25 Best Psychology Books to Read in 2023

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25 best psychology books to read in 2023.

25 Best Psychology Books to Read in 2023

Have you ever found yourself trying to work out what mental processes lead humans to do what we do? Thanks to the internet, even in isolation we have a continual stream of information about what people are doing — and with this uniquely modern view of the world around us, we have more fodder than ever to think: “Hmm, I wonder why we do this or that?”

As a human, it’s natural to want to understand these things — not only about others, but also about yourself. In this post, we’ve put together a list of the 25 best psychology books you’ll definitely want to read to pursue that understanding! Whether you’re a beginner with a newfound interest in psychology or a seasoned psychology expert looking to branch out, we’ve got you covered.

1. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

A professor of social psychology, Jonathan Haidt wrote The Happiness Hypothesis as an accessible vessel for his research into moral foundations theory. In this book, Haidt takes the ancient wisdom, or “Great Ideas”, of historical thinkers — like Buddha, Plato, and even Jesus — and reveals their applications in light of contemporary psychological findings.

Haidt first describes the basic meanings of ancient lessons on happiness, virtue, and personal fulfillment. This leads into what Haidt extracted from these findings to develop his own “10 Great Ideas” about happiness and connect them to modern living. After all, while ancient wisdom is tried-and-tested, it’s essential to update old methods to match modern-day life — Plato, Jesus, and Buddha never spent hours doomscrolling or procrastinating on Instagram, for example.

2. Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion (New and Expanded) by PhD Robert B. Cialdini

Influence, New and Expanded is Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s 2021 republication of his one of his acclaimed bestselling psychology books Influence (first published in 1984) — complete with new research, examples, and insights, especially regarding the age of the internet. Backed up by his 35 years of scientific research, Cialdini describes seven practicable principles of influence you can use in your everyday life (with the newest edition being “Unity”). 

Each of the seven principles has a dedicated chapter to describe how it functions, where it’s most applicable, and — most importantly — how you apply it in your own life. If you’re looking for a book on psychology to help you learn more about the art of ethical persuasion in a modern context — and how to see through other people’s deceitful attempts — then this is the book for you.

3. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) Third Edition: Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris

Ever been curious what causes people to deny vaccines, join cults, or engage in extremist behavior? The next entry on this list might clarify some of these seemingly illogical decisions:  in Mistakes Were Made, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson discuss the systematic mental patterns which feed into development and radicalization of human beliefs. These include cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and positive feedback loops, among others.

To further explain how people’s attitudes can become so polarized, Tavris and Aronson walk readers through the effects of these mental patterns on people in various real-life cases and controversies. With its many compelling links to real-life events, this book is the perfect read for psychology and politics readers alike.

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4. Upstream: How to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath

Life can feel like we’re constantly sprinting to put out fires as they arise. But of course, endlessly reacting to problems without a second to breathe and prepare for the next is pretty exhausting. Dan Heath’s Upstream is his solution to breaking that cycle of reaction and starting to prevent problems before they start. 

This begins with knowing the psychological forces that cause it. For example, one force that Heath attributes as a large factor is “problem blindness” — when a problem becomes so persistent that you start to register it as “normal” and therefore stop “seeing” it (or, naturally, trying to fix it). Heath shows how to step up and bolster your defenses against such problems by using real-life cases of individual thinkers, businesses, and even whole institutions that overcame their own. Thankfully, the uniting factor among these case studies is simple: all they had to do was change their mindset.

5. The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton

Many of us spend over a decade in school and, regardless of academic success, emerge feeling like something is missing. Sure, you can do complex algebra or give me an in-depth analysis of the symbolism of triads in Shakespeare — but can you navigate a workplace? Can you endure failure? Do you understand yourself? Whether you’re about to graduate or have been done with high school for years, you’ve probably found yourself wondering these things. 

Aptly titled, The School of Life is Alain de Botton’s answer to questions like these — with the express aim of equipping people with the tools and self-knowledge to thrive in the modern world. From increasing your productivity at work to handling the dilemmas of interpersonal relationships, there’s a chapter for everything you need in The School of Life. This emotional education is sure to help you to develop resilience to life’s dilemmas and become a maven of emotional intelligence.

6. Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein

You may recognize authors Daniel Kahneman and Cass R. Sunstein from their respective bestsellers, Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge (or from a Reedsy Discovery post !). In a similar vein, Noise tackles the topic of variability in judgements and how we’re influenced by external factors. The overarching conclusion in Noise is that the majority of our decisions are unconsciously affected by the noise at different times and places.

The authors combine their scholarly expertise with additional research to deliver this in-depth guide outlining what we already know and their new theories about noise. For those interested in why we make decisions, this is one of the best psychology books to strengthen your understanding of the extraneous factors that can shape or bias decision-making, how to minimize those factors, and improve your thinking.

7. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo

The Lucifer Effect is Professor Philip Zimbardo’s first detailed account of his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment and the conclusions he took from it. The Stanford Prison Experiment was Zimbardo’s 1971 study looking into the effects of different situational factors on conformity by putting college student volunteers into a fake prison environment for -2 weeks. Without giving too much away, the experiment ran into some serious roadblocks that meant it had to be discontinued after only six days. (The controversy was such that there was even a mostly-accurate movie dramatization released in 2015!) 

Zimbardo’s thoughts on the experiment are interesting not only because he conducted it, but because he was a part of it, acting as the prison warden — which, needless to say, has serious ethical connotations. The following chapters discuss the study’s effect on the decades of subsequent research into psychological and social variables that cause “average” people to commit immoral acts — making it one of the most influential books on psychology you can pick up today. Most people with an interest in psychology might have an idea of the original experiment, but the research afterwards should definitely not be overlooked!

8. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

Put simply, The Psychopath Test takes us through the modern-day mental health system, asking us to think more deeply about whom it labels “psychopathic”. Jon Ronson starts with a man who faked madness to escape a prison sentence, his method being to act charming, glib, and well-presented in contrast to other patients in the psychiatric hospital. Ronson takes these alleged tell-tale signs of psychopathy and applies them to people in other walks of life, making the startling discovery that psychopaths appear everywhere. 

This is where the doors to the so-called “industry of madness” are truly flung open. How many of our most influential CEOs, researchers, and world leaders are psychopaths? Can any good come of our newfound access to the best psychology books or theories if they facilitate diagnoses of strangers based on their “maddest” parts? If these questions interest you, pick up The Psychopath Test  and see what you think.

9. Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne

We’ve mostly talked about complex mental health issues so far in this post—but maybe you want to know about the psychology behind our most basic social interactions. If so, Eric Berne’s description of functional and dysfunctional social interactions in Games People Play will be right up your alley. Berne claims that we play “social games” all of the time, be that power games against authority, sexual games, marital games, or competitive games within friendships. 

Berne divulges the types of mind games that everyone can fall victim to indulging: in status contests, the game becomes a back and forth game of “I know better”, and couples are prone to playing mental games claiming each is holding the other back. Berne doesn’t just name these interactions, but he also exposes the meaning behind them as unconscious ploys and maneuvers that rule our lives. It’s these creatively poised insights that make this book on psychology an influential and striking bestseller.

10. The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Described as “the Bible of trauma” for struggling readers, The Body Keeps the Score is the culmination of Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk’s entire career. One of the world’s leading experts on traumatic stress, Van Der Kolk highlights the clear effects that trauma has on literally reshaping the body and brain. Drawing on his status as an active therapist, continually learning from what works for his patients best, Van Der Kolk delivers a wonderfully personal yet analytic approach to trauma recovery. Considering the frustrating physical effects of trauma related by his patients, Van Der Kolk suggests a fresh paradigm for treatment. 

The ideological heart of this method is to make it safe for trauma survivors to inhabit their own bodies by moving away from the “standard” combination of talking therapies or drug therapies and instead using a new approach that heals the mind, brain, and body. One size never fits all, but Van Der Kolk suggests that therapeutic interventions like neurofeedback, theater, meditation, play, or yoga may play a larger part than first thought in healing. The Body Keeps the Score provides a unique perspective on trauma and recovery relayed in a compassionate yet truthful voice, making it accessible to readers of all levels.

11. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

Ever just really felt like you needed a hug? The Comfort Book answers that craving: it is a warm and personal hug in the form of a book — something even the best psychology books haven't focused on before. If you’re looking for a guide to self-love, contentment, and emotional strength, then Matt Haig’s reflections on the conflicting feelings that come with being alive are for you.

The essence of this book is that many of our best and clearest revelations are made when at our lowest — but we also shouldn’t have to figure everything out ourselves, especially when we’re suffering. Haig’s reflections are built on what he’s learned in hard times, with the hope that they can get you through similar situations. It’s a great comfort to know that you’re not the only one that’s dealt with something hard, and Haig understands that. Drawing on maxims, meditations, and inspirational lives of others, he aims to nurture your inner strength and deliver advice like a wise, commiserative old friend.

12. The Oracle of Night: The History and Science of Dreams by Sidarta Ribeiro

What really makes a dream, why do we have them, and how do they affect us? Sidarta Ribeiro takes these questions and uses them as a springboard for his completely fresh and enthralling study of dreams, tracing them all the way back to our ancient ancestors. It’s in the earliest cave paintings that Ribeiro finds the first traces of human dreams and begins unlocking revolutionary conclusions about the role of dreams in human evolution. 

Some will also know that contemporary neuroscience and psychology have uncovered many findings about dreams, such as their role in healing trauma or in consolidating what we learned in the day prior. The Oracle of Night then explains Ribeiro’s advancements on these topics: the role of dreaming in memory recall and transformation, and, startlingly, their oracular nature as confirmed by new research — making this a great book club book to ignite a conversation! Ribeiro combines his absolute authority on the topic with a clear, compelling writing style to make this book a page-turner from the first page to the last.

13. Everyday Vitality: Turning Stress into Strength by Samantha Boardman

Psychiatrist Samantha Boardman believes that an essential factor in healthy aging and overall well-being is a sense of vitality. Which is to say: knowing that you’re up to a task both physically and mentally. This belief is the jumping-off point for Everyday Vitality, a book full of strategies for cultivating vitality by focusing on improving a little every day, instead of reacting to fix what’s wrong as it arises. 

While vitality wellness is often associated with managing aging, Boardman posits that vitality can help all of us no matter our age. Whether you’re eighteen or eighty, you may recall times you’ve felt mentally exhausted from the constant barrage of media every day, or physically drained after a long day at a desk. Boardman explains three routes to better vitality for everyone: meaningfully connecting with others, taking on experiences that push your limits, and contributing to something beyond just you. If you want to cultivate your own wellness, why not pick up this book and discuss it with someone you love?

14. Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods

Humanity’s success as a species has developed in leaps and bounds during our relatively short time on Earth. Many people have hypothesized what might be the cause of these advancements: is it our strength, intellect, curiosity, or something else completely? Authors — and husband-and-wife duo — Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods believe in the latter, making the case in this book that humanity’s progression is actually because of our “friendliness”. 

Combining their respective expertise in cognitive neuroscience, research science, and journalism, Hare and Wood have come up with a theory about this evolutionary friendliness. The theory is elegantly termed “self-domestication” — a remarkable propensity to coordinate and communicate with others. Instead of coveting our individual successes, we often share them with others to help advance and protect each other. This capability, Hare and Wood argue, has allowed us to achieve the impressive cultural and technical marvels that we’ve culminated today. However, this friendliness may come at a cost: when threats to those we love become a target for our worst instincts, our evolutionary propensity for bond-making may be a double-edged sword.

15. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

In Blink, critically acclaimed author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell hopes to revolutionize your understanding of how you (and others) think. Why, for example, are some people exceptionally fast decision-makers, when others choke under pressure? Why does “following your gut” work perfectly for some, while others fall short? And do situational variables like our immediate surroundings affect our abilities to make these decisions?

Gladwell posits that a key factor towards people’s ability to make better decisions is “thin-slicing”: the unconscious ability to analyze patterns in scenarