What are the best NLP books?

What are the best NLP books?

I received an email from Amazon today telling me about a new(ish) book on NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) called, “The Ultimate Introduction to NLP: How to build a successful life“. While I was wondering whether to buy it or not I started thinking about which of the many NLP books I have read is the best one. I have collected a large number over the years, some better than others, so maybe I’ll have another look at the best ones as a result of this.

What is NLP?

In case you aren’t already familiar with NLP, it is an approach to personal communication, personal deveopment and psychotherapy. NLP is based on the idea that our thinking, language and behavioural patterns learned through experience are all linked, and modifying these things can help us to achieve our goals in life (Wikipedia).

I completed a practitioner course in NLP in 2005 and before, during and since I have been an avid reader of books on the subject. One of the biggest problems with NLP books is that a lot of the information and techniques are presented as facts, and the origin of these “facts” is seldom made clear.

I would recommend reading books written by Richard Bandler, one of the co-creators of NLP, where possible, because it is really only in these books that the origin of the techniques used in NLP is made clear.

The books I have selected in the list below can be used as part of a formal NLP course or can be used on their own if you want to learn the NLP techniques. Since NLP is very practical they all contain exercises to help you.

NLP started off trying to model success

The origins of NLP were in attempts by Richard Bander and John Grinder (the other founder of NLP) to work out how certain people were achieving outstanding levels of success in their respective fields. They studied therapists (including hypnotherapists) to determine the language patterns they were using to help their clients.

These patterns were then formulated to help other people achieve success in whatever area they desired. These are the NLP techniques that help us to communicate more effectively with ourselves as well as other people to become more successful in achieving our goals.

My top ten NLP books (IMHO)

1. Get the Life You Want: The Secrets to Quick and Lasting Life Change with Neuro-Linguistic Programming

I thought long and hard about which book I would put at the top of the list and I finally decided on this one. The reason is that it is a practical book that can be used very easily by people who want to make some changes in their lives. Several of the long-winded early NLP techniques have now been replaced by much simpler ones based on how we represent things to ourselves, and the focus on this book makes it of the most practical use to people.

2. Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-formations – Richard Bandler

This book has a couple of different sub-titles depending on the edition (the content is always the same). One edition has, “How to Harness the Power of Hypnosis to Ignite Effortless and Lasting Change”. Another has the much more user-friendly, “Make Your Life Great”. Clearly the first one would appeal more to NLP afficionadoes and the second to people looking to make some positive changes in their lives.

This book is the companion to, “Get The Life You Want”, and has further practical exercises that you can use to work on various areas of your life. It also covers the history of NLP and gives a great insight into the way it has developed over the years. The content works towards a discussion of hypnotic induction and how we can push past our limitations.

Again, it’s a very practical book and the explanations of the theory behind the techniques means that we can understand why we are doing the exercises rather than just blindly following instructions.

3. Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement – Anthony Robbins

This might be a bit controversial. A lot of people would say that this isn’t NLP at all, but at the time this was written (1986) Anthony Robbins was still promoting standard NLP, but with several of his own insights. It’s the addition of these ideas of his own that has enabled Robbins to become so much better known that the originators of NLP.

“Unlimited Power”, is a very easy read and all the concepts and techniques are clearly explained, which is another thing that has made the book (and Robbins) so successful. This is probably the best starting point for anyone interested in personal development in general and NLP in particular.

I’ve just been flicking through the book as I have been writing this and I’m going to read it once again (how many times will that be now?). The only reason this book wasn’t number one is that probably that I’m an NLP snob and this book wasn’t written by Richard Bander. Wow, I’ve really got some work to do on that!

4. Using Your Brain For A Change – Richard Bandler

This was the first of Richard Bandler’s books that I ever bought, and I got it  just after the second stage of my three-part NLP Practitioner course in 2003. I had read some “general” NLP books that covered the whole NLP repertoire to prepare for the course, but the thing that struck me immediately about this book was how focused it is on helping us to run our brains better.

The way we can do this is by thinking about how we represent things to ourselves so we can control these representations to enable us to control the feelings they generate. It’s important to realise that it’s our feelings that will scupper our plans every time unless we learn to control them. Bandler returns to this in the book at number 1 above, “Get the Life You Want”, but this is where the ideas seem to have originated.

The older NLP books, like this one, are transcripts of seminars, which some people find difficult, so when Bandler started producing books again a few years ago they were written in a more traditional style, which makes them more accessible.

5. Trance-Formations – John Grinder & Richard Bandler

Now that I’ve got to this book I’m starting to wonder why I didn’t make it number one in the list. Most people are fascinated by hypnosis and this is acknowledged by many people as the best book for learning how to do it. I believe famous hypnotists such as Paul McKenna learned from this book.

