The most recommended self-control books

Who picked these books? Meet our 23 experts.

23 authors created a book list connected to self-control, and here are their favorite self-control books.
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What type of self-control book?


Governing the Soul

By Nikolas Rose,

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

Bonnie Evans Author Of The Metamorphosis of Autism: A History of Child Development in Britain

From the list on the making of the modern self.

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.

Bonnie's book list on the making of the modern self

Why did Bonnie love this book?

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…

By Nikolas Rose,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Governing the Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work is now widely recognised as one of the founding texts in a new approach to analyzing the links between political power, expertise and the self. This "governmentality" perspective has had important implications for a range of academic disciplines including criminology, political theory, sociology and psychology and has generated much theoretical innovation and empirical investigation. This second edition adds a new introduction setting out the methodological and conceptual bases of this approach and a new final chapter that considers some of the implications of recent developments in the government of subjectivity.

I Really Want the Cake

By Simon Philip, Lucia Gaggiotti (illustrator),

Book cover of I Really Want the Cake

Lisa Wheeler Author Of People Don't Bite People

From the list on picture books that are even better read aloud.

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.

Lisa's book list on picture books that are even better read aloud

Why did Lisa love this book?

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!)

By Simon Philip, Lucia Gaggiotti (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Really Want the Cake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There's a smell I can't ignore.
It's wafting through the kitchen door.
It's time for me to find out more.
I think it might be cake.

How do you resist the most amazing cake ever? Especially when your mum has left a note saying that you MUST NOT eat the cake?

This wonderful rhyming text from Simon Philip, author of You Must Bring a Hat, is illustrated with huge energy and humour by Lucia Gaggiotti.

Life Skills for Puppies

By Helen Zulch, Daniel S. Mills, Peter Baumber (photographer)

Book cover of Life Skills for Puppies: Laying the Foundation for a Loving, Lasting Relationship

Deborah Taylor-French Author Of Red Sky at Night: Dog Leader Mysteries

From the list on dogs and canine behavior.

Who am I?

When I’m not out rescuing lost dogs or walking our dog, Beau, in the hills of Sonoma County, I’m reading, writing, blogging, or offering writers' support. Our family started when we took in a baby for foster care, then a year later, after great effort, prayer, and help, we completed her adoption. As for canines, we’ve adopted four dogs, all from dogs returned to their breeders or an animal shelter. Three of our dogs happened to be only one year old when we took them in. I continue to research and edit my Dog Leader Mysteries blog. Twelve years blogging about saving dogs.

Deborah's book list on dogs and canine behavior

Why did Deborah love this book?

Loved the foreword by Jean Donaldson. “What a dog lover should be most concerned about is fear in our puppies and dogs.” Why? Fear behaviors start with growling and snarling, then leads to snapping and biting. Too many big dogs lose their lives from biting accidents. We want our puppies to feel confident and free to sometimes say no. 

Repeat. Be kind. Be patient.

There happen to be many styles and methods of training dogs. Unfortunately, Animal Shelters and the Humane Society report homeless canines as 3.1 million in the U.S.A. Plus, each year in the U.S., 3.9 million dogs are abandoned or given to shelters. Shocking facts. We dog lovers need to do a much better job socializing and training our best friends.

By Helen Zulch, Daniel S. Mills, Peter Baumber (photographer)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life Skills for Puppies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

EEvery year millions of puppies enter homes, carrying their new family's expectation of a wonderful relationship. Sadly, many are re-homed or lose their lives as the result of behaviours which their owners find difficult to live with. Helping a puppy to grow into a resilient dog, capable of coping with the challenges of daily living, whilst retaining a good quality of life and exhibiting behaviours acceptable within society, is not an easy task. This book aims to simplify puppy education by presenting the skills that are required to achieve these goals within the context of everyday life. By enabling owners…

Asceticism of the Mind

By Inbar Graiver,

Book cover of Asceticism of the Mind: Forms of Attention and Self-Transformation in Late Antique Monasticism

Jamie Kreiner Author Of The Wandering Mind: What Medieval Monks Tell Us About Distraction

From the list on medieval brainiacs.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of the early Middle Ages. There are all sorts of unexpected differences and similarities between modern and medieval life, and things get especially interesting when it comes to thinking about thinking. Our understanding of how our minds work has obviously changed—and so have the ways that we actually use them. Medieval thinkers in Europe and the Mediterranean world struggled with concentration and memory and information overload, just like we do. But they were savvier in dealing with those problems, and these books invite you into the wonderful world of their cognitive practices. You’ll probably find yourself experimenting with many of these techniques along the way!

Jamie's book list on medieval brainiacs

Why did Jamie love this book?

