If all the books you read in your life were placed on the shelf in the order you read them, they would provide an insight into your mind, your personality, your character development, your opinions, and your beliefs. If, in the future, my son needed to look at some of the books that influenced me, and formed the beliefs I hold to be true, some of them are here on this list.
F.L. Marcuse: Hypnosis Fact and Fiction
This is the first book I read on hypnosis. What caught my eye was that Marcuse called it Hypnosis Fact AND Fiction, rather than Hypnosis Fact OR Fiction. Big difference! If you want to find out how it’s done, then this isn’t the book for you, but it’s a good place to start, although after thirty-odd years, I suspect some of it may be a bit dated now.
Stephen J. Lynn & Irving Kirsch: Essentials of Clinical Hypnosis
Irving Kirsch is one of my heroes, but both authors tell it like it is. I highly recommend reading this if you are at all serious about finding out about, or going into Hypnotherapy.
Nick Spanos & J. F. Chaves: Hypnosis: The Cognitive-Behavioral Perspective.
I liked Nick Spanos and admired his approach to what is almost certainly the most misunderstood subject on earth. He took part in the same CHANNEL 4 TV documentary I did in 1993 – Hypnosis: The Big Sleep. He died before it was broadcast and the programme was dedicated to his memory. He was very a laid-back character and a dedicated Non-State theorist, and everything he said was right on the mark!
Bandler & Grinder: Patterns of Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., Vol. I
The ‘inventors’ of NLP – and arch snake oil salesmen – take a look at the work of psychologist Milton Erickson, making use of some of the best Erickson anecdotes along the way. These are the only things that are of any use, but I suppose you have to cut through the chaff to get to the wheat.
Bandler, Delozier, Grinder: Patterns of Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., Vol. II
More Ericksonian brilliance.
Herbert Benson MD: The Relaxation Response
Dr. Benson researched Transcendental Meditation and Yoga, and became a follower of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, along with popular beat combo The Beatles, who, possessing more money than sense, sparked an international press feeding frenzy, not to mention a certain amount of controversy (and therefore free publicity) by consulting with an absolutely delighted Indian mystic, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a man who is presently worth about five hundred million pounds. At a press conference called by Paul McCartney, the Fab Four told the world that the teachings of the Maharishi had persuaded them to give up cannabis and LSD and that this change of heart had been brought about by the repetition of a simple mantra several times a day. Emile Cue would have been proud, but the Maharishi was prouder still. As John Lennon spoke about the tremendous benefits of spiritual regeneration, the Maharishi’s grin grew ever wider – and not just for the benefit of the cameras.
A few weeks later, John, Paul, George and the one that played the drums headed off to the Himalayas for another helping of the Great Mystic’s mystical teachings, along with, amongst others with money to burn, the actress Mia Farrow, who was only nineteen at the time and fortunately for the Maharishi was not yet engaged to Frank Sinatra. The Great One invited Miss Farrow backstage for a little private meditation, which she regrettably confused with a blatant sexual advance. Unfortunately for the Maharishi, the very next day, detecting a little hypocrisy in the air, John, Paul, George and the one that played the drums packed their bags to leave. Asked by the Maharishi why they were leaving, John Lennon replied, with all the subtle jocularity of the Scouser, “You’re so cosmic, you’ll know why we’re going!”
Despite his association with the Rolls-Royce collecting, adulterous, beardy weirdo, Dr. Benson has managed to maintain a balanced view of the value of relaxation, meditation, self hypnosis – whatever you want to call it – and waxes lyrical about its benefits.
Herbert Benson MD & William Proctor: Beyond the relaxation response: How to Harness the Healing Power of Your Personal Beliefs.
The sequel to The Relaxation Response, Benson puts his theories into practice, showing how we can use the power of the mind to heal the body, relieving back pain, headaches, insomnia, even, or so he claims, angina.
Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher: Hypnosis for Change
Basic stuff, but if you’re new to hypnotherapy the book provides some valuable pointers as to how to use hypnosis for behaviour modification, particularly when it comes to the elimination of bad habits.
David Britland: Hypnosis: The Big Sleep
The companion booklet to the 1993 Channel 4 Documentary exploring hypnosis is almost certainly out of print now, but I have a copy and more important, I have a copy of the programme. It remains to this day the only serious documentary made on the subject.
Andrew Newton: All in the Mind – Hypnosis, Suggestion and the New Mesmerists
OK, so I’m unashamedly plugging my own book now, but I admit the sin of pride. Honestly, it’s the best and most truthful book on the subject by far. It took me three years to write and I did most of the work sat in the sunshine at my home in Cape Town. I also used a lot of other’s cutting-edge research in psychology to back it up, and all are credited, as are the handful of university professors and academics whose opinions I sought and whose help was invaluable. In my view, an understanding of psychology and the skills required for hypnosis are inseparable. But don’t take my word for it, read some of the testimonials on the website!
