Josh Thompson     about     blog     projects

I’ve read many books over the years. Thousands. Here’s a few that I find myself referencing/recommending often. Periodically, I refresh this list. It’s changed over the years years.x

These are the books I cannot un-read, which shape me today. Many of the books are “difficult”. I often tell people I’m a slut for books - I’ll read any book, for any reason, and if I “like” it is almost a complete afterthought. The real question is - can I glean something of value from it?

If I can, I’m pleased with the experience. I read quickly - I don’t sound out individual words, nor do I sound any words out, in my head, as I read. I also have aphantasia, so I can read explicitely for content and information without a single image passing through my imagination. I only recently learned that this is not the same experience everyone has.

I also used a Kindle Paperwhite, and am pretty good with my library card/Libby, and enjoy reading for sometimes purely dissociative purposes. This isn’t a homework list, consider it to be a menu of delicious entries, and IF any of them seem suitably energizing to you, choose them.

I have a sort of archived, different version of this page here

I “read the canon” of any given topic that climbs high enough on my list of priorities to learn about. The topic of dealing with inadequate parents and abusive intimates has, at times, been a topic high on my list of priorities to learn about.

I have also spent time, money, and energy on no small number of therapists. I evaluate about half of that time as neither helpful nor hurtful, 1/2 of the rest as actively detrimental and harmful, and the last 25% as marginally helpful.

So, instead of you spending thousands of dollars on therapy but not knowing which ones will help you, hurt you, or be wasted, I encourage you to do some bibliotherapy. You can get all/most of these books on Libby (a library app) and can send them for free to your kindle paperwhite, anywhere in the world.

Some of these books I’ve got physical copies of, some I bought electronic copies, because I’ve used a kindle paperwhite for many years, others I got the audio book version, some I got all three. Some of these I’ve gotten from the library, either a physical copy or a digital copy via Libby/overdrive. If your library doesn’t have the book, google [library system] request book form. I’ve asked Jefferson County Library Systems to add at least ten books, and I think almost all were easily added. One didn’t have an ebook option, and I didn’t re-request for a physical version.

You could drop a few hundred dollars on books at the high end, or possibly spend not a single dollar on any of these.

Read these books, be educated. In reading them, you’ll find yourself naturally gravitating back towards (healthy) relationships with yourself and others. In the beginning, this process might involve looping in a therapist, but therapy can be expensive and uncertain, and, obviously, there are plenty of unskilled or unhelpful therapists.

Also, therapy is a licensed and credentialed field in the USA, relies on the DSM, and Draptomania was once a thing, so… I won’t go out of my way to dignify a profession that hasn’t made peace with the skeletons in its own living room. If a therapist is helpful, AMAZING, and keep with that person, but I don’t trust the average therapist farther than I can throw them. At least consider yourself responsible-enough and qualified to guide your own recovery.

On that note, here’s the books. There’s 13 books in total I’m about to recommend, I encourage sampling whatever looks most interesting, and if it doesn’t grab you, engage you, or retain your interest, freely put a book down and go somewhere else.

Books directly about trauma and sense of self #

deconstructing religious and/or cultural shame #

Enough of us have been raised in religious institutions, so if that’s you, there might be another layer of work to be done. America pioneers this sense of individualistic, moralistic shame that attaches itself to children being raised by parents who ‘just want them to be successful’. Be better, work harder, achieve more, perform better. Earn, strive, function.

Additionally, there’s a thread for both men and women of ‘the shame of not being enough’ or ‘not making enough of oneself based off of the opportunities one was given’ or ‘my parents sacrificed so much so I could have {blank}’.

Along with this guilt, for some of us, we’re ‘observed’ and ‘watched’ by what feels like our own conciousnesses.

For example, women have experienced “the male gaze”, non-whites have experienced “the white man’s gaze”, black people have experienced “the policeman’s gaze”. These are all downstream of, and related to, “the (slave)master’s gaze”.

We police ourselves, sometimes, to avoid harm and to try to earn affection and love and safety from caretakers around us, and we police ourselves with a similar energy to “the master’s gaze”. 🤮

It’s worth remembering that early american police forces were nothing but deputized slave patrols.

When the white, slaveholding population is so vastly outnumbered by their slaves, it takes some creativity and sustained effort to prevent uprisings and rebellions.

The role of a slave patrol in a slaving society was to harass the majority population, find the most ‘willful’ slaves, and humiliate and degrade them (without killing them, of course. their labor had value) so that they would serve as a reminder to the other slaves, with their broken bodies and souls, of the cost of resistance.

A dog maiming the legs of an ‘uppity’ slave, or a load of birdshot fired across the arms of a slave that wasn’t sufficiently defferential would leave scars, and any other slave that saw the scars would know what had happened.

In some counties in the slave-holding south, 15% was white, 85% was black. The white people were terrified of the threat of the slaves accruing power to themselves and taking action to improve their situation.

The attitudes these white people had towards their slaves morphed and changed over time, but still persist today, and are partially forced into the minds of all children, especially with religious dogma and shame.

For example, a common statement/belief by white people was: “God placed the white man over the black man for the benefit of the black man”, and this led to white people getting mad at black people when the black people didn’t act thankful for the white man’s domination.

Please see, again, Samuel Cartwright’s stunning contribution to the psychological sciences with Drapetomania

Of course, supremacy thinking wasn’t just “white over black”, it was also “men over women”, “parents over children”, “fathers over the entire family”, and more.

Lots of the modern world of hierarchical, authoritative structures are nothing but insane white people doing incredible leaps of logic to convince themselves and their victims that the oppression in a given society was good, inevitable, ordained by God and logic.

These kinds of people are dangerous to the children that they raise, the people that they ‘help’.

That means, though, that when you want to undo some of the damage they did to your soul, it’s best to ‘go to the source’ and see what kinds of things white people said about their own domination when they were not embarrassed or ashamed by it, but actively colluded with other white people to furtheir their domination over their victims.

the books that might aid in deconstructing religeous/cultural shame #

To that end, consider reading any the following, if they look interesting to you:

There’s also lots of propoganda around the ‘privilege’ of being part of a state (as long as you’ve achieved sufficient status within that state). If you sometimes find status games dedignifying, read:

Aver reading some of, or all of, these books, you’ll be able to more naturally engage in de-shaming thought patterns, and might be able to find a bit more peace inside your own mind, a sense of solace from the ‘toxic inner critic’, or ‘colonizer’s voice’ that our parents often force into our heads at a tender age.

Emotionality and gender issues #

I’m not sure how to introduce these books. In my opinion, it’s easy to say they’re essential reading if you find yourself to be a women (or female-passing, or feminine, or not sporting a penis) in the modern world. Read the list, you might see why I say this:

But it sounds insane to say “women might want to read these books, but men, you know, just… keep on scrolling”.

Presumably, if you’re a man/have a penis, and reading this page, you are sensitive enough to appreciate that society is worse off to the degree that it conforms to hierarchical norms organized around a willingness to use physical violence.

If you have women in your life, that you care about, these books might put you in a position to better care for those women, and you’ll learn things about yourself. I promise. Reading these books will directly benefit your relationship with everyone in your life, though like all of the books on this list, you’ll find your blood boiling a bit as you read.