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Books and reading

The books that shaped me… Kimberley Wilson

The author of 'Unprocessed: How the food we eat is fuelling our mental health crisis' told us about the books that informed, delighted and inspired her.

07 August 2023

What was the first book you loved?

Probably The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The illustrations have a lovely graphic quality to them and, as a woman with a good appetite, I felt I had found a kindred spirit very early on in life.

What’s your favourite book now?

I am not sure I could choose a single favourite. The books I love tend to have served different purposes over time. In the running would be Like Water for Chocolate, Don Quixote, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Man’s Search for Meaning and On the Shortness of Life.

What do you think are the key ingredients of a good book?

I suspect that the things that make me love a book have less to do with the book and more to do with where and who I am at the time that I encounter it. 

Which book changed the way you think?

How Emotions are Made by Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett. As professionals who proclaim to help people understand their emotional worlds it is incumbent upon us to have up-to-date knowledge, even if it challenges our personal beliefs and training… 

Which work of fiction amazed you with its psychological insight?

I really appreciated the honesty of imperfect, competitive and somewhat reluctant motherhood in Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter. It’s something, the consequences of which, we see a lot in the therapy room but not often in popular arts. 

What’s your ‘desert island’ book?

I think Don Quixote would be a good choice. There’s plenty of it, so I could while away the hours. And, of course, it is a depiction of the power of the ‘sustaining fantasy’, which I might have need of if I were all alone on this desert island.

Which book do you find therapeutic to read?

I recently read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Notes on Grief and though I was not recently bereaved, when I closed the book I promptly burst into tears. She portrays the rawness, the frayed edges and bewilderment of grief so perfectly that it felt like those moments in therapy when the interpretation hits just right. 

What was the last book that made you laugh?

Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt had me laughing out loud on the Tube so often that several times Londoners broke the cardinal rule of public transport (don’t talk to anyone) to ask what I was reading.

Bookshelves should be: in alphabetical order/free range

Personally, I have loose categories – cookery, psychology/therapy reference, book club. But after that it’s every book for itself. 

Last pages: I sneak a peek/never look!

Never look. It’s like skipping to the end of a movie to find out the twist. Why would I spoil it for myself?

Unprocessed: How the food we eat is fuelling our mental health crisis by Kimberley Wilson is published by WH Allen.

Kimberley Wilson is a chartered psychologist based in London.