What are the best books for anxiety and overthinking in 2021?

Let’s face it, reading books about anxiety can be…anxiety producing. For this reason, almost all the books I recommend have nothing to do with anxiety. Yet, when you read them, you’ll discover that they have everything to do with anxiety. Because when you have the skills taught in these books, it’s almost impossible to have an anxiety problem.

Most anxiety books give the same tired old tips that came out of 1960’s behavioral research. It’s time to sidestep all that noise and learn the real skills to reduce anxiety once and for all. And these are the books that will help you do that.

My clients have been asking for a recommended reading list for a while now. Read these books, and you will possess all the skills you need to be fully confident, and anxiety-free.

Check back often as I’ll be doing in-depth reviews of all these books. In the meantime, go ahead and get my book. 

Without further ado, here are the top 10 must-read books for anxiety and overthinking. And if you think I missed anything, leave me a comment with your recommendations below. 

Contents

#1 The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

#2 The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey

#3 Unwinding Anxiety by Dr. Judson Brewer

#4 Maximum Performance by Dr. Laurence E. Morehouse and Leonard Gross

#5 Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

#6 Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

#7 Nonviolent Communication by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg 

#8 The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverly Engel

#9 Performance Success by Dr. Don Greene

#10 The Art of Living Consciously by Nathaniel Branden

BONUS  #1: Changing for Good by Dr. James Prochaska, Dr. John Norcross, and Dr. Carlo DiClemente

BONUS #2: My book

#1 The Power of Habit

A friend of mine who is very successful told me that he never sets goals. He only works on building the right habits. This way, success is automatic. 

It makes sense when you think about it. Nearly everything you do is a function of habit. Some of your habits serve you well while others block you from being successful and happy. One of my college professors told me that habits are as dumb as a donkey – they keep repeating over and over, even if they are completely dysfunctional. This book takes the mystery out of habit change. 

Anxiety is nothing more than a habit. That’s what makes Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit one of the must-read books for anxiety and overthinking. Duhigg explains how habits are structured, and gives a winning formula for creating new habits. If you have ever contemplated change, The Power of Habit is one of the must-read books about anxiety and overthinking.  Check the book out on Amazon here.

#2 The Inner Game of Tennis

The Inner Game of Tennis absolutely changed my life when I first read it in 2003. The concepts in the book took me from having a panic attack and almost walking offstage to being able to play in front of 3,000 people with zero anxiety. 

It is a book about sports psychology, written at a time when even professional athletes would not admit that there is a psychological element in sports. Not an athlete? Don’t worry, this is not really a book about sports. It’s a book about peak performance and learning, which I assure you, applies to everyone. 

What does it have to do with anxiety? When you follow the methods of quieting your mind and overcoming judgment, you’ll quickly unravel anxiety and overthinking.  Read more about the book on Amazon here.

#3 Unwinding Anxiety

Unwinding Anxiety was released this year and it is already one of the great books for anxiety and overthinking. I wrote a book review on it here. Dr. Brewer takes a mindfulness approach to anxiety reduction. Mindfulness is an indirect, yet highly effective method for changing thoughts and behaviors. Dr. Brewer presents a simple, yet easy-to-follow method to get a handle on anxiety. Like everything else, the methods take practice, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with a greater sense of calm. It is a great companion to the Inner Game of tennis because it presents the same concepts from the perspective of a scientist. Get it on Amazon here.

#4 Maximum Performance

Maximum Performance by Laurence E. Morehouse, PhD and Leonard Gross was published in 1977. The book talks about the psychology of being at your best, not just in sports, but in life. Some of the topics discussed: 

  • How to stop trying so hard
  • Reduce anxiety 
  • The psychology of winning
  • Maximize energy
  • Choosing a maximum performance coach
  • How to learn quickly
  • How to have better sex

This is a book that I quote in almost every session I do with clients. It is definitely one of the must-read books for anxiety and overthinking. Get it on Amazon here.

