I read about 2 books per year, so my favorite one doesn't hold much weight, but nontheless...
Last year "Racing Weight" by Matt Fitzgerald changed my life, and this year, it's Winning: The Psychology of Competition, by Stuart H. Walker.
It's written by a real doctor who got into competition later, not the other way around. He talks a lot about the internalized Child, Parent, and Adult. This is useful for just being a better person in everyday life, as well as being a better racer.
In races, I see people who lose all the time because they're psyched themselves out of it. They make bad decisions, or they justify losing before it happens, thus ensuring their loss. Personally, every time i've gotten dropped in a race, I had the excuse ready way before it happened. "I shouldn't have done work back there", or, "I should have gone to bed earlier last night", some stupid reason. What' i'm really doing is pre-loading my excuse, then fixating on that excuse until I convince myself to quit. This book talks about it, and a lot of other psychological factors that play into competition.
He also talks about people who say they "just do this for fun, so you should lighten up" have weak egos, and they're lying to themselves so that they don't feel as bad when they lose.
So take that, bitches. You know what I do for fun? I kick your asses.
Or maybe I get my ass kicked, but it's still fun as long as I respect the people doing the kicking.
The author is an Olympic level sailboat racer, so all of his anecdotes are about sailing, but if you can enjoy the stories for the lessons he's trying to convey, it's really quite enjoyable.
That's it. Cameron, I'm interested to see what a real psychologist has to say about it, and Jordo, I'm interested to see how someone like you (very much the opposite personality of me) responds to it.
I hope you read it, and I hope you enjoy it.
For those that are taking notes, the list of required reading is now:
Winning: The Psychology of Competition
If cycling has consumed a major portion of your life, you'd really be happier having read these.