Want to learn to read body language? These five body language books are the absolute best.
Desmond Morris: People Watching
Here’s the one simple truth many body language books fail to mention: the vast majority of facts and insights presented in modern body language books were originally set to the page by British zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris, and tough People Watching might not be most entertaining read, it certainly is one of the most important books to ever tackle the subject of body language, as well as being one of the most thorough.
Reading People Watching is like observing the human animal through a microscope. Morris dissects the human animal like no other. One can almost see the tweezers with which Morris probes our species.
Extract: “The wagged forefinger (left) or the laterally shaken hand (middle)
often act in place of the simple Head Shake. These are examples of
Substitute Signals, where one part of the body (the forefinger or the
hand) replaces the usual organ (the head) involved in sending the
signal. In a similar way, the North American Indian sign for ‘yes’ is a
dip of the forefinger (right), with this movement substituting
for a nod of the bead.”
Download the ebook Demond Morris People Watching
Or get a physical copy here: PEOPLEWATCHING
Barbara and Allan Pease: The Definitive Book of Body Language
Some may find Desmond Morris’ work a little overbearing, in which case the work of Barbara and Allan Pease is recommended. This is the book that brought body language into the mainstream, a simple, concise overview of some of the most important body language gestures. Though almost all the information in the book can be found in Desmond Morris’ work, Barabara and Allan Pease do an excellent job of simplifying the interpretation of body language.
There is a comprise to be made here: the simplicity The Definitive Book of Body Language offers makes the subject accessible, but it does so at the expense of some important details. This leaves The Definitive Book of Body Language as an enjoyable and informative introduction, if a little too pop and rather too thin on details.
Extract from The Definitive Book of Body Language
“Salespeople are taught to watch for a customer’s exposed
palms when he gives reasons or objections about why he can’t
buy a product, because when someone
is giving valid reasons, they usually
show their palms. When people are
being open in explaining their reasons
they use their hands and flash their
palms whereas someone who isn’t
telling the truth is likely to give the
same verbal responses but conceal their
Download the ebook
Or get a physical copy: The Definitive Book of Body Language
Joe Navarro, What Every Body is Saying
Joe Navarro is an ex FBI agent who created many of the theories of nonverbal communication used by the FBI to read potential criminals (Navarro goes to great lengths to chronicle his work in the FBI, which some may find entertaining reading, others an unwanted obtrusion to the central theme of the book).
Joe Navarro’s What Every Body is Saying manages to separate itself from the pack of body language books by offering clear advice on how to read people. Where most body language books offer diagrams, descriptions and explanations of body language gestures, often in encyclopaedic format, Navarro does away with this approach, choosing instead to recounts stories of how he personally interpreted individual suspects body language, revealing his personal approach to people reading in order to provide the reader with case studies that teach not just the facts, but the how, why and wherefore of people reading.
Extract from Joe Navarro’s What Every Body is saying: “Universal nonverbal behaviors constitute one
group of body cues: those that are relatively the same for everyone. There
is a second type of body cue called an idiosyncratic nonverbal behavior,
which is a signal that is relatively unique to a particular individual.
In attempting to identify idiosyncratic signals, you’ll want to be on
the lookout for behavioral patterns in people you interact with on a regular
basis (friends, family, coworkers, persons who provide goods or services
to you on a consistent basis). The better you know an individual, or
the longer you interact with him or her, the easier it will be to discover
this information because you will have a larger database upon which to
make your judgments. For example, if you note your teenager scratches
his head and bites his lip when he is about to take a test, this may be a
reliable idiosyncratic tell that speaks of his nervousness or lack of preparation.
No doubt this has become part of his repertoire for dealing with
stress, and you will see it again and again because “the best predictor of
future behavior is past behavior.”
Download the ebook
Or get a physical copy: What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People
Paul Ekman, Unmasking the Face
Paul Ekman is a pioneer in the study of emotions. His work gave rise to the study of mircoexpressions, currently a hot subject in nonverbal communication (though dismissed, perhaps too readily, by many body language specialists).
No matter your stance on microexpressions, there can be no doubt that Ekman’s work in blueprinting emotions—principally offered through Unmasking the Face—is of the utmost importance. Ekman reveals exactly how the universal emotions of sadness, happiness, disgust, anger, fear and surprise show themselves on a person’s face, detailing the way the eyes, eyebrow, nose, mouth and more move when experiencing these emotions.
Imagine being able to determine the emotion a person was feeling within less than a second. This is what Ekman’s Unmasking the Face offers.
Extract from Ekman’s Unmasking the Face: 2 Contempt is shown by a variation on the closed-lips disgust mouth.
Figure 25 shows three contempt expressions. John shows the unilateral contempt
mouth, with slight pressing of the lips and a raising of the corners on
one side. Patricia’s expression in 25B is essentially the same as John’s except
that her upper lip is raised on one side, exposing the teeth. This adds the
scornful, sneering note to the expression. The picture of Patricia in 25C
shows a milder form of contempt, with a barely noticeable lifting of the
upper lip on one side of her face.”
Download the Ebook
Or get a physical copy Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions From Facial Expressions
You Say More than You Think
Written by a former ATF body language expert, You Say More than You Think I designed to let you know who is lying and who is not. It’s a risky subject, because in reality there are no sure far tells for uncovering who is lying and who is not, but You Say More than You Think covers the subject comprehensively and in great detail, making it one of the best books for uncovering deceit.
Extract from You Say More than You Think: “During those years at the ATF, I came to realize that reading and responding to body language is an awful lot like handling explosives. Used correctly, they can both be extraordinarily effective. But you have to stay aware—you never know when they’re going to blow up in your face.
Ask yourself: Has there ever been a time in your life where you got so caught up in the moment that you didn’t think through all the potential consequences of your actions? Maybe poor judgment cost you a missed business opportunity, your personal safety, a spouse, the love of one of your children, respect from colleagues, or even self-respect.
Now consider this: over 50 percent of what we communicate with others is nonverbal. If you aren’t aware of the raw power of your body language, you are taking an unnecessary risk.”
Download the ebook of You Say More than You Think
Or get a physical copy here: You Say More Than You Think: A 7-Day Plan for Using the New Body Language to Get What You Want