Early Christian monks in the eastern Mediterranean chalked up many of their mental struggles to demonic interference—and yet their approaches to the problem of attention share some striking similarities to modern psychology.

Graiver makes the case that monks’ talk of demons was not a superstitious diagnosis but a pragmatic one: it helped monks try to strike a balance between monitoring their thoughts and thinking too hard about them, deal with unwanted thoughts before they became all-consuming, and figure how to keep it together when their thoughts were all over the place.

I love that this book takes early monks and modern psychologists equally seriously. And even if you don’t start blaming your problems on demons after reading it, you will still have learned a lot about the promises and perils of attention management.

By Inbar Graiver,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Asceticism of the Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Asceticism is founded on the possibility that human beings can profoundly transform themselves through training and discipline. In particular, asceticism in the Eastern monastic tradition is based on the assumption that individuals are not slaves to the habitual and automatic but can be improved by ascetic practice and, with the cooperation of divine grace, transform their entire character and cultivate special powers and skills. Asceticism of the Mind explores the strategies that enabled Christian ascetics in the Egyptian, Gazan, and Sinaitic monastic traditions of late antiquity to cultivate a new form of existence. At the book's center is a particular…

Book cover of kids are worth it! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline

Rachel Dodds Author Of Are We There Yet? Traveling More Responsibly with Your Children

From the list on traveling more responsibly with children.

Who am I?

I love travel and I'm also passionate about making the world more sustainable. When I was 13, on vacation in Mexico, I saw raw sewage running down the beach. My father said to me, "you can choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem." I think that set me on a track that we need to help animals, the environment, and those who do not have a strong voice. Even if I can only do one thing better – that's still better than not doing anything at all! I'm passionate about traveling more responsibly with my family because we ultimately make life better for our children and also for ourselves.

Rachel's book list on traveling more responsibly with children

Why did Rachel love this book?

When I first held my daughter, I was filled with dread. I had no idea what to do and felt like everyone gave me conflicting advice. I had traveled a lot and wanted to travel with my daughter but was unsure if I could still travel the same way. After reading Barbara Coloroso’s book, it gave me the confidence that it was my choice how I raised my daughter but it was also my responsibility. I needed to give her choices but I also needed to give her guidelines and rules and set expectations. So many of the lessons about child raising I also applied to traveling with children. Now my daughter has been on hundreds of trips with me and to 13 countries. She has turned into a resilient, capable kid (so far!). 

By Barbara Coloroso,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked kids are worth it! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The parenting classic, now revised with new chapters, checklists, and information about today's most pressing issues regarding our children

This bestselling guide rejects "quick-fix" solutions and focuses on helping kids develop their own self-discipline by owning up to their mistakes, thinking through solutions, and correcting their misdeeds while leaving their dignity intact. Barbara Coloroso shows these principles in action through dozens of examples -- from sibling rivalry to teenage rebellion; from common misbehaviors to substance abuse and antisocial behavior. She also explains how to parent strong-willed children, effective alternatives to time-outs, bribes, and threats, and how to help kids resolve…

True (. . . Sort Of)

By Katherine Hannigan,

Book cover of True (. . . Sort Of)

Michelle Mulder Author Of After Peaches

From the list on kids’ stories about speaking up.

Who am I?

As a kid, I rarely spoke up, and I certainly didn’t think I had much influence. As a young adult, though, I came across true stories of kids who stood up for what they believed in. These kids inspired many of my own books, and now whenever I’m looking for something to read, I look for novels about kids who screw up their courage to speak up for a fairer, more inclusive, richer world.

Michelle's book list on kids’ stories about speaking up

Why did Michelle love this book?

Katherine Hannigan creates quirky characters that I love, so when I saw True (… Sort Of) in our apartment building’s book exchange box, I snatched it up. Delly Patterson is an unlikely hero. She starts the book as the town troublemaker, bold in a way that I never dared to be as a child. Reading this book was like catapulting myself into a wilder, more adventurous childhood of my own without getting into trouble myself. Delly eventually uses her boldness to stand up for someone with more bravery than many adults might have. (I’d also like to give a shout-out to Katherine Hannigan for including a nonbinary character at a time when hardly anyone else – in society, and especially in children’s books – acknowledged nonbinary people.)

By Katherine Hannigan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked True (. . . Sort Of) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can friendship save you? The day Ferris Boyd moves to town, Delly Pattison is sure a special surpresent (a present that is a surprise) is on its way. Instead, Delly ends up in even more trouble than usual. The Boyds' arrival in River Bluffs means big changes for Brud Kinney, too. He can't believe who he's hanging around with. Ferris Boyd isn't like anyone Delly or Brud have ever known. Ferris is a mystery and a wonder. Through friendship, though, Delly, Brud, and Ferris discover truths that will change their lives. And bring them the best surpresent of all. Includes…


By Daniel Goleman,

Book cover of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Devora Zack Author Of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

From the list on to singletask what matters most.

