101 that helps cover the absolute basics. It’s great for bottoms, tops, and switches. I even prefer The New Bottoming Book to The New Topping Book. If you’re looking for BDSM 101 content, I will also be publishing various BDSM 101 workshop notes on my Patreon as premium content for all my patrons throughout the year.
*Nonviolent Communication (audio | book) provides a needs-based framework for relating to others – I consider it essential for non monogamy. I found it invaluable in establishing a healthy sense of boundaries. I highly recommend this book as do others. It has 4.7/5 over 1023 reviews on amazon.com right now.
Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships (audio | book) by Tristan Taormino is exactly that: the product of interviewing over a hundred individuals, primarily monogamous or hierarchically polyamorous with a primary partner. Often the term “open relationship” is such a gross oversimplification or even misunderstanding of what is meant by the word “relationship” for relationship anarchy or non-hierarchical polyamory people that those individuals avoid describing themselves as such even though relationships are usually open unless expressly discussed otherwise for those individuals.
This book does include a great discussion of jealousy as an umbrella term for other emotions making them easier to troubleshoot, manage, and reframe for a healthier open relationship. These include feelings like exclusion, insecurity, possessiveness, and envy. Worth the read if you’re monogamous, open, or hierarchically polyamorous.
Rethinking Narcissism (audio | book) by Dr. Craig Malkin – this book gave me a great perspective on people in my life with narcissistic traits, reasons on why I felt I needed to be in the spotlight, as well as reasons I was terrified of being called a narcissist. It positively changed my life and I recommend it to anyone afraid of being called out for being self-centered, selfish, obnoxious, attention-hogs, or narcissistic. If those made you visibly cringe, you might want to read this book.
Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, The: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert (audio | book) by John Gottman PhD and Nan Silver is a book about relationship dynamics and ways to make relationships work. It’s based on monogamous marriage, but I think Gottman’s research can be applied to non monogamous relationships as well.
What I especially loved about Gottman’s work was the introduction of how humans bid for attention from each other, especially in intimate relationships, and how we can turn away, turn towards, or turn against each other. This was hugely helpful for me in fights and in the moments before fights started. I would feel myself react to a statement, frame the statement as a bid for attention, and then do my best to turn towards my partner instead of reacting in kind when something unkind had been said to me. It’s averted a lot of fights since I first learned about it.
His seven principles are: enhance your love maps, nurture your fondness and admiration, turn towards each other instead of away, let your partner influence you, solve your solvable problems, overcoming what he calls gridlock, and creating shared meaning. If those principles sound like they could be applied to your relationships, consider giving this a shot.
Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (audio | book) by Christopher Ryan and Cadida Jetha is a book debunking the myth of the naturalness of monogamy. It touches on misinformation about animals as well as hypotheses about human prehistory. It’s likely at least some of our ancestors were just as slutty, queer, and non monogamous as we are.
“Whole-Brained Child, The(audio | book) by Daniel Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D – even as an adult, I learned so much about my own psychology because a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist got together to write an accessible book to parents on how to best encourage healthy brains in children. Written in a language I think most could understand, this book changed how I saw my childhood and taught me strategies for coping. I highly recommend it.