#5 Psycho-Cybernetics

I first spotted a copy of Psycho-Cybernetics on my grandfather’s bookshelf in the late 80’s. Although I would not read the book until 2002, this 1960 classic is still the definitive guide to self-esteem. Eloquently written from the perspective of a plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz theorizes that self-esteem exists within a person, independent from outside circumstances. His speculations on the the self-esteem construct are not only perfectly accurate, but also highly entertaining. The 1960 version (or the updated 2018 version) is one of the best books for anxiety and overthinking. Get the updated and expanded version here.

#6 Boundaries 

Anxiety often comes from relationships. That’s why Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud is one of the best books for anxiety and overthinking. Boundaries are a construct of systems theory, a philosophy which focuses on healing problems through focusing on relationships. Systems theory emerged from the 1950’s and represents a quantum leap in both psychological research and therapy.

Dr. Henry Cloud takes a complex topic and makes it truly accessible. Dr. Cloud writes from a Christian perspective, but he only sprinkles it in here and there. You will benefit from the book regardless of your spiritual orientation, or even lack thereof. Once you read it, you’ll clearly see why it’s one of the best books for anxiety and overthinking. Check it out on Amazon here.

#7 Non-violent Communication

The quality of your life corresponds to the quality of your communication. I first heard this from Tony Robbins, but I’m sure others said it before him. The words you use reflect the contents of your subconscious mind. The easiest way to change your subconscious mindset is to change your language. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg describes many linguistic pitfalls not only for you as an individual, but also in your communication with others. He teaches you how to use language to get what you want from yourself and others – not with manipulation, but through compassion.  Read more about the book on Amazon here.

#8 The Emotionally Abusive Relationship

If you suffer from anxiety, it’s important to take a good hard look at your relationships. Most people think of abusive relationships as those involving physical violence. However, emotional abuse is far more common and more difficult to spot. Many people are in emotionally abusive relationships without even realizing it. When this happens, anxiety is the result. Even if you’re not in an emotionally abusive relationship, it is a great book about boundaries, assertiveness, confidence, and many other things that will help your relationships. This book is a must-read for any relationship and one of the best books for anxiety and overthinking.  Get it here

#9 Performance Success

I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Don Greene back in the early 2000’s. Dr. Greene became well-known in the professional musician community after he helped a French horn player, who had blown over 100 auditions, win a job in the Houston Symphony.  

Performance Success is geared towards performing musicians. However, anyone who performs in public, such as giving a speech in person or over Zoom, will find this book helpful. Dr. Greene discusses everything from preparation, mental practice, anxiety reduction, and how to deal with distractions. He even has a fabulous section on how to recover from mistakes. It’s an excellent book from a master sports psychologist.  It is a bit more expensive than your average book, but worth every penny. Check it out on Amazon here.

#10 The Art of Living Consciously

Albert Einstein said that a problem cannot be solved with the same consciousness that created it. The fact is, nothing in your life can be changed without raising your awareness to a higher level. When you think about a problem with the same consciousness that created it, you see no way out. However, the solution is there. The problem is, your level of consciousness blinds you to those solutions. The Art of Living Consciously is about thinking at higher levels of consciousness, in a way that will help you gain perspective and solve problems. Get it here.

BONUS! #11 Changing for Good

A teacher of mine once said that changing is so easy it’s hard. Quitting a harmful behavior should be simple. But, why do so many people fail? Why do so many people never change at all?

Changing for Good answers these questions, backed up with hard science. Although the book focuses on addiction, it’s applicable to any behavioral change. Based on over $1 Billion of government research, the theory is that people go through predictable stages of change. Every stage has its own challenges and pitfalls. Different approaches are required at every stage. Learning about the proper techniques at each stage of change will shave years off your next change attempt. Check it out on Amazon here.

These are my top 11 books for anxiety and overthinking. When you read them, you’ll learn the skills to reduce anxiety, feel more confident, perform better, and get more out of life. Be sure to check back later for in-depth reviews of these books. In the meantime, go ahead and get my book which will give you a quick overview of my approach to anxiety reduction which I think you’ll find helpful.