A set of successively more accurate self-consistent equations for the one-electron Green's function have been derived. They correspond to an expansion in a screened potential rather than the bare Coulomb potential. The first equation is adequate for many purposes. Each equation follows from the demand that a corresponding expression for the total energy be stationary with respect to variations in the Green's function. The main information to be obtained, besides the total energy, is one-particle-like excitation spectra, i.e., spectra characterized by the quantum numbers of a single particle. This includes the low-excitation spectra in metals as well as configurations in atoms, molecules, and solids with one electron outside or one electron missing from a closed-shell structure. In the latter cases we obtain an approximate description by a modified Hartree-Fock equation involving a "Coulomb hole" and a static screened potential in the exchange term. As an example, spectra of some atoms are discussed. To investigate the convergence of successive approximations for the Green's function, extensive calculations have been made for the electron gas at a range of metallic densities. The results are expressed in terms of quasiparticle energies E(k) and quasiparticle interactions f(k, k′). The very first approximation gives a good value for the magnitude of E(k). To estimate the derivative of E(k) we need both the first- and the second-order terms. The derivative, and thus the specific heat, is found to differ from the free-particle value by only a few percent. Our correction to the specific heat keeps the same sign down to the lowest alkali-metal densities, and is smaller than those obtained recently by Silverstein and by Rice. Our results for the paramagnetic susceptibility are unreliable in the alkali-metal-density region owing to poor convergence of the expansion for f. Besides the proof of a modified Luttinger-Ward-Klein variational principle and a related self-consistency idea, there is not much new in principle in this paper. The emphasis is on the development of a numerically manageable approximation scheme.