William James Popular Books

William James Biography & Facts

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James is considered to be a leading thinker of the late 19th century, one of the most influential philosophers of the United States, and the "Father of American psychology".Along with Charles Sanders Peirce, James established the philosophical school known as pragmatism, and is also cited as one of the founders of functional psychology. A Review of General Psychology analysis, published in 2002, ranked James as the 14th most eminent psychologist of the 20th century. A survey published in American Psychologist in 1991 ranked James's reputation in second place, after Wilhelm Wundt, who is widely regarded as the founder of experimental psychology. James also developed the philosophical perspective known as radical empiricism. James's work has influenced philosophers and academics such as Émile Durkheim, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hilary Putnam, Richard Rorty, and Marilynne Robinson.Born into a wealthy family, James was the son of the Swedenborgian theologian Henry James Sr. and the brother of both the prominent novelist Henry James and the diarist Alice James. James trained as a physician and taught anatomy at Harvard, but never practiced medicine. Instead, he pursued his interests in psychology and then philosophy. He wrote widely on many topics, including epistemology, education, metaphysics, psychology, religion, and mysticism. Among his most influential books are The Principles of Psychology, a groundbreaking text in the field of psychology; Essays in Radical Empiricism, an important text in philosophy; and The Varieties of Religious Experience, an investigation of different forms of religious experience, including theories on mind-cure. Early life William James was born at the Astor House in New York City on January 11, 1842. He was the son of Henry James Sr., a noted and independently wealthy Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics. William James received an eclectic trans-Atlantic education, developing fluency in both German and French. Education in the James household encouraged cosmopolitanism. The family made two trips to Europe while William James was still a child, setting a pattern that resulted in thirteen more European journeys during his life. James wished to pursue painting, his early artistic bent led to an apprenticeship in the studio of William Morris Hunt in Newport, Rhode Island, but his father urged him to become a physician instead. Since this did not align with James's interests, he stated that he wanted to specialize in physiology. Once he figured this was also not what he wanted to do, he then announced he was going to specialize in the nervous system and psychology. James then switched in 1861 to scientific studies at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard College. In his early adulthood, James suffered from a variety of physical ailments, including those of the eyes, back, stomach, and skin. He was also tone deaf. He was subject to a variety of psychological symptoms which were diagnosed at the time as neurasthenia, and which included periods of depression during which he contemplated suicide for months on end. Two younger brothers, Garth Wilkinson (Wilkie) and Robertson (Bob), fought in the Civil War. James himself was an advocate of peace. He suggested that instead of youth serving in the military that they serve the public in a term of service, "to get the childishness knocked out of them." The other three siblings (William, Henry, and Alice James) all suffered from periods of invalidism.He took up medical studies at Harvard Medical School in 1864 (according to his brother Henry James, the author). He took a break in the spring of 1865 to join naturalist Louis Agassiz on a scientific expedition up the Amazon River, but aborted his trip after eight months, as he suffered bouts of severe seasickness and mild smallpox. His studies were interrupted once again due to illness in April 1867. He traveled to Germany in search of a cure and remained there until November 1868; at that time he was 26 years old. During this period, he began to publish; reviews of his works appeared in literary periodicals such as the North American Review.James finally earned his MD degree in June 1869 but he never practiced medicine. What he called his "soul-sickness" would only be resolved in 1872, after an extended period of philosophical searching. He married Alice Gibbens in 1878. In 1882 he joined the Theosophical Society.James's time in Germany proved intellectually fertile, helping him find that his true interests lay not in medicine but in philosophy and psychology. Later, in 1902 he would write: "I originally studied medicine in order to be a physiologist, but I drifted into psychology and philosophy from a sort of fatality. I never had any philosophic instruction, the first lecture on psychology I ever heard being the first I ever gave". Career James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, his godson William James Sidis, as well as Charles Sanders Peirce, Bertrand Russell, Josiah Royce, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, Macedonio Fernández, Walter Lippmann, Mark Twain, Horatio Alger, G. Stanley Hall, Henri Bergson, Carl Jung, Jane Addams and Sigmund Freud. James spent almost all of his academic career at Harvard. He was appointed instructor in physiology for the spring 1873 term, instructor in anatomy and physiology in 1873, assistant professor of psychology in 1876, assistant professor of philosophy in 1881, full professor in 1885, endowed chair in psychology in 1889, return to philosophy in 1897, and emeritus professor of philosophy in 1907. James studied medicine, physiology, and biology, and began to teach in those subjects, but was drawn to the scientific study of the human mind at a time when psychology was constituting itself as a science. James's acquaintance with the work of figures like Hermann Helmholtz in Germany and Pierre Janet in France facilitated his introduction of courses in scientific psychology at Harvard University. He taught his first experimental psychology course at Harvard in the 1875–1876 academic year.During his Harvard years, James joined in philosophical discussions and debates with Charles Peirce, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Chauncey Wright that evolved into a lively group informally known as The Metaphysical Club in 1872. Louis Menand (2001) suggested that this Club provided a foundation for American intellectual thought for decades to come. James joined the Anti-Imperialist Leagu.... Discover the William James popular books. Find the top 100 most popular William James books.

Best Seller William James Books of 2023

  • Collateral Damage synopsis, comments

    Collateral Damage

    David Mack

    From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours comes an original, thrilling novel set in the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation!The pas...

  • The Chapo Guide to Revolution synopsis, comments

    The Chapo Guide to Revolution

    Chapo Trap House

    Instant New York Times bestseller “Howard Zinn on acid or some bullsht like that.” Tim Heidecker The creators of the culthit podcast Chapo Trap House deliver a manifesto for everyo...

  • Vicksburg synopsis, comments


    Donald L. Miller

    Winner of the Civil War Round Table of New York’s Fletcher Pratt Literary Award Winner of the Austin Civil War Round Table’s Daniel M. & Marilyn W. Laney Book Prize Winner of a...

  • Three Roads to the Alamo synopsis, comments

    Three Roads to the Alamo

    William C. Davis

    "William C. Davis's Three Roads to the Alamo is far and away the best account of the Alamo I have ever read. The portraits of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis are brilliantly sketched i...

  • Lawless synopsis, comments


    Matt Bondurant

    With a Foreword by Director John HillcoatBased on the true story of Matt Bondurant’s grandfather and two granduncles, Lawless is a gripping tale of brotherhood, greed, and murder. ...

  • Frederick Douglass synopsis, comments

    Frederick Douglass

    David W. Blight

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History“Extraordinary…a great American biography” (The New Yorker) of the most important AfricanAmerican of the nineteenth century: Frederick Dougla...

  • Architects of Infinity synopsis, comments

    Architects of Infinity

    Kirsten Beyer

    An original novel set in the universe of Star Trek: Voyager, from the New York Times bestselling author!As the Federation Starship Voyager continues to lead the Full Circle Fleet i...

  • Valley Forge synopsis, comments

    Valley Forge

    Bob Drury & Tom Clavin

    The #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Heart of Everything That Is return with “a thorough, nuanced, and enthralling account” (The Wall Street Journal) about one of the m...

  • Solo synopsis, comments


    William Boyd

    One of our most acclaimed authors takes on a legendary literary character, James Bond producing a smart and stylish narrative of international espionage, conspiracy, and warIt’s 1...

  • A History of Western Philosophy synopsis, comments

    A History of Western Philosophy

    Bertrand Russell

    Since its first publication in 1945? Lord Russell's A History of Western Philosophy has been universally acclaimed as the outstanding onevolume work on the subject unparalleled in...

  • The Mueller Report synopsis, comments

    The Mueller Report

    Robert S. Mueller, Special Counsel's Office U.S. Department of Justice & Alan Dershowitz

    NOW A NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, WALL STREET JOURNAL, USA TODAY, AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BESTSELLER. There has never been a more important political investigation tha...

  • Mastermind synopsis, comments


    Maria Konnikova

    The New York Times bestselling guide to thinking like literature's greatest detective. "Steven Pinker meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle" (Boston Globe), by the author of The Confidence ...

  • Shakespeare in a Divided America synopsis, comments

    Shakespeare in a Divided America

    James Shapiro

    One of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year   A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist  A New York Times Notable Book A timely...

  • Sign-Talker synopsis, comments


    James Alexander Thom

    “A cracking good yarn . . . sheer storytelling power . . . James Alexander Thom is one of the finest historical novelists writing today. . . . Anyone who thinks there’s nothing lef...

  • Story of Philosophy synopsis, comments

    Story of Philosophy

    Will Durant

    This brilliant and concise account of the lives and ideas of the world's great philosophersPlato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergs...

  • The Metaphysical Club synopsis, comments

    The Metaphysical Club

    Louis Menand

    The Metaphysical Club is the winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for History. A national bestseller and "hugely ambitious, unmistakably brilliant" (Janet Maslin, New York Times) book...

  • Headlong Flight synopsis, comments

    Headlong Flight

    Dayton Ward

    An exhilarating thriller from bestselling author Dayton Ward set in the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation, following Captain JeanLuc Picard and his crew as they explore th...

