Best Books on Understanding Emotions
Raise your hand if you received social emotional education when you were in school. No? Me neither. Other than listening to one presentation by my school counselor on “I statements” in sixth grade (it was very helpful) I did not receive any formal education on emotions until grad school. I’m willing to venture that most adults in America are in a similar boat. Fortunately, it’s never too late to educate yourself. If you are interested in learning more about how to name, regulate, and communicate your emotions, I highly recommend checking out a few of the best books on understanding emotions below.
Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, by Susan David, Ph.D.
The author: Susan David, Ph.D. Is a Harvard Medical School psychologist who studies emotions.
The book: Here's how Susan David described her book in a video preview: “The book really focuses on, at it’s core, how we can be more honest with ourselves and also how to make the kinds of changes that we all need to make in order to close the gap between our intentions and our reality”.
This is a great book for you if: You want to learn how you can use your emotions (even the unpleasant ones) as a source of data to help you make intentional life choices that are grounded in your values.
You can grab a copy of the book here.
Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive, by Marc Brackett, Ph.D.
The author: Marc Brackett, Ph.D. is an emotion scientist and founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
The book: In the book you will find easily digestible information about emotions that is grounded in research, and practical strategies to help you understand, regulate, and use your emotions effectively. Brackett emphasizes that we all have the capacity to learn skills to work with our emotions. On page 3 of Permission to Feel Brackett writes, "Only a few naturally insightful among us can claim to have the skills discussed in this book without consciously pursuing them. I had to learn them. And these are skills."
This is a great book for you if: You want to learn the science of emotions and strategies for Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating your emotions (Brackett refers to this as the RULER framework).
Don't have time to read the whole book? Check out Marc Brackett’s podcast interview with Brené Brown.
You can find more information about the book here.
Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, by Brené Brown, Ph.D., MSW
The author: Brene Brown, PhD, MSW, is a research professor at the University of Houston and a visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. She describes herself as “a researcher and storyteller”.
The book: Atlas of the Heart reads like a dictionary of emotions and human experiences. Each emotion or experience in the book is defined, connected to research, and illustrated with a real life example. Brené Brown does a wonderful job of normalizing the human experience in all of her books, and this book is no exception.
This is a great book for you if: You are interested in expanding your emotion vocabulary and benefit from having a quick reference guide. You can read this book cover to cover and/or just read the sections that feel most applicable to you at a given time.
Don't have time to read the whole book? You don't need to! You can use it as a reference tool. If you would prefer to receive the information in a different format though, check out the five-part series on HBO Max, where Brené dives into 30 of the 87 emotions and experiences that are in the book.
You can get your copy of the book here.
This blog post isn’t intended as professional counseling or clinical advice. If you’re in need of support, please consider speaking to a professional to be evaluated.