The best books on honest communication and realistic insight into language usage

Who am I?

What qualifies me to compile this list of books, probably goes back to my childhood and the confusion I felt about human society and its conflict in word usage, compared to actual meaning. This fascination with psychology and linguistics, culminated in me reading perhaps hundreds of books, some of which are included here. My mother described me as a quiet baby and a child who would only say something, if they thought it was important, possible indicators of autism and the little professor syndrome of silent observation and study.

I wrote...

Logic List English: Rhyming Word etc. - Vol 1 A

By Tony Sandy,

Book cover of Logic List English: Rhyming Word etc. - Vol 1 A

What is my book about?

Logic Lists English as a series of eight books, strips language naked, pointing out it is a simplified code, made obvious in the film Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage. The native speakers used their own language to relay military secrets, which the enemy couldn’t understand as they didn’t know the linguistic rules being used.

The first volume, Rhyming Words, uses a vertical grid, to show common combinations of consonants (Br- / Bl- ) and vowel sounds horizontally (A / E / I / O / U). It is set out in this way as columns for teaching purposes in the classroom, repeating the sounds firstly, then later writing out the patterns shown. This format ensures changes in language are accommodated over the years as sounds won’t really alter, even if the spelling does.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

By Temple Grandin, Catherine Johnson,

Book cover of Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

Why this book?

Like her book Thinking In Pictures, Animals In Translation is about how Temple Grandin solved problems, like ways to improve animal handling in slaughterhouses, by putting herself literally in the position of the animals and ‘seeing’ how it could change the way they were treated, making it less distressing for them. This then is about visual communication, not verbal as words themselves are only part of the communication process, with tone of voice and body language being the greater part of it. Speaking for myself, I found language problematic as what someone said might be contradicted by what they did or the tone of their voice.

Games People Play

By Eric Berne,

Book cover of Games People Play

Why this book?

In Games People Play, Eric Berne points out the way we can have three major roles in our lives, depending upon who we are communicating with and how we are speaking to them. This can include adult to adult, where communication is direct and factual or it can be parent to child (authoritarian), child to parent (I want or rebellious (I don’t want). In all these cases it is emotional, unlike adult to adult.

Wittgenstein said language was meaningful through use and consisted of word games, unlike Berne who saw them as political/psychological games and not linguistic ones alone, except in the case of adult to adult (equals).

Saussure For Beginners

By W. Terrence Gordon, Abbe Lubell (illustrator),

Book cover of Saussure For Beginners

Why this book?

In Saussure for Beginners, by Terrence Gordon and Abbe Lubell, we discover another linguist like Wittgenstein. While the latter talked about it being a tool for communication (social, there is no private language he famously said), the former just said that they were more simply signs, indicators of something in the real world, or subjective truth (look here). This for me beautifully simplified what language is, rather than the over-intellectualising of the subject by most academics like Chomsky and even Wittgenstein himself, whose later work acknowledged this. Saussure is famous for never writing anything down so the only knowledge we have of his work comes from former students of his, who did take notes of what he said.

Seeing Voices

By Oliver Sacks,

Book cover of Seeing Voices

Why this book?

Here we have another of Oliver Sacks' brilliant books, the subject this time being the deaf. My brother’s wife is profoundly deaf as is her brother (heredity disease). He had a cochlear implant but she refused one and knowing my brother I can’t blame her. To me the most fascinating part of the book is the development of sign language and how different forms appeared in different countries. The creation of deaf schools, like the one started by Alexander Graham Bell, whose parents were both profoundly deaf, caused controversy because he didn’t believe in sign language and tried to force his pupils to use only speech in communication. As they had no feedback for sound, this was unbelievably stupid in my opinion as you can only change what you sense and can make sense of. Those who sign can ‘speak’ rapidly and clearly by ‘visual’ means, whereas those who try to talk have no way of knowing what they sound like to others.

Words Fail Us: In Defence of Disfluency

By Jonty Claypole,

Book cover of Words Fail Us: In Defence of Disfluency

Why this book?

This book is a UK best seller. It deals with a variety of communication difficulties, including the author’s own stuttering. The only thing it doesn’t really cover is literacy, occasionally mentioning it, which is my only beef with it. Problems like aphasia caused by strokes, where words are forgotten or where words are slurred as in degenerative brain disease are well covered as are autism and Tourette's syndrome, which isn’t all swearing but includes tics. He also asks do we need to be hyper-fluent in speech as some people are and mentions ways people try to disguise their disability. He argues that such defects are genetic and that exercises like slowing down speech therefore can’t help but then mentions contrarily instances where they do, indicating the speed of delivery matters. He also fails to mention that self-censorship through fear of embarrassment, puts conscious blocks on communication.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in autism, deaf culture, and sign language?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about autism, deaf culture, and sign language.

Autism Explore 40 books about autism
Deaf Culture Explore 8 books about deaf culture
Sign Language Explore 15 books about sign language

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Bones Would Rain from the Sky, The Emotional Lives of Animals, and Alex & Me if you like this list.