My favorite books and articles:
Riane Tennenhaus Eisler. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1988.
The first of Eisler’s books. It was one of the early works that completely inspired me to believe that life could truly be different on this planet.
Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, NY: Continuum, 1993.
A classic that I still think of, all these years later, as a model for how teaching can be empowering and subversive.
Marilyn French. Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals, New York: Summit Books, 1985.
The second book I read when I first woke up to feminism, and the one that truly shattered my previous unquestioned beliefs about human nature and history.
James Gilligan. Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992.
My all time favorite analysis of what brings about violence. This book is written with so much love I could almost not believe it. It completely turns upside down any notion of punishment as the way to reduce violence.
Miriam Greenspan. “Befriending the Dark Emotions”, Common Boundary, 37-43, May/June 1998.
This article touched my heart deeply and supported my early thinking about how we can be present to all emotions instead of making some of them unacceptable, now a foundation of my practice and teaching.
David Grossman. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1995.
You can hardly “accuse” a US Army colonel of being a “pacifist” and, as such, this book has a deep moral authority. Its main gist is that we have a taboo on killing, that armies now train people to overcome the taboo and thus create conditions where many more people shoot during war than ever before, and this results in enormous trauma. Passionate and courageous.
Etty Hillesum. An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1984.
Etty is one of my all-time heroes. She was a contemporary of Anne Frank, ten years her senior, living and writing in the same city at the same time. Hers is a spiritual journey to find love, compassion for everyone, and courage beyond bounds under conditions of extreme challenge.
Alfie Kohn. No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
This is only one of Alfie Kohn’s controversial and refreshing books. In each of them he takes a key mainstream belief and provides extensive research that questions it deeply. I was cured of any doubt that we can collaborate with each other through reading this book.
Michael Lerner. Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994.
Although I am not a practicing Jew, this book was a turning point in my ability to align with life and choose to honor its voice within me. I found, in particular, his analysis of the story of the binding of Isaac to be moving and redemptive. By far not just for Jews or even people of faith.
Jean Liedloff. The Continuum Concept, London: Duckworth, 1975.
One of the books that forever transformed my thinking about childhood and childrearing. The connection between how infants are raised and the presence or absence of violence, opened my eyes to the pervasive violence in everyday lives of children. They have never closed since.
Audre Lorde. Sister Outsider, Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984.
This collection of essays is something I come back to for inspiration. I absolutely love the boldness of naming things outside any known boxes, and the fierceness of the call to take on the entire structure of how we related to oppression, our own, and others’.
Alice Miller. For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, NY: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983.
Reading this book was one of the pivotal moments of my life, when I learned of the horrendous experiences of Hitler’s early life in the context of childrearing practices in Germany at the time he was growing up, and was able to experience, as a Jew from Israel, compassion for him as a child. This was pure magic.
——.”The Political Consequences of Child Abuse”, The Journal of Psychohistory, 26(2): 573-585, Fall 1998.
Alice Miller’s books are widely known and easy to find. This article is less well-known and I found it important to know this information.
Samuel P. Oliner and Pearl M. Oliner. The Altruistic Personality: What Led Ordinary Men and Women to Risk Their Lives on Behalf of Others?, NY: The Free Press, 1988.
Understanding why some people saved Jews and some didn’t provides some unexpected keys to what we can do to increase courage and reduce violence: ask for what is needed, and raise children without fear by eliminating punishment.
Minnie Bruce Pratt. “Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart”, in Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Barbara Smith , Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism, Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1984.
This is one of the most moving accounts of a person facing her upbringing, her privilege, and her place in society. This woman didn’t spare herself and her readers anything, and I believe that nothing is dated about her exploration. If you want to wake up to what it means to have privilege, this is a must read.
Joseph Chilton Pearce. Magical Child, Plume, 1992.
This is one of the books that supported my ongoing process of opening to discover how different child-rearing could be, and what radical consequences for all of us could happen as a result of giving children the room to explore and unfold their humanity in their own ways.
Steve Wineman. Power-Under: Trauma and Nonviolent Social Change, Unpublished manuscript (available freely online at http://www.gis.net/~swineman/download.html).
I think of this book as a landmark in understanding a crucial dynamic that I have not seen discussed elsewhere: the interplay between actual access to power and the experience of power. Wineman makes the point that abuse is most often delivered by people who feel powerless even while being in power.
My favorite academic sources:
Zygmunt Bauman. Modernity and the Holocaust, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.
