If you’re looking for the best books on manipulation, you found them.
And if you’re looking for more general information on psychological manipulation and Machiavellianism, you’ve found the right website :).
Note of caution:
This is a list of the best manipulation books, but the authors of these books do not necessarily endorse manipulations.
However, the information and psychology contained in these books can be turned into dark psychology and used for manipulation.
This website also does not endorse total amorality and life of tricking and sucking value from others and the world.
This website thinks you can do better than that.
However, learning Machiavellianism, manipulation, and the “darker side” of human nature is crucial to an empowered and successful life.
- 13. The Gervais Principle
- 12. In Sheep’s Clothing
- 11. Propaganda
- 10. The Art of Deception
- 9. A Goal Diggers Guide
- 8. The 48 Laws of Power
- 7. 30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics
- 6. The Art of Seduction
- 5. How to Lie with Statistics
- 4. Who’s Pulling Your Strings
- 3. Seduction University
- 2. No Logo
- 1. Power University
13. The Gervais Principle
By Venkatesh Rao
Technically, it’s a series of posts turned into a book.
But if your goal is to understand manipulation, then wisdom should be your top priority and not the format.
And albeit the framework in The Gervais Principle may be simplistic and more theoretical than practical, it’s still one of the best books to understand corporate manipulation (<- and that one linked there is the best post to understand corporate manipulation, BTW).
If you’re looking for practical wisdom instead, then Business University may be your best bet to turn knowledge into strategies and techniques.
So why is promoting over-performing Losers logical?
The simple reason is that if you over-perform at the Loser level (ed.: the low-level employee), it is clear that you are an idiot. You’ve already made a bad bargain, and now you’re delivering more value than you need to, making your bargain even worse.
12. In Sheep’s Clothing
This is one of the foundational books on manipulation.
It covers the psychology of social manipulators, power-hungry men, and covert aggression.
Covert aggression is aggression in disguise, often used by social manipulators so that they can always deny their aggression, retreat, save face, and then probably blame you for your own overreaction.
To deal with it effectively, see “handling microaggressions“.
“In Sheep’s Clothing” is also one of the “The Power Moves recommended books”.
I appreciated a lot that the author takes a stand against the tendency of some psychologists of making up excuses for manipulators’ behavior.
With this book, you will learn manipulators’ psychology, manipulators’ strategies, and a few defensive techniques.
It’s more on the theoretical side, though.
If you’re looking for proper defense against manipulators, keep on reading.
Evil arises from the failure of owning and disciplining one’s own basic instincts.
This is where it all started when it comes to books on manipulation.
Propaganda is manipulation from the top to direct the masses.
And albeit it’s probably not true that anyone can single-handedly instill thoughts, values, and beliefs in a nation’s mind, it’s certainly possible -and likely- that many people can be heavily influenced.
Bernays didn’t have the means or the access to the research and studies we have today, yet his own observations are sometimes so prescient and accurate that it feels like this book has been written in the Trump era.
This is my own quote from a collage of this wonderful classic on manipulation:
Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment.
“Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule”. Or so ran the democratic doctrine.
Instead, it gave them propaganda. And an easier way for the masters to control him.
10. The Art of Deception
This is the best book I have read about social engineering.
Anyone interested in manipulation, let alone anyone who’s working in security and IT security should get it.
There are tons of examples of actual manipulations and albeit some of them are so simple and straightforward… A surprising amount of times that’s all you need to trick most people.
A good social engineer never advertises his skills and knowledge.
You always want people to underestimate you, not see you as a threat.
9. A Goal Diggers Guide
It says “goal”, but it’s actually a handy guide for gold diggers.
Baje Fletcher, the author, shares the autobiographical stories of her heydays as an actual gold digger, including tips and pieces of advice on how to be the best gold digger you can (LOL to that).
I wouldn’t want to be in any of these guys’ shoes, as the author swears she got money and gifts “without ever giving it up”.
Also, equally instructive:
- Ho Tactics is Similar to Goal Digger but written by a guy. There is even more wisdom and lots of gold nuggets on power dynamics in the examples.
