Books about Trauma that we read

We put the ones we read most recently first, and the ones we read first are all the way down. Jump down to the one we read first

Transforming The Living Legacy of Trauma: A Workbook for Survivors and Therapists (Janina Fisher)




read, did most of the worksheets

What we learned:

It is possible to think a book is pretty good, to find many concepts helpful, and still not vibe with it at all.

Some of the many small things we disliked:

The brain as a metaphor, "you vs. your body", medical language. Structural dissociation – we just don't vibe with it, in a kinda uncofortable way. The worst of IFS. Little nuance in many topics that get mentioned in passing. The worksheets – although they were helpful in getting us to notice things about ourself. Many of the diagrams felt impossible to interpret for us, which felt odd since they are a key element of Fisher's method.

What we noticed:

We enjoy books about trauma that, to us, feel like they are telling a story. This one feels like facts ordered by topic to form chapters – they are all very well-placed, but still felt disconnected and hard to grasp to us. There's one chapter that has a lot of Bessel van der Kolk quotes, and those felt way more graspable to us.

What we liked:

Fisher's general approach to the topic: It's important that we make our own (ideally informed) descisions about how we work on our trauma stuff, and the general way to work with trauma is to engage with the effects it has on our present-day life. The book also added a lot of little details and twists to things we already knew. Like grouping fight-flight and freeze-submit together, it just makes a lot of sense to us. And the image of the window of tolerance sandwiched between hyper- and hypoarousal fills some gaps where the concept of emotional flashbacks wasn't helpful to us.

We recommend it:

If the other books here seem too fantastic to you in their metaphors. If you like worksheets. If you want a non-judgmental approach to hard topics like aggression and addiction, but Schwartz doesn't appeal to you. If you read Pete Walker's book and think you know everything you need.

No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma & Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model (Richard C. Schwartz)


paused, read half of it



So far:

We love some things, like the loving understanding of challenging and destructive feelings/thoughts/parts! It resonates with our own experiences and it's the exact opposite of Pete Walker's "just tell them to stop being mean". But ironically, IFS being a very plural-adjacent concept makes it hecking hard for us to follow the exercises. No, I am not the Self, I am Elsi… no, I will not ask myself to step aside so I(?) can see our Self… sure, I can look at the others and think about what I feel towards them, but… look… I'm not an outsider…

Reason for pausing:

It's triggery as fuck. Or rather, trying to follow its isntructions is.

What we learned (so far):

Some of us have the kind of parts that IFS talks about.

Trauma Is Really Strange (Steve Haines)




Pop-sci comic


Very little. Oh, yeah, that Trauma Release Exercises are a thing (they're exercises designed to weaken your muscles until you start shaking), we sometimes think of that when we do yoga and start shaking and feel this emotional pain and it's kinda good.

Feelings about it:

Surprise and disappointment. We thought we'd love it, but this one didn't work for us at all. We felt like all the nuance of this topic got lost, and the whole thing felt very mechanical.

The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma (Bessel van der Kolk)


Read and loved



What we learned from it:

Bodies, self-determination and social interaction are really fucking important. Healing doesn't happen through reasoning. Both very high tech (neurofeedback) and very low tech (yoga) things can be immensely helpful. While meds can be a sensible choice sometimes, basically everything else you manage to do is more important (including, possibly, in the right situation, a bunch of illegalized drugs). The weird kinds of therapy are great. When in doubt, play theater.

Why we loved it:

It's interdisciplinary, thorough, engaging and kind. Sure, there are some passages where we went eh, like in most books, but overall we were so positively overwhelmed by this. While the author's background is medical, he has a tangible appreciation for a range of other fields, and a good sense of scepticism about his own. Most importantly, he seems genuinely driven to make people aware of how trauma works, it feels kinda like he wants everyone to take away a little more understanding and act a little more compassionately in whichever contexts they're in. While there is little explicit politics, many conclusions reached about how society could be less traumatizing and provide better support to traumatized folks are surprisingly radical for this kid of book, actually.


If you're not super set on reading a self-help book right now, oh gosh do we recommend this one. I'm not sure how well we'd have done with the "theater is so impactful!" kinda stuff back when we very much did not see ourself daring to do theater ever, but I'd guess that other things might still have resonated with us.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (Pete Walker)


ragequit one of the earlier chapters, but actually read most of the later chapters before that



What we learned from it:

To recognize emotional flashbacks and trauma-related assumptions. To show interest in ourself via the Inner Child metaphor, to comfort ourself and to focus on reaching a feeling of safety.

Reasons for ragequitting:

There's a hyperbolic and Hogwarts-house-y feeling section with horoscope-like descriptions of what people with a specific primary trauma response are like. It's kinda obvious that the author prefers quiet, nice people and is Not Happy with fighty folks. This chapter made us lose trust in the author. There's also one paragraph that's about how CPTSD folks have good hearts and people with more stigmatized diagnoses do not.

Other things we disliked:

He's not great with Inner Critics or any kind of violent stuff (basically says "push it away until it behaves itself"), and while he does talk about the importance of embodiment, his techniques are largely cognitive.


We got a lot out this book, it is hyped all over Reddit for a reason, and it is possible that we might not have connected with the ideas of our currently preferred authors without the foundations we built from this. However, I encourage you to have an alternative to this one researched and ready, ideally one that has more love for the fighty, mean and violent aspects of yourself.