That the Holocaust could be a product of modern rationality rather than a regressive aberration was both sobering and affirming of my own increasing doubts about the possibility or even desirability of making rationality central to the project of being human.
Ruth Benedict. Synergy: Patterns of the Good Culture, American Anthropologist, 72(2), 1970.
These are simply notes from a work that was lost in which Ruth Benedict identifies an aspect of cultural functioning that I have not seen discussed elsewhere: how cultures function better when the individual and society are not pitted against each other, regardless of what form of governance is used. I am grateful to Marshall Rosenberg for including this one in his bibliography.
Ann Berlak. Teaching for Outrage and Empathy in the Liberal Arts, Educational Foundations, 3(2): 69-93, Summer 1989.
A sobering and troubling essay that helped me understand, forever, why information is rarely enough, in and of itself, to create a shift in consciousness, no matter how thorough and accurate it is. Connection with the heart, and some vision of possibility, are essential in order for the information to be meaningful.
Antonio R. Damasio. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, NY: J. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994.
I loved getting confirmation from the research that is described in this book for my intuitive clear sense that decisions are not a rational endeavor. As he shows in this book, when people are physiologically unable to feel, they are also unable to decide even if their cognitive faculties are intact.
Patricia Dannahy. An In-Depth Exploration of the Affective Aspects of Mathematics Education in Initial Teacher Training, unpublished Doctoral thesis, London: King’s College, London University, 1999.
One of the rare pieces of research about the effectiveness of Nonviolent Communication.
Donna Haraway. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, New York: Routledge, 1991.
This book is dense and at times was irritatingly so for me. I am still glad I plowed through it and integrated some of its complex message about how science is both flawed, influenced as it is by our politics and culture, as well as necessary to provide the possibility of liberation.
Agnes Heller. The Theory of Need in Marx, London: Allison & Busby, 1974.
I was delighted to find this early book from a former Hungarian Marxist (who since “converted” to neo-liberal, for which I am so sad), in which she analyzed the way Marx understood human needs. This was essential for my own understanding of Marx and for being able to write a chapter on needs in my dissertation which provided an academic grounding to the theory of human nature that underlies the practice of Nonviolent Communication.
Arlie Hochschild with Anne Machung. The Second Shift, NY: Avon Books, 1989.
This book is both delightful to read and painful. It’s about how, even when both woman and man in a couple work full time, men continue to do substantially less of the housework than women. While the data may be obsolete by now, the analysis of the relationship between our ideology, our emotions, and our actions, is still priceless.
Kenneth Isaacs. Uses of Emotion: Nature’s Vital Gift, Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.
This is a book I found by total accident and completely fell in love with when I was trying to make sense of how to write about emotions within an academic context and still honor my own experiences. It’s detailed and thorough, and the concept of “affect phobia” that it explains was crucial to my developing a clear path to freedom through mastering emotions.
Alison Jaggar. Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology, Inquiry, 32(2): 151-176, June 1989.
This article was a simple pleasure to read for its clarity, passion, and courage to name things and ask difficult questions. Given how much of what we believe we “know” is handed down to us in ways that don’t question the practices of acquiring knowledge, I was liberated by reading it.
Alisdair MacIntyre. Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy of Science, Monist, 60(4): 453-472, October 1977.
The idea of an epistemological crisis, which refers to a moment in which we face something that is so different from everything we have believed, that in order to integrate it we must question everything we have always believed to be true. This very academic article helped me develop compassion for how hard it is for people, sometimes, to embrace new insights.
Jeffrey Masson. The Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1984.
This book is about a not very well known yet crucial turning point in the history of psychology, a moment in which psychology could have become a tool for liberation and instead ended up becoming, more often than not, a tool for supporting the status quo. The moment in question is Freud’s turning away from believing his clients when they told him about their experience of child abuse. Part of the significance of this, for me, was seeing the cost of standing up for truth against the majority, something Freud was ultimately unable to do.
Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich. Transforming Knowledge, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.
What I appreciated about this book is the way that it makes it so clear how the lens of gender affects everything in what we think we know – how things are studied, how they are presented, what counts as knowledge, and what is seen and reported. I found this exposition both devastating and inspiring in its thoroughness.
Patrick Murray. Marx’s Theory of Scientific Knowledge, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1988.
