The 5 Best Books on Lying. Honestly.

Whether you're interested in learning how to become more proficient in the art of truth contorting or you just want to peel back the curtain on deception - the following is a compilation of some of my favorite books on the subject. 

#5 The Honest Truth About Dishonesty - Dan Ariely

If you're interested in the psychology of lying, why we do it, and how to spot it - I'd recommend starting your adventure here. I had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. Ariely during his "Truth Box" project at the Games for Change festival in NYC ( which my confession was featured in! ). Dan provides interesting anecdotes and comprehensive research on why it is we distort the truth. Beyond reading the book I'd also recommend keeping an eye out for his documentary (which was recently funded on Kickstarter).



#4 Lying - Sam Harris

Aside from being a Ben Stiller look-a-like - Mr. Harris is more commonly known as a prolific author and speaker on quite a few controversial subjects - Lying being one of them. This book is a short read that focuses more on the philosophy of lying. Mr. Harris discusses vulnerability, false encouragement and how lying affects your relationships. I highly recommend getting the e-book and spending an afternoon questioning the truth with Mr. Harris. 

Some of my other favorite books of his include Waking Up, Free Will, The Moral Landscape.


#3 Unmasking the Face - Paul Ekman

A huge part of understanding lying is understanding emotions. Paul Ekman has become known as a pioneer of understanding hidden human emotions through facial expressions (often referred to as micro expressions). Mr. Ekman was the inspiration for the popular show Lie to Me. And although this is not a cover to cover type read - this book provides a guide on the extensive research he's done over the years. His FACS system (facial action coding system) has piqued the interest of companies like Apple, Google and even Pixar. Mr. Ekman also consults for the TSA and is called in to monitor high profile court cases in order to spot liars. If you're interested in diving deeper down the rabbit hole - Paul Ekman's books are a must. 


#2 Trust me I'm lying - Ryan Holiday

"... It is a world of many hustlers and you are the mark." One of the many quotable turns of phrase from this infamous author. Ryan is the master puppeteer behind the controversial American Apparel campaign (in which he speaks about in the book). Trust Me I'm Lying is more of a specific take on how the art of manipulating thoughts and behaviors applies to the media and consumerism. But his stories are chilling and violating. You'll never look at the internet (among other things) the same way again. I'd also highly recommend reading Mr. Holiday's blog - which you can check out here



#1 On the Decay of the Art of Lying - Mark Twain

Hands down my favorite publication on the subject. This short essay by Mark Twain speaks about the necessity of lying. This was the first text for me that successfully romanticized the subject. He says: 

“...lying is a sweet and loving art, and should be cultivated. The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying” 

It's available for free on the iBooks store but I strongly recommend buying a copy here.

I Am The Con Man.

Frank Abagnale in the cockpit of a Pan Am jet.

Frank Abagnale in the cockpit of a Pan Am jet.

Not many people know that the "con" in con-artist is short for confidence - the main skill needed to successfully pull the wool over someone's eyes. It's how people like Frank Abagnale could travel all over the world for free in the jump seat of a Pan Am jet. By posing as a pilot, Mr. Abagnale successfully convinced security guards, stewardesses, and even actual pilots that he was someone he was not. He truly embodied a false identity. In a way it's something we all do. We are our own greatest deceivers. We live in a culture of the curated personality. We crop, edit and even delete the aspects of our lives that we don't like. Constantly justifying, ignoring, and procrastinatingWe are our own con-artists. But often without the confidence. When we sculpt the perfect persona we often end up hiding behind it. Empathy, openness and in turn confidence, fall to the wayside, hindering the real life skills that make us human. We end up believing in our own con.

Having the confidence to make mistakes and to be vulnerable is, in my opinion the key to success. Unlike Mr. Abagnale we can afford to slip up every once and a while and question the lies we tell others and ourselves. It's what makes us human. Hiding behind our social avatars is often the easiest way to fall victim to our own (false) high standards. If we are authentic with ourselves we often find that the world is easily accessible, goals achievable, and genuine connection can be made. Pretending to be someone else was a way for Frank Abagnale to ignore the truth. It was a way to cope with the lack of control. And although Mr. Abagnale worked solo, I gather he feared being alone. By becoming aware of the falsehoods you might be perpetuating in your own life you enable yourself to break down the walls you've built only to discover what you're truly made of.