Updated: Mar 27, 2020
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I've recently begun to read Peter Levine's In an Unspoken Voice. So far, I am absolutely loving it. It seems more comprehensive and in-depth, yet still easy to read. Unfortunately, I am a very slow reader and have only small bits of time to read. Which slows me down more. And I tend to re-read things to make sure I grasp it entirely, which slows me down ever more. Anyhow, someone asked me to list my top three recommended trauma books.
POCKET GUIDE TO THE POLYVAGAL THEORY by Stephen Porges
The Pocket Guide is much much simpler to digest than Dr Porges' The Polyvagal Theory. The full version is extremely dense and highly academic. I attempted to read that one and only got maybe 50 pages into it. I had to reference a dictionary just about every other word or so. I also kept asking my wife for explanations about concepts (she's a nurse and a total #biologynerd).
The Pocket Edition is much needed. It's organized into an interview structure and works better as a conversation. I especially like the Glossary section in the beginning. He understands these concepts and words are likely new, so that is addressed with an easy to understand glossary at the forefront.
The book still uses some advanced language and the actual terms for the biological structures, but it works as a whole. I think it's important to read the words of the creator of the Polyvagal Theory directly.
WAKING THE TIGER by Peter Levine
This is probably the central trauma book, in my opinion. For the most part, it meshes perfectly well with the Polyvagal Theory. Dr Levine gives some really good examples and a very simple explanation of trauma.
He discusses the biological aspects of trauma without getting overly academic and how trauma gets stuck in the body. If you are curious about the somatic aspects of trauma, this is a fantastic place to start. Dr Levine has a truly unique understanding of this essential component of trauma. Plus he has decades of research and therapeutic application. Learning from him is a very unique opportunity. This is a must-own.
HEALING TRAUMA by Peter Levine
Another from Dr Levine that I think is essential. Healing Trauma is different in that it explicitly maps out steps to help you heal from trauma. The steps are easy to understand and apply. Its all about body awareness - bringing your conscious awareness to your bodily experiences. The steps aren't too much or too fast.
I love that he presents an avenue for becoming unstuck that doesn't necessarily involve paying hundreds of dollars for therapy sessions. I think these applications can be extremely beneficial to a lot of people. And again, Dr Levine has the history to back up this book.
There's also an overview of trauma, but not in as much detail. In everything I have read from Dr Levine, there is mention of "Nancy," the first client he had that catapulted his career in a new direction. That's in this book too. So the opening isn't necessarily new information outside of Waking the Tiger, but I think revisiting the basics is always a good idea. Each time he shares these fundamentals, it's in a slightly new way. I get something new each time.
Of course, there's lots more to read on trauma. I have these and others on my Recommended Reading page with links to Amazon. I also regularly post quotes from these book on my Instagram and they live forever in the Highlights section, sorted by author.