The best self-control books

7 authors have picked their favorite books about self-control and why they recommend each book.

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Can't Hurt Me

By David Goggins,

Book cover of Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

Can’t Hurt Me is a book about becoming mentally tough. As a real estate investor bad things happen all the time and it helps to understand that and almost build a mental callus so it doesn’t impact you. Without the ability to move on from evictions, breaking water heaters, plumbing issues, etc. you can go nuts and not accomplish your goals.  

Who am I?

Leaving the Rat Race behind was not easy and it took 15 years but it is so worth it. Unfortunately, many people are just like me in that they don’t even know they are trapped in the Rat Race running faster and faster. I want to highlight the Rat Race and What it takes to get out as life is so much better when you are not trapped.

I wrote...

One Rental at a Time: The Journey to Financial Independence Through Real Estate

By Michael Zuber,

Book cover of One Rental at a Time: The Journey to Financial Independence Through Real Estate

What is my book about?

One Rental at a Time is simply the story of a busy couple who starts investing in real estate after suffering huge stock market losses. We share the good and the bad of our 15-year journey that rides the wave up and the epic crash called the Great Recession. We include our keys to success and lessons learned to help others get started and avoid our errors.

Me and My Feelings

By Vanessa Green Allen,

Book cover of Me and My Feelings: A Kids' Guide to Understanding and Expressing Themselves

This book lays a great foundation to help children understand their feelings (and the feelings of others). The author draws on her experience as a school counselor to expertly walk the reader through some essential social-emotional learning. The bright colors and clever illustrations keep kids engaged, and the activities throughout make this a fabulous title to use at home, school, or in the counseling office.⁠

Who am I?

My super-power is making brain science accessible and entertaining for children and adults alike. I am living this out as an author, mental health counselor, and the founder of BraveBrains. In addition to training parents and professionals, I have the joy of sharing my passion and expertise through podcast appearances, blogs, and articles. The lightbulb moments are my favorite, and I'm committed to helping people bring what they learn home in practical ways. I write picture books because the magic of reading and re-reading stories light up the brain in a powerful way. But don’t worry…I always include some goodies for the adults in the back of the book.

I wrote...

What's Inside Your Backpack?

By Jessica Sinarski, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (illustrator),

Book cover of What's Inside Your Backpack?

What is my book about?

Zoey Harmon just wants to feel light-hearted and carefree. Unfortunately, she keeps getting weighed down by pesky “books” in her backpack, like Worry and Shame. Much to her surprise, she’s not the only one! Zoey learns that the adults in her life deal with these difficult feelings too! Luckily, they have some bright ideas that can help her set aside the books she’s not meant to carry! Will it be enough to help her with the biggest book of all?

While there are no quick fixes for all of life’s complex problems, What’s Inside Your Backpack? highlights some of the ways we can nurture resilience in body and mind.

White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts

By Daniel M. Wegner,

Book cover of White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and the Psychology of Mental Control

This is an easily accessible book based on Wegner's brilliant work on consciousness and mental control. I have always found Wegner’s work utterly fascinating as it provides such a convincing picture of a mind constantly in a struggle to think coherently – something that I easily recognise in my own conscious awareness. The findings on intrusive implicit thoughts were particularly influential in my own writing about the conflict between dormant thoughts and conscious appraisal that may be factors in why magical thinking surfaces in the rational mind.

Who am I?

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the supernatural and wanted to believe in the paranormal. On reaching university, I discovered there was no reliable evidence for such phenomena but rather there was a much more satisfying explanation based on the weaknesses and wishes of human psychology. Development is critical to human psychology and as I specialized in children’s thinking, I found more reasons to understand the natural origins of the peculiarities of our reasoning. SuperSense was my first popular science book to expound my ideas, but all of my subsequent books apply similar novel ways of explaining human behaviour from surprising perspectives. 

I wrote...

SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

By Bruce Hood,

Book cover of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

What is my book about?

