William James Popular Books

William James Biography & Facts

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and 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-Impe.... Discover the William James popular books. Find the top 100 most popular William James books.

Best Seller William James Books of 2024

  • Shakespeare in a Divided America synopsis, comments

    Shakespeare in a Divided America

    James Shapiro

    One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist A New York Times Notable Book A timely exploration of what Shakespeare’s plays ...

  • 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. ...

  • On Looking synopsis, comments

    On Looking

    Alexandra Horowitz

    From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Inside of a Dog, this “elegant and entertaining” (The Boston Globe) explanation of how humans perceive their environments “does ...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • The Village synopsis, comments

    The Village

    John Strausbaugh

    Cultural commentator John Strausbaugh's The Village is the first complete history of Greenwich Village, the prodigiously influential and infamous New York City neighborhood. F...

  • 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...

  • 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’...

  • 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...

  • 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 National Book Award and Aspen Words Literary Prize Nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize...

  • Spymistress synopsis, comments


    William Stevenson

    The New York Times Bestseller by the Author of A Man Called Intrepid Ideal for fans of Nancy Wake, Virginia Hall, The Last Goodnight by Howard Blum, The Woman Who Smashed Codes, Th...

  • 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...

  • 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 ...

  • 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...

  • 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

    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 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 ...

  • Captain James Cook synopsis, comments

    Captain James Cook

    Rob Mundle

    A biography that puts you on the quarterdeck with history's greatest sailorCaptain James Cook is one of the greatest maritime explorers in world history. Over three remarkable voya...

  • A Fine Romance synopsis, comments

    A Fine Romance

    Candice Bergen

    In this New York Times bestseller, acclaimed actress Candice Bergen “shows how to do a memoir right...The selfpossessed, witty, and downtoearth voice that made Bergen’s first memoi...

  • Sanctuary synopsis, comments


    William Faulkner

    A powerful novel examining the nature of evil, informed by the works of T. S. Eliot and Freud, mythology, local lore, and hardboiled detective fiction, Sanctuary is the dark, at ti...

  • 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...

  • Works of William James synopsis, comments

    Works of William James

    William James

    This collection was designed for optimal navigation on iPad and other electronic devices. It is indexed alphabetically, chronologically and by category, making it easier to access...

  • 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...

  • Hearts and Minds synopsis, comments

    Hearts and Minds

    Dayton Ward

    An electrifying thriller from New York Times bestselling author Dayton Ward, set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe.2031: United States Air Force fighter jets shoot dow...

  • New Testament in Modern English synopsis, comments

    New Testament in Modern English

    J.B. Phillips

    An enduring scriptural treasure and a classic of Christian literature, this modern translation is a beautiful and true rendering of the New Testament.Written in 1958, The New Testa...

  • 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...

  • See That My Grave Is Kept Clean synopsis, comments

    See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

    Bart Paul

    "Mr. Paul, a veteran rancher as well as an author, writes fine action scenes, and his descriptions of nature and animals can seem just as thrilling." Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal...

  • 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 ...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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 Wettest County in the World synopsis, comments

    The Wettest County in the World

    Matt Bondurant

    The inspiration for the major motion picture LawlessBased on the true story of Matt Bondurant’s grandfather and two granduncles, The Wettest County in the World is a gripping and g...

  • The Better Sister synopsis, comments

    The Better Sister

    Alafair Burke

    A Washington Post and Sun Sentinel Best Book of the Year“One hell of a riproaring read.” Seattle Review of Books“Cunning. . . . Get ready to be led down the garden path to a c...

  • 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...

  • The Mueller Report synopsis, comments

    The Mueller Report

    Robert S. Mueller III & Special Counsel's Office Dept of Justice

    Perhaps the most anticipated publication in American history, this is the full text of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. It is THE REPORT AND NOTHING BUT THE REPOR...