The truth about lies: a recommended reading list

“Lying is a cooperative act,” says professional lie detector Pamela Meyer (TED Talk: How to spot a liar). “Think about it, a lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie.” Meyer works to help people see the sheer ubiquity of the falsehoods we tell and hear — and gives advice on how we might start to combat deception. Dive into her 17 favorite books about truth, dishonesty, and all the gray areas in between.

1. The Post-Truth Era
Ralph Keyes
St. Martin’s Press, 2004

“Keyes, who coined the term ‘post-truth era,’ argues that our modern society is awash in a type of lie that is neither truth nor fiction, but more akin to ‘casual dishonesty.’ An older book that is still relevant today and was way ahead of its time.”

2. Why Leaders Lie
John J. Mearsheimer
Oxford University Press, 2013

“Lying and diplomacy — a match made in heaven.”

3. Spy the Lie
Philip Houston et al.
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013

“Terrific real-world tips on ferreting out lies by three deception experts who worked on counterterrorism and criminal intelligence cases.”

4. The Liar in Your Life
Robert Feldman
Twelve Books, 2010

“A great book from a University of Massachusetts psychology professor about how and why deception is eroding our culture. This deception expert authored the famous study that found strangers lie to each other about three times in the first ten minutes of meeting each other.”

5. Tangled Webs
James B. Stewart
Penguin, 2012

“An investigative journalist delves deep into America’s most prominent lies and liars. Stewart focuses on many of the ‘greats,’ including Martha Stewart, Barry Bonds and Bernie Madoff.”

6. Detecting Lies and Deceit
Aldert Vrij
Wiley, 2008

“A reliable handbook for any aspiring student of deception. This comprehensive book by the Swedish researcher reviews numerous studies and much of the foundational research on lie detection.”

7. Telling Lies
Paul Ekman
W. W. Norton & Company, 2009

“A fantastic book by the father of emotion research. Ekman outlines common motives for lying, the science of using facial expressions (‘microexpressions’) to detect deception and the concept of ‘leakage.'”

8. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
Charles Darwin
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012

“Charles Darwin believed that facial expressions were biologically determined and identical across all cultures. In this 1872 book, he explores such topics as ‘gradation from loud laughter to gentle smiling’ and ‘shame from broken moral laws and conventional rules.'”

9. The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression
G.-B. Duchenne de Boulogne and R. Andrew Cuthbertson (Translator)
Cambridge University Press, 2006

“French physician Guillaume Duchenne identified the physical difference between a false or ‘social’ smile — one made consciously, using only the mouth muscles — and a genuine, spontaneous smile made involuntarily, using the muscles of both the eyes and the mouth. In his honor, genuine smiles are now called ‘Duchenne smiles.'”

10. The Honest Truth about Dishonesty
Dan Ariely
Harper Perennial, 2013

“A fun, research-based look at cheating and dishonesty by this well-known behavioral economist. The book touches on everything from why creative people are better liars to why wearing knockoff fashion accessories will make you more dishonest.”

11. De Mendacio (On Lying) [Latin]
St. Augustine
Nabu Press, 2012

“A classic. St. Augustine believed that a lie occurs when we ‘hold one thing in our heart and say another.'”

12. Why We Lie
David Livingstone Smith
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007

“An important history of lying and deception.”

13. The Truth about Trust
David DeSteno
Hudson Street Press, 2014

“This fascinating book by this well-known psychologist touches on the most recent science in the field of deception and trust. He delves into topics such as the importance of reading body language and the biological foundations of trust. Interestingly, he argues that integrity even among the most trustworthy is an unstable trait that can waver when faced with personal gain.”

14. Mindwise
Nicholas Epley
Knopf, 2014

“This University of Chicago psychologist illuminates the importance of using your sixth sense to build and maintain honest relationships.”

15. Honest Signals
Alex Pentland
The MIT Press, 2010

“Pentland’s fascinating research on ‘honest signals,’ the nonverbal forms of communication between individuals that when observed can predict outcomes of very diverse situations, such as speed-dating, salary negotiations and job interviews.”

16. Blind Spots
Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel
Princeton University Press, 2012

“A look at how and why people end up making dishonest, deceptive choices, by two renowned business ethicists.”

17. Reality Check
Guy Kawasaki
Portfolio Trade, 2011

“If you want to know the biggest lies told by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, lawyers and CEOs, Kawasaki’s your guy.”