27 recommended books to make you less stressed, more effective and happier at work

Less stressed, more chilled. More creative, better company. That's what it takes to be a stellar teammate and worth your weight in gold.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

This essential reading list is all about getting your mind right for the fight. The books below will improve your people skills, confidence and creativity. People will talk when you listen and believe in your ideas. Life will be less stressful – and a bit more fun.

If you want to be more productive, happier and popular around the office, take a look at these highly recommended titles.

1. Authentic: How to be Yourself and Why it Matters by Stephen Joseph

"You need to be yourself. You can’t be no one else." But it's hard, in a world where 75% of people cover up their real personality at work. But if you want to be a big, big success – and keep your sanity – authenticity is the only way to go. Professor Stephen Joseph's experiments will help you feel accepted, understood and valued for who you are.

2. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The author of Eat Pray Love gives us a guide to being brave, free and curious. Which incidentally are not just conducive to creativity, but likability too. Part spiritual, part practical – all helpful. Because the more creative we feel, the happier we feel – and the easier you'll be to get along with.

3. The Good Psychopaths Guide to Success by Andy McNabb and Kevin Dutton PhD

One of the most insightful books I've ever read. The crux is this: psychopaths have certain evolutionary advantages. Charm, fearlessness, focus. Kevin Dutton has studied SAS hero Andy McNabb for years, and together they've come up with a solid thesis: to be happier and more fulfilled, you need to think a little bit more like a psychopath. Just don't get carried away.

4. Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine by Derren Brown

TV hypnotist Derren Brown turns philosopher with this in-depth study of classical wisdom and how it applies today. The chapter on how happiness has changed through the ages is especially interesting. There's loads of practical wisdom to apply to your everyday life, with pithy notes from Greek philosophers and Roman emperors. Everyone should read it. Then we'd all get along better.

5. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain

Introversion is a spectrum. If you have introvert leanings or you're managing shy types, this is essential reading. High-flying lawyer Susan Cain tells us how introverts have a lower threshold for stimuli. Which causes problems in certain areas, but gives a massive advantage in others (some might say more important areas). A genuinely helpful book.

6. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David

Got a judgemental inner voice? Course you have! Tame that evil succubus, make peace with your inner self and unhook yourself from unhelpful patterns. Give your brain some breathing space and watch your working relationships thrive.

7. The Charisma Myth: Master the Art of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane

Be more influential, more persuasive, even inspirational with an extra twist of charisma… powerful advice to make absolutely anyone more charismatic. Awesome if you have it; essential if you don't.

8. Creative Confidence by David Kelley and Tom Kelley

Confidence is sexy. Creative confidence is magnetic. This 5-star book from the honchos behind design giant IDEO is written to make less creative types confident. Still, there are lots to inspire genuinely creative types too – particularly for creative problem-solving in everyday life and interpersonal relationships.

9. Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts by Guy Winch

Don't shoot the messenger, but the creative career path you've chosen is fraught with rejection: often daily. Let Guy Winch PhD triage and treat your demons with this helpful, heartfelt book on getting over it – and getting over yourself.

10. Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights by Gary Klein and Christopher Lane

Cognitive psychologist Gary Klein on the complexities and mysteries of human decision-making. It's all about noticing connections, coincidences and curiosities, investigating contradictions, and creating breakthrough solutions. It's a great skills update for both interpersonal relations and creative work. Inspiring.

11. People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflicts by Robert Bolton

Oooh, conflict. The driver of all good narratives… but a daunting obstacle to getting things done at work unless you read Robert Boltons PhD’s classic 1986 guide to being just assertive enough while reducing defensiveness and aggression in others.

12. Laughology: Improve Your Life With The Science Of Laughter by Stephanie Davies

Everyone loves funny people. There are quite a few guides out there claiming to help drier souls be funny, but this one might work. It could help a better office communicator by using appropriate humour… or you might jack it all in and pursue stand up.

13. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way Your Lead Forever by Bungay Stanier Michael

Straight-talking guide to asking all the right questions… Mr Stanier has the perfect question for every occasion. Kickstarting a conversation, keeping one on track, questions that save time and get right to the heart of the matter – it could change the way you communicate.

14. How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks For Big Success In Relationships by Leil Lowndes

Promising "92 little tricks for big success", this book helps you work a party like a politician works a room, and become a genuine insider in any group — essential reading for introverts.

15. BOLD: 212 Charisma and Small Talk Tips to Engage, Charm and Leave a Lasting Impression

Be yourself, just with a better understanding of the social conventions that make you appear normal. BOLD is an easily digestible summary for self-reflection, with 212 practical ideas to try.

16. The Art of Active Listening: How to Double Your Communication Skills in 30 Days by Josh Gibson & Fynn Walker

A useful concise guide to getting over barriers to listening properly that you probably didn't even realise was a problem – until you find yourself saying "that's me, I do that". Follow these teachings, and you'll listen with genuine empathy, which will make you a better problem solver, rapidly.

17. Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston

Veteran psychiatrist and business coach Mark Goulston enlightens us with simple, proven techniques for moving people from resistance to consensus. Includes sections on making a client "feel felt" and if someone is kicking off, chilling them down to a more receptive state. Priceless.

18. Am I The Only Sane One Working Here?: 101 Solutions for Surviving Office Insanity by Albert J. Bernstein

Dr Bernstein's got some crazy theories but I like them… Lying coworkers? Buy into their lies and watch what happens. Coworkers who don't like you? Feed them! Simultaneously fun and practical, this is an excellent book for understanding people and working through differences.

19. Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut

This ground-breaking research on how we judge and persuade each other helps you come out of potentially hazardous interpersonal skirmishes looking and feeling good.

20. Speak: So Your Audience Will Listen – 7 Steps to Confident and Authentic Public Speaking by Robin Kermode

Public speaking goes way beyond the podium. Adopting best practices for telling stories, getting buy-in and motivating others will help you every time you pipe up. A hefty 5-stars on Amazon.

21. How to Speak So People Really Listen: The Straight-Talking Guide to Communicating with Influence and Impact by Paul McGee

Powerful tips on presenting to audiences large and small. A big help with covering nerves, using humour and staying away from 'sinful' body language. Five stars.

22. Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence is the cornerstone of soft skills. This seminal 1996 book will help you understand people, notice what makes them tick and help you balance your own rational/emotional thought. Essential reading.

23. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

The art of 'pre-suasion' is a sort of verbal ninjutsu where subtle turns of phrase, seemingly insignificant visual cues and unimportant details of location can prime people to say "yes" even before they are asked. Put that on your CV and flog it.

24. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works - A True Story by Dan Harris

War Reporter and Good Morning America host who endured a panic attack live on air gives us a pragmatic's guide to meditation. Brave, funny, insightful… and cheap. Only £1.49 on Kindle.

25. How Not to Be a Dick by Meghan Doherty

Fancy a non-fiction self-help book that'll make you laugh out loud? The writer and illustrator pulls it off with aplomb. It's not a joke book; it's a serious guide to contemporary etiquette that happens to be very funny. Love it.

26. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin

Learn the neuroscience of information overload and coping strategies to keep you daydreaming. As daydreaming is where both good ideas and fresh conversation starters come from, it's a powerful tool for getting your mindset for creative office life… full of sensible, practical advice.

27. The Marshmallow Test: Understanding Self-control and How To Master It by Walter Mischel

All this self-improvement is going to take a lot of willpower, so why not try this excellent scientific guide to the discipline, grasshopper? Smash procrastination in the face. Be a better, more reliable colleague for it!


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