21 Best Emotional Intelligence Books to Improve EQ

Emotional Intelligence BooksSince Daniel Goleman published his international best-selling book on emotional intelligence in 1995, individuals, groups, and organizations have embraced the importance of being aware of and able to use emotions (Goleman & Cherniss, 2024).

Goleman (1995) recognized that scoring well on traditional intelligence assessments is not a good predictor of academic achievement, career success, leadership skills, or mental and physical wellbeing.

Instead, knowing and managing our emotions improves our relationships, manages our impulses, and motivates us toward value-driven goals (Goleman, 1995).

This article shares several of Goleman’s most important books alongside a carefully chosen selection of the best emotional intelligence books to further develop your understanding of emotional intelligence.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Emotional Intelligence Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will enhance your ability to understand and work with your emotions and give you the tools to foster the emotional intelligence of your clients, students, or employees.

The Most Famous Emotional Intelligence Book

Emotional Intelligence

When psychologist Daniel Goleman released his book in 1995, it was considered pioneering, introducing novel emotional insights to a new audience.

Translated into 40 languages, the 25-anniversary edition of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ includes original ground-breaking research and more recent findings from neuroscience.

This highly regarded bestseller remains essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the factors involved and importance of emotional intelligence.

But why does emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) matter? Goleman (1995) writes that EI offers us many vital and life-changing abilities, including being able to:

  • Motivate ourselves
  • Persist in the face of frustrations
  • Control impulses and delay gratification
  • Regulate our moods
  • Keep distress from overwhelming our thinking
  • Create empathy and hope

And crucially, EI can be learned (Goleman, 1995).

Goleman’s first edition was written when research methods were beginning to offer a more profound understanding of the field of emotions and insights into the meaning of EI.

He writes that having seen a rise in self-help books written without any scientific basis, “now science is finally able to speak with authority to these urgent and perplexing questions of the psyche at its most irrational, to map with some precision the human heart” (Goleman, 1995, p. xi).

Find the book on Amazon.

Daniel Goleman on the importance of emotional intelligence

To hear more from Daniel Goleman, listen to his talk on the importance of emotional intelligence.

Daniel Goleman’s Books on Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman has written many of the best emotional intelligence books and related subjects. The following include theoretical insights and explore real-world implications and the steps required to change our experience of ourselves and others.

1. Working With Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman

Working with Emotional Intelligence

Following the success of Goleman’s ground-breaking book on EI, Working with Emotional Intelligence offers readers deep insights into the skills behind EI and how to develop them further.

Goleman suggests EI is the most essential factor that sets great leaders apart from less effective ones.

Drawing on findings from hundreds of studies, he introduces the five key sets of skills we can learn to evolve into emotionally intelligent professionals and organizations.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? – Daniel Goleman

Destructive Emotions

Goleman discusses Buddhist philosophy with the Dalai Lama to understand why destructive emotions arise and how to manage them better.

In doing so, he considers several powerful and challenging questions, including:

What are the root causes of destructive behavior?
How can we control the emotions that drive these impulses?
Can we learn to live at peace with ourselves and others?

Goleman shares his thinking on what he describes as the three emotional poisons — craving, anger, and delusion — alongside how we can use current thinking and scientific findings to nurture compassion for others.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships – Daniel Goleman

Social Intelligence

Becoming aware of and understanding our emotions and those around us can positively impact our interpersonal world.

Goleman goes beyond our emotional and behavioral reactions to explore our biological responses, including the hormones that regulate many of the body’s most essential systems.

In this book about social intelligence, readers can dig deeper into many aspects of their lives, attempting to answer several important questions, such as how do we raise our children to be happy, and how can we inspire others?

Find the book on Amazon.

4. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman

Primal Leadership

In Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman reassesses what it takes to become a great leader and discusses specific leadership styles.

The book is an action-oriented guide for developing the most vital qualities of leadership and explains why emotions remain at their core.

While written for business, its learnings are equally applicable to education and other complex organizations where leadership is essential, illustrating the need for self-awareness and empathic, motivating, and collaborative levels across hierarchies.

Find the book on Amazon.

5. Optimal: How to Sustain Personal and Organizational Excellence Every Day – Daniel Goleman and Cary Cherniss


Daniel Goleman and Cary Cherniss’s recent book takes our understanding and application of EI to a new level. They reveal practical approaches for using our inner resources to enter optimal performance states while protecting us from burnout.

In doing so, they reveal how to increase the chance of experiencing our best and most productive selves while performing optimally in any situation.

Synthesizing more than three decades of research and thinking, the authors offer actionable tools and insights for individuals and organizations to boost high-performing teams and leadership qualities.

Find the book 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.

4 Best Emotional Intelligence Books for the Workplace

EI has been widely written about since Goleman’s 1995 bestseller (Goleman & Cherniss, 2024).

The following choice of best emotional intelligence books has been guided by reviews and discussions from Forbes, Goodreads, and several publishers, along with our personal favorites, to produce a collection of powerful resources for understanding and applying EI in the workplace.

1. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves’s book offers a valuable text for developing and applying emotional self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management in our lives and the workplace.

“The daily challenge of dealing effectively with emotions is critical to the human condition because our brains are hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand.”

Bradberry & Greaves, 2009, p. 6

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Emotional Intelligence: For a Better Life, Success at Work, and Happier Relationships – Brandon Goleman

Emotional Intelligence

Brandon Goleman shares advice and tools to bring higher emotional intelligence into our working relationships.

He covers essential areas of emotional awareness and application, including understanding why EI impacts our work and personal lives and how to read our own and others’ emotions, define our values better, influence others without being manipulative, and build meaningful and lasting connections.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness – Harvard Business Review

Emotional Intelligence

This book is part of the Harvard Business Review series. It focuses on self-awareness, how to become more emotionally aware, and how thoughts and feelings impact their performance and relationships within their careers.

Including chapters by Daniel Goleman, Susan David, and Robert Steven Kaplan, this insightful and practical book encourages readers to understand their thoughts and emotions and to lead themselves and their organizations more effectively.

Find the book on Amazon.

4. Emotional Intelligence 3.0: How to Stop Playing Small in a Really Big Universe – Tomi White Bryan

Emotional Intelligence 3.0

Tomi White Bryan offers a powerful model for understanding and positively influencing what shapes our emotional development and intelligence.

She creates a system that promotes emotional balance and recovery from past trauma.

It is a beneficial text for coaches and HR managers working with employees to progress in their emotional journey and reclaim more creative power in the workplace.

Find the book on Amazon.

3 Great Audiobooks on Emotional Intelligence

Reviews on BookAuthority, Audible, Amazon, and personal preferences have influenced our selection of audiobooks on emotional intelligence.

1. Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience – Brené Brown

Atlas of the Heart

Atlas of the Heart is a beautiful book, read by the author, that takes the listener on a powerful journey through 87 emotions — some we enjoy and others we may find painful.

Brown uses her vast research experience alongside her personal experience to offer us the power of understanding, meaning, and choice over our feelings.

Brown (2021, cover) shares, “I want this book to be an atlas for all of us, because I believe that, with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves.”

Find the audiobook on Amazon.

2. Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive – Marc Brackett

Permission to Feel

Marc Brackett, professor at Yale University’s Child Study Center, offers a bold plan to improve the lives of children and adults.

Understanding and effectively using our emotions builds upon our success and wellbeing, whether in education or a working environment.

Join Brackett on an engaging walk through his high-impact, fast-effect system called RULER as he aims to reduce stress, depression, and burnout.

Find the audiobook on Amazon.

3. Emotional Intelligence Habits – Travis Bradberry

Emotional Intelligence Habits

Following the success of his earlier book, Travis Bradberry uses Emotional Intelligence Habits as an opportunity to share practical strategies for forming good emotional habits, breaking bad ones, and mastering behaviors that will support positive emotional outcomes.

This fascinating book will engage the listener in increasing their EI through a series of micro-habits that yield significant results around self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Find the audiobook on Amazon.

5 Excellent Books on EI and Leadership

Goleman and Boyatzis (2017, para. 2) write, “We’ve found that having a well-balanced array of specific EI capabilities actually prepares a leader for exactly these kinds of tough challenges.”

EI is so widely recognized as vital to today’s leaders that Harvard Business Review has written an entire series of books dedicated to exploring and sharing what we know.

1. Leadership Presence – HBR Review Emotional Intelligence Series

Leadership Presence

Influential leaders require presence.

In this valuable collection of articles, writers and researchers share their thoughts and vital insights into how developing EI and practicing associated skills can help individuals sound like leaders, connect with their employees, send the right signals, and be heard.

It offers a powerful insight into the impact of emotions on leadership and how to improve our own and others’ performances.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Dealing With Difficult People – HBR Review Emotional Intelligence Series

Dealing with Difficult People

Leaders must learn how to deal with challenging people at all levels of organizations.

Staying calm and collected and managing our emotions is vital to leadership success.

This helpful book explores our emotional responses to difficult staff and customers and how to build empathy and resilience to respond assertively without aggression.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence – HBR Review Emotional Intelligence Series

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence

This powerful collection of insights from multiple writers includes the featured article “What Makes a Leader?” by Daniel Goleman.

Each of the 10 chapters explores EI in leadership and the workplace and includes insights on how to make informed, empathetic decisions, develop emotional agility, build emotional intelligence in groups, and embrace and give feedback.

Find the book on Amazon.

4. Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader: A Guide to Cultivating Effective Leadership and Organizations – Christopher Connors

Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader

Christopher Connors offers a practical guide to strategies, tools, and assessments to grow EI and apply it to leadership.

The reader will learn the pillars of high-EQ leadership and its potential for improving organizational culture.

Connors helps leaders identify their professional leadership style and how it affects the people around them while offering tools to grow their abilities.

Find the book on Amazon.

5. Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership: The Secret to Building High-Performance Sales Teams – Colleen Stanley

Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership

Sales are a vital yet challenging element of any business.

Building a great sales team starts with identifying and developing emotionally intelligent and aware leaders with practical sales management skills.

Colleen Stanley guides readers through applying emotional skills, including empathy and assertiveness, to create emotionally intelligent teams that excel personally and professionally.

Find the book on Amazon.

Emotional Intelligence Books for Kids

Children begin to develop awareness and understanding of their own and others’ emotions very early.

With the proper support, they can build the skills needed to promote positive and healthy relationships that support their wellbeing and underpin their performances in education, hobbies, sports, and with peers and family (Goleman, 1995; Goleman & Cherniss, 2024).

The inclusion of these best emotional intelligence books is influenced by recommendations from parents, our own personal experiences, and Amazon and Audible bestseller lists.

1. My Body Sends a Signal: Helping Kids Recognize Emotions and Express Feelings – Natalia Maguire

My Body Sends a Signal

Using clear words and familiar situations is essential when teaching children about their emotions.

Natalia Maguire’s book is bright and colorful and uses simple stories to articulate the importance of emotions and activities for building empathy in a child’s life.

It also includes calming exercises and follow-up exercises for parents to use when working with their children.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Me and My Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Understanding and Expressing Themselves – Vanessa Green Allen

Me and My Feelings

This is a popular book for parents teaching emotional intelligence to their children about what happens when “big feelings” come along and how to handle them.

Brightly colored and informative, this book offers practical tools, exercises, quizzes, and activities to support children in building empathy with their friends and families.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. Slumberkins – Discover a World of Feelings


Several books combined with cuddly toys form part of this delightful collection created by a therapist and educator.

For example, Otter explores the importance of family bonding and how to support positive relationships, while Honey Bear encourages gratitude.

Each book and toy set supports families raising confident, comfortable, and emotionally aware children in a safe and playful environment.

Find the books and toys on Amazon.

17 Exercises To Develop Emotional Intelligence

These 17 Emotional Intelligence Exercises [PDF] will help others strengthen their relationships, lower stress, and enhance their wellbeing through improved EQ.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

EQ Resources From PositivePsychology.com

We have many resources for coaches and counselors working with clients to support their emotional intelligence development.

Our free resources include:

  • The RATE Worksheet
    Use the RATE model to help clients recognize and accept feelings, take care of themselves, and respectfully express how they feel.
  • REBT Formulation Worksheet
    This exercise provides three steps to help distinguish between healthy and unhealthy emotional responses.
  • Emotional Wellness Quiz
    This quiz helps recognize, accept, and manage positive and negative emotions and identify healthy responses.

More extensive versions of the following tools are available with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit©, but they are described briefly below:

  • Emotional regulation wheel
    The emotional regulation wheel helps individuals increase, maintain, or decrease positive and negative emotions.

Try out the following four steps:

    • Step one – Recall a recent challenging experience.
    • Step two – Describe your emotions.
    • Step three – Outline how you dealt with your feelings.
    • Step four – Use the emotional regulation wheel to find the most appropriate strategy for dealing with your emotions.
  • Identifying Emotional Avoidance Strategies
    One way we attempt to manage our emotional responses is to avoid certain situations.

However, this is not always healthy and can increase their occurrence and intensity.

Instead, try out the following four steps:

    • Step one – Review existing emotions that you find difficult to handle.
    • Step two – Identify your avoidance strategies, for example, drinking alcohol or binge-watching TV.
    • Step three – Reflect on how successful they are.
    • Step four – Consider alternative approaches and strategies that may lead to more positive outcomes.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others develop emotional intelligence, check out this collection of 17 validated EI tools for practitioners. Use them to help others understand and use their emotions to their advantage.

A Take-Home Message

While most of us are now aware of the importance of emotional intelligence, that was not always the case.

Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, published in 1995, made available a growing body of research highlighting and communicating the essential nature of emotional awareness.

While most of us have heard the term, we have much to learn regarding how best to develop related skills that support self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

The best emotional intelligence books are available to support their development across multiple life domains, including work, leadership, parenting, and education.

In this article, we chose those with a firm theoretical basis that offer the opportunity to apply the skills in real-world settings, aiming to boost wellbeing and performance.

Whether as a leader, member of HR, parent, or coach, why not deepen your understanding of this fascinating and valuable field of study? Use the skills or share the books with your employees or clients to develop their skills and allow them to flourish.

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

ED: Updated February 2024

  • Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional intelligence 2.0. TalentSmart.
  • Brown, B. (2021). Atlas of the heart. Vermilion.
  • Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Bantam Books.
  • Goleman, D., & Boyatzis, R. (2017). Emotional intelligence has 12 elements: Which do you need to work on? Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/02/emotional-intelligence-has-12-elements-which-do-you-need-to-work-on
  • Goleman, D., & Cherniss, C. (2024). Optimal: How to sustain personal and organizational excellence every day. HarperCollins.

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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