26 Best Emotional Intelligence Books (Reviews + Summaries)

Emotional Intelligence BooksEmotional Intelligence plays a huge intangible role in helping us understand and manage emotions.

We have covered the topic from several different angles already, but if you are keen to read more on EI, look no further than this blog.

The manifold applications of Emotional Intelligence range from organizational situations to home life, parenting, romantic relationships, and more. Maybe you are looking for actionable tips for personal EI development, or perhaps you want to understand better how the concept has grown.

Want to come to grips with how EI can improve your sales performance? Whatever it is, here are some of the best books on Emotional Intelligence from top academic authors and practitioners alike.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Emotional Intelligence Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will not only enhance your ability to understand and work with your emotions but will also give you the tools to foster the emotional intelligence of your clients, students or employees.

Best Books on Emotional Intelligence

With no further ado, these sections contain what we (and readers) believe are some of the best books on Emotional Intelligence. Some serve as brilliant introductions for newcomers to the positive psychology field, and others are established titles that we consider ‘must-reads.’

We have tried to cover some of each in this article, although the list is by no means comprehensive. If you have read a brilliant book that’s been particularly insightful or helpful for you, then feel free to share your suggestions in the comments at the end!

Daniel Goleman’s Books on Emotional Intelligence

If you have ever wondered who the founder of Emotional Intelligence is, you will probably already have come across the work of Daniel Goleman. Strictly speaking, the term itself was coined by Mayer and Salovey in 1990, who described it as (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p. 190):

“the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

Goleman’s contributions came to the fore when he was working at the New York Times during the ’90s. He developed a keen interested in Salovey and Mayer’s work during this period, which led to his publication of the bestselling Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ in 1995. We will start with this and move on to look at two more of Goleman’s other Emotional Intelligence books, which explore the theme from different angles.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Daniel Goleman book on Emotional Intelligence

Often simply referred to by the title ‘Emotional Intelligence,’ Goleman’s first book on the topic was an international bestseller. While it was not Goleman’s very first publication, it has frequently been credited with being ‘The Book’ behind the popularization of the concept.

By adopting a business standpoint throughout his narrative, Goleman’s key premise is that cognitive intelligence (IQ) is not the sole predictor of workplace success – Emotional Intelligence is an equally important non-cognitive skill.

Goleman offers his definition of Emotional Intelligence as a ‘set of skills’ rather than a personality trait. The EI skillset, he argues, encompasses self-motivation, social abilities, empathy, and impulse control, among others.

It is written predominantly from an organizational perspective, offering business implications for employees and leaders alike. That said, it also gives the reader an overview of how Emotional Intelligence can help everyone deal better with difficulties, impulses, and negative emotions.

You can get a copy of Goleman’s New York Times bestseller from Amazon, where it is available both as an ebook for Kindle and in Audiobook format.

Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

New Primal Leadership Book

First published in 2001, Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence is more focused on leadership development. Given that a large premise of the authors’ work deals with ‘styles of Leadership,’ it may have more relevant implications for those in charge of teams or companies.

Goleman and authors Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee each draw on their own consulting experience to identify and introduce the six styles mentioned previously – each of which may be differently suited to use in different situations. They are:

  • Visionary;
  • Affiliative;
  • Democratic;
  • Coaching;
  • Commanding; and
  • Pacesetting.

Readers keen to learn more about the theory behind EI may be pleased to know that Primal Leadership does cite (and discuss) academic research at times. As an example, the authors’ use research findings to explain the relationship between Emotional Intelligence (self-awareness and empathy in particular) and certain leadership behaviors.

Nonetheless, it is not overly academic and tends by most to be considered a relatively easy read. Boyatzis also introduces the reader to his own Theory of Self-Directed Learning (Boyatzis, 1999) with the aim of equipping leaders to grow and develop professionally.

Those of us with some leadership experience may enjoy learning ways to apply our EI understanding and further develop key skills we already have. As well as this, Primal Leadership gives some practical advice for how Emotionally Intelligent Organizations can be built.

You can purchase this Emotional Intelligence book (as an Audiobook as well) on Amazon.

Working with Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman Working with Emotional Intelligence

Goleman’s second book EI book looks more specifically at how the Emotional Quotient (EQ) competencies discussed in Emotional Intelligence (above) can be applied within the sphere of work.

Indeed, it is once again heavily focused on the professional realm and offers a lot for managers, leaders, and the collective organization – in many ways it is an extension of the first.

If you are interested in organizational culture, too, this book has a lot of potential implications: EI often plays a pivotal role in change implementation.

Spread out over five chapters, Working with Emotional Intelligence contains anecdotes and Emotional Intelligence case scenarios featuring bosses, CEOs, and managers. It also touches a little on the ‘brainwave’ concepts linked to EI, such as the relationship between stress, impulse control, and hormones.

You can purchase Working with Emotional Intelligence on Amazon.

3 emotional intelligence exercises

Download 3 Free Emotional Intelligence Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients understand and use emotions advantageously.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Book Summary

Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves book on Emotional Intelligence 2.0

If you have heard of Emotional Intelligence, chances are you have heard of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – it is one of the most famous books on the topic.

Lots of readers also consider the popular Emotional Intelligence 2.0 to be one of the best books on Emotional Intelligence. Authors Drs Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves are the co-founders of EQ assessment providers TalentSmart, so they aren’t afraid to relate the theory to empirical research to significant effect.

Using data from over 500k individuals, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 provides insightful answers to some of the more common EI research questions.

The findings on EQ patterns within cultures, generations/ages, and gender are interesting, to cite some examples. So like most other Emotional Intelligence books, ‘The Big Picture’ chapter provides a good answer to the ubiquitous “What is Emotional Intelligence?” question. And also, a nice look at what Emotional Intelligence is not.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a rich resource. It covers over three dozen strategies for building EQ in the four areas of self-management, social awareness, relationship management, and self-awareness. The newer editions also include online access to a brief self-assessment on the same. Granted, this is not the only test out there for EI, but it is one of the most popular. Find more EQ tests here.

Authors Bradberry and Greaves then provide easy-to-follow guidance on how to improve the areas you may not have scored ‘highly’ on. You are also invited to fill out your own Emotional Intelligence action plan for the future.

It is worth noting that even the least avid readers will find the opening interesting. It provides a gripping account of one surfer’s adventure with a Great White that sets the scene for the rest of the book.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is available for purchase on the TalentSmart website or Amazon Kindle.

3 Great Emotional Intelligence Audiobooks

There’s nothing as great as going for a jog, a drive, or a relaxing bath and being able to immerse yourself in a good audiobook at the same time. Try out the following suggestions:

1. Emotional Intelligence: A 21-Day Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Social Skills, Improve Your Relationships, and Boost Your EQ

David Clark Audiobook on Emotional Intelligence

Both professional and personal benefits of Emotional Intelligence are covered well in this relatively short (1 hour 44 minute) audiobook by David Clark.

Easy to listen to and full of useful emotional intelligence exercises, Clark explains the key topics very clearly and in an informative way. He does choose his words well, which means that it is not too difficult to understand the fundamental ideas straight away.

Emotional Intelligence: A 21-Day Step by Step Guide is an excellent primer for those new to the topic, and makes the links between EI and success in a social relationship very simple to grasp.

It is also a pleasant way to break down the concepts learned and take them day by day (as the title suggests), which can be great for those of us who hope to reflect on what we have learned. Likewise, the day-by-day concept means it is not hard to use this book as a complementary resource alongside a daily EI journal.

Download David Clark’s Emotional Intelligence audiobook from Audible.

2. HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Harvard Business Review Guide to Emotional Intelligence

The Harvard Business Review Guide to Emotional Intelligence is just over five hours long, dealing mostly with the better-known aspects of EI and how they ‘work in the workplace.’

Skills such as perceiving emotions, emotional self-awareness, and managing our emotions are all discussed—not only concerning their importance but also the ways that we can develop them.

Amongst other things, the HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence audiobook offers expert ‘how-to’ advice for listeners who want to (Harvard Business Review, 2017):

  • Identify their personal EI strengths and weaknesses;
  • Build Emotional Intelligence in their teams;
  • Deal more positively with adversity; and
  • Influence those around us.

The audiobook version is available from Audible, and those who prefer to read rather than listen can also access the book from the HBR Website.

3. The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book

Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves Emotional Intelligence Quickbook

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 authors Bradberry and Greaves have also written an excellent, concise resource for those who prefer to do their listening on the go. It covers ‘how to’s for those who want to apply EI to benefit themselves and others.

At the same time, it contains less of the more ponderous academic discussion than Emotional Intelligence 2.0. This does not mean that The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book skips over the facts, though – it merely delivers great EI content in a straightforward way that makes this audiobook easy listening.

It is a useful guide for personal and organizational relationships alike, and also provides the reader with access to a free online Emotional Intelligence test (just like Emotional Intelligence 2.0).

Download the Emotional Intelligence Quick Book as an audiobook from Audible.

Emotional Intelligence For Dummies Review

The Dummies Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Clinical psychologist Dr. Steven Stein is the CEO of psychological assessment publisher Multi-Health Systems (MHS).

Throughout the 19 chapters of Emotional Intelligence for Dummies, Stein uses anecdotes to make the ‘science’ of EI both straightforward and relatable for the reader.

This popular book covers techniques that therapists can use with clients for EQ development, as well as a few that everyone can use to manage their interpersonal relationships better.

There are five parts to this book:

  • Part 1: ‘There’s a new kind of intelligence in town’ – an overview of EI, its links with happiness, and how you can assess it;
  • Part 2: ‘The Essentials of Emotional Intelligence’ – here, Stein provides scientific insight into EQ, then covers the ‘what is’ of self-awareness, perceiving our own emotions, empathizing with others, and managing others’ emotions;
  • Part 3: ‘Taking Emotional Intelligence to Work’ – this takes a look at how EI can be essential in handling tricky workplace situations. It covers the principles behind and approaches to creating an Emotionally Intelligent workplace, and caps it off with a consideration of Emotional Intelligence for college students;
  • Part 4: ‘Using Emotional Intelligence at Home’ – moving on to home life, this series of chapters concerns EI in parenting and family relationships; and
  • Part 5: ‘The Part of Tens’ – in which three ten-part practical approaches are suggested for enhancing our own EI, helping others to work towards the same, and ‘making the world a more Emotionally Intelligent place.’

If you are hoping to improve your own EI, Stein outlines how we can identify the signs of someone with low Emotional Intelligence. According to the author, a few signs of low EI include:

  • Overestimating one’s own abilities – which Stein suggests we can work on by starting to understand our own strengths and weaknesses;
  • Losing control of one’s own emotions – a shortcoming that can be addressed by letting ourselves express our feelings, thoughts, and the beliefs we hold. Through self-expression and assertiveness, we can develop more appropriate ways of managing our emotions; and
  • Adapting poorly to change – something that can be worked on by accepting that change is natural, learning new approaches and skills, and opening up ourselves to new experiences and relationships.

Emotional Intelligence for Dummies is available as a paperback at Wiley and in ebook and audiobook format at Amazon.

Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success Summary

eBook Emotional Intelligence for Sale Success

Emotional intelligence for sales success: Connect with customers and get results is written by Colleen Stanley, a professional sales trainer and founder of SalesLeadership. As salespeople, Stanley discusses, EI plays an essential part in helping us better understand, meet, and connect with decision-makers.

Doubtless, strong sales relationships and success go hand in hand. However, the many examples that Stanley uses in this book provide deeper insight into and beyond this. This is then supplemented with practical activities aimed at leaders who are managing sales teams.

Stanley also takes a look at how an Emotionally Intelligent sales culture is something that can be built (for sales success, of course!), and delves into the traits of such a culture. She uses more case studies and research data clearly and effectively to illustrate this in greater depth.

She covers common sales problems that often lead to difficulties in emotion management and numerous challenges in prospecting for a multi-dimensional view of EI in sales. For even more in-depth coverage of the topics at hand, she outlines how EI is important throughout all phases of sales and distinguishes between ‘hard’ sales skills and those related to Emotional Intelligence.

You can purchase Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success from Amazon, where it is also available as an Audiobook and an ebook for Kindle.

Great Books on EI and Leadership

Taking your career to the next level? Then invest in these great reads about leadership skills.

1. Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman Book on Leadership

Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence is a collection of Daniel Goleman’s most popular work on Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, and organizational performance.

Which means this publication contains over twenty years’ worth of Goleman’s articles, including:

  • Leadership That Gets Results – which argues for the six basic styles of leadership and related competencies, as well as flexibility in applying these abilities;
  • What makes a Leader? – an article on how the ‘best’ leaders use self-awareness, self-management, and empathy in their everyday behaviors;
  • Managing With Heart – which touches on high collective IQ, group performance, and the relationship between the two. The link to EI? High collective IQ and EQ are the same thing;
  • The Social Brain – this gives a nice description of the ‘neuro’ side of our interpersonal interactions; and
  • The Sweet Spot for Achievement – in which Goleman considers stress, optimal performance, and how the two are related under the Yerkes-Dodson law. It offers advice for leaders wanting to create an ideal ‘fit’ between their employees’ skills and situations for motivation and engagement.

If you happen to be after the convenience of multiple articles in one volume, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence offers this advantage. It is available from Amazon.

Relevant: Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Effectiveness

2. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness

How to Become a Resonant Leader eBook

Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, and Teleos Leadership Institute co-founder Frances Johnston, introduce and dissect the concept of a ‘Resonant Leader.’

A mid-length, yet in-depth, book of around 250 pages, this publication is aimed primarily at executives. As such, it builds on the idea of ‘resonance’ that McKee and Boyatzis first presented in Primal Leadership.

‘Resonance’ helps leaders manage teams’ and organizations’ emotional content, the authors argue. Leaders who use Emotional Intelligence to establish and build relationships with their coworkers are better able to manage others, creating an optimal environment for teams.

Becoming a Resonant Leader also provides a host of interactive exercises for understanding one’s own leadership values and strengths, as well as some guidance for developing an action plan for intentional change. In this respect, it is a helpful resource for therapists, coaches, and leaders alike.

If you are interested in purchasing this practical guide, you will find Becoming a Resonant Leader in multiple formats on Amazon.

3. The Emotionally Intelligent Manager: How to Develop and Use the Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership

David Caruso Emotionally Intelligent Manager

Those interested in reading the work of a pioneering Emotional Intelligence researcher may enjoy The Emotionally Intelligent Manager. Yale University’s Peter Salovey has received numerous awards for his extensive research into the Emotional Intelligence concept.

Working with fellow academics John Mayer and David Caruso, he developed the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) to measure EI.

The Emotionally Intelligent Manager delves into the various ways that organizational leaders can understand, develop, and apply the four abilities of Salovey and Mayer’s (1990) Emotional Intelligence concept:

  • Perceiving emotions;
  • Facilitating thinking using emotions;
  • Understanding emotions; and
  • Managing emotions.

It provides numerous actionable approaches for developing EI, starting with an appreciation of how these abilities present themselves in everyday organizational life.

The Emotionally Intelligent Manager: How to Develop and Use the Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership is available as an ebook and in hardcover format at Wiley.com.

4. At the Heart of Leadership: How To Get Results with Emotional Intelligence

eBook about the Heart of Leadership

If you do not find academic texts the most riveting way to learn more about EI, At the Heart of Leadership by Joshua Freedman may be a much more relaxed read. While it does draw heavily on factual and research-based evidence, it does so in an easy way.

Starting first with an outline of why EI is important. Written for corporate and business readers, Freedman then provides clear-cut examples of how it is possible for us to harness Emotional Intelligence for enhanced performance.

His anecdotes include work experiences from his time at FedEx and the US Navy, HSBC, and more. These all lay the groundwork for his introduction of the Six Seconds EQ Model for better handling emotions.

Download At the Heart of Leadership: How to Get Results with Emotional Intelligence from Amazon.

5. Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast and Slow

Nobel Prize in Economics winner Daniel Kahneman was born in Israel in 1934. Amongst his many notable achievements, he received the APA’s Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology in 2007.

Kahneman’s extensive psychology career has included many academic journal publications; some of which he uses directly in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

This book spans more than thirty chapters and presents an extremely profound (literary) illustration of not only how humans use emotions, but the psychological underpinnings of how we do so.

Kahneman relies on a lot of his own research in Thinking, Fast and Slow, giving readers rich insight into his studies. It does cross over into the mathematical as well, at times. As one example, the author links concepts such as numerical reasoning and risk with our human propensity to process novel situations more rapidly than any other species.

While Thinking, Fast and Slow is a relatively long book and a pretty serious read, Kahneman has received ample well-deserved praise for this profound piece of work. You can access and buy his book on Amazon.

