Against Happiness – Eric G. Wilson

In this candid and unconventional book, English professor and humanist Eric G. Wilson positions himself as melancholy’s champion. He does everything but wave gloomy pom-poms as he extols its role in creativity and invention. As counterintuitive and loopy as his view may seem, Wilson makes a strong, lucid case for feeling glum. Indeed, reading Wilson’s …

The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene

This book is amoral, hauntingly true and indispensable. It should be on the bookshelf of anyone who aspires to any level of success in any organization or profession. It should not gather dust but should be read regularly, according to a plan – one law a day, for example, absorbed slowly and contemplated deeply. Author …

Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely

This is surely one of the decade’s best books on decision making, economics, psychology and behavior – because it touches all of those topics. Author Dan Ariely is a distinguished academician, but his style is so clear, accessible and straightforward that he does not seem to belong to academia at all. Although he recounts numerous …

Influence – Robert B. Cialdini

Psychology and marketing professor Robert B. Cialdini incorporates extensive scholarly research in this 1984 classic in applied psychology, practical rhetoric and marketing. The impetus of the book was his desire to figure out why others always influenced him so easily. He weaves together personal stories and examples from sales, politics, history and public life as …

Getting (More of) What You Want – Margaret A. Neale and Thomas Z. Lys

Negotiation is an essential skill. Yet people tend to regard the ability to negotiate as a personality trait to develop rather than as an expertise to build. Margaret A. Neale of the Stanford Business School and Thomas Z. Lys of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University offer the ultimate negotiating model. They base …

Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman

In this seminal work, Daniel Goleman introduced millions of readers to the concept of emotional intelligence – the amalgamation of psychological skills and traits that he claims accounts for 80% of life success. Skills like self-awareness and self-motivation are instilled (or destroyed) in childhood, but Goleman claims that adults still can learn and apply them. …

Bright-Sided – Barbara Ehrenreich

What could be wrong with thinking positively? Nickel and Dimed best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich explores the origins of American optimism and reveals the cracks beneath its happy façade. The problem, she explains, is that staying positive regardless of your situation turns into self-delusion. Unchecked optimism can be dangerous, as illustrated by analysts who ignored the economic red …

Risk Savvy:How to Make Good Decisions – Gerd Gigerenzer

Gerd Gigerenzer, director of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, offers a brightly written guide to better decision making. He reports a widespread lack of “risk literacy,” and says that confusion over probabilities is pervasive among average people as well as among professionals in many fields, including medicine and investment management. He recommends using heuristics, …