Would you willingly wear the cardigan of a killer? Do you think you can tell when you are being watched by someone you can’t see? Do you believe in ghosts or spirits? Even in this modern scientific era, most people believe in phenomena that if true would violate the laws of Nature. Even individuals who are not religious hold supernatural beliefs even though they may not be aware of them. In SuperSense, I trace the origin of magical thinking to the development of children’s thinking. Rather than indoctrination, I argue that children are naturally inclined to infer the presence of hidden structure, energies, essences, and all manner of causal entities that lay the foundation for later adult magical beliefs that can operate implicitly in our thinking. 

Governing the Soul

By Nikolas Rose,

Book cover of Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self

Nikolas Rose’s exceptional book Governing the Soul expanded Foucault’s arguments, focusing on how government networks were created in collaboration with psychological specialists in the 20th century to create unique webs of expertise that helped individuals to manage and govern themselves. The result is an excellent exposition of the theory of governmentality. Rose begins with a discussion of how the Second World War encouraged new forms of ‘psychological warfare,’ where strength of mind could be assessed and selected to create the most successful fighting subjects. This created a group of professionals who also advised on the organisation of labour forces and who could teach the population to be productive and contented workers.

This expertise was extended to training children as young citizens who had to adapt to government needs via schools and social services. Rose’s point is that this created a system of power and government that was not top-down…

Who am I?

My interest in this topic began after my father died when I was a young teenager and I was left looking for answers, explanations, and meanings. My dad was an architect and had written a book on Jeremy Bentham’s panoptican and prison architecture published before the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s famous Discipline and Punish. A small collection of Foucault’s books stood prominently on my father’s bookshelves and I really wanted to understand them. At university I studied all of Foucault’s works and many authors inspired by him. These are the best books that explain how we have developed philosophical and psychological theories to understand ourselves in the contemporary world.

I wrote...

The Metamorphosis of Autism: A History of Child Development in Britain

By Bonnie Evans,

Book cover of The Metamorphosis of Autism: A History of Child Development in Britain

What is my book about?

My book explores the background to contemporary theories of child development, and the neurodiversity movement, by explaining the rapid increase in diagnoses of autism in children that occurred at the turn of the 21st Century. I argue that the way we understand children’s thoughts, motivations, and actions is directly influenced by the legal models that have been established to protect them as individual subjects with unique social rights. Drawing from a large array of government and scientific archives, I explain how the closure of state institutions and the growth of special education was accompanied by a complete metamorphosis in the meaning of autism in the 1960s and 1970s that had a knock-on effect on everyday diagnoses in educational, psychological, and other settings. 


By Daniel Goleman,

Book cover of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

The subtitle of Focus is The Hidden Driver of Excellence, yet this driver is arguably hidden no more upon the book’s release. As a journalist, psychologist, and top-notch researcher, Goleman is uniquely qualified to delve into the ‘science of attention.’ Plus, he has accumulated plenty of street cred from the various iterations of his Emotional Intelligence canon. 

Goleman compares attention to a muscle; requiring regular use to build it up. I couldn’t agree more. This premise is supported by myriad examples, accompanied by useful techniques for application in all aspects of life.

Who am I?

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” - Goethe. As Singletasking notes, we’ve become relentlessly disrespectful of the people and experiences right in front of us. Reversing this is a mission of mine. Nothing seems more important than redirecting our lifelong attention to what matters most. As an international author and speaker about both Singletasking and personality styles, I’m convinced paying attention to and honoring each other is the key to a meaningful life and deep relationships.

I wrote...

Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

By Devora Zack,

Book cover of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

What is my book about?

Too many of us have become addicted to the popular, enticing, dangerously misleading drug of multitasking. But you can beat it, while improving your life in the process.

Singletasking marshals convincing neuroscientific evidence to prove that you really can’t do more by trying to tackle several things at once—it’s an illusion. There is a better way to deal with all the information and interruptions that bombard us today. Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently yet firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.