7 Top Emotional Intelligence Ebooks for Kindle

For those of us who enjoy the convenience of ebooks, a lot of the publications above are also downloadable in digital formats. We have also put together a list of other popular Emotional Intelligence ebooks that make good on-the-go reads, including options for Kindle and other devices.

1. Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook: Little Exercises for an Intuitive Life

Pocketbook on Emotional Intelligence

Author Gill Hasson is a career coach with a whole list of titles to her name. The Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook is one of several she has written on EQ, and it is a very practical, bite-sized ebook, too.

If you are not looking for a hefty read, this is precisely what the name suggests – a concise collection of practical exercises and examples to illustrate the concepts.

Even the paperback will fit comfortably in your bag, pocket, or similar, so you can take it anywhere with you and practice on the move.

Looking inside, these little exercises are divided into four main chapters: Understanding Emotions, Managing Emotions, Developing Your Emotional Intelligence, and Developing Your Social Intelligence. Throughout, and again at the end of the book, Hasson includes inspiring Emotional Intelligence quotes to keep you motivated.

You can order Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook: Little Exercises for an Intuitive Life from Wiley.

2. A Practical Guide to Emotional Intelligence: Get Smart about Emotion

Get smart

Dr. David Walton is a behavioral change specialist, something that quickly becomes apparent in his general overview of Emotional Intelligence.

This practical guide is aimed at organizational managers interested in improving their professional interpersonal skills. It covers exercises on feelings and self-control and understanding and influencing others.

It is a relatively short read, though it points to a few other books for further reading—some of which includes Daniel Goleman’s work.

Download Introducing Emotional Intelligence as an ebook for Kindle on Amazon.

3. Quick Emotional Intelligence Activities for Busy Managers: 50 Team Exercises That Get Results in Just 15 Minutes

A guide on quick emotional intelligence activities

This straightforward Emotional Intelligence ebook by Lynn Leadership Group Founder Adele Lynn is aimed at organizational managers and leaders.

It contains exercises that are designed to help team members deal with emotional barriers for enhanced effectiveness.

Those interested in finding out more about the linkages between Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Effectiveness can choose among different exercises tailored to different degrees of experience. It also contains useful exercises to address a lack of trust within teams for better collaboration.

Find this book on Amazon to download a Kindle copy.

4. 105 Tips for Creating an Emotionally Intelligent Organization: More Success by Focusing on Work Attitude and Motivation

eBook with Tips for an Emotionally Intelligent Organization

Written by self-help professional Gary Vurnum and jobEQ.com founder Patrick Merlevede, 105 Tips starts out by going into what Emotionally Intelligent organizations are and why they are essential. These, as the authors describe, are workplaces in which people’s emotions are acknowledged and considered.

Throughout the book, both Merledeve and Vurnum draw on their own consulting and coaching experiences. They share over a hundred tips for how employees can empathize with each other, collaborate better, and motivate one another to make the most of their strengths.

Zooming out a little, therefore, it aims to advise leaders and managers through different stages of the ‘talent lifecycle.’ These phases include attracting talent, recruiting with EI, retaining valuable staff, developing, and retaining employees.

Find 105 Tips for Creating an Emotionally Intelligent Organization in ebook format.

5. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

John Gottman Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child is the work of Dr. John Gottman. His 1998 book draws on his experience working with over 120 families to outline a method for coaching children to develop Emotional Intelligence. This ‘five-step’ method involves (Gottman.com, 2018):

  1. Being aware of a child’s emotions;
  2. Recognizing emotional expression as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching;
  3. Listening empathetically and validate a child’s feelings;
  4. Label emotions in words a child can understand; and
  5. Helping a child discover appropriate ways to solve a problem or deal with an upsetting situation.

It encourages the parent or reader to reflect on their current approaches and tackles real challenges to emotional intelligence coaching.

As a result, the material is delivered in a way that quite effectively reflects Gottman’s own professional experience. Empathy, bonding, and understanding are all key essential concepts in this concise 240-page parenting guide.

Buy the ebook version at Kobo.com and see: Teaching Emotional Intelligence to Teens and Students.

6. How to Raise a Child With a High EQ: A Parents’ Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Kindle eBook on How to Raise a Child with a High EQ

Another book about helping children develop EI, this is also a practical offering from child psychologist Dr. Lawrence Shapiro. Some of the neuroscientific bases may not be fresh news, however, it was published over 20 years ago.

