Links are generally to available secondhand copies of the book. In any event, do check Abebooks.com for secondhand copies at good prices. Be careful, though, about buying an earlier edition when a revised edition is available.
The Authoritarians — interesting and informative free book in PDF format on a mindset increasingly common on the Right.
Beyond Machiavelli: Tools for Coping With Conflict, by Roger Fisher, Elizabeth Kopelman, and Andrea Kupfer Schneider — This is the Harvard Project on Negotiation applied to international conflict and negotiation. Worth reading.
The Case Against Competition: Why we lose in our race to win, by Alfie Kohn. It turns out that competition (instead of cooperation) is a losing proposition in almost every arena. This one should be read by everyone.
Changing for Good: The Revolutionary Program That Explains the Six Stages of Change and Teaches You How to Free Yourself from Bad Habits, by James O. Prochaska, John C. Norcross, and Carlo C. Diclemente. A research-based structured program that is effective in making permanent changes.
Decision Traps: Ten Barriers to Brilliant Decision-Making and How to Overcome Them, by Edward Russo and Paul Schoemaker. When you make a big (life-changing) decision, you normally don’t want to do it based on a hunch or what you had for breakfast: you want to do it carefully, based on research and thought. But still we fall into common traps. This book analyzes decision-making as a four-step process and describes the two most common errors committed at each step, as well as the most prevalent error in setting up the decision and in follow-through after the decision is made. Fascinating and invaluable for people who want to make good decisions. See also this post.
The Evolution of Cooperation: Revised Edition, by Robert Axelrod. A fascinating short book about a contest to find the best strategy for winning a competition based on the Prisoner’s Dilemma. The results of the competition were published so that everyone knew of Anatol Rapoport’s winning strategy, tit-for-tat. Then Axelrod held a second competition…
The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright. A fascinating and occasionally humorous history of the changing human conception of the divine, as revealed through a study of the rough chronology of our religious beliefs. Wonderful book.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi — This book puts happiness into a scientific context, and the result is fascinating and useful.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher and William Ury. A product of the Harvard Project on Negotiation, this is the essential book on successful negotiation. If you are going to apply the method, I highly recommend Getting Ready to Negotiate, which takes you through all the prep work.
Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman — Seligman is the guy who discovered and defined learned helplessness, and in this book he focuses on how some people seem immune and figures out how they do it. Many fascinating descriptions of how they discovered various things.
A Life of One’s Own, by Joanna Field — A wonderful memoir of an introspective exploration that begin with a journal: she thought that she’d just record what happened and how happy she was, and would in time discover the things that made her most happy. It turned out to be more than that.
Managing Management Time, by Bill Oncken, offers excellent advice on making the transition from individual contributor to manager, including pointing out the most common mistakes and how to avoid them. The book provides many insights and techniques and is also enjoyable to read. Highly recommended if you’re a manager or contemplating that step. His overall goal is to enable you to control the timing and content of your work, and he tells how to get there.
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, explains the choices you can make to gain control of your life. I originally read this because the book was mentioned and praised in every self-help book on planning that I read.
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, by Anne Lamott — My standard gift to a woman expecting her first child.
Operational Philosophy: Integrating Knowledge and Action, by Anatol Rapoport — This blew me away in high school, and I still think it’s pretty good.
The Other Diabetes: Living and Eating Well With Type 2 Diabetes, by Elizabeth Hiser — excellent book for new type 2 diabetics: everything you need to know to live effectively with the disease.
A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present, by Howard Zinn — The revised edition is the one to get. This has all the parts of history that the schools don’t teach.
Polyglot: How I Learn Languages, by Kató Lomb — how a woman learned 16 languages (and become completely fluent in 5) as an adult (after graduating from college in chemistry)
Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes, by Alfie Kohn — Another surprise: incentive programs and rewards negatively impact achievement and creativity. Read the book and realign your thinking.
Scaramouche, by Rafael Sabatini — Totally wonderful historical adventure novel. I read this originally around my sophomore year of high school, and I had to go to the dictionary two or three times a page. But a totally gripping story. Avoid at all costs Scaramouche the Kingmaker, which turned out pretty bad. But if you like Sabatini, you certainly will want to read Captain Blood and Captain Blood Returns, the story of Peter Blood, an English surgeon who became a pirate. (These books may well be in your library: they were tremendously popular in their day.)
Strong Women Stay Young (Revised Edition), by Miriam Nelson, PhD — excellent guide to fitness with minimal time investment—and the studies that show it makes a great difference no matter when in your life you begin.
Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, by Dan Goleman — Fascinating book about a basic technique for avoiding pain. Goleman traces the technique almost from the cellular level, to the individual, to families, and to societies.
Winning Decisions: Getting It Right the First Time, by Edward Russo and Paul Schoemaker. This book is the successor to Decision Traps, listed above. It covers much the same ground, but differently enough to be worth reading. See also this post.
Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century, by Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin, and Monique Tilford — Excellent guidebook for finding out where your money’s going and how to make changes to live frugally in comfort and with pleasure. (See also this free Excel workbook.)