NLP Reading List
I here give a reading list selected from the books I have personally found most useful over the last forty years and that I have in my own library. Some of these titles may be out-of-print or in revised editions, and I recommend that students look around for second-hand copies or auction sites, etc. for the best price in these cases.
On my courses I recommend specific books outside of this list depending on the application of NLP/Hypnotherapy intended by the student, i.e. as an adjunct to counselling work, for self-development, for trainers, for management development, healing, stage presentation, confidence-building, etc.
In each section I have given the books in general order of “suggested purchase”, although this based purely on personal preference.
Introductions for the General Reader
Don’t Think of Purple Spotted Oranges. 2001. Shervington, Martin.
NLP, an Introductory Guide to the Art and Science of Excellence. Harris, Carol.
Contemporary Introduction to NLP
Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming. O’Connor, Joseph & Seymour, John. 1990.
Hope and Resiliency (Short, Erickson, Erickson Klein)
The Legacy of Milton H. Erickson (Stephen Gilligan)
I love Gilligan’s work and his teaching inspired me to see that depth and spirituality could have a place in the sometimes “cold” approaches of NLP. I was attending one of his workshops and had opportunity to sit next to him on the edge of the stage during a lunchbreak. We chatted for a while and then he excused himself to go listen to some music by himself on headphones in relaxation and preparation for his afternoon teaching. I was telling someone about this a few days later and they asked me what we had talked about. I thought for a moment and then realised I couldn’t recall anything at all, but there was some story he had told me about a pet dog who had got lost. I still cannot remember the story, nor why I had not thought it out-of-place in the conversation, but I know that it catalysed and changed fundamental decisions and actions in my life. Gilligan is certainly one of the living testaments of Erickson’s wisdom and teaching.
If you like Gilligan’s work, I also recommend The Courage to Love: Principles and Practices of Self-Relations Psychotherapy and Generative Trance.
Conjoint Family Therapy (Virginia Satir)
The definition in this book as to a “mature adult” is a touchstone as the ideal to which we might aspire, in ourselves, and to where we aim to move the client.
The Wisdom of Milton H. Erickson (R. A. Havens)
A beautiful “reader” book, full of interview extracts, stories and insights into Erickson’s work. The ideal gift for a Neo-Ericksonian practitioner as it is always worth dipping into for a lifetime of insight.
Neurolinguistic Psychotherapy (Lisa Wake)
One of the few – if possibly, the only – books to examine the core principles and practices of NLP from a contemporary and academic perspective. It is of use in attempting to read below the methods and look at what might actually be occurring in the delivery of NLP techniques.
On Learning from the Patient (Patrick Casement)
Documenting Psychotherapy (Moline, Williams & Austin)
Original Books from the initial development of NLP (1975-1987)
These are the original paperbacks with the far-out trippy covers that inspired me in Switzerland over thirty-five years ago to embark on a lifetime study of NLP.
Again, be careful of poor and pirated online versions or illegal “print-on-demand” reproductions. Ideally, acquire first edition copies as collector’s items. These books are hard-going, even at the time, representing the core ‘raw notes’ of the emerging ideas of NLP. Several are half-full of linguistic terminology with complex diagrams, and half-full of detailed transcripts breaking down the syntactical structure of client sessions.
The Structure of Magic I & II (Bandler, Richard & Grinder, John). 1975 & 1976.
The original work of Bandler and Grinder based on Virginia Satir & Milton Erickson, details the Meta-Model. With transcripts of usage and introduces linguistic theories of surface and deep structure. The second book details representational systems and applications in family therapy. Bandler recently noted that much of this work has been superceded or developed significantly in the last twenty-five years, but these two books remain the first core texts of NLP.
Frogs into Princes (Neuro Linguistic Programming) (Bandler, Richard & Grinder, John). 1979.
Again, a classic early work which covers the emerging thoughts of what was now called NLP, the book is basically a transcript of workshops covering Representational Systems, Anchoring and Reframing.
Trance-Formations (Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Structure of Hypnosis) (Bandler, Richard & Grinder, John). 1981.
A thorough series of transcripts of working with NLP and hypnosis, covering inductions, reframing in trance, and other techniques such as pain control, and process instructions. Also calibration exercises such as Crystal Ball gazing. Includes self-hypnosis using the Betty Erickson technique.
Reframing (Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Transformation of Meaning) (Bandler, Richard & Grinder, John). 1982.
A more detailed look at 6-step reframing, covering also its use for couples, families and organizations, as well as disassociated states such as drug abuse.
Change Your Mind and Keep the Change. Andreas, Steve & Andreas, Connirae. 1987.
A collection of submodality techniques including Timelines, Swish Patterns and the excellent “elicitation of criteria” technique which I use a lot to elicit values as the “bin on the head” technique.
Practitioner, Master Practitioner and Reference Books
An Insider’s Guide to Sub-modalities (Bandler, Richard & MacDonald, Will). 1988.
Covers much of the material given at Practitioner level, including Swish Pattern, Confusion to Understanding, Requisite Variety, etc.
The Spirit of NLP (Hall, L. Michael). 1996.
Covers the Master Practitioner level of work, starting with Propulsion Systems. A very wide compilation of methods. Highly recommended as a reference book to stand alongside more general and structured training books.
The Sourcebook of Magic. (Hall, L. Michael & Belnap, Barbara). 1999.
An invaluable reminder of all the techniques and patterns of NLP, although given without much context. This book is a pure sourcebook of ideas and models, for reference once you have done some practice and for striking off new ideas later on.
History of NLP
Whispering in the Wind (Carmen Bostic St. Clair & John Grinder)
John Grinder’s account of the early developments in NLP, this is a strangely written book that demands several re-readings, but essential for those interested in the development and early genius of the approach.
The Wild Days NLP 1972 – 1981 (Terrence Lee McClendon)
A short narrative of some of the wildest events in the early development of NLP by someone who took part in the experimental workshops and experiences.
Other Recommended Titles
Practical Magic (Lankton, Steve). 1980.
Applying NLP to Clinical Psychotherapy with lots of examples of techniques in practice.
Hypnotherapy Scripts (Havens, R.A. & Walters, Catherine). 1989.
A fantastic collection of Ericksonian scripts and metaphors demonstrating many of the language patterns, for reference and inspiration. Very good to read out loud and practice tonality, volume, emphasis, etc.
My Voice Will Go With You (Rosen, Sidney, Ed). 1982.
On the teaching stories of Milton Erickson.
Using Metaphors in Psychotherapy (Barker, Philip). 1985.
Detailed examples and exercises using metaphors.
Strong at the Broken Places: Overcoming the Trauma of Childhood Abuse (Sanford)
A powerful work for all who seek to use their earliest experiences towards healing their own lives and working alongside those who aim for the same.
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway (Jeffers)
Worth it’s weight in gold for the title alone but also a good example of a “self-help” book that really does take you into a totally new way of seeing something.
A Woman in your Own Right (Dickson)
Whilst obviously aimed at women, a useful book for all assertiveness work.
Clean Language (Sullivan & Rees)