  • William James synopsis, comments

    William James

    David Lapoujade & Thomas Lamarre

    Originally published in French in 1997 and appearing here in English for the first time, David Lapoujade’s William James: Empiricism and Pragmatism is both an accessible and rigoro...

  • One Nation Under Sex synopsis, comments

    One Nation Under Sex

    Larry Flynt & David Eisenbach, Ph.D.

    “Americans often like to think that extramarital sexor even a strong libidois somehow a sign of poor character in our presidents. One Nation Under Sex explodes that myth...You don’...

  • Available Light synopsis, comments

    Available Light

    Dayton Ward

    The past comes back to haunt Captain JeanLuc Picard in this brand new thriller set in the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation.Section 31, the covert organization which has o...

  • To Lose the Earth synopsis, comments

    To Lose the Earth

    Kirsten Beyer

    The longawaited followup to Voyager: Architects of Infinity from the New York Times bestselling author and cocreator of Star Trek: Picard! As the crew of the Full Circle fleet work...

  • On Glorious Wings synopsis, comments

    On Glorious Wings

    Stephen Coonts

    Since its invention in 1903, the airplane has become the dominant mode of transport, travel, and combat. It has brought the entire planet closer together and changed almost every ...

  • Trust No One synopsis, comments

    Trust No One

    Paul Cleave

    In this “outstanding psychological thriller” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) by the Edgarnominated author of Joe Victim, a famous crime writer struggles to differentiate betwee...

  • Richard III synopsis, comments

    Richard III

    William Shakespeare

    The authoritative edition of Richard III from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers.In Richard III, Shakes...

  • Heads of the Colored People synopsis, comments

    Heads of the Colored People

    Nafissa Thompson-Spires

    Winner of the PEN Open Book Award Winner of the Whiting Award Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award and Aspen Words Literary Prize Nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham P...

  • The Letters of William James synopsis, comments

    The Letters of William James

    William James & Henry James

    This is the second of two volumes of letters written by American philosopher William James. Some of the recipients of these letters include his son, Henry James, and architect and ...

  • Trail of the Fallen synopsis, comments

    Trail of the Fallen

    Bart Paul

    A suspensefilled western noir thriller set in California's Sierra mountainsfor readers of Craig Johnson and C. J. Box.Tommy Smith, former sniper and Army combat veteran, wants noth...

  • Your God Is Too Small synopsis, comments

    Your God Is Too Small

    J.B. Phillips

    This fortyyearold Christian classic and bestseller is a study group favorite; this book challenges readers’ conventional views about God and encourages them to search for a meaning...

  • William James synopsis, comments

    William James

    Robert D. Richardson

    The definitive biography of the fascinating William James, whose life and writing put an indelible stamp on psychology, philosophy, teaching, and religionon modernism itself. Often...

  • Crash Dive synopsis, comments

    Crash Dive

    Larry Bond

    Edited by bestselling author Larry Bond, Crash Dive collects the best nonfiction writing on submarines, the nearsilent killers of the deep and their crews. They are the ultimate u...

  • The Mueller Report synopsis, comments

    The Mueller Report

    The Washington Post

    ONE OF TIME’S 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEARThe Crucial #1 New York Times Bestseller“The Mueller report is that rare Washington tellall that surpasses its prepublication hype…the best ...

  • The Year of Lear synopsis, comments

    The Year of Lear

    James Shapiro

    Preeminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare in a Divided America, shows how the tumultuous events in 1606 influenced three of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedi...

  • Shot All to Hell synopsis, comments

    Shot All to Hell

    Mark Lee Gardner

    Shot All to Hell by Mark Lee Gardner recounts the thrilling life of Jesse James, Frank James, the Younger brothers, and the most famous bank robbery of all time. Follow the Wi...

  • The Bonanza King synopsis, comments

    The Bonanza King

    Gregory Crouch

    “A monumentally researched biography of one of the nineteenth century’s wealthiest selfmade Americans…Wellwritten and worthwhile” (The Wall Street Journal) it’s the ragstoriches fr...

  • Trigger Mortis synopsis, comments

    Trigger Mortis

    Anthony Horowitz

    "Horowitz delivers an entertainment sure to please James Bond fans.”    Publishers Weekly (starred review)"The heart of any good thriller is the plot, and…...

  • The As If Principle synopsis, comments

    The As If Principle

    Richard Wiseman

    Victorian philosopher William James had a theory about emotion and behavior: It isn’t that our feelings guide our actions (feel happy and you will laugh). On the contrary, it is ou...