- The 48 Laws of The Game: Why learn from a hoe, when you can learn from a pimp?
Ask him “what are you drinking”, and if he doesn’t offer you the same, drop him immediately.
8. The 48 Laws of Power
A book that needs a little intro, and a modern classic.
Not strictly about manipulation, but there is plenty of interpersonal relationships maneuvering and strategizing that might fall into the definition of “manipulation”.
Also good from Greene:
- The 33 Strategies of War: not just war as in pitch battles and armies, but also daily wars and manipulation with passive-aggression, microaggressions, and mind-fuckery.
Appeal to self-interest. Self-interest rules the world.
7. 30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics
Brief and to the point, it’s a solid overview of manipulation techniques in relationships.
Needless to say, we are talking about abusive relationships here so get this book to learn about the relationships that you must avoid.
I also highly recommend this article:
- Gaslighting, which also applies to all socialization
- Psychopath’s sexual strategies: including techniques and strategies to control women
A loving relationship doesn’t hurt you.
Pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people need to be reminded that.
6. The Art of Seduction
When it comes to power moves and the best manipulation books Greene cannot be over-represented.
The Art of Seduction was my favorite Greene book before The Laws of Human Nature came out.
Now they’re both at the same level :D.
The Art of Seduction focuses on sex as a weapon for influence but also includes social charm as a tool for manipulation.
There is too little mystery in the world; too many people say exactly what they feel or want.
5. How to Lie with Statistics
I am sure that there are many among you who ended up here looking for some sort of secret NLP wisdom.
Maybe something like “how to hypnotize” or some other covert manipulation techniques to control minds.
Then you put your shoes back on to go out, you brush your teeth and wash your hands… And you’ve likely already been the victim of manipulation 3 times without even realizing it.
Make it 4 if you also get chewing gum and make 5 if you used some over-the-counter medication (and slap yourself if you used some counter-productive spray for sore throats).
Keep this in mind:
The biggest manipulator in this world is marketing.
And the second is “scientific data” and researches.
Both data and research hide behind a firewall of trust and credibility lent by the high authority that our society grants to numbers and data.
And don’t get me wrong: science does deserve that trust and respect.
And besides being nowhere near “the truth” as many believe, data and numbers are also extremely pliable to manipulation.
And brands, dumb journalists, and unscrupulous scientists “massage” data and numbers to manipulate people day in and day out (brands and scientists at least, the dumb journalists simply help the manipulation by parroting that data without even understanding it).
“How to Lie With Statistics” makes it to the #5 spot of the best books on manipulation because it calls out some of the most insidious manipulators of them all: those that sway you with a white coat, coming out of a scientific lab and carrying a bunch of charts and data.
It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us in trouble. It’s the things we know that ain’t so
4. Who’s Pulling Your Strings
Probably the best overview of interpersonal manipulation, including:
- The psychological profiles of manipulators
- The personal weaknesses manipulators exploit
- The technical steps to end manipulation
- The self-development work to become more manipulation-resistant
If you’re interested in manipulation in close and intimate relationships, I also recommend:
If you are not willing to lose the relationship—even when it means losing yourself in the process— then you are not ready to stop being a victim.
3. Seduction University
By Lucio Buffalmano
Technically, this is a course, rather than a book on manipulation.
But still, if you’re after learning, then a course can be much better than a book.
There are not many resources, be it courses or books, on manipulation between the sexes.
Yes, there is the red pill, but that’s mostly focused on the female side of manipulation, including:
And there are feminists.
But they only focus on games men play, and the “patriarchy” defending its power.
Seduction University leverages much evolutionary psychology and personal experience to provide a more balanced view of the manipulation that takes place in dating and mating.
“Look at him, he looks just like you”, she said while holding the baby.
And beyond those sweet, most innocent-sounding words, might lie the darkest manipulation of them all.
2. No Logo
No Logo is a greatly underrated book.