The practice of Hypnosis is undeniably linked to the understanding of Psychology. If you haven’t got the background, you will not only fail, you may find yourself in a position where you are a danger to others. Stage Hypnotists take heed!
R. D. Nye: Three psychologies: Perspectives from Freud, Skinner, and Rogers (4th edition)
I found this really useful when I was trying to get to grips with the background psychology to hypnotherapy. It taught me a lot about the evolution of psychotherapy, particularly how it developed in a relatively short period of time. It’s a bit heavy going in parts, but all knowledge is useful.
Stanley Milgram: Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View
A study in Social Compliance, Milgram’s experiments show us why ordinary people easily abandon their own morals, values and ethical judgement when confronted by perceived legitimate authority. Electrocuting actors really can be fun!!
Howard Gardner: Extraordinary Minds
Extraordinary Minds is a portrait of four exceptionally talented people; Mozart, Freud (the famous cocaine addicted psychotherapist) Woolf and Ghandi. Howard Gardner has a go at explaining why they were so smart.
M. Hunt: The Story of Psychology
Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Mesmer (yes, Mesmer!) Pavlov, Freud, Erickson, Skinner. So most of the big names, and their achievements and contributions are in there. Invaluable for important background reading if you want to find out about psychology.
Irving Kirsch: The Emperor’s New Drugs – Exploding the Anti-Depressant Myth
I was always taught that depression was caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, particularly serotonin. I believed this for years – and am ashamed to say I played my part in perpetuating this disinformation – until I read Irving Kirsch’s book. Years of Kirsch’s meticulous research involving hundreds of patients, control groups, Prozac, placebos, and talking therapies has utterly convinced me of the folly of using drugs to cure mental illness.
Robert B. Cialdini: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Dr. Cialdini is Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. Why do people say Yes? Dr. Cialdini reckons he knows the answer and seems willing to share his Six Universal Principles with his readers. I’m not sure all his ideas would work on us more cynical Brits, but you know what they say… the more you know…
William J. Bryan Jr: The Chosen Ones – The Psychology of Jury Selection
Ever wondered why it sometimes takes days to choose a jury in the United States? The answers lie in this fascinating book. The bad news is that it might be difficult to get hold of these days, but if you can find a copy, maybe through the internet, it’s well worth a read.
Richard Holmes: Acts of War
Richard Holmes (Cranfield University) is first and foremost a military historian, probably best known for his TV series War Walks. What makes Acts of War so relevant is the psychology behind the behaviour of soldiers, from the effect of taking the military oath, to the need to group together in battle. The book is peppered with first hand accounts from two centuries of experience of warfare. It’s really worth reading this book, particularly if you are interested in group behaviour and dynamics.
Dan Ariely: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty
How we lie to everyone – especially ourselves. I suppose the point is that knowing we lie to ourselves will stop us cheating so much (according to Ariely, it won’t.) Apparently honest people cheat more than dishonest people, which is comforting. Ariely’s exquisite experiments seem to prove the point, and there are some surprises in there.
Dan Ariely: Predictably Irrational
Of course we all think we’re in control, particularly when it comes to making decisions. Ariely proves that we’re not. This knowledge has important ramifications if you are doing any kind of therapy. In any case, why do our headaches disappear faster when we buy a brand-name Aspirin than they do if we buy a 50cent Aspirin???
William C. Dement: Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep: Exploring the World of Sleep
William C. Dement explores the causes, consequences and cures for sleep disorders. The research findings on the nature and function of sleep are particularly enlightening, as are his opinions on the function of dreams and their contents. A major relief to see he wasn’t trying to sell a book about interpreting dreams.
J. De Rivera & T. R. Sarbin: Believed-in Imaginings: The Narrative Construction of Reality
Memory, Trauma, Dissociation and Hypnosis (hooray!) Mainly it’s about the imagination, but it also covers topics such as why people believe they have been abducted by aliens or abused in childhood. It also looks at why hypnotised subjects can be made to believe things that are contrary to logic. This is an important book and I’m very glad I read it.
Cordelia Fine: A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives
It seems our brains trick us everyday. Our brains are stubborn, emotional and deceitful. Well that explains a lot! Full of real-life examples and the latest research, it will change the way you look at yourself and others – especially others.
