books about trauma

15 Books About Trauma: A Therapeutic Journey Through Narratives

Trauma leaves deep imprints on the human psyche, often demanding avenues for understanding, coping, and healing. One such avenue is literature. Through books about trauma, readers embark on journeys, confronting pain, and finding solace in shared experiences.

Historical Context


Trauma, as a central theme, has long found its echo in the annals of literature, molding and reflecting societal understanding of it. In ancient epics like Homer’s Iliad, the torment of warriors was depicted not in the language of modern psychology but in the visceral experiences of heroes. As time progressed, the Gothic novels of the 18th and 19th centuries encapsulated trauma in their eerie tales of haunting pasts and tortured souls.

However, it was the 20th century, marred by world wars, that brought forth explicit narratives of trauma. The aftermath of World War I introduced writers like Erich Maria Remarque, whose “All Quiet on the Western Front” laid bare the emotional and physical trauma of soldiers.

Fast forward to the latter half of the century, and literature began to grapple with more personal, intimate traumas, influenced heavily by the growing field of psychology and groundbreaking research on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In today’s age, with our enhanced understanding of mental health, books about trauma offer nuanced insights, exploring it from various angles — be it war, personal tragedies, societal issues, or generational wounds. These narratives not only validate sufferers’ experiences but also serve as a bridge for empathy and understanding in a wider audience.

Fiction Books About Trauma

1. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison


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This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel delves deep into the harrowing legacy of slavery, exploring how past traumas can return to haunt the present. Through the character of Sethe, Morrison poignantly captures the anguish of a mother trying to shield her children from a past filled with pain and suffering.

2. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

Things They Carried

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A series of interlinked stories reveal the multifaceted trauma experienced by soldiers during the Vietnam War. O’Brien’s lyrical prose paints a vivid picture of the burdens they bore, both physical and emotional.

3. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez


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In this magnum opus of magical realism, the Buendía family’s multi-generational tale is interwoven with episodes of love, loss, and trauma against the backdrop of political upheavals and societal changes in the fictional town of Macondo.

4. “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara

Little Life

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A modern epic of friendship and the enduring impact of childhood trauma, this novel is a raw exploration of recovery, relapse, and the shadows of abuse that linger in the psyche of its protagonist, Jude.

5. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

Kite Runner

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Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Afghanistan’s recent history, this narrative follows Amir’s journey from a privileged childhood to a guilt-ridden adulthood, as he grapples with a traumatic event that forever changes his relationship with his childhood friend, Hassan.

6. “My Dark Vanessa” by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Dark Vanessa

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Offering a profound exploration into the complexities of manipulation, memory, and personal trauma, this novel revolves around Vanessa Wye’s reckoning with her teenage relationship with her much older teacher, a bond she once saw as love but begins to understand as abuse.

Non-Fiction Books About Trauma

1. “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls

Glass Castle

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In this gripping memoir, Walls recounts her unconventional childhood, characterized by poverty, instability, and neglect. As she and her siblings navigate the chaos brought on by their unpredictable parents, the narrative underscores the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

2. “Educated” by Tara Westover


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Charting her journey from growing up in a strict and abusive household in rural Idaho to eventually earning a PhD from Cambridge University, Westover’s memoir is a testament to the power of education as a means of escaping and healing from a traumatic upbringing.

3. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

Body Keeps the Score

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One of the most seminal works on trauma, this book delves into the science behind how trauma impacts both the body and mind. Dr. van der Kolk, a pioneering researcher in the field, presents a compelling case for innovative treatments beyond traditional talk therapy, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the physical and emotional dimensions of trauma.

4. “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Lewis Herman

Trauma and Recovery

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In this groundbreaking work, Herman explores the complex aftermath of traumatic events, whether personal or collective. Drawing on historical and contemporary case studies, she delineates the stages of recovery and offers insight into how survivors can rebuild their lives.

5. “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma” by Peter A. Levine

Healing Trauma

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Focusing on the innate ability of the human body to heal from traumatic experiences, Levine introduces the concept of “somatic experiencing.” By tapping into the body’s natural wisdom, he argues, individuals can release traumatic shock and find a path to restoration.

6. “The Trauma Spectrum” by Robert Scaer

Trauma Spectrum

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Scaer dives deep into the myriad ways trauma can manifest, from overt symptoms like PTSD to subtler, more insidious forms. Arguing that trauma exists on a spectrum, the book sheds light on its pervasive impact on daily life and the importance of a holistic approach to healing.

