While there are lots of books about domestic violence and abuse, few are written for individuals who want to stop hurting the ones they love. That’s unfortunate. Even more regrettable is that many books for domestic violence perpetrators are not helpful. They make wrong assumptions about the source of our damaging behavior—addressing problems that are not the real problem.

If you have caused harm in your relationship but want to change, is simply reading a book all you need to do? Probably not. However, books can serve as a source for clear, understandable guidance as we develop new behavior patterns. They open our eyes to better ways of thinking: a starting point for different responses. And, they’re a great supplement to other work we’re doing, such as journaling or counseling.

Digging through hundreds of volumes to find a few relevant titles is a daunting process. To help, we’ve curated a list of the 10 best books for domestic violence perpetrators to aid their transformation. Some directly address intimate partner violence, while others focus on changing core beliefs we might hold that lead us down a harmful path.


Best Books for Domestic Violence Perpetrators


1. The Emotionally Abusive Relationship – Beverly Engel

Ms Engel’s The Emotionally Abusive Relationship is a clear first-place winner on our list. Divided into three parts, this book does a great job of talking about 1) what abuse is and how it affects people, 2) stopping the abuse if you are being abused OR if you are the abusive partner, and 3) longer-term strategies for relationships and recovery. While it does not specifically focus on physical abuse, verbal and emotional abuse are often present in the same relationships and have much the same impact.

My favorite quote from the book gives you a flavor of the author’s approach: “There are no monsters here, only injured but brave individuals who are seeking to heal themselves from the bondage of their actions.”

2. Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way – Gary Chapman

Wait a minute! This list is supposed to be about abuse, not anger. And there are a ton of “experts” out there who say anger management is not an appropriate treatment for domestic violence offenders.

We disagree. Much domestic violence happens when a person is angered—or enraged—so addressing anger is very relevant. Learning to control our reactions when we feel powerful emotions is at the heart of stopping acts of domestic violence or abuse. The process Mr. Chapman illuminates for anger is the same.

Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way is an easy-to-read book with practical insights and lessons completely consistent with the change process we’ve found to work. For more, check out our review here.

3. Learning to Live Without Violence – Daniel Sonkin and Michael Durphy

How about a free and very practical workbook you can download from the Internet? Learning to Live Without Violence addresses many of the most common and important issues a person wanting to change needs to consider: understanding what hurts others, how and when to use time-outs, complications with alcohol and drug use, how to think about counseling, building communication skills as an alternative to violence, stress reduction, handling jealousy, and more.

4. When Good Men Behave Badly – David B. Wexler

While we don’t see domestic violence or bad behavior as just a man issue (and neither does the author), When Good Men Behave Badly is a fantastic book that explores behavior that hurts a man (person) and his (or her) relationships. It plainly shows the emotional wounds that cause the behavior and provides straight-forward ways to change it. We especially love the book’s hopeful message that even a person behaving badly can be good inside.

5. EMAP Emotionally Intelligent Mindful Acceptance-Based Program – Wendy W. Coates

Want something that’s hands-on, where you engage with the material? Wendy Coates’s EMAP Emotionally Intelligent Mindful Acceptance-Based Program is an excellent, 28-session workbook used in some batterers’ intervention programs (BIPs). It speaks to a broad range of relevant topics that those of us who are working to change our behavior need to consider. The program incorporates acceptance and value-guided decision techniques, which can be very helpful in a person’s change efforts.

6. Love Without Hurt – Steven Stosny

While Love Without Hurt, as the title implies, is written for victims of abuse, there is a large portion that provides specific and practical techniques to help those who are doing the harm to stop. An earlier version of this book was instrumental on my personal journey.

7. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships – Marshall Rosenberg

How we communicate can create conflict and damage our relationships. Still, few of us ever learned how to convey our thoughts and emotions well. Given this sad truth, Dr. Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication is not only super helpful, it’s a well-written, interesting, and enjoyable read.

The author outlines a 4-step process of observing others’ actions without judgment, identifying our feelings about those observations, discerning our needs in the situation, and requesting but not demanding that which we need from others. By following the process, we are least likely to make the other person defensive and most likely to get our needs met.

For more about this book, check out our review here.

8. Boundaries – Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Relationship boundaries are so important for maintaining healthy intimate bonds, yet we see boundary issues crop up frequently in our group member’s relationships. Boundaries concepts can be difficult to grasp and hard to implement, meriting a thorough study of them by reading this book. Drs. Cloud and Townsend do a fantastic job of making boundaries understandable through this bestseller.

9. God’s Power to Change Your Life – Rick Warren

This recommendation may seem quite out of the blue, but hear me out. Since the objective is to make positive changes in your life, there’s nothing more transformative than a relationship with God. It’s only natural to suggest a book that directs readers in this pursuit. God’s Power to Change Your Life explains how to tap into God’s immense capacity in a very straight-forward, simple to understand manner.

Pastor Warren’s book is a follow-on to his all-time best-selling book (other than the Bible), The Purpose Driven Life. Purpose does a great job of answering fundamental questions like, “Why am I here?” and “What is my purpose?” explaining how we can find meaning and purpose when living the way God created us.

10. Winning the War in Your Mind– Craig Groeschel

What we believe about ourselves—our identity—dramatically affects how we see and respond to people and situations around us. Winning the War in Your Mind examines identity and behavior problems we encounter if we have a flawed self-picture. It covers how to correct lies we might believe about ourselves through a relationship with God. I particularly like the exercises the author includes at the end of each chapter.


Autobiographical from Abusers Who Changed


I promised a list of the 10 most helpful books for domestic violence perpetrators, but sometimes the most beneficial thing you can hear (or read) is an account from someone who’s been there and done that. To that end, I offer three “bonus” suggestions:

11. Angry Men & The Women Who Love Them – Paul Hegstrom

In Angry Men & The Women Who Love Them, Paul Hegstrom, a former domestic violence offender, candidly discusses his journey, including factors from his childhood that likely led to his abusive behavior, his long-term denial of the problem, and his path to healing and restoration of his relationships.

If you read Angry Men & The Women Who Love Them, you also might want to check out his follow-up book, Broken Children, Grown Up Pain. It contains many of the same themes, although has more of a general focus on how childhood wounds play out for us as adults.

12. Emotional Abuse, Silent Killer of Marriage – Austin James

Emotional Abuse, Silent Killer of Marriage is another plain-spoken book about the journey from abusive to healed, written by a man who was emotionally abusive in his marriage. This self-published title highlights many of the same themes you’ll see in our material.

For a more in-depth look at Mr. James’s book, check out our review here.

13. From Villain to Hero – Michael Clark

At risk of looking self-promotional, allow me to include a book I wrote. From Villain to Hero is part memoir and part how-to. It gives readers a first-hand look into my journey from being a violent and abusive partner to becoming safe and emotionally healthy one. It also reveals the essential principles needed to stop domestic violence and abuse that I discovered on my transformative path toward healing and change.

If you’d rather buy it from Amazon, get it on your Kindle, or listen to an Audible version, you can do that here.

There you have it. Ten, or 13, of the best books for domestic violence perpetrators. If you’ve read something helpful we did not include on our list, leave your suggestion in the comments section of this post.