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.

Devora's book list on to singletask what matters most

Why did Devora love this book?

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.

By Daniel Goleman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Focus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For more than two decades, psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman has been scouting the leading edge of the human sciences for what's new, surprising, and important. In Focus, he delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a long overdue discussion of this little-noticed and under-rated mental asset that matters enormously for how we navigate life. Goleman boils down attention research into a three parts: inner, other, and outer focus. Goleman shows why high-achievers need all three kinds of focus, as demonstrated by rich case studies from fields as diverse as competitive sports, education, the arts, and…

Can't Hurt Me

By David Goggins,

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

Robert Pagliarini Author Of Badass Retirement: Shatter the Retirement Myth & Live with More Meaning, Money, and Adventure

From the list on retirement to help you create more meaning.

Who am I?

If my early childhood was any indication, I would be the last person you would want to take financial and retirement advice from. Why? Growing up, we never had any money! Every day was a struggle for my single mom of five. At an early age, I knew I didn’t want to be poor and struggle for everything. I knew I wanted to enjoy life and experience it to the fullest. I’d watch adventure movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and dream of going to exotic countries and on adventures like Indiana Jones. From those early years, I’ve been committed to creating and living the best life possible for myself and my clients.

Robert's book list on retirement to help you create more meaning

Why did Robert love this book?

I’ve always been someone with big goals and driven to do more, but after listening to this book, I realized that I was setting my sights too low.

What I love about his story and message is that no matter where you start, there is always an opportunity for greatness. I think this is especially important to remember in retirement – it’s not the finish line. You’re just getting started.

If you are looking for that something more and want to be inspired, this book is an absolute must. The story is about retired Navy SEAL David Goggins, and holds no punches. He dishes about his abusive childhood, his struggles as a young adult, and his decision to want something more from life and from himself.

Listen to the audiobook if you can. The author and the narrator engage in a free-form spirited discussion at the end of each…

By David Goggins,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Can't Hurt Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Best Seller

Over 4 million copies sold

For David Goggins, childhood was a nightmare -- poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse colored his days and haunted his nights. But through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work, Goggins transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man with no future into a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world's top endurance athletes. The only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, he went on to set records in numerous endurance events, inspiring Outside magazine to name…

The Chimp Paradox

By Steve Peters,

Book cover of The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness

Alana Stott Author Of She Who Dares

From the list on helping you escape victimhood and keep you winning.

Who am I?

In life my motto has always been “The buck stops with me.” There is no room in life for excuses, blame, and victimhood. You need to build your own strength and resilience and not rely on others when it comes to your own successes. I have spent my life putting this mindset into practice and have surrounded myself with people, and books that keep me winning. 

Alana's book list on helping you escape victimhood and keep you winning

Why did Alana love this book?

Dr. Steve will blow your mind but introducing you to your chimp.

A being we all have within us that plays with our minds and is a wrecking ball! The chimp can work for you or against you! It's how you handle your chimp that counts and this book teaches you how to deal with him. Understanding your chimp will help you live a happier and healthier life!  

By Steve Peters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Chimp Paradox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do you sometimes behave irrationally or impulsively? Do you face some situations with fear and trepidation? Do feelings of self-doubt consume everyday activities?

Leading Consultant Psychiatrist, Prof Steve Peters, knows more than anyone how impulsive behaviour or nagging self-doubt can impact negatively on our professional and personal lives.

In this, his first book, Steve shares his phenomenally successful mind management programme that has been used to help elite athletes and senior managers alike to conquer their fears and operate with greater control, focus and confidence.

Seemingly complex concepts are made simple with the use of memorable analogies -- such as…

Me and My Feelings

By Vanessa Green Allen,

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

Jessica Sinarski Author Of What's Inside Your Backpack?

From the list on children’s books for mental health.

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.

Jessica's book list on children’s books for mental health

Why did Jessica love this book?

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.⁠

By Vanessa Green Allen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Me and My Feelings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a big feeling comes along…you can handle it! Teach kids ages 7 to 10 how to manage their feelings.

Sometimes, emotions like anger or jealousy or excitement can seem too big to keep inside. Me and My Feelings is here to teach kids that it’s okay to have big feelings! They will learn how to calm down those strong emotions so they don’t feel overwhelmed and can continue to take on the world.

This book gives kids the skills to stay in control―by breathing deeply, saying positive things to themselves, talking about their feelings instead of keeping them inside,…