I Really Want the Cake

By Simon Philip, Lucia Gaggiotti (illustrator),

Book cover of I Really Want the Cake

When our heroine and her little dog spy a spectacular cake just sitting alone on the kitchen table, it's on! The note attached from Mom says "You must not eat the cake." But what's a kid to do? She tries lots of activities to help her forget about cake but will temptation win out? This book is fun, funny, and well written. I love the drama of the situation and the art (by Lucia Gaggioti) is spot on. Fun to read dramatically aloud to both kids and adults. (Pair it with a reading of Green Eggs and Ham!)

Who am I?

I'm an award-winning children's book author who loves everything about kid's books--including the smell! With over 50 books on bookstore shelves-- which have been read aloud hundreds of times all over the world-- I feel that I've become an expert on the subject.

I wrote...

People Don't Bite People

By Lisa Wheeler, Molly Idle (illustrator),

Book cover of People Don't Bite People

What is my book about?

People Don't Bite People is a humorous, yet helpful, look at a common early childhood problem. As the book says...It's good to bite a carrot. It's good to bite a steak. It's bad to bite your sister. She's not a piece of cake! Yes, there are a lot of things that go into toddler and preschool mouths. A person should not be one of them!

The Marshmallow Test

By Walter Mischel,

Book cover of The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success

Researchers placed a marshmallow in front of a child, and if they could wait for several minutes without eating it, they would be rewarded with an additional marshmallow. This is the famous psychology experiment known as the Marshmallow Test, and it teaches us what it takes to acquire the habit of delaying gratification for a greater reward. The children who performed well on this test not only had good grades in school but also tended to be healthier and less likely to abuse drugs later as adults. Taking the test results at face value, one might conclude that much of life is predetermined by genetics. However, this book also shows there were certain techniques which greatly improved the test results—and that’s what gives me hope.

Who am I?

When I became a minimalist, I found that having less made my household chores so much easier. Before then, I thought I was a loser who lets dirty dishes and laundry pile up. But when my environment changed, what I had believed was my personality also shifted. Once my apartment was tidy, it became a habit to do the dishes right away and vacuum the floor before going out, and my life became consistently enjoyable. But other habits were harder nuts to crack, like quitting drinking or exercising regularly. In Hello, Habits I write about my journey of acquiring these habits through a process of trial and error.

I wrote...

Hello, Habits: A Minimalist's Guide to a Better Life

By Fumio Sasaki,

Book cover of Hello, Habits: A Minimalist's Guide to a Better Life

What is my book about?

Fumio Sasaki changed his life when he became a minimalist. But before minimalism could really stick, he had to make it a habit. All of us live our lives based on the habits we’ve formed, from when we get up in the morning to what we eat and drink to how likely we are to actually make it to the gym. In Hello, Habits, Sasaki explains how we can acquire the new habits that we want―and get rid of the ones that don’t do us any good.

Drawing on leading theories and tips about the science of habit formation from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, along with examples from popular culture and tried-and-tested techniques from his own life, he unravels common misperceptions about "willpower" and "talent," and offers a step-by-step guide to success.

Social Skills for Kids

By Keri K. Powers,

Book cover of Social Skills for Kids: From Making Friends and Problem-Solving to Self-Control and Communication

Even tiny kids get glued to their game screens, without being connected to the internet yet. And older kids are even more addicted. We've all heard how dependent kids are on "likes" and how depressed they get if their life doesn't compare with what they see online. This means we have an entire generation of kids who spend waaay too much time on the computer. They haven't developed as many social skills as they're going to need. And this book addresses it. Children will feel more confident at school and in any social setting. I'd love to see manners and etiquette lessons come back-- here's a start!

Who am I?

I love playing with my kids. When my eldest was eight and we were sitting on the porch together he said, “On my last day of being playful, I want to play with you the whole day. I sure hope it’s on a Saturday.” My kids know that I turn most things into a game, that I’ll screech and stop for a tarantula on the road because it’s educational, that I'll get them to sing their quiz answers, and that I’ll sculpt a cake into almost anything for a school project. I believe learning should be fun, so we would drink lemonade out of measuring cups, guess how many hops from the bed to the closet, and have Whipped Cream Spray Wars every summer (outside, thank you). I also think families would spend more time together if they had a great collection of cool—and easy—stuff to do together. As a writer I’m creative, and never run out of fun ideas. Why not share them with the world?