A. R. Pratkanis & E. Aronson: Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion
Some of the stuff in this book I already deep down suspected was the case, but I enjoyed in nonetheless. The author’s exploration of the moral aspect though was thought provoking, enlightening and well worth the read.
Erich Fromm: The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
Why are we so destructive as a species when we are supposed to be so intelligent and civilised? Fromm uses anthropology, palaeontology, psychology and history to give us some answers. Hitler and Stalin make predictable appearances, but Fromm’s conclusion that we all try to control life – or destroy it, I thought was a tiny bit over the top. Nonetheless, you gradually come to the realisation that great civilisations are seldom civilised – and this struck a chord with me, particularly in view of recent events in this young twenty-first century.
D. Blum: Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women.
Male testosterone levels drop in happy marriages; young female children who are put into day-care grow up to be more secure than those kept at home, but the same is not true for young male children; women use monogamy to control male behaviour (really?) and anthropologists claim that Western societies are more polygamous than Western society would want to admit. Evolutionary science, animal behaviour, neuroscience, psychology, all come together to explain what we all suspected to be the true state of things in the first place.
C. Brenner: An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis
A good (and respected) starting point for anyone thinking of going into the ‘talking therapies.’
Gustav Le Bon: The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind
This book was first published in 1920, and the author had it dead right. Times may have changed a bit since then, so some of his reference points might seem a bit dated, even old fashioned, but it hits the nail on the head. If you are interested in Group Dynamics, you won’t be wasting your time reading this book.
Charles MacKay: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
This is a classic book and one which I enjoyed so much I read it again, and again. The Crusades, Witch mania, the South Sea Bubble, Fortune telling, Haunted houses, and Tulip mania form the backbone of this extremely funny book about man’s folly. It’s an absolute MUST READ and if nothing else, proves how sheep-like we are and how easily we succumb to the most ludicrous fads and fashions.
Elizabeth Loftus & K. Ketcham: The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse
Elizabeth Loftus is one of the (if not the) world’s leading authorities on memory. I have huge respect for her work and this book is an absolute MUST READ for any therapist – especially any therapist who is thinking of tinkering around with so-called ‘repressed’ memory.
Daniel. L. Alkon: Memory’s Voice: Deciphering the Mind-Brain Code
A highly informative insight into trauma and how the brain copes with it. What was particularly interesting to me though, was the author’s speculation that addiction is linked to conditioning, something that made perfect sense! If you don’t know anything about addiction, it’s a real eye-opener. It made me think in particular about the parallels with phobias.
J. A Hobson: The Chemistry of Conscious States: How the Brain Changes its Mind.
Bio-Psychologists have long held that all our emotions, feelings, thoughts, memories, and so forth are the result of electrical and chemical exchanges, and electro-magnetic events in the brain. This is also a view I hold, not just because it makes sense, but also because of the absence of other reasonable or scientific theories.
PSYCHOTHERAPY / HYPNOTHERAPY
As hypnotherapists, we are often asked to deal with a wide range of personal disorders, from fears and phobias to obsessive-compulsive disorders, to anxiety, to clients who may even be mentally ill. In the real world, the professional psychologists and psychiatrists are often specialists in each of these fields. So, sometimes we may find ourselves floundering in a sea of ignorance. So maybe a look at the following four volumes would be useful.
Aaron. T. Beck & Gary Emery: Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective.
Aaron T. Beck is a renowned psychiatrist and it’s good to have the opinion of a professional in a field where the vast majority of hypnotherapists are amateurs. It can get I bit heavy from time to time, but stick with it because it offers rational explanations of the therapeutic principles, strategies and tactics used in resolving phobias and anxiety. How many more times do I have to say this…? The more you know…
Judith Acosta & Judith Simon Prager Ph.D: The Worst is Over – Verbal First Aid to calm, promote healing and save lives
Some really good common sense ideas to help speed up recovery times and help the healing process. A bit long winded in places but the overall reasoning is sound and there are plenty of working examples.
A. Lowen: Narcissism: Denial of the True Self
I know at least two people who should read this book. One is an ex girlfriend and the other is an extremely bald hypnotist.
Steven Levenkron: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: Treating and Understanding Crippling Habits.
Another MUST READ for any ‘mind therapist.’ Steven Levenkron is a world-renowned psychotherapist and his opinions are worth reading. He explains Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) how it comes about, and more important, what can be done about it.
Bruce H Lipton Ph.D: The Biology of Belief – Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles
This is a fantastic book! Bruce Lipton is right up to date with the latest groundbreaking thinking and discoveries in New Biology. His explanations regarding the origins and evolution of life are easy to understand and ever so well presented.
