What to Read Instead of the Body Keeps the Score

You’ve probably heard of The Body Keeps the Score. Someone has probably suggested you read it. Or maybe, you've just heard someone used the phrase to reference trauma and the body. Nearly every therapist I know has read it, or at least has a copy (hey, therapist friends who buy more books than they can read, I see you).

The Body Keeps the Score, written by psychiatrist and researcher Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, was published in 2014 and it has been climbing the bestseller lists ever since, of course peaking during the pandemic. While this research has been known to those in relevant fields for years, Van Der Kolk’s book essentially served as a more accessible translation for the general population.


More accessible, yes. Still dense, also yes.


I’ve, truthfully, never even finished it. A few academic-minded clients have told me they’ve finished it (and it was helpful) but other than that I often here people are overwhelmed by it.

All that to say, there are other options. If you’ve read or want to read The Body Keeps the Score, I encourage you to do what feels right. But, if you want to start somewhere else I’ve got recommendations for you and they’re based on where you might be coming from.

Check out the list below.

For the person looking for a straightforward help:

Healing Trauma by Peter Levine This one is slim, simple, and comes with a CD full of exercises! I often assign it as an additional resource for clients outside of session.


For the person ready to confront racism and the historical context of trauma:

My Grandmothers Hands by Resmaa Menakem

A must read for everyone. The time is now to be radically honest with yourself about your own connection to racism.


For the person with Complex Trauma who actually wants to read something dense:

Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors by Janina Fisher

This one is, admittedly, dense, but so many of complex trauma bb's seem to really get a lot out of it! I'm always surprised when I hear non-therapists reading it, but they do!


For the person with the hard, hard job:

Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk

Do you work in a job that deals with trauma? Even if you're not experiencing it first-hand, it's important to think about how to care for yourself. This books walks you through how to do just that.


For the medically-minded:

Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice by Raj Patel and Rupa Marya This is what I'm reading right now and it is amazing. The authors dive into different systems in the body to explore how oppression intersects with health.


For the activist:

The Politics of Trauma by Staci K. Haines This one is amazing for integrating trauma knowledge with anti-oppression work. If you like it, check out more of Haines work and take it to the next level here.


For the somatics curious therapist who loves a worksheet:

Somatic Psychotherapy Toolbox by Manuela Mishke-Reeds This one is great for therapists who need some structure, but I would also recommend this to anyone who want to explore somatics and likes workbooks.


For the seasoned somatic therapist who wants more:

Somatic Internal Family Systems Therapy by Susan McConnell

In this book, McConnell offers an incredibly useful framework for integrating somatics and parts work.


Hope this helps!

- Raina

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