A few months ago, I compiled a list of books that I had read that had been helpful to me in my recovery up to that point. This is an updated list based on my continued reading, and now also contains categories that I hope you will find helpful.
Please note that the many of the books below may fit into more than one category, however, the categories in which I chose to place these books are meant to be helpful as you decide what type of book you may be looking for.
All of the books below are excellent resources and the categories are meant to help guide you if you are trying to decide why to select one book over another not because of quality but because of what it offers (e.g., whether it is more informational versus contains more strategies for recovery).
One thing: a couple of the books below are written specifically about women who had male partners. I’ve listed them below because I found them helpful and thought others might as well. If this does not fit your situation, you may wish to skip over them– but there is some very good information in them still that I think is applicable to any romantic relationship with a narcissist.
I’ve also included more resources that are online at the bottom of the page that you may also find helpful. There are many very helpful websites that explain concepts of narcissistic abuse and narcissism in different ways that help you to “get it” and understand what you may have been going through. I am a very big fan of reading as much as possible and from a variety of different sources in order to hear from different voices and perspectives. Each author, expert and survivor has a different way of describing even very similar concepts and sometimes the variety of different voices coming together can help the pieces snap into place.
The resources I am choosing to list at the bottom of the page, however, go beyond explanations in some way because they provide something else: either they provide free, robust resources to help you recover (e.g., compiled lists of information from around the Internet, complete courses, etc.) or are rich in alternative sources of information if a different type of learning is better for you other than reading.
There are others, however, I have personally found these to be some of the best I have run across.
Also, please note that the information, descriptions, and suggestions offered on this website should not replace or be used as a substitute for advice given to you by a medical professional. If you are in need of medical, health, psychological or psychiatric care, assistance or consultation, please seek out a licensed medical professional for care and assistance.
Understanding Narcissistic Abuse
This handful of books provides a clear description of exactly what you may have been experiencing in your relationship. Each one goes about it in a different way. They provide personal examples and frameworks for thinking about stages of the relationship as well as the emotional aspect and why you are feeling what you feel. These books are considered classics on the topic.
One of the first books I read on the topic (and then read again many times), the author has a way of breaking down exactly what happens in a relationship with a narcissist in easy-to-understand terms. I was highlighting almost every sentence, and some of the passages resonated and described my experience so well and with such grace, I would find myself with tears running down my face at times. He also does a great job explaining what the healing process looks like as well.
This author also wrote Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare. She is a particularly good writer and her descriptions were empowering and inspiring in ways that touched me deeply. In addition, because each chapter is a self-contained essay, it was easy for me to show one to someone else if I wanted them to grasp a particular concept without having to ask them to invest their time in reading an entire book.
This is a combination of the author’s personal story and a description of how narcissists abuse. The author has a unique way of going back and forth between the two that doesn’t feel awkward and has some interesting insights about narcissistic abuse that I didn’t read anywhere else. Paired with her own story, it helped give me strength during a personal time of weakness.
This book helped me to understand my own reactions by contrasting them to how conscienceless people behave. It helped provide me with an understanding of what was so appealing to me about my ex-boyfriend’s behavior, why it was so hard for me to leave, and what was causing so many of the emotions that I had both while in the relationship and afterward.
This is a set of books I returned to many times over the last few months. As I realized I was never going to get any closure from my narcissist ex-boyfriend and that all of the contradictory answers that he had provided me were part of what was keeping me confused by what I had experienced, I turned to these set of books to help fill in the gaps about what narcissists think and why they do what they do. Having this understanding did not excuse what he did, but it did enable me to stop blaming myself, understand what he had been attempting to accomplish, and to “break the spell” he had over me.
This is an anonymous memoir by a diagnosed sociopath. I understand intellectually that sociopaths lack empathy and remorse, but by reading a life story told from the point of view of a sociopath, I wanted to understand how they actually rationalize what they do. How does someone without a conscience actually think?
This is an extremely in-depth examination of narcissism and what makes narcissists think and act how they do. The author is a self-aware narcissist. He uses descriptions and categories that help illuminate narcissistic behavior in ways that aren’t found in other texts and I found it highly helpful in understanding what had happened to me.
This book has come along a little later in my healing journey, but it’s one I find myself turning to again and again. I have found myself wanting answers to the questions that didn’t make any sense. This book helped answer them in a very relatable way. I underlined so many passages in this book, as it gave me insight into what it is about Cluster B Personality Disordered individuals that allows them to do the things they do.
H.G. Tudor is another self-aware narcissist. He has written several books that go into specifics about various aspects of narcissism, but this one is mostly written in question-and-answer format and goes into a variety of different topics, answering some of the most burning questions we have about why narcissists do what they do. Although the information can be very harsh to read at times because it is coming directly from a narcissist, it was exactly what I needed to hear at times in order to put my questions to rest. It has a very conversational style that is very easy to understand.