Some reject it out of political ideology, branding Naomi Klein as a tree hugger, left-winger pie-in-the-sky lady with a mid-life crisis.
And some of the most cynics thought of her as an author who’s getting rich with the same capitalist system she criticizes.
When it comes to evidence and scientific rigor, some people in academia and in the “hard sciences” look down on “No Logo” because the methodology is more qualitative than quantitative.
Yet some others say it’s naive to believe that a world without logos could even exist.
And some of those critics do have a point.
But the critics also don’t get the point.
No Logo is a genius book.
To begin with, it wasn’t meant as a marketing book, and yet it’s one of the best books on marketing I have ever read.
Simon Sinek’s wildly popular “Start With WHY” with annexed TED talk basically copied NO Logo’s main idea -but forgot to credit it-.
Second, it will help you get rid of the brands and marketing’s yoke.
Third, it will open your eyes to the biggest manipulation occurring in our current society.
Because Ms. Klein makes you feel, at a visceral level, the astounding power that brands can exert on the psyche of millions of people.
No Logo is the book that, better than anyone else, truly uncovers the manipulative power of marketing.
If you were looking for manipulation thinking of some snake-oil salesmen selling you useless garbage, you’re only focusing on the cheap side of manipulation.
The high-level manipulation is the manipulation that makes you crave the latest shiny jewel, that makes you feel proud for owning it, talking it up to your friends, proudly showing its logo while you also market it for them -for free-.
Picture the thousands who waste a day of their lives queuing for the “privilege” of dropping a thousand dollars on a phone they don’t need which is no better than the one they already have.
Or look at your shoes.
Are any of them Nike, Rebook, Adidas…?
Those companies are not shoe companies, they are marketing companies in the business of manipulation.
The shoes are overpriced pieces of plastic produced at the cheapest location they could find.
And people all around the world proudly wear them as they recite the advertising slogans.
“Just do it”, they say.
“Just buy it” is what Nike actually meant.
If that’s not the best-executed manipulation, my friends I don’t know what it is!
And of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg…
Scott Bedbury, Starbucks’ vice president of marketing, openly recognized that “consumers don’t truly believe there’s a huge difference between products,” which is why brands must “establish emotional ties” with their customers
Those “emotional ties”, my friends, are manipulations.
1. Power University
Technically a course rather than a book.
But if your goal is to become more effective with others, then you shouldn’t be too squeamish about the method of delivery.
And there is nothing better in the market than Power University when it comes to covering all the “dark side” of socialization.
Power University is this website’s flagship course and contains all the best information from the resources above and many more, all geared toward practical, real-life strategies.
It teaches you how to be a high-quality man (or woman) who commands respect and naturally influences people.
You will learn how to handle manipulation, abuse, aggression, and when needed… How to wield the power of manipulation and social aggression (for good causes, hopefully).
More books on manipulation
The following books are not strictly focused on manipulation.
But there are several gold nuggets here and there:
- Psychopath Free A long and in-depth analysis of psychopaths in relationships, coming straight from the author’s harrowing experience with one.
|by J MacKenzie
- The Psychopath Whisperer: psychopaths are constant liars and often abusive and manipulative, you can learn a thing or two here on how to protect yourself -including a few crazy and/or entertaining stories-.
|by K Kiel
- The Wisdom of Psychopaths: what we can learn from psychopaths
|by K Dutton
- The good psychopath’s guide: how to become a good psychopath
|by K Dutton
- Brandwashed Marketing from a neuro-marketer to understand marketing’s manipulation.
|by M Lindstrom
- The Lucifer Effect Sometimes all you need to manipulate is authority, conviction, and a firm voice
| by P Zimbardo
- Controlling People: This is on the psychology of controlling people. Controllers manipulate unconsciously because they need to have their partners dependent on them.
|by P Evans
- Why Does He Do That: This also heavy on the psychology of abusive men, but Lundy goes much deeper on the techniques of the abusers and the tools with which women can defend themselves
|by L Bancroft
- How to Mindfuck a Guy: The deepest psychological analysis on the web to make men go crazy about her