Nick Lane: Life Ascending – The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
Beautifully described, an awe-inspiring and exhilarating tour of some of the most important ideas in modern biology. Ever wondered how the eye came into existence, how DNA came into being, or how consciousness developed? The answers are in this excellent book.
Bill Bryson: A Short History of Nearly Everything
Educational, informative, with a healthy dollop of Bill Bryson’s dry humour.
I found reading it very uplifting, which is why I’ve included it in the Library.
Ben Goldacre: Bad Science
Ben Goldacre is a journalist who writes a science column for The Guardian. Bad Science is a book about doing science badly which teaches you a more er… scientific approach to science, thereby doing good science, and doing it well. It changed the way I thought about experimentation and the way results are often reported in the media. He also has a sense of humour, which makes it a joyous read.
I used to have a sneaking suspicion that God might not exist, but as I went through life I became convinced of it.
I am now free.
C J Werleman: God Hates You – Hate Him Back – Making Sense of the Bible
I liked this book a lot because it’s written with the sort of dry humour that appeals to me. It examines the mythology of a loving and benevolent deity and concludes with an assessment of God’s thoroughly despicable behaviour and serious personality disorder. On the basis of this book, if God were a patient of mine, I would have him committed to high security psychiatric unit as quickly as possible. Preferably somewhere like Broadmoor.
C J Werleman: Jesus Lied – He Was Only Human: Debunking the New Testament
The cult of Jesus has passed its sell-by date. Using concrete evidence and detailed historical research, the author meticulously dismantles the greatest lie ever told.
George H. Smith: Atheism: The Case Against God
A totally unemotional treatise, demonstrating once and for all that belief in God is irrational to the point of absurdity.
David Mills: Atheist Universe – The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism
God is unnecessary for the creation or the existence of the universe. David Mills explains why in a way that even the fundamentalists will find it impossible to argue with.
Will Foote: The Bible Delusion – Why Belief in the Infallible Word of God is a Delusion
Even a cursory look at the story of the great flood, with a modicum of scientific knowledge, reveals it as incredible and absurd. What you think the Bible says and what the Bible actually says, are two different things, and what the Bible actually says is so far-fetched that it can’t possibly be the word of God.
Jason Long: Biblical Nonsense – A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians
Science to the rescue again! Dr. Long exposes the darker side of God, God’s stance on slavery, the Bible’s historical inaccuracies and outright lies, and the psychology behind Christian belief.
Darrel W. Ray Ed.D: The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture
This is one of the best books debunking religion I have ever read. Religion is just like a virus, passed from person to person, often from parent to child, undergoing occasional mutations, infecting the lives of others and our collective belief systems and modifying human behaviour to the extreme.
Craig A. James: The Religion Virus
The Religion Virus offers the psychologist’s perspective on the social and cultural evolution of religious belief. One of the best books I have read on the origins and perpetuity of religious belief.
Sam Harris: Letter to a Christian Nation: A Challenge to the Faith of America
How Christian fundamentalism has gone off the rails in America. Takes just a couple of hours to read, but it is an important message for those who are willing to listen, and an even more important message for those who aren’t!
Ken Smith BA: Ken’s Guide to the Bible
Ken’s Guide is the complete compendium of the Bible’s most ridiculous and embarrassing passages. The truth of the matter is, the vast majority of Christians don’t actually bother to read the Bible: the Bible, or at least selected passages, are read for them, usually by strange, below average height clinically disturbed people who wear funny clothes. Sex, drugs, prostitution, slavery, mass murder and child-sacrifice are popular themes – and that’s before we get to the bit about Sodom & Gomorrah. Ken picks out all the scandalous parts, including the bits where God was a very naughty boy!!!
Christopher Hitchens: God Is Not Great
The late Christopher Hitchens puts forward his own particular cognitive and finely reasoned argument against the existence of an omnipotent, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-feeling deity. This is a much better book than Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion, which I also read, but found it a plodding, thinly disguised excuse to show how clever Dawkins thinks he is.
God is Not Great is a much better book.
A veritable mine of information about how we are misled, conned, manipulated, sucked in, deceived, swindled, defrauded, tricked, robbed, cheated, scammed, hoodwinked, hoaxed, duped, exploited… et cetera.
Plenty to learn (and laugh at) here, although some of the material on the site is quite shocking. It does however cut through all the hypocritical nonsense.
L. Michael Hall & Barbara P. Belnap: The sourcebook of Magic: A Comprehensive Guide to the Technology of NLP
A thoroughly pretentious rehash of all your favourite false claims promulgated by the new religionists of NLP, from its elaborate and conceited title to its grandiose, kitschy prose. One for the bin. Or the toilet.