Robert Hare, the author of this book, is considered one of the experts on psychopaths. Although this book is written based on interviews he conducted in prison and is several years old, it is written so well I found it difficult to put down. It provides a good look at the characteristics of psychopaths and how they exhibit themselves in the men and women he interviewed, using detailed examples. I specifically found all of the information on how they use language, lying, and contradictory statements to be very interesting in forming a picture of how narcissists think.
Leaving a Narcissist
There are a few books that are specifically about the process of leaving a relationship with a narcissist, as separate from dealing with a narcissist or even recovering from the relationship itself. Below are those that fall into this category.
Another book by Tudor, this one was particularly helpful with the process of “emotional” no-contact. After going physically no-contact, there was still the feeling that my ex was with me and it was hard to escape the desire to want him in my life again. In this book, the author explains where that feeling comes from and how to destroy it. Reading this book was one of the things that actually worked for me. Tudor also has many more books about the process of breaking up with a narcissist and going no-contact, including the following: Getting Out: How to Prepare to Leave the Narcissist, No Contact, and Escape: How to Beat the Narcissist.
No-contact was and is one of the hardest parts of being in a relationship with a toxic person for me. It was as if every single emotion I went through about it and every single thought I had was discussed in this book. In addition to just making me feel a little less alone, however, it also provides real advice on what no-contact looks like and how to plan for it.
Recovering from Narcissistic Abuse
Beyond just describing narcissistic abuse, these books describe the process or stages of recovery and/or provide specific strategies or activities for recovering from the relationship. These revolve around self-care, cognitive reprogramming and many different types of writing activities to examine the relationship and yourself, among others.
Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself
This is the Bible of healing from narcissistic abuse. While the beginning is a primer on what narcissistic abuse looks like, eighty percent of the book is filled with information and tips on how to heal. It really just doesn’t get any more practical than this in terms of self-care. The author really breaks it down, incorporating a little bit of everything from different therapeutic approaches to tips for dealing with some of the more difficult parts of recovery to links to online worksheets, meditations, YouTube videos, and other free resources.
I read this book in one sitting and then read it through several times again. It was one of the first books to try to explain what narcissistic abuse feels like and why it’s so hard to describe, and then explain what the path to recovery feels like. It’s from a more clinical perspective, but written with a very heart-warming easy-to-read tone, and includes hundreds of quotes from surveys that the author did from those who had been in narcissistically abusive relationships.
This book provides a unique angle on narcissism that doesn’t cover all of the typical information covered in some of the other books on narcissistic abuse. This reframing of the events in your relationship, however, may give you some new ways to think about yourself and what has happened in order to help you move forward from the relationship. The book’s chapters provide some very specific thought exercises and actions for you to take.
This is a relatively new book that was written for both people who are in relationships with narcissists and for those who are supporting them and feel very overwhelmed both by what they are going through and by the information they may be learning or how to extricate themselves from the relationship. It starts with the basics and defines terms that you may have read about, but puts all of the information all in one place.
First-Hand Accounts of Being in a Relationship with a Narcissist
It is easy to feel very alone when we are in one of these relationships, and also to feel as if we will never recover from one. There are some published books and stories out there, however, of real people who have been through and survived the double lives and abuse of their narcissistic partners. The descriptions below are from the books themselves. What you may find interesting reading the descriptions below (or not since you may have lived this story yourself) is the similarities between them.
In alternating Before and After chapters, Waite obsessively analyzes her relationship, trying to find a single moment form the past five years that isn’t part of the long con of lies and manipulation. Instead, she finds more lies, infidelity, and betrayal than she could have imagined. With the pacing and twists of a psychological thriller, A Beautiful, Terrible Thing looks at how a fairy tale can become a nightmare and what happens when “it could never happen to me” actually does.
In April 2006, Mary Turner Thomson received a call that blew her life apart. The woman on the other end of the line told her that Will Jordan, Mary’s husband and the father of her two younger children, had been married to her for fourteen years and they had five children together. The Bigamist is the shocking true story of how one man manipulated an intelligent, independent woman, conning her out of £200,000 and leaving her to bring up the children he claimed he could never have. It’s a story we all think could never happen to us, but this shameless con man has been doing the same thing to various other women for at least 27 years, spinning a tangled web of lies and deceit to cover his tracks.
Tina Swithin was swept off her feet by a modern day Prince Charming and married him one year later. Tina soon discovered that there was something seriously wrong with her fairytale. The marriage was filled with lies, deception, fraud and many tears. Tina was left in an utter state of confusion. This wasn’t the man that she married…or was it? Tina first heard the term, Narcissistic Personality Disorder from her therapist in 2008 but quickly dismissed the notion that something could be wrong with her husband. It took several years for Tina to begin researching the disorder and suddenly, the past ten years of her life made complete sense. Tina soon discovered that there is only one thing more difficult than being married to a narcissist and that is divorcing a narcissist.
