Summer’s technically still in full swing and temps continue to soar. But as schools start to reopen this month, we’re feeling some seriously Fall vibes. As a psychologist I’ve had *way* too many years of school. So although it’s been a decade since I graduated, I’ll always feel a back-to-school mood when August rolls around. It’s time to get the Fall wardrobe ready, buy some new shoes, and (most importantly) get my back-to-school reading list in order.
The best part about reading as an adult is that it can be just as serious or as light as you want it to be. (Plus, with your own kids heading to class, you may actually have a little peace and quiet to read once in a while!) Literary fiction, self-help, true crime, sci-fi, it’s all fair game. The only rule is that you find it fun, valuable, or interesting. And it should go without saying but we encourage reading in all it’s forms, including paper books, e-books, and audiobooks.
With that in mind, I asked my colleagues at Stella Nova to help me put together our own mental health back-to-school reading list for your consideration. We hope one of our favorites will speak to you too!
If You Like Memoirs
Rona Recommends: The Body Papers by Grace Talusan
Filipino author Grace Talusan tells a poignant story of moving to New England as a child in the 1970s. Her story of surviving childhood abuse, and later, cancer, tackles themes of intergenerational trauma, stigma, and healing. The Body Papers earned critical acclaim and was awarded The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
Rona says: “It’s an intimate and captivating memoir. The author eloquently and honestly navigates the topics of immigrant identity, sexual trauma, colonialism/racism, and cancer. The memoir is incredibly moving and will take readers through an entire range of emotions.”
If You’re Feeling Pissed Off
Sahar Recommends: Healing Rage: Women Making Inner Peace Possible by Ruth King, MA
Anger is a perfectly normal, healthy emotion — and it’s also one that’s often misunderstood and vilified, especially in women. Anger can motivate us to push back against injustice, protect ourselves, and energize us to fight when we need to.
On the other hand, we sometimes get stuck in rage that can eat us up from the inside out. As meditation and anti-racism educator Ruth King outlines, unprocessed anger can harm our most important relationships and inner peace. If that sounds like you, Healing Rage should be on your Fall reading list:
If You’re a Fangirl
You don’t have to be a teen to benefit from this guide to practical mindfulness skills, but a love for comics or movies will definitely help. Dr. Scarlet — herself a childhood survivor of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion — has harnessed her love for superheroes to help people navigate common mental health problems as the heroes of their own stories.
Our own resident geek therapist, Dr. Alexis Lopez, has this to say: “I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to be the main character of their story. Though you may not be able to move objects with your mind or teleport, your power lies in understanding your origin story and how it shapes the way you view the world around you. The concepts in this book offer guidance on how to stop wrestling with self-criticism, manage difficult emotions, and lead a life driven by what you most value.”
If You’re Dreading Summer Vacation Being Over
Maya Recommends: Burnout by Amelia and Emily Nagoski
We’ve all experienced burnout, but it can feel like a problem without a solution. After all, for most of us, work and family responsibilities aren’t optional. What can we do but keep trying our best to keep up?
In Burnout, sisters Amelia and Emily Nagoski answer that question from a practical, science-informed lens. This is a book written primarily for women, with consideration to given to the ways gendered distribution of labor and societal expectations make us vulnerable.
Maya says: “This is one book that my clients have really resonated with and often bring up in session (even if I haven’t recommended it). I appreciate that the authors acknowledge the systems that create burnout alongside practical strategies to combat burnout on an individual level. If you like worksheets and exercises you can use at home, you’ll love this one.”
If You Want To Visit Another Place And Time
Megan recommends: The Book of Salt by Monique Truong
Stella Nova’s resident bookworm, Megan Sullivan-Tuba, loves literature and believes in its power to transform us. So much so that she often incorporates works of fiction into her work as a therapist. Reading fiction can expand our worldview, help us better understand the motives of ourselves and the people around us, and allow us to explore the past and possibilities for the future.
Right now, Megan is reading The Book of Salt, a New York Times Notable Book and debut novel by Vietnamese-American author Monique Truong.
She says: “It’s a stunning narrative told by protagonist Binh, a young, gay Vietnamese man who accepts a position as Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’s private chef at their Paris home in the 1930s. As Binh becomes intimately privy to the notable writer and her partner’s household, he explores one of the lesser acknowledged salons of Lost Generation fame. Binh’s narrative floats easily between past and present, exploring the impact of French colonialism on his family in Saigon and the loneliness he encounters as he tries to assimilate to an American household in French society.”
If You’re On a Journey of Cultural Exploration & Empowerment
Shianling Recommends: Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health As Asian Americans by Jenny Wang, PhD
Over 18 million people of Asian descent live in the US today. However, despite our growing numbers, Asian Americans are still the demographic group least likely to seek mental health services.
Dr. Jenny Wang is a Taiwanese American speaker, writer, and practicing clinical psychologist who is working to change the cultural narratives that can keep Asian Americans from seeking mental health support. She founded the Asians For Mental Health Directory to help people connect with AAPI therapists. You can also find her on Instagram where she posts about mental health from the perspective of a child of immigrants.
Shianling Says: “Permission to Come Home addresses themes of cultural impacts on Asian Americans, while honoring culture. Dr. Wang acknowledges that many ethnicities get lumped into ‘Asian American’ and points out themes that can run through many Asian cultures and their experience of immigrating to the US. She uses personal examples and questions for self reflection in living a life defined by our own important values that incorporate treasured parts of culture while laying aside the parts that do not serve. Permission to question, feel, rage, say no, take up space, choose, fail, play, and grieve. Permission to come home to home as defined by you, stuck between two countries and not fully of either.”
So there you have it! We’d love to hear from you about your favorite mental health-related books of any genre. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your recommenations!
PS – We have no affiliation with these books and do not receive compensation for books purchased via the links above. We do encourage you to support your local libraries and independent bookshops!
About the Author
Dr. Maya Borgueta is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Stella Nova Psychology. The San Francisco therapy practice specializes in services for women, couples, and the LGBTQ+ community. Maya is a lifelong bookworm and especially enjoys reading sci-fi and fantasy stories that explore the human condition.
Maya works primarily with women of color, business and tech professionals, and 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. She treats problems related to anxiety and stress, work trauma and burnout, relationship concerns and more.
Therapy in San Francisco & Online Therapy In California
At Stella Nova, we offer therapy for adults and couples, with a focus on serving women and nonbinary professionals. Our practice is made up of a majority of BIPOC therapists and strives to be an affirming space for folks of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Our therapists specialize in treatments for anxiety, depression, burnout, chronic pain, disordered eating & more.
After being virtual-only for over 2 years, we’re excited to bring back in-person therapy in San Francisco in just a few short weeks. And of course, we’ll continue to see clients all over the SF Bay Area and throughout the State of California online.
To schedule your free, 20-minute consultation and get matched with a therapist today, sign up online!