My Three Favorite Books on Body Language (For Regular People)

I always have a hard time when people ask me to recommend books on body language or people-reading.  Sadly, most of the books written for the general public are junk.  Either they’re based on out-of-date research, or they’re filled with content that’s simply made up.   It’s true!  Some authors recognize that you don’t have the knowledge to determine the accuracy of what they write, so they just pull ‘facts’ out of…well, let’s just say out of someplace other than reality. 

Most of my favorite books are written by academics for an academic audience.  If you’re not a complete geek (like me) about body language, these can be hard to wade through.  But there are some good books published for regular people.  These are some of my favorites:

  • What Every Body Is Saying, by Joe Navarro.   Mr. Navarro is a former FBI Special Agent, and he knows his stuff.  What I like best about his book is his explanation of “leakage.”  It’s an ugly term that refers to the way our body language will often reveal our true emotional state, no matter how hard we try to suppress it.   Navarro explains these sorts of “tells” by describing how they’re produced by our autonomic nervous system.   This is what I like to call a ‘functional’ look at body-language, and I think it’s the best way to learn, or teach, the subject.


  • Phil Hellmuth Presents Read ‘Em and Reap: A Career FBI Agent’s Guide to Decoding Poker Tells.   Come on,  you know you don’t want to use your body language skills only for good.   This is, in my opinion, the best book on poker tells out there.  Keep in mind, though, that I stink at poker.  It turns out it’s a lot easier to learn how to read people than it is to either keep from being read or to master poker strategy.   Phil Hellmuth may present ’em, but it’s actually Joe Navarro again who wrote the book.   His work here is equally clear and entertaining as in What Every Body Is Saying.


  • Telling Lies, by Paul Ekman.   Dr.  Ekman is famous among psychologists and body language fanboys for his groundbreaking research on facial expression.   There are a lot of books which purport to body language of deception, but which are in themselves prime examples of  bogus claims.  Dr.  Ekman’s book is the real deal.  He carefully lays out not only how we can detect the non-verbal signs of deception, but why.   He equally carefully explains why, often, deception leaves no clues at all.


By the way, I’m not an Amazon affiliate.  Amazon doesn’t let anybody in Illinois enter their affiliate program.  So if you click on any of these links and purchase these books I don’t see any money from it.  I’m providing the links simply because I think they’re great books and I believe that you will enjoy them.

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