This collection of stories and poems will empower readers dealing with the aftermath of a toxic relationship and serve as a wakeup call to those who are in—or think they may be in—an abusive relationship with a narcissist or sociopath. I Am Free validates and inspires the victims of toxic relationships with the experiences of people from all walks of life—featuring both women and men who have found the courage to survive abusive relationships either as adults or as children raised by narcissists and sociopaths. These vignettes are heavy, raw, and painful, but the ultimate message is one of hope—that it is possible to gain happiness and freedom after narcissistic abuse.
Her marriage to successful airline pilot Captain X seemed like a dream come true. In reality, it was a nightmare. From the second they met, Captain X swept MrsXNomore off her feet, constantly showering her with gifts, flattery and attention. Early on she underwent the physical and emotional stress of infertility and adoption with little help from her husband. Things were not adding up. His erratic work schedule, their few friends, distant family, and his evasiveness about finances left MrsXNomore in a constant state of confusion. Insisting on reviewing family finances, disbelief set in. Captain X had plunged them into serious debt, often using her name, ruining her credit. Shocked, she constantly searched for answers and found them in Captain X’s computer. She discovered he was member of a secret brotherhood involving prostitution, locally and internationally during their entire marriage.
Web of Lies takes you on an emotional roller-coaster, experienced through the eyes of Sarah Tate, an intelligent, young newcomer to Switzerland who is swept off her feet by an older, more experienced company manager. Within weeks of their meeting, Bill impresses her with a courtship vastly unusual in modern times. He lures Sarah with his intellect along with numerous gifts, expensive restaurants, and trips to luxury hotels. Sarah, who is searching for not only love but security, quickly finds herself falling for the worldly but sensitive and caring man Bill represents himself to be. In Web of Lies, she describes the highs and the lows of what it is like to be involved with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, how to come to terms with the abuse, and most importantly, how to escape.
General Self-Help for Issues Related to Narcissistic Abuse
The books below provide information and offer strategies for dealing with topics that are related to narcissistic abuse, but not always exclusively, such as boundaries, shame, trauma bonds, manipulative people, trust and others.
This book has the clearest and most thorough description of trauma bonds I have ever read. It also puts them in the context of other types of responses to trauma as well. Almost every chapter contains some sort of exercise to help the reader move past trauma bonds by linking them to other areas of life one may not have thought of.
After I got out of the relationship, I felt vulnerable and unable to trust my own judgment. I wanted to just withdraw from everyone until I could figure out how to keep myself from getting hurt again. This book describes how narcissists erode our boundaries, whether we had strong ones in place before or not, and helped me to get them back so I felt safer and as if I could protect myself from becoming a victim of that type of abusive situation again.
I found this book to be very helpful in bringing me back to myself, likely due to the identity erosion effect that narcissistic abuse has on us. Narcissistic abuse also has an alienating effect. The book tackles feelings of self-empowerment and the idea of “belonging to oneself,” which felt important to me after feeling so lost and confused.
One of the things I learned recently is that people, both children and adults, who survive abuse often have a type of PTSD called Complex PTSD. It occurs because the trauma is sustained over a long period of time and almost becomes a way of life, unlike PTSD, which occurs due to one event or a focused, specific period of time, such as a car accident or tour of duty. This book helped me to understand exactly what Complex PTSD is and how it can be managed.
This book describes eight different types of men that are likely to cause either emotional or physical harm in a relationship. It contains red flags, but also reasoning why each is harmful. I found some of it challenging to read, because I had to examine my own assumptions, however, this is an indication that there is something about myself that I need to take a deeper look at and this is another reason why I believe this book is useful. There is also an accompanying workbook that helps a reader find out what past relationship patterns are to avoid them in the future.
This book’s focus is broader than narcissists. It’s about all of the various ways that any manipulative person uses to get others to do the things they want them to do and how to keep from being manipulated. Yet it really opened my eyes to the actual dynamics by describing how they think about you based on how you act, and how I can do my part to reduce the chances of being manipulated.
This is an excellent book that describes from an academic perspective not only why narcissists do what they do, but also includes information on borderline personality disorder as well– another Cluster B Personality Disorder, if you have been looking for information on that.
I have not read this book, however, I wanted to make its availability known if you are looking for a book specifically about female narcissists because there are so few out there. Zari Ballard has written many other books about narcissistic abuse, and, in fact, I have another of her books on this list.
Many of these books are available on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, so as a subscriber, you pay nothing extra to download them from Amazon and keep them to read as long as you wish. You can try it out Kindle Unlimited free for 30 days here:
Narcissist Abuse Support website with links to resources in all fifty states and over a thousand free resources
Richard Grannon’s Spartan Lifecoach YouTube Channel. He has dozens of videos on narcissists and other Cluster B personality disorders and narcissistic abuse, all of which are very insightful and comforting.
If you haven’t already, you can download the Toolkit for Taking Back Your Life After Narcissistic Abuse from my own website.
If you need assistance to leave your relationship or feel you are in danger, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or http://www.thehotline.org/ where you can chat live with someone 24/7. They have access to other resources and can also assist with legal help in some cases.