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GURPS Social Engineering – Cover

You can find an index of all the GURPS bibliographies we have online here. If you spot any broken links or other problems with this page, please report them to

Bibliography for GURPS Social Engineering

A second date in brackets (e.g., "2004 [1813]") indicates the year in which the material was originally published.

Books (Fiction)

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice (Oxford University Press, 2004 [1813]). A story of courtship in the British upper classes, closely and wittily observed. One of the classic sources for the theme of hostility as unadmitted attraction. See also Bride and Prejudice (below).

Barnes, John. A Million Open Doors (Tor, 1992). A young man from one society in an interstellar federation joins an aid mission to a newly contacted and very different society.

Budrys, Algis. Michaelmas (Berkley, 1978). A journalist and his AI companion use subtle manipulation to guide their world through a crisis.

Bujold, Lois McMaster. A Civil Campaign (Baen, 1999). Bujold's hero Miles Vorkosigan pursues both political and romantic goals in the complexities of a modernizing empire. The earlier books in the series are also worth reading.

Clement, Hal. Mission of Gravity, included in the Heavy Planet collection (Orb, 2002 [1954]). An Earthman in a distant solar system hires an alien sea captain on a high-gravity planet; much of the story is about negotiations between them, and among different alien groups.

Dumas, Alexandre. The Count of Monte Cristo (Everyman's Library, 2009 [1844-1846]). A brilliant man's pursuit of vengeance through subterfuge.

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Game of Kings (Vintage, 1997 [1961]) and the other volumes of the Lymond Chronicles. A sixteenth-century Scottish Renaissance man, whose talents include nearly every social skill this book discusses, has adventures that bring him into contact with every level of society from street beggars to the Sultan of Turkey. Extensively researched and considered major historical fiction.

Eddison, E.R. Mistress of Mistresses (Orion, 2001 [1935]). High fantasy in a pagan world with Renaissance political institutions – and Machiavellian intrigues.

Heinlein, Robert. Double Star (Del Rey, 1986 [1956]). In a future solar system, an actor is recruited to play the part of a kidnapped political leader. A brilliant account of cultivating a persona.

Heinlein, Robert. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Orb, 1997 [1966]). One of the best of Heinlein's later novels portrays the mechanics of revolutionary conspiracy in future Lunar prison colonies.

Herbert, Frank. Dune (Ace, 2005 [1965]). A novel of large-scale military and economic conflict in an interstellar empire, and the secretive groups that manipulate the conflict.

Kingsbury, Donald. Psychohistorical Crisis (Tor, 2001). The author deconstructs Isaac Asimov's concept of psychohistory in an ingeniously constructed Galactic Empire.

Kipling, Rudyard. Kim (Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003 [1901]). An orphan boy in India is recruited by the Secret Service and trained for the Great Game.

le Carré, John. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Scribner, 2002 [1974]). Espionage and counterespionage in the British Secret Service of the Cold War era.

Lewis, Sinclair. Elmer Gantry (Signet Classics, 2007 [1927]). The career of a corrupt fundamentalist preacher in 1920s and 1930s America.

Lynch, Scott. The Lies of Locke Lamora (Spectra, 2006). A young boy in a corrupt fantasy city-state is raised to become a master thief and con man.

Merwin, W.S. (translator). The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (NYRB Classics, 2004 [1554]). One of the classic Spanish novels of an adventurous rogue.

O'Brian, Patrick. Master and Commander (Norton, 1999). The first volume of a long series about naval warfare and shipboard life in the Napoleonic era – one acclaimed for its authenticity. Its central characters' roles as ship's captain and master spy neatly illustrate different sets of social skills.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four (Everyman's Library, 1992 [1949]). The most widely known dystopian novel in the English language, and the source of commonly used phrases for political manipulation and repression such as "groupthink," "memory hole," and "Thought Police."

Panshin, Alexei. Star Well (Ace Books, 1968); The Thurb Revolution (Ace Books, 1968); and Masque World (Ace Books, 1969). Three great humorous science fiction novels about an aristocratic misfit's adventures in a galactic empire. [Trilogy available as an ebook omnibus.]

Powers, Tim. Declare (William Morrow, 2001). A grimly realistic story of espionage in World War II and the Cold War, in a world where supernatural forces can affect a war's outcome.

Pratchett, Terry. Going Postal (Doubleday, 2004). A brilliant con artist on the Discworld finds himself in his first legitimate job – revitalizing a stagnant government agency.

Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead (Plume, 2005 [1943]). Many of this novel's major characters are manipulators of different sorts; the protagonist is a classic portrait of a man immune to manipulation.

Sayers, Dorothy. Strong Poison (HarperTorch, 1995 [1930]); Have His Carcase (HarperTorch, 1995 [1932]); and Gaudy Night (HarperTorch, 1995 [1935]). Among the best of Sayers' novels about the brilliant amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey – especially the third volume, with its detailed portrayal of the inner life of a women's college troubled by hate crimes.

