The best books on getting what you want without being evil

John S. Seiter Author Of Persuasion: Social Influence and Compliance Gaining
By John S. Seiter

Who am I?

As an undergraduate in college, I worked selling men’s clothing. There was a rack of suits that, for whatever reason, would not sell, so my boss phoned a coworker and told her to cut the price of the suits by 50 percent. Misunderstanding him, she doubled the price instead. By the time our boss returned from vacation, nearly all those suits had been sold! It made no sense to me…until I read Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence. From there, I not only sold plenty of suits, I earned a Ph.D. at the University of Southern California, and eventually was named a Distinguished Professor at Utah State University.


I wrote...

Persuasion: Social Influence and Compliance Gaining

By Robert H. Gass, John S. Seiter,

Book cover of Persuasion: Social Influence and Compliance Gaining

What is my book about?

The newest edition of this field-leading book provides a highly readable, often entertaining, yet astute, presentation of major approaches to persuasion. Using real-life examples, often involving the authors’ own persuasive mishaps, the book encourages readers to develop and apply conclusions about persuasion in real-world settings. Along the way, readers are also introduced to major theories of persuasion as they apply to the practice of social influence in an array of contexts (e.g., advertising, marketing, politics, interpersonal relationships, social media, groups) and across a variety of topics (e.g., credibility, personality, deception, motivational appeals, visual persuasion). Finally, the book not only emphasizes the goal of effective persuasion, but also the importance of being ethical in one’s attempts to influence others.

The books I picked & why

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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

By Robert B. Cialdini,

Book cover of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Why this book?

This book, more than any other, inspired me to study the fascinating topic of persuasion. It not only helped me understand and defend myself against some of sneakiest tactics used by persuasion tricksters, it guided my thinking about what it means to be an ethical influencer. It is also chock full of “real life” examples, which makes it highly readable.


Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman,

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why this book?

If the study of human irrationality interests you as much as it does me, you’ll love this book! By reading it, you will learn a vast array of principles for explaining how and why people are influenced. The book is a perfect companion to my favorite theory of persuasion—the elaboration likelihood model—which helps us understand that decision-making is not always well thought out, but rather based on a multitude of cognitive shortcuts. 


Attitudes and Persuasion: Classic and Contemporary Approaches

By Richard E. Petty, John T. Cacioppo,

Book cover of Attitudes and Persuasion: Classic and Contemporary Approaches

Why this book?

What do I consider the most important theory of persuasion? The elaboration likelihood model provides a detailed, yet elegant, framework for understanding two primary “routes” through which people are influenced. This academic book not only helped me synthesize a huge body of previous theory and research, it still provides a practical blueprint for constructing my own persuasive messages. 


How to Win Friends and Influence People

By Dale Carnegie,

Book cover of How to Win Friends and Influence People

Why this book?

This book has been around longer than I have, which makes it borderline ancient. And yet, it is not—and probably never will be—outdated. The advice is so sage, so useful, and so well-written that I still recommend this book to students who want to develop essential communication skills. These skills, when appropriately applied, will make you a more effective persuader and, in my view, a better person too!


Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

By Jon Krakauer,

Book cover of Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Why this book?

This book might not make you a more effective persuader, but it provides a teeth-clenching case study about biases affecting decision-making when the stakes are at their highest. Why would anyone risk their life to summit Mount Everest? Reading this book suggests that overconfidence bias and the sunk cost effect are likely to blame. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in persuasion, decision making, and Mount Everest?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about persuasion, decision making, and Mount Everest.

Persuasion Explore 16 books about persuasion
Decision Making Explore 42 books about decision making
Mount Everest Explore 8 books about Mount Everest

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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