It was only after reading this book that the concepts of “pacing” and “leading” often discussed (but the relevance never explained) in general NLP books became clear. Again, written in the seminar transcript style, this is an amazing book. Bandler returns to this topic in the book at number 2, “Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-Formations”, but in this original work there is a real sense of how the techniques work in practice.

6. Persuasion Engineering – Richard Bandler & John LaValle

One of the reasons people learn the techniques of NLP is to help them in business. I was always puzzled about why books on Sales always started with motivation and self-management until I got my first sales job. As I mentioned earlier, it’s our feeling that will stop us in our tracks every time, no matter how great our plans were to start with, and my feelings (of fear) stopped me most of the time.

“Persuasion Engineering” is written as if Bandler is telling sales stories, like salespeople often tell one another, and it has a kind of rambling style that works. I think the secret to getting the most out of this book is to just read it and let it sink into your unconscious (where most of the feelings that cause us problems originate).

7. NLP Workbook – Joseph O’Connor

There are a number of “general” NLP books that present the techniques in a “second-hand” way. Most of them cover the material comprehensively so you could learn how to do them. However, they often present the information as “facts” and don’t provide enough information on the way these techniques evolved, which I believe is important to understand them properly.

This book could be criticised for this too but the breadth and depth of the information presented enables it to provide a very useful introduction to NLP, with exercises that guide the reader. This would be a good starting point for someone who wants to try out NLP techniques, perhaps prior to undertaking a practitioner programme.

8. Frogs Into Princes – Richard Bandler & John Grinder

As I understand it, “Frogs Into Princes” was the first attempt by Bandler and Grinder to produce a book outling their new NLP techniques. It was published in 1979, and as it says in the foreword, at that time NLP was only about four years old and most useful “patterns” were only about two years old.

This book is written in the seminar transcript style, and it’s clear that in those days the authors weren’t quite sure where NLP was heading, since it seems to be aimed at therapists of various types. Even in later books they talk about working with clients, where nowadays NLP is probably used mostly for personal development by non-therapists. It was probably Anthony Robbins, with “Unlimited Power”, that made the crossover with NLP to the general public.

9. The Secrets of Being Happy – Richard Bandler & Garner Thomson

This is another of the books written more recently by Richard Bandler, this time with a new co-author. This books takes the techniques of NLP and applies them specifically to helping people to become happier. Although it is focused in this way it would provide a great introduction to NLP for people who have no experience of it. It’s easy to read, has plenty of nice, easy exercises, and helps you think about how important happiness is and how you can enhance it.

10. Influencing With Integrity – Genie Z. Laborde

“Influencing With Integrity”, has the subtitle, “Management Skills for Communication and Negotiation”, which tells you immediately that this is a book focused on business applications for NLP. I’ve heard Richard Bandler say that, since the author doesn’t mention him in the book, nor mention where the techniques come from, that she shouldn’t really have used the word, “integrity”, in the title, but there you go.

This book was first published in 1983, and around that time probably provided a, “bridge”, between “Frogs Into Princes”, by Bandler and Grinder, and, “Unlimited Power”, by Anthony Robbins.

What do you think?

So there you have it. I’ve only just finished writing this “top ten” list of NLP books and already I’m having my doubts and thinking of changing my mind about some (or all) of them. It would be great to hear what you think via the comments box below.

Greg January 27, 2015 at 11:33

Thanks for the great list of NLP books. I agree with much of what you wrote about each book. Bandler and T. Robbins are the two authors that have helped me to understand what little I know about NLP. The down side to NLP is that to truly understand and use NLP several training courses are required. NLP is very expensive to learn and requires travel besides the high price of training and materials. The Practitioner book, alone, costs $290.00 and is almost useless without the live course experience (training and book sold by NLP Comprehensive).
I have a question and because your contact option is broken, I will just ask it here. Do you think it is actually possible to learn NLP by reading and doing exercises (alone) from all the books available? Most of the books seem to be a teaser to get those interested in financially committing to the live courses. I also need to mention that every NLP professional in my area has closed-up shop or taken NLP off of their credentials. I think NLP has tried to create the impression that they are elite and the tools are only for professionals, with a budget. That said, NLP could have helped, and still can help so many people if only they would stop with the elitist attitude, high-priced tools and complicated training, and most importantly – stop putting themselves high-up and out of reach of those who need what NLP has to offer the most. NLP should be for the people and not just for professionals hoping to get rich. It worked for Tony Robbins, but his books offer loads of value and he gives lots of value at no cost. How many NLP’ers are successful, rich and still in business in your area? Thanks, again!

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