I wrote...

Family Funbook

By Joni Hilton,

Book cover of Family Funbook

What is my book about?

I’ve always involved my four kids in short activities to get them to hurry along—they never wanted to miss “project time.” It was so fun that it grew until my friends begged me to compile my ideas into a book. Well, two books, actually (the other one is called Five Minute Miracles: 373 Quick Daily Projects for You and Your Kids to Share). If you want quality family time, and wish you had an easy manual of ideas, you have come to the right mom! These just use items you already have around the house, and you’ll love the laughs and closeness they’ll build. Oh—and definitely snap photos.


By Michele Borba,

Book cover of Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine

Michele Borba begins her latest book by getting right to the heart and mind of what matters for optimal child development—and then she moves on to the importance of cultivating will. In total, she focuses on seven integral points—self-confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism—describing why each of these attributes matters, and how to nurture them. If you want your child to be happy, resilient, and able to flourish even through adversity, then Thrivers is an excellent resource for you.

Who am I?

I write about supporting and encouraging children’s and teens’ intelligence, creativity, productivity, and well-being. I’m an educational consultant with over 35 years of experience working with parents, teachers, and students within diverse communities, and I’m the award-winning author of seven books. I focus a lot on gifted education and procrastination. Within my books, articles, and presentations, there are tons of strategies and resources to help motivate kids—and empower their learning. My books include Being Smart about Gifted Learning and Beyond Intelligence (both co-authored with Dona Matthews), ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids, Bust Your BUTS, and Not Now, Maybe Later.

I wrote...

Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate

By Joanne Foster,

Book cover of Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate

What is my book about?

Bust Your BUTS helps people 10+ understand, prevent, manage, and eliminate procrastination. In this follow-up to my parenting book, Not Now, Maybe Later, I describe 28 BUTS (different reasons why kids procrastinate). I don’t judge—rather I offer concise, relatable explanations, and I share hundreds of practical tips for busting those BUTS. There’s information on motivation, and on how to confront various challenges, become organized, use time wisely, set attainable goals, and become more productive.

Bust Your BUTS received a Benjamin Franklin Award™ from the Independent Book Publishers’ Association. This is the book procrastinators need now. Plus, it’s a timely resource for parents, teachers, or anyone who wants to learn more about effort, responsibility, and fulfillment. A quick and motivating read—no BUTS about it!

Find Your Red Thread

By Tamsen Webster,

Book cover of Find Your Red Thread: Make Your Big Ideas Irresistible

Most business owners have a difficult time translating their ideas into words. Without the right words, it’s impossible to get buy-in for your big ideas. The Red Thread is a simple method to make a compelling argument for why your idea matters and why people should care. If you’re looking to get clarity around an idea and make it irresistible for others, this book is a great place to start.

Who am I?

Michelle Mazur is a messaging expert who works with brilliant business owners who are shaking things up but having trouble talking about it. She combines the tools of successful social movements with the qualitative research skills she earned in her Communication Ph.D. to help them craft their powerful, captivating message. She lives in Seattle, WA with her adoring husband, three obsessive felines, and a huge collection of Duran Duran memorabilia. 

I wrote...

3 Word Rebellion: Create a One-of-a-Kind Message that Grows Your Business into a Movement

By Michelle A. Mazur,

Book cover of 3 Word Rebellion: Create a One-of-a-Kind Message that Grows Your Business into a Movement

What is my book about?

What do Start with Why, The 5-Second Rule, Black Lives Matter, and #Metoo have in common? Each possesses an uncopyable message that communicates the change these entrepreneurs and social movements want to create. You already have a one-of-a-kind message inside of you that will not only spread like wildfire but will also change minds and incite action. I wrote this book because I know how hard and how essential messaging is to business. In this book, I walk you through the exact process I use with clients to create a message and the supporting messages that grab attention, get you known for your work and lead people to work with your business.

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