Books That Shape Us

Whenever someone asks about my favorite book, my mind takes me back to certain events in my life where a book, poem, or story played a part in shaping who I am – from the book that was responsible for totally changing my worldview, all the way to the textbooks and assigned readings from my formal education. I have often found comfort in books and I know many of my grad-school colleagues and others in this profession have gained much personal insight, wisdom, and inspiration from books.

I want to share with you some of the books that have made a big impact on me and played an important part in choosing to explore a career in psychology. I’d also like to invite you all to share books and readings that have played a part in your own evolution.


Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

I read this book in high school and still have the same copy after all these years. Not only was I deeply moved by the beauty of Joyce’s writing, but the story of Stephen Dedalus’ awakening was the gateway for my own journey into the world of psychology. In graduate school, one of my professors quoted often from this book and I still feel a strong connection with it.


Memories, Dreams & Reflections by Carl Jung

It’s too long a story about how this book found me, but I recall two main things from my experience with Jung’s autobiography. 1) While reading this book, I had some of the most vivid dreams of my life and 2) the way Jung described two parts of himself really resonated with me and normalized a lot of what I was feeling about my own life.


The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

This book blew me away because Campbell essentially provides a roadmap of the archetypal journey we all take in our lives. It uncovered the elements of basic story structure and helped me make sense of how my own life was unfolding. It was a bonus that Campbell left his archives to Pacifica Graduate Institute where I received my MA.


He: Understanding Masculine Psychology by Robert A. Johnson

In this book, Jungian analyst and author Robert Johnson used the story of the search for the Grail as a way to explain the archetypal masculine journey. Soon after reading this book the movie, The Fisher King with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges came out and the combined experience of reading the book and seeing the movie was very powerful. I have read most of Johnson’s other books and highly recommend them.


A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman

In this book, Ackerman writes poetically about each one of our senses: sight, touch, taste, and smell. You can open to any page and start reading and the whole world comes alive. I think I have bought over 50 copies of this book over the years and have given it to so many people. It’s a beautiful gift for yourself or others and a great item for your waiting room.

There are so many more and I’d again like to invite you to tell us about a book that had an impact on your life!

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