There is no lack of books on the market that pertain to self-defense. A lot of this material is excellent, but much of it is junk. My advice is to read as much of this material as possible, but certainly aim to weed out the nonsense. As an enthusiast of this discipline I have read a great deal of the literature on self-defense. Offering only a select few books is a challenge as there are many good ones. However, if you only read 10 books, these would be my recommendations. If you only read less than that, start at the top of this list:
1 – The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker
This not a book about shooting or fighting. The author, Gavin De Becker, is not one of the well-known gun gurus. In fact, he has been accused of having a bit of an anti-gun slant in his work. So, why is this book on my list at all, let alone at the top of it? The premise of The Gift of Fear is that human beings are inherently able to recognize danger but too many individuals in our modern world ignore their instincts and rationalize something threatening away as being mundane due to their own normalcy bias. This is a must read for anyone interested on developing their defensive mindset.
2 – Principles of Personal Defense by Jeff Cooper
This is a perennial classic written by none other than Jeff Cooper. This is a short read that is essentially common sense. However, this sense is sadly uncommon today. This is a must read if you are a practitioner of personal protection.
3 – The Law of Self Defense by Andrew Branca
Devoting a great deal of time to becoming lethal does you little good if you act outside of the law and end up in prison. As an armed citizen it is your obligation to be knowledgeable about the laws that govern the appropriate use of force. The single best resource for this information is this book. If you carry a gun you need to own this one.
4 – Facing Violence by Rory Miller
This is an excellent book that analyzes the intricacies of interpersonal violence. Rory Miller provides an excellent overview of social behavior that influences violence.
5 – Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horne
This is a great deep dive into, essentially, situational awareness. This book details the Combat Hunter program that was developed for the Marines. The method of establishing a “baseline” in the environment and looking for “anomalies” is well detailed.
6 – Combat Shooting by Massad Ayoob
This is one of Massad’s best books, and that is saying something, as they are generally all excellent. This book provides a great analysis of the evolution of combat shooting technique and the associated mindset.
7 – Lessons from Armed America by Kathy Jackson and Mark Walters
This is a fantastic book that gets less recognition than it should. This particular book shares real deadly force incidents and then breaks them down to draw out the lessons learned in each.
8 – Prepping for Life by Grant Cunningham
This is perhaps the single best work on reasonable preparation that I have read. Highly recommended.
9 – Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights by Jim Cirillo
The memoir and lessons from the man himself, one of the great gunfighters of the 20th Century.
10 – The Tactical Advantage by Gabe Suarez
This book is an excellent overview of defensive tactics by a guy with the experience to back it up. While clearing structures is not necessarily a big part of what a civilian should need to do in defensive situations, I think a working knowledge of the craft is worth having and this is a great start.