Spinrad, Norman. Pictures at 11 (Bantam, 1994). When terrorists seize a local television station and hold its news crew hostage, their captives turn the power of the media against them.

Stross, Charles. Halting State (Ace Books, 2007). A crime is committed in a virtual environment and three very different investigators are assigned to it.

Thackeray, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair (Barnes and Noble Classic, 2003 [1848]). A dark view of courtship and marriage in the British upper classes, shown through the life of a young woman with a questionable background and few scruples.

Williams, Walter Jon. The Crown Jewels (Tor, 1987); House of Shards (Tor, 1988); and Rock of Ages (Tor, 1995). Another science fictional version of the clever rogue, in the guise of an "allowed burglar" whose crimes are broadcast as sporting events.

Books (Nonfiction)

Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals (Vintage, 1989). A founding work on "community organizing."

Anglo, Sidney. The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (Yale University Press, 2000). A historical study of the teaching of combat arts.

Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism (Schocken, 2004 [1951]). A pioneering study of governments founded on total control and mass terror.

Aristotle (George A. Kennedy, translator). On Rhetoric (Oxford University Press, 1991). The oldest systematic work on the skill of persuasive speech.

Benedict, St. (Timothy Frye, editor). The Rule of St. Benedict (Vintage Classics, 1998). Guidelines for managing a monastic community that have worked for over a millennium.

Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People (Pocket Books, 1990 [1937]). The book that taught Americans to smile.

Castiglione, Baldesar. The Book of the Courtier (Penguin Classics, 1976 [1528]). The book that defined the Gentleman's Code of Honor.

Craveri, Benedetta. The Age of Conversation (New York Review of Books, 2005). A study of French salons and upper class conversation under the ancien régime.

de Toqueville, Alexis (Gerald Bevan, translator; Isaac Kramnick, editor). Democracy in America (Penguin Classics, 2003 [1835-1840]). A French aristocrat's study of American customs and institutions in the early 19th century.

Fussell, Paul. Class: A Guide through the American Status System (Touchstone, 1992). A funny, but not exclusively humorous, guide to American social classes twenty years ago.

Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Peter Smith, 1999 [1956]). The book that founded dramaturgical sociology, an approach that views society as a stage and life as a performance.

Heinlein, Robert A. Take Back Your Government (Baen, 1992). The science fiction writer's guide to practical politics, based on his own experiences in the 1930s.

Luttwak, Edward N. Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook (Harvard University Press, 1979). Methods for seizing control of a government.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince (Bantam Classics, 1984 [1532]). The book that gave us the adjective "Machiavellian" and the idea of political manipulation for its own sake.

Martin, Judith. Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated (Norton, 2005 [1983]). Did you know that there's a rule book for daily life in American society? Martin's approach is not only clearly explained but amazingly entertaining.

Milgram, Stanley. Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, reprint edition (Harper Perennial, 2009 [1974]). One of the great studies in social psychology, on the psychological mechanisms that get ordinary people to perform monstrous actions.

Olson, Mancur. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups (Harvard University Press, 1971 [1965]). An economic analysis of the process by which special interests come to dominate governments and other large organizations.

Robert, Henry M., III. Robert's Rules of Order, classic edition (Filiquarian, 2007 [1876]). Rules for conducting a formal meeting.

Stone, I.F. The Trial of Socrates (Anchor Books, 1989). A study of the ancient Athenian judicial system and how Socrates talked himself into a death sentence.

Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class (Oxford University Press, 2008 [1899]). One of the first major books on American sociology, exploring the cultural origins of upper class manners.

Books (Other)

These titles include poems, plays, and other literary works.

Homer. The Odyssey. An epic account of the homeward voyage of a Greek hero famed for his cunning mind and persuasive tongue.

Kipling, Rudyard. Departmental Ditties, included in the Complete Verse collection. Written in Kipling's youth, and including many satiric portraits of Anglo-Indian society.

Molière. Le Bourgeois gentilhomme [The Middle-Class Gentleman]. A stage comedy about the conflict of social classes in monarchic France.

Pope, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock. A mock epic about a social squabble between two respectable English families.

Sei Shonagon. The Pillow Book. A collection of short personal writings by a lady of the Imperial court in ancient Japan. Much like a blog, often incredibly sarcastic, and sharply observant.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. The villain, Iago, may be Shakespeare's most manipulative character.

Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts. A poor London girl finds her way into the respectable classes through speech training. See also My Fair Lady.

Comic Books

Mori, Kaoru (William Flannagan, translator). A Bride's Story (YenPress, 2011 [2009]). Set in 19th-century Central Asia in a Turkic community with carefully researched cultural details. Explores both tensions between communities with differing customs, and courtship within an arranged marriage that's the focus of those tensions. Originally published as Otoyomegatari.

