This year I have read the stories of spies, terrorists, serial killers and generals. Yet the book that had me flipping pages the fastest mostly takes place in an ordinary office in suburban LA, where regular people receive standard pyschotherapy.
In Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb – a TV producer and journalist turned clinical psychologist – examines the purpose of therapy and how it works. However, it is not a monograph. Instead, Gottlieb conveys this message through the interlinked stories of four of her patients, along with her own experiences in therapy.
Gottlieb spent most of her TV career working on ER, so knows how to craft drama. So she chooses a case with plenty of mysteries and revelations to serve as the spine of the book. That allows her to create cliffhangers and deliver emotional gut punches.
However, the real appeal is the way Gottlieb recreates the intense empathy inherent in therapy on the page, drawing her readers into the lives of other people and then showing us how people who seem utterly lost can, with the right help, find a path to contentment.
The rest of my top ten of the year:
10. Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages by Gaston Dorren
9. Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
8. The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre
7. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
6. Ottoman Odyssey: Travels through a Lost Empire by Alev Scott
5. Why We Need Religion by Stephen T. Asma
4. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Stephen Brusatte
3. Yes to Europe by Robert Saunders
2. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe