The best books on empathy

12 authors have picked their favorite books about empathy and why they recommend each book.

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Marvelous Maravilloso

By Carrie Lara, Christine Battuz (illustrator),

Book cover of Marvelous Maravilloso: Me and My Beautiful Family

What would the world be like if flowers were all black and white? If everything looked the same in a colorless world? A mixed-race girl learns about all of the colors of the world and the colors within her family. The message that not everyone has the same skin color, even within a family, is presented in a warm and positive light.


Who am I?

I have always loved children. I love tiny babies just discovering the world around them. I love elementary-age kids who are taking pride in developing new skills and learning how to deal with challenges. I love teens who are questioning and rethinking the things they thought they knew. I also love the science and practice of psychology (my profession for over thirty years) and, I love books. To date, I have written nine books. My audience ranges from preschool to high school and topics include strategies to understand and cope with problems as well as psychology as a topic of study.


I wrote...

Yes I Can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair

By Kendra J. Barrett, Jacqueline B. Toner, Claire A. B. Freeland, Violet Lemay (illustrator)

Book cover of Yes I Can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair

What is my book about?

Carolyn is a happy, energetic, first-grader who just happens to be in a wheelchair. She’s excited to start her new year of school and make new friends. Yes I Can! follows Carolyn on a typical day at home, at school, and even on a field trip. She can do most of the things the other kids do, even if sometimes she has to do it a little differently.

Written by a physical therapist and two psychologists, this picture book includes a note to parents, caregivers, and teachers with more information about discussing disabilities with children and helping them to build positive empathic relationships.

The Emotional Lives of Animals

By Marc Bekoff,

Book cover of The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter

I feel that true understanding of animals comes from deep within the human psyche, if only we would allow ourselves to indulge in our own natural instincts and needs. Scientist Marc Becoff’s years of research show that animals have rich emotional lives, like humans, and are not as different as we are taught to believe. He has assisted in the successful social revolution combining science and ethics, resulting in a call for reassessing both how we view animals and how we treat them. Not only do animals feel joy, love, surprise, sadness, fear, anger, and empathy, but they are now known to adhere to rules of fair play, wild justice, and their own types of honor. He emphasizes that real richness in relationships grows out of respect, compassion, and patience, as well as scientific understanding. I feel humane arrogance blocks these virtues, much to our detriment.


Who am I?

I have over 30 years in animal welfare advocacy and have rehabilitated then re-homed hundreds of dogs, cats and horses. As a professional humane educator, I consult with animal welfare professionals as well as adopters and have developed educational programs for all ages regarding the need for compassion and care of domestic and wild animals. I write books, blogs, and articles that fit into my missions of: 1) saving more animal lives by educating the people who care for them, and 2) humane education through storytelling. My children’s Pups & Purrs Series spotlights teaching compassion, respect, and tolerance. Each is narrated by its own dog protagonist.


I wrote...

Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs

By Sunny Weber,

Book cover of Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs

What is my book about?

Fearful dogs are the most commonly rejected and euthanized dog personality type. Many dogs have backgrounds of mistreatment, neglect, and outright cruelty. These dogs are afraid of noises, objects, and people. Saving the lives of timid dogs depends on helping them fit into the human world. Featuring unique stories of individual dogs and how I rehabilitated them, this book includes out-of-the-box problem-solving and quintessential tools for professional dog trainers, well-meaning foster families, and adopters who have taken a fearful dog into their homes and hearts.

Learn all aspects of dog fear, track progression, and discover how to live with a fearful dog. You can establish trust between your pup and yourself so you may find a fulfilling, deep, and meaningful relationship.

Mindwise

By Nicholas Epley,

Book cover of Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want

Epley, a behavioral scientist, provides an often-humorous take on our daily efforts to read the minds of others. He offers trenchant, real-life examples (in addition to scientific studies) of how we go horribly wrong – and why we sometimes get it right. In one clever experiment, people tapped out the tune of a song on a wooden desk while they hummed it in their heads. The tappers were wildly overconfident that others could identify the song – because it sounded so clear to themselves. Mindwise is a wonderful reminder to get out of our own heads and figure out the limits of what others can perceive.


Who am I?

I am a historian of international conflict who focuses on understanding the enemy. For most of my career, I have studied why we so often misread others, and how those misperceptions lead to war. The current crisis in Ukraine is just one more example of how the parties involved misunderstood each other. I believe that if we could improve this one ability, we would substantially lessen the likelihood, frequency, and severity of war.


I wrote...

A Sense of the Enemy: The High Stakes History of Reading Your Rival's Mind

By Zachary Shore,

Book cover of A Sense of the Enemy: The High Stakes History of Reading Your Rival's Mind

What is my book about?

More than 2000 years ago the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu advised us to know our enemies. The question has always been how. In A Sense of the Enemy, the historian Zachary Shore demonstrates that leaders can best understand an opponent not simply from his pattern of past behavior, but from his behavior at pattern breaks. Meaningful pattern breaks occur during dramatic deviations from the routine when the enemy imposes costs upon himself. It's at these unexpected moments, Shore explains, that successful leaders can learn what makes their rivals truly tick.

With vivid, suspenseful prose, he takes us into the minds of statesmen to see how they in turn tried to enter the minds of others. He shows how this type of mind-reading, which he calls "strategic empathy," shaped matters of war and peace. 

Be the Difference

By Jayneen Sanders, Cherie Zamazing (illustrator),

Book cover of Be the Difference: 40+ ideas for kids to create positive change using empathy, kindness, equality and environmental awareness

We’re all looking for ways to teach our children to care for each other as well as our planet. This is a wonderful way to engage kids and get them thinking about the greater good. Filled with fun ideas, children are empowered to make a difference. I love the discussion questions to prompt thinking and the place for children to write down their own ideas. 


Who am I?

I have been an educator for over 20 years teaching elementary-aged children. The environment is a passion of mine. After reading the book Plastic Ocean and meeting the author Charles Moore, I realized that the issues facing our environment are going to be best solved by the upcoming generation of children. They understand how important it is to preserve our planet. Combining my love of writing with my education background, I started writing books to teach children about the environment and inspire them to make lasting changes. I love recommending books that have the same mission. Small actions equal great changes! 


I wrote...

Midnight Mission: An Eco Avengers Series

By Dawn Wynne,

Book cover of Midnight Mission: An Eco Avengers Series

What is my book about?

When Mindy, Frankie, and Jagger discover a baby sea turtle far from the ocean they rush against time to return it back to sea. However, when they arrive at the beach, they stumble upon a startling discovery that may hinder the turtle's survival. Will the turtle be stranded on land forever? And what does the future hold for the rest of the sea turtles?

A fun, engaging book that will entertain children while also educating them about endangered sea turtles. 

Baker Cat

By Posy Simmonds,

Book cover of Baker Cat

Baker Cat is like a feline Cinderella, tasked to do all the hard work at the bakery. His responsibilities are endless. And at the end of the day, he’s still expected to rid the bakery of mice. Simmonds’ characterisation is faultless, with a timeless feel that reminds me of Beatrix Potter’s work.

Baker Cat is a funny and dramatic story told through a mix of speech balloons, comic panels, and traditional narrative sections. I have precious memories of sharing it with my own boys when they were young – we loved those tiny mice and Baker Cat’s delicious-looking pastries! Definitely one to read over and again.


Who am I?

I’m a writer, illustrator, and champion of children’s books, with approximately 90 titles published over the last 25 years. I use this experience to guide parents to quality picture books via my blog, Stories Worth Sharing, which aims to help parents nurture and connect with their kids through stories. I can trace this passion back to my childhood. Snuggled in my father’s arms, we’d explore fantastic places together – like One Hundred Acre Wood, Busy Town, and Zuckerman’s barn. Picture books are foundational in developing young minds. These selected titles put your child in someone else’s shoes and teach them to empathise with others.


I wrote...

Dangerous!

By Tim Warnes,

Book cover of Dangerous!

What is my book about?

Mole loves labelling things. All sorts of things, Anything really. Then one day, he finds a strange something on the path. Unable to name it, Mole starts describing it instead. It’s a lumpy-bumpy thing. With snippy-snappy teeth! Eeek! Look out, Mole!

Funny and tender, Dangerous! explores the theme, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. It shows how labels can be helpful – but they can also offend and hurt. Kids will feel for the small, helpless Mole and relate to the misunderstood Lumpy-Bumpy Thing. It gently teaches that we are all different – and if we make an effort, that stranger in our midst might just become our new best friend!

Sensitive Is the New Strong

By Anita Moorjani,

Book cover of Sensitive Is the New Strong: The Power of Empaths in an Increasingly Harsh World

I love this book from Anita – it feels like it resonates a lot with the messages in my original book on the empath experience yet includes some other stories and anecdotes that can relate to an even broader audience. I appreciate her core thesis that empaths are really the world’s healers especially at this time – here to teach empathy, compassion, and true connection simply by being who they truly are.


Who am I?

I always sensed I was from another planet, here to help create a new world by nature of my heightened sensitivity and ability to perceive beneath the surface of our supposed reality. After decades of struggling and nearly dying through addiction to mute my sensitivity, my healing path led me to see how being an empath is the greatest gift, once we learn to take care of ourselves and refine our abilities. My book The Empath Experience is the guide I wish I had when I was born, that tells my story and guides life-changing practices to master your energy and harness your empathic gifts as the superpowers they are.


I wrote...

The Empath Experience: What to Do When You Feel Everything

By Sydney Campos,

Book cover of The Empath Experience: What to Do When You Feel Everything

What is my book about?

Learn to lead an empowered life with this supportive and positive guide for those who are discovering their empath abilities and looking for information to help in understanding their gift, as well as how to embrace it and thrive in everyday life.

This is the book I wish I had when I was born, so I wrote it :-) It is an easy guide to understanding what it means to be an empath and how you can start to work with your sensitivity and energy as a gift instead of a burden. I included all the practices in here that I was sharing with energy healing clients for years – frankly, things I had taken for granted on my own path after going through so much to find solutions to my struggles. You never know how your medicine, especially what you take for granted because of familiarity, can change others' lives.

The Night I Followed the Dog

By Nina Laden,

Book cover of The Night I Followed the Dog

This book inspires happiness and laughter. I used to throw my voice when I read it aloud to students. I’d stop reading halfway through the story and ask students to make a few predictions. Where could the dog be going? Why is he dressed up? Why is he sneaking out of the house at night? What could be going on inside the building?


Who am I?

I’m a former reading specialist/educational specialist who still enjoys reading aloud to students, helping kids learn to read, and introducing them to quality literature. I love reading picture books...and I write them to entertain and empower kids.


I wrote...

The Thingity-Jig

By Kathleen Doherty, Kristyna Litten (illustrator),

Book cover of The Thingity-Jig

What is my book about?

Under the light of a silvery moon, inquisitive Bear ventures into People Town, where he makes quite the curious discovery. What is this? A springy thing—a bouncy thing—a sit-on-it, jump-on-it thing!

This Thingity-Jig is way too heavy to bring back to the woods by himself, however, so Bear runs home to tell his friends. But nobody wants to get out of bed to help! So Bear invents a Rolly-Rumpity to wheel the Thingity-Jig home, and then it all gets stuck in the mud. How will Bear tackle this bump in the road? With a Lifty-Uppity, of course! 

Doctor White

By Jane Goodall, Julie Litty (illustrator),

Book cover of Doctor White

This book inspires hope and is based on a true story. Think about the pros and cons of a dog being allowed in a hospital. What could go wrong with a dog walking the halls and visiting patients? Is it possible for patients to actually benefit from being visited by a dog?


Who am I?

I’m a former reading specialist/educational specialist who still enjoys reading aloud to students, helping kids learn to read, and introducing them to quality literature. I love reading picture books...and I write them to entertain and empower kids.