Nonetheless, Shapiro’s book is a very practical guide that’s full of useful activities, games, and checklists. It is easy to read but may contain more actionable implications for parents of young children than for teachers.

As with many other books on Emotional Intelligence, it emphasizes the importance of EQ over IQ regarding success—as such, it also offers an overview of the topic for new readers.

Download the ebook for Kindle at Amazon.co.uk.

7. EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence

EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Consultant, author, and speaker Justin Bariso was named LinkedIn’s ‘Top Voice’ in ‘Management’ Culture in 2016. EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence adopts a current, modern approach to EI’s importance in our information age.

It is slightly less in-depth from a research perspective than some other (mostly academic) works but makes up for it with an incredible amount of practical, down-to-earth guidance and methods.

This is – as the title suggests, a practical and useful resource for dealing with day-to-day challenges. Besides, it is full of Bariso’s personal experiences and case studies.

You can purchase the EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence ebook for Kindle at Amazon.

5 Books for increasing your emotional intelligence - Crown Palace

5+ Emotional Intelligence Novels

If you would rather not read anything academic or would prefer to develop your EI your own way, getting into some literary fiction may be one way to do it.

Novels can genuinely offer a lot in the way of helping us understand Emotional Intelligence – and in an easily digestible format. A study has suggested that the very practice of reading literary fiction may help us develop emotional intelligence and empathy (Kidd & Castano, 2013).

How? In a chat with the New York Times, Seton Hill University Master’s Program Director Albert Wendland has suggested the following (Belluck, 2013):

“[Literary] fiction is putting yourself into another person’s position – lives that could be more difficult, more complex, more than what you might be used to in popular fiction. It makes sense that they will find that…can lead to more empathy and understanding of other lives.”

More technically, researchers Kidd and Castano used Theory of Mind tests to study participants’ ability to empathize. Those who read literary rather than popular fiction for short periods were better able to ‘decode’ the emotions within, or empathize with, pictures of human eyes.

Excerpts from the following literary fiction titles – and works by the following authors – were read by the high-performing groups in the study (van Kuijk et al., 2018):

  • The Round House: A Novel by Louise Erdrich (Amazon);
  • The VanderCook by Alice Mattinson, in The PEN O. Henry Prize Stories 2012 (Amazon);
  • Corrie by Alice Munro (a short story in The New Yorker, 2010); and
  • Uncle Rock by Dagoberto Gilb (another 2010 New Yorker short story).

The broader implications of the study are probably welcome news for keen readers. Literary fiction is believed to affect our perceptions of social reality by ‘challenging social categories,’ researcher Castano offered in an interview with the Guardian (Flood, 2016).

Compared to popular genre works (think Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl), literary fiction ‘is associated with differences in interpersonal perception’ that, ultimately, draw on psychological processes differently.

Here are four more literary fiction novels by award-winning authors, as per Kidd and Castano’s (2013) research implications:

  • The Shooting Party by Anton Chekov (Amazon);
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (Penguin Random House);
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo (Amazon); and
  • Remembering: A Novel (Port William) by Wendell Berry (Amazon).

Bonus Book!

Warmly recommended by Sue Langley in the comments down below, we add this bonus book to your list of 26 best emotional intelligence books as a must-read:

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

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

Packed with anecdotes and references to empirical research, Emotional Agility is full of actionable advice on EI. Harvard Medical School Psychologist Dr. Susan David covers several interesting and useful premises in this book, perhaps most notably, the ways in which we can detach cognitively from our emotions.

Using the concept of a ‘hook’, like the draw-ins that we see in Hollywood movies, she describes the scenario of becoming caught by self-defeating thoughts, emotions, or behaviors.

We ‘unhook’ when we transgress these conditioned cognitive reactions and choose to behave in more adaptive ways—ways that are aligned with our personal values.

Throughout, she tells stories and cites studies in a way that makes it easy for the reader to reflect on related situations in their own daily lives.

Based on the Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso Model of EI, Emotional Agility involves being more perceptive to our contexts and developing rational responses to them. Not, she points out, bottling up our emotions or brooding on them. In Chapters 7 and 8, particularly, David walks the reader through some practical methods for moving on past negative cognitive processes.

