My shelfie… David Carless

Professor of Narrative Psychology, Leeds Beckett University.

Boy Meets Boy
David Levithan
Research should show us what could be, as well as what is. This funny, big-hearted, joyous little novel offers a wonderful narrative map for how things could be – in this case for LGBTQ+ young people. David wrote it for his friends; publication came about because of their love for the story. It’s marketed as ‘young adult’ but reading it for the first time at 41 was still an overwhelming emotion-full revelation. A potent reminder how certain kinds of stories – and ways of being human – have been written out of existence, sometimes for generations.

A Thousand Mornings
Mary Oliver
I try to start every day with a Mary poem. Wise and beautiful, she has so much to gently teach psychologists. ‘I have refused to live in the orderly world of reasons and proofs/The world I believe in is much wider than that.’ We lost Mary this year, but she left us a lifetime’s poetry. It’s inspirational that she saved her best work ‘til last: she wrote most of my favourite poems in her seventies. Perhaps the same could be true for us? If we can only keep body, mind, soul and spirit intact within the corridors of today’s academe.

Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective
Peter K. Chadwick
I stumbled on this book in the arts and social sciences library at Bristol University in the days when I still visited libraries to access journals. Peter’s work showed me a psychology I could believe in: one that tackled some of the most challenging areas of human experience in a wise, inclusive and humane way.

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me
Bill Hayes
Part photo-montage, part diary, part loving hug, this unique book takes us into Bill’s life with the late Oliver Sacks. Like others in my list, this book helped disassemble my aloneness and taught me that there is time. Bill’s writings and pictures portray so beautifully the intimacy between men, while warning me anew of the dangers of dedicating oneself to an intellectual life.

Sneaky Kid and its Aftermath: Ethics and Intimacy in Fieldwork
Harry F. Wolcott
Harry’s work was sane, thoughtful and quietly pioneering. I’m not sure I’d have got through my PhD without it. This book is an epic story of research methodology. Now that’s not a phrase I use often! Piercing, honest, challenging and thought-provoking, this is a book every qualitative researcher should read.

Haruki Murakami
I could have chosen any of Haruki’s masterful novels. But I chose this one because it’s the longest and because it features a delicious but quietly terrifying stereotype-busting gay character. Nine hundred and twenty-five pages of riveting, intriguing, irresistible journeying through the characters’ (and my own) interior worlds. If only psychology was this much fun!

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