I tend to believe that despite the influence he has had on the world, for better or worse, Marx remains little understood by most. This book did a lot for me to gain a much deeper clarity about what Marx did and what he didn’t do in his analysis of capitalism and its implications. Based on this understanding, I believe that applying a systematic material analysis of any other aspect of life such as reproduction or race relations is yet to be done.
Laura Nader. “Orientalism, Occidentalism and the Control of Women”, Cultural Dynamics, II(3): 323-355, 1989.
Anyone who remains interested in how women remain unfree and how world politics continues to support our unfreedom might find this article unique in what it points out: how nationalism is used, both in the West and in the Arab world, to maintain women’s status.
Justin Oakley. Morality and the Emotions, London; NY: Routledge, 1992.
When I was writing about morality for my dissertation, I found this book helpful in understanding how theories of morality that only rely on rationality, the legacy that Kant left us, fail to make sufficient sense of the pervasiveness of acts of extreme violence. Absence of morality viewed as lack of empathy rather than failure to apply moral reasoning speaks to me very deeply.
Susan Moller Okin. “Thinking Like a Woman”, in Deborah L. Rhode, ed. et al, Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.
This article is one of several that helped me understanding how the experience of having a body, and a body of a certain kind, affects our perception of the world and what it means to know anything. Only for those truly interested in theories of knowledge.
Raimon Panikkar. Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics: Cross-Cultural Studies, NY: Paulist Press, 1979.
I am forever glad that I came across this obscure book written by someone I haven’t seen referenced anywhere apart from the probably even more obscure article that mentioned it. The author is Indian and also received a serious Western education. The combination allowed him to see some things about how we think in different places in the world and invited me to become ever more aware of the power of presuppositions, those assumptions that we don’t even know we have. This is not easy read by any means.
Mark Poster. Critical Theory of the Family, NY: Seabury Press, 1978.
This book was the only work I found (though others may exist) that looked at the evolution of family through the lens of historical change and especially change in production. The little insights strewn here and there about how such changes affect who we become as people in different cultures were priceless and I remain hungry for more.
James W. Prescott. “The Origins of Human Love and Violence”, Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 10(3): 143-188, Spring 1996.
Although many people remain unconvinced by this article, I was completely satisfied with this analysis and the amazing correlations between how infants are treated and the incidence of violence in difference cultures. It goes along with Liedloff’s book that I also include in this bibliography.
Allan Rohlfs. “Fraudulent Degrees or Fraudulent Assertions?” A Reply to Frank M. Dattilio, Journal of Mental Health Counseling, January 1990.
A fellow trainer of Nonviolent Communication, Allan here looks at the disturbing evidence that suggests that the more licensing and education in psychology and therapy, the less effective the treatment that people receive. An eye-opener that was fun and distressing to read at once.
Erica Sherover-Marcuse. Emancipation and Consciousness: Dogmatic and Dialectical Perspectives in the Early Marx, London: Basil Blackwell, 1986.
This is a very dense book, most of which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend except to those who particularly delight in reading about critical theory (I personally did enjoy it, in other words). The section on a personal practice of liberation which she includes I found satisfying and it forms part of my own conclusions about how we can liberate ourselves from
Elizabeth Spelman. “Anger and Insubordination”, in Ann Garry and Marilyn Pearsall, eds., Women, Knowledge and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy, Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989.
A refreshing and unexpected analysis about what anger does or doesn’t achieve in communication depending on who is allowed to be angry and in what circumstances. Even though I no longer do feminist theory, I still love it.
Patricia J. Williams. The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.
I was moved to the core of my being by this book, written by a passionate African-American lawyer who questions just about everything we think or in terms of both law and liberation theories.
Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores. Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design, Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1986.
In an earlier incarnation, I was a Computer Science graduate student studying artificial intelligence. I left when I realized that I was trying to prove it won’t work… This book provides a refreshing path away from the either/or battles about artificial intelligence, and suggests a relationship between humans and computers that I found much more satisfying than others. From one of the early pioneers of artificial intelligence, this nuanced perspective was particularly insightful.
Anna Yeatman. “A Feminist Theory of Social Differentiation”, in Linda J. Nicholson (ed.), Feminism/Postmodernism, NY and London: Routledge, 1990.
If you are not interested in social sciences or have never been exposed to postmodernist writings, this will probably be wasted on you. If, however, you have been exposed to either, and especially if you find postmodernist language depressing or annoying, you will find an exploration in this article that will likely nourish you and give you some