The good news? Developing Emotional Agility is not about instant, revolutionary (and probably very large-scale) changes. With an incremental approach and realistic goal-setting, we can get on with our lives in a much more effective way.

You can purchase the bestselling Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life from Amazon, where it’s also available as an audiobook or ebook for Kindle.

A Take-Home Message

Whether you are after the best Emotional Intelligence books for an overview of the topic, or you are more interested in how EI can be applied in the workplace, there’s plenty of literature out there. Hopefully, you have already found something in this article that piques your interest!

Have you read any of the books that we have covered? Did you enjoy them? Alternatively, do you have any suggestions for books that we could include? We are excited to hear your opinion, so do feel free to share your thoughts with us below in the comments.
Happy reading!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Emotional Intelligence Exercises for free.

  • Belluck, P. (2013). For better social skills, scientists recommend a little Chekhov. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/i-know-how-youre-feeling-i-read-chekhov/.
  • Boyatzis, R. E. (1999). Self-directed change and learning as a necessary meta-competency for success and effectiveness in the twenty-first century. In J. G. Veres & R. R. Sims (Eds.), Keys to employee success in coming decades (pp. 15-32). Westport, CT: Quorum.
  • EI Consortium. (2018). The Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT). Retrieved from http://www.eiconsortium.org/measures/msceit.html.
  • Flood, A. (2016). Literary fiction readers understand others’ emotions better, study finds. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/23/literary-fiction-readers-understand-others-emotions-better-study-finds.
  • Kidd, D. C., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342(6156), 377-380.
  • van Kuijk, I., Verkoeijen, P., Dijkstra, K., & Zwaan, R. A. (2018). The effect of reading a short passage of literary fiction on theory of mind: A replication of Kidd and Castano (2013). Collabra: Psychology, 4(1), 1-12.
  • Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9(3), 185-211.

What our readers think

  1. Collection of Books

    keep it up guys you are amazing

  2. Kelum warnakula

    Hi Cath,
    I’m doing research on emotional intelligence and sales performance so this is very useful for me. Appreciate it, if you could send me some of the newest areas about emotional intelligence to be researched

  3. Syed Rafiqul Hossain

    That’s the most wonderful review I have ever read on the books of Emotional Intelligence. I must thank the author!

  4. Victoria Corcoran

    Hey Cath!

    I’d love to recommend that you read Emotional Intelligence by Amy Jacobson- it only came out last month but is really practical at how to increase your EI! It most definitely should be in this list.

  5. anil khandelwal

    Dear Cath
    This is the best learning on EI at one place. Kudos to your painstaking work.
    Some people are emotionally fixated due to early childhood experiences like parenting( close control, child beating etc) and the child does not come to terms and gets fixated into negative emotions trap or in-office setting issues of bias, denial of promotions etc creates emotional distancing between the boss and the subordinates. The aspect of Power is not discussed in EI.
    . I am still not very clear how emotional regulation techniques can help and what are they. The need and importance and benefits of EI are too obvious but most literature on EQ appears nebulous and rhetorical

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Anil,

      Thank you for your kind comments. I agree that EI/EQ can be quite theoretical in nature — it’s not always clear how to put the principles into practice. To help, we have a free pack of emotional intelligence exercises you can try for yourself here if you’re interested in developing your EI.

      Training ourselves in emotion regulation strategies (and also empathy and perspective taking) is how we can begin to enact many of the principles of EI/EQ theory. On this topic, we have another post full of emotion regulation worksheets and exercises you can view here if you’re interested — hopefully that will clarify some of the concrete strategies, which are applicable across a range of domains (e.g., the work setting, like you mention).

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  6. Catalin Hritcu

    What’s your take on “The Laws of Human Nature” by Robert Greene?

    • Catherine Moore, Psychologist, MBA

      Hi Catalin,
      I have to confess I hadn’t come across it before you mentioned it.
      Reading the summary, though, it looks interesting. Might give it a go.
      Thanks for the recommendation

  7. Dan Hill

    A unique take on EQ is via Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading Others. It uses celebrity examples to reveal ways we don’t actually know these stars’s emotional make-up and triggers to cover seven emotions and also through facial coding, how one might read both characteristic expressions and those in-the-moment to interact more effectively with people.

    • Catherine Moore, Psychologist, MBA

      Thanks, that sounds interesting indeed 🙂


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