Children’s and Young Adult Books About Trauma

1. “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson


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Through the eyes of high schooler Melinda Sordino, this powerful narrative confronts the aftermath of sexual assault. As Melinda grapples with isolation and the weight of her secret, the story emphasizes the importance of finding one’s voice in the face of adversity.

2. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky


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This coming-of-age tale offers an intimate look at the life of Charlie, a shy teenager, as he navigates friendships, love, and past traumas. Tackling topics from mental health to the challenges of adolescence, the story resonates with its raw and authentic portrayal of the teenage experience.

3. “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson


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A timeless tale of friendship and loss, this novel introduces readers to Jess and Leslie, two young friends who create an imaginary kingdom as an escape from the challenges of the real world. However, an unexpected tragedy serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the depth of childhood emotions.

In the realm of children’s and young adult literature, addressing trauma is crucial. For young readers, these stories not only mirror the complexities of their own lives but also offer a guiding light, providing tools for understanding, coping, and healing. Whether overt or subtle, the presence of trauma in these narratives helps to validate young readers’ experiences, making them feel seen and understood.

The Therapeutic Value of Reading About Trauma

Therapeutic Value

Literature has always been a reflection of human experiences, and in its pages, many find solace, understanding, and even healing. Reading books about trauma, in particular, can have several therapeutic benefits:

1. Validation & Recognition

For those who have endured trauma, seeing their experiences mirrored in a narrative can be profoundly validating. It reminds readers they’re not alone, and their feelings, however complex, are legitimate.

2. Safe Exploration

Books provide a safe space to confront and process traumatic events. Through fictional or real-life accounts, readers can engage with difficult emotions at their own pace, without the direct vulnerability of personal exposure.

3. Empathy & Understanding

For individuals untouched by particular traumas, such literature offers a window into the experiences of others, fostering empathy and broadening understanding. This shared compassion can bridge gaps, creating a more supportive community.

4. Catharsis

The emotional release that comes from engaging with a moving narrative can be cathartic. It allows for the processing of pent-up emotions, which can be a significant step in the healing journey.

5. Healing Strategies

Many books, especially non-fiction accounts or research-driven narratives, offer coping mechanisms and healing strategies that can be invaluable for readers navigating their own recovery.

6. Normalization

By bringing trauma into the light, literature helps destigmatize these experiences. It challenges societal taboos and encourages open dialogues about pain, recovery, and resilience.

In essence, books about trauma serve as silent therapists. They don’t replace professional therapy, but they offer a supplemental space for introspection, understanding, and growth. Through the written word, many find the strength to confront their past, embrace their present, and look towards a future with renewed hope.

How to Choose the Right Book for Your Healing Journey

Right Book

Embarking on a therapeutic journey through literature requires thoughtful selection, ensuring that the chosen material aligns with one’s healing needs. Here’s a guide to aid in choosing the right book about trauma for your journey:

  • Self-Awareness: Understand your triggers. Before delving into a book, consider its content. If certain subjects might exacerbate your trauma, it’s essential to approach them with caution or avoid them altogether.
  • Recommendations: Seek recommendations from trusted sources — therapists, counselors, or individuals who have walked a similar path. They might be aware of books that have proven beneficial for others in similar situations.
  • Read Reviews: Delve into reviews to gauge the book’s tone and content. Personal testimonials can provide insights into the narrative’s depth, sensitivity, and potential therapeutic value.
  • Hopeful Narratives: While it’s essential to confront and understand trauma, continuously immersing oneself in heavy content can be overwhelming. Seek out books that, while addressing trauma, also offer a message of hope, resilience, and recovery.
  • Diverse Perspectives: Choose books from varied backgrounds and cultures. Diverse narratives can provide a broader understanding of trauma, making one feel less isolated and more connected to the shared human experience.
  • Interactivity: Some books about trauma include exercises, prompts, or reflections to guide the reader. If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach to healing, consider books that encourage active participation.
  • Revisitability: Consider books that you can return to over time. Healing is a non-linear process, and what resonates at one stage might be different at another. Books that offer layered insights can be revisited as one progresses on their healing journey.

Remember, the right book can be a powerful ally, but it’s equally crucial to recognize when professional help is needed. While literature offers solace and understanding, it should complement, not replace, traditional therapeutic approaches when dealing with trauma.


Books about trauma serve as beacons, illuminating the darkest facets of existence. They foster connection, inspire resilience, and embolden readers to confront their shadows, one page at a time.

AboutCorinne Switzer

Corinne is an avid reader and takes a keen interest in conspiracy theories. When not busy with her day job, she likes to indulge the writer in her and pens columns on a wide range of topics that cover everything from entertainment, healthy living to healthcare and more.