The Persuasion Reading List - Dilbert Blog

The Persuasion Reading List

Update: New Book added: Impossible to Ignore

Background: Readers of this blog have been asking for a reading list to learn more about hypnosis, persuasion, and influence in general. This is the start of the list. I will update it over time.

If you wonder why people are asking a cartoonist about persuasion, it is because I am a trained hypnotist, and mention it often in the context of blogging. I have also studied the various tools of persuasion for years because it is directly applicable to my job as a writer.

The bad news is that you can’t learn hypnosis from a book. It would be like learning to play a sport by reading about it. There is no substitute for physical practice with real humans. If you want to learn formal hypnosis, where you put willing subjects into a so-called trance state, you need to sign up for a class. 

You can think of hypnosis as rapid A-B testing. The hypnotist suggests a thought and observes micro-movement in the subject’s muscle tension, breathing, and other body parts to determine whether the suggestion is having the intended effect. If you are not near the subject, to observe reactions, you can’t make the adjustments needed to get the best result.

The good news is that you don’t need to learn how to induce trances. That skill won’t help your life in any way. Formal hypnosis, with a trance, is for the benefit of the subject, not the hypnotist. My reading list is designed to help you be more influential, and therefore more successful, no matter how you define success.

When I talk about hypnosis I am speaking broadly and conflating all forms of influence in daily life. The only thing I am EXCLUDING is the trance phenomenon and the things that stage hypnotists do. Those things have no use to you. 

I have grouped the reading list by virtual chapters as if this is one meta book. I think the order is important, but for those of you who have sampled similar material elsewhere, use your judgment about what to skip.

Several books on this list are ones that I have not read. I include them for completeness. In most cases I picked up the same knowledge from other sources. For this purpose it was easier to point you to a single book that Amazon reviewers like. For example, the book on my list about reading body language is probably one of many that has similar information, but readers seemed to like this one.

Let us begin.

Chapter 1 – Things You Can Stop Believing

The first chapter is designed to make you skeptical about your ability to comprehend reality. If you are already a hardcore skeptic, you can skip this chapter.

Chapter 2 – Stretching your Imagination

These books are selected to open your mind for what follows. If you have experience with LSD or mushrooms, you might not need this chapter. (Yes, I am serious.)  

Chapter 3 – The Moist Robot Hypothesis

The Moist Robot Hypothesis first appears in my book that is listed below. The idea is that humans are biological machines, subject to cause and effect. According to this view, free will is an illusion and humans can be programmed once you understand our user interface.

With this chapter I ease you into the notion that humans are mindless robots by showing you how we are influenced by design, habit, emotion, food, and words. Until you accept the Moist Robot view of the world it will be hard to use your tools of persuasion effectively because you will doubt your own effectiveness and people will detect your doubt. Confidence is an important part of the process of influence. 

  • Steve Jobs – by Walter Isaacson [The whole book is good, but look for the part where I appear on Jobs’ radar screen. That’s the part where you understand that hypnotists can identify each other by their tells.]

Chapter 4 – Active Persuasion

This chapter gets into the details of how to influence people. My opinion is that you will be less effective with these tools if you do not have a full understanding of our moist robot nature introduced above. The only book on this list that I have read is the Gerry Spence book. And I have taken the Dale Carnegie course in person. But based on reviews, the other books on this list will give you some useful tips on persuasion that I have acquired from a variety of other sources over my life.

  • Hypnosis and Accelerated Learning – by Pierre Clement (This is the school of hypnosis I learned in hypnosis class. It comes from Ericksonian hypnosis. See next book on list.)

Connecting Some Dots Just for Fun…

Now let me connect some dots.

Milton Erickson influenced Pierre Clement, who taught my hypnosis instructor, who taught me.


Milton Erickson influenced Bandler and Grinder, who developed NLP, which influenced Tony Robbins (a self-help hypnotist). Tony Robbins (probably) influenced Donald Trump, by association. They worked together on at least one project.

When I listen to Donald Trump, I detect all of his influences back to Erickson. If you make it through this reading list, you might hear it too. I don’t know if Donald Trump would make a good president, but he is the best persuader I have ever seen. On a scale from 1 to 10, if Steve Jobs was a 10, Trump is a 15. 

You know how the media has made fun of Trump’s 4th-grade-level speech patterns? 

The joke’s on them. 

He does it intentionally. 

Because it works.