I wrote...

The Thingity-Jig

By Kathleen Doherty, Kristyna Litten (illustrator),

Book cover of The Thingity-Jig

What is my book about?

Under the light of a silvery moon, inquisitive Bear ventures into People Town, where he makes quite the curious discovery. What is this? A springy thing—a bouncy thing—a sit-on-it, jump-on-it thing!

This Thingity-Jig is way too heavy to bring back to the woods by himself, however, so Bear runs home to tell his friends. But nobody wants to get out of bed to help! So Bear invents a Rolly-Rumpity to wheel the Thingity-Jig home, and then it all gets stuck in the mud. How will Bear tackle this bump in the road? With a Lifty-Uppity, of course! 

Applied Empathy

By Michael Ventura,

Book cover of Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership

With business conditions and prospects looking so difficult, we will need to be ever more strategic in the use of our resources. In this light, Michael Ventura’s practical approach to inserting empathy into leadership and how businesses should function with a higher degree of empathy is a tremendous read. Ventura uses a host of case studies based on the work he’s done with his company, Sub Rosa. As such, the material is real life and the book is packed with a host of great and practical exercises. While it’s all about empathy in business, the book is also a good reminder of how empathy can be useful in our private lives, our intimate relationships and in society in general. 


Who am I?

Having studied literature at university and been a closet nerd, coding at night in a dank basement room, I've always been intrigued by the interface between human and machine. Then, as a senior executive in a large multinational, I was acutely aware of the value of empathy as a leadership skill. In a world that is increasingly divided and divisive, I’ve become an empathy activist. I believe that the business world can be a force for positive change, but as a society we will need to engage in a much more meaningful and rigorous debate about the ethics involved in the opportunities offered by using artificial intelligence and robots in the workplace. 


I wrote...

Heartificial Empathy: Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence

By Minter Dial,

Book cover of Heartificial Empathy: Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence

What is my book about?

Heartificial Empathy looks at why and how companies should learn to flex their empathic muscle, and how to encode empathy into Artificial Intelligence. Empathy is a key skill for every aspect of your business and to create a powerful culture. This book is for any business executive looking to accelerate their transformation efforts, upgrade customer centricity, improve customer service, drive innovation or boost employee engagement. It explores specific business cases and the prominent ethical questions, all the while providing practical advice and concrete tips. The author reveals a very real experience of interacting with an empathic bot for five full days. 

The Empathy Effect

By Helen Riess, Liz Neporent,

Book cover of The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, and Connect Across Differences

Of all of the competencies that repeatedly predict effective leadership and creating and maintaining of key relationships, is empathy. At the heart of any relationship and perhaps the only antidote to rampant narcissism in our society is empathy. As a prominent psychiatrist and scholar, Helen chronicles decades of research and explains the neural mechanisms that enable us to relate to others, build better relationships ad even inspire others. Her personal stories and those of patients and colleagues make the research come alive with compassion and meaning.


Who am I?

As a professor and scientist, using my Intentional Change Theory (ICT), I have studied sustained desired change of individuals, teams, organizations, communities, and countries since 1967. I have authored more than 200 articles and 9 books on leadership, competencies, emotional intelligence, competency development, coaching, neuroscience, and management education (including the international best-seller, Primal Leadership with Daniel Goleman and Annie McKee and the recent Helping People Change with Melvin Smith and Ellen Van Oosten). I run several Coursera MOOCs, including Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence which has over a million enrolled from 215 countries.


I wrote...

Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

By Ellen Van Oosten, Richard E. Boyatzis, Melvin Smith

Book cover of Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

What is my book about?

Helping others is a good thing. Often, as a leader, manager, doctor, teacher, or coach, it's central to your job. But even the most well-intentioned efforts to help others can be undermined by a simple truth: We almost always focus on trying to "fix" people, correcting problems or filling the gaps between where they are and where we think they should be. Unfortunately, this doesn't work well, if at all, to inspire sustained learning or positive change.

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