Moore, Terry. Strangers in Paradise (self-published, 1993-2007). Partly a "slice of life" story about the emotional bond between two young women and its complications; partly a noir portrayal of a secretive criminal organization that uses highly trained prostitutes to manipulate the United States government. The characterization is complex, and the art is stunning.


American Gangster, An (Ridley Scott, 2007). A crime film about a criminal entrepreneur's rise in the heroin trade, a police officer's investigation of the drug trade – and the corrupt New York City police who are the enemies of both.

Bride and Prejudice Gurinder Chadha, 2004). A Bollywood treatment of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that's astonishingly true to the original story.

Brotherhood of the Wolf [Le pacte des loups] (Christophe Gans, 2001). A naturalist investigating stories of a huge beast terrifying a French province uncovers evidence of a secret conspiracy.

Cage aux Folles, La (Édouard Molinaro, 1978). A gay couple attempt to appear straight when the son of one of them brings his fiancée's conservative parents home for dinner.

Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears, 1988). A drama of social manipulation in an aristocratic society, focused on a bored nobleman's efforts to seduce two younger women.

Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley, 1992). Real estate salesmen compete to make sales, with their jobs at stake. The action includes varied social stratagems including creation of a persona, manipulative sales tactics, and bribery and blackmail.

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940). A newspaper editor tries to get his star reporter to return to work, rather than getting married, by involving her in covering a crime story.

Hot Rock, The (Peter Yates, 1972). A caper film in which the criminals suffer a long series of comedic mishaps in getting the loot from a museum exhibit to its intended buyer.

Makioka Sisters, The [Sasame-yuki] (Kon Ichikawa, 1983). A family drama of the failing fortunes of a wealthy Japanese family in the changing society of the 1930s.

Mississippi Masala (Mira Nair, 1991). A drama of intercultural conflict between a black man and the family of the Indian woman he falls in love with.

My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964). A musical based on Shaw's Pygmalion.

Stage Beauty (Richard Eyre, 2004). An ambitious young woman in Restoration England seeks the right to appear on stage, against the opposition of an acclaimed actor who specializes in female parts.

Sting, The (George Roy Hill, 1973). A caper film in which two con men set out to separate a 1930s mob boss from his money in an elaborate version of the long con.

Taxing Woman, A [Marusa no onna] (Juzo Itami, 1987). A witty comedy about a tax collector's strategies for proving that a wealthy man has unreported income.

Vatel (Roland Joffé, 2000). A look at the French aristocracy before the Revolution from the viewpoint of the head servant of an aristocratic household – and at the behind-the-scenes problems he has to solve to sustain the household's prestige.


Alias (J.J. Abrams, 2001-2006). Leaving the action scenes aside, the heroine and her allies spend a lot of time wearing false identities and playing roles. The treatment of the internal dynamics of a team of operatives is also well handled.

Dexter (James Manos, Jr., 2006-2013). The viewpoint character, a serial killer who targets other serial killers, is instructive to watch precisely because he lacks an intuitive understanding of human social behavior and has to roleplay it.

Firefly (Joss Whedon, 2002). The adventures of a tramp spaceship crew who spend much of their time in social interaction at every level of their future, from highest to lowest.

Genshiken (Takashi Ikehata, 2004). An anime series about the relationships among the members of a college club of anime fans.

Jeeves and Wooster (Clive Exton, 1990-1993). Jeeves is a master of Savoir-Faire (Servant), among many other talents.

Leverage (John Rogers and Chris Downey, 2008-2012). A "caper" series whose protagonists use their criminal skills to help victims of wrongdoing.

Mad Men (Matthew Weiner, 2007-2015). An almost science-fictional look at the alien world of the early 1960s, focused on the organizational politics of a Madison Avenue advertising agency.

Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, The [Suzumiya Haruhi no yuutsu] (Tatsuya Ishihara, 2006, 2009). A good example of high school as a setting, focusing on five Japanese students with very different personalities, four of whom also have fantastic abilities from four distinct sources.

Mentalist, The (Bruno Heller, 2008-2015). A series of police procedurals focused on a retired "psychic" who's extraordinarily good at noticing and interpreting psychological and social details.

Nip/Tuck (Ryan Murphy, 2003-2010). The continuing theme of this show about two plastic surgeons is the contrast between illusion and reality – both in physical appearance and in social roles.

Upstairs, Downstairs (Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, 1971-1975). A dramatic series largely set within one upper class British household, with parallel plotlines about the family and the staff.

Veronica Mars (Rob Thomas, 2004-2007). This high school girl detective operates in a noir setting where nearly everyone is corrupt and manipulative – but she's better at it than anyone else.

Wire, The (David Simon, 2002-2008). A series of explorations of dysfunctional organizations in a modern American city and how people within them cope with the problems they create.

Yes, Minister (Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, 1980-1982, 1984). A British Member of Parliament is appointed to a Cabinet post ("Minister of Administrative Affairs") and faces an ongoing struggle against his civil service subordinates' resistance to change. The follow-up series, Yes, Prime Minister (1986-1988), has similar themes.

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