Joseph O’Connor & John Seymour: Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming
More of the same, but, I did find it quite useful for getting to grips with the basics. Still contains lots of vacuous nonsense, but you can see patterns developing. The only really useful stuff is taken from mainstream psychology – the sort of stuff any undergraduate degree student would instantly recognise. Other than that, it’s a paid-for advertisement for the pyramid selling scheme that is NLP.
Robert Dilts: Applications of NLP: A Practical Guide to Using NLP Techniques in Many Different Contexts
A great deal of pseudo-scientific waffle. A good psychology book contains more info on one page than this rambling tome does in its 280 pages.
Ian McDermott & Wendy Jago: The NLP Coach
More pretentious crap, but if you are interested in the basis of this monumentally pseudo-scientific claptrap, this is probably a good place to start.
Rhonda Byrne: The Secret
The biggest load of absolute tripe ever committed to paper – a criminal waste of trees, not to mention a pseudo-bluster of complete and utter nonsense. Like the Bible, if read properly, this book has to be one of the greatest advertisements for the gullibility of human folly ever written. Hysterically funny in parts (I found myself laughing out loud) although I don’t think that’s what Ms Byrne, an Australian reality TV producer, intended. You are full of it Ms Byrne!
Dr. Michael Heap: Scientific Papers on NLP
NLP – My favourite hobby-horse of vacuous nonsense, backed up (not before time) by diligent and painstaking research, carried out by Dr. Michael Heap of Sheffield University. Everything I always said about NLP is confirmed here! So thank you Dr. Heap!
STUDIES OF THE HUMAN CONDITION (AND SOME OF MY FAVOURITE BOOKS)
George Orwell: 1984
Want to understand the 21st Century? Then you need to read about the 20th!!! Orwell’s classic novel will make you think twice. Big Brother, Room 101 – this is where it all started.
John O’Farrell: An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, or… 2,000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge
If you thought you knew the quaint history of these green and pleasant British Isles, think again. There are lots of joyous surprises in this really funny (and disturbingly accurate) book.
Clive James: Fame in the 20th Century
Fame is a foreign country, and you need a special passport to get citizenship.
A great study of why (and how) we are bamboozled by celebrity!
Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece, set against the background of the Napoleonic Wars, complete with an appearance by the Corsican upstart himself. War And Peace explores all things human: love, jealousy, hatred, loss, ambition, seduction, revenge, the hopes and fears of generations, the rights of man, and some uppity Frenchies thrown in for good measure. Pierre’s search for the true meaning of life is in the end rewarded with the answer. If you can’t be bothered to read it (it takes weeks) then watch the BBC series on DVD starring the excellent Anthony Hopkins.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
This is Solzhenitsyn’s seminal work on life in the Soviet labour camps. I read it with increasing incredulity – how could so many millions succumb to such a monstrous abuse of power? Solzhenitsyn’s narrative is gripping – his descriptions of the purges morbidly fascinating. Twenty million ordinary and productive Russians sent to the camps on Stalin’s orders and turned into slave labour, in the most appalling and inhuman conditions, with an average life expectancy of three weeks.
A less appealing side of the human condition, but a perfect study of the horror man is capable of inflicting on his fellows. I couldn’t put it down; it was compelling, haunting.
P. J. O’Rourke: Parliament of Whores
A wonderful and beloved friend gave me this book to read on one of my travels through Australia. It’s a serious indictment of the American political system and it changed my view of America and made me think of the world in a different way. Astonishing.
Neal Gabler: An Empire of their Own: How the Jews invented Hollywood
More to the point, how Hollywood and thus America influenced the hopes and aspirations of the whole world.
Simon Sebag Montefiore: Stalin; The Court of the Red Tsar
A study in fear, manipulation and control. As devious and brutal as Stalin was, you have to admire the way he managed it.
Dimitri Volkogonov: Stalin; Triumph and Tragedy
Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili again, this time from the perspective of the insider. I bet you didn’t know Uncle Joe learned all his nasty manipulative tricks while studying for the priesthood!
Anatoly Rybakov: Children of the Arbat
Stalin makes a cameo appearance in this trilogy of books about life in the former Soviet Union, set in the years leading up to and including the Second World War. Beautifully written, it remains one of my favourite pieces of literature. Rybakov has the gift of getting you to identify and empathise with all the main characters. Makes you kinda glad you didn’t have to live through it though.
VIZ: Roger’s Profanisaurus: Das Krapital
The definitive Swearing Dictionary contains fully accurate observational and behavioural psychology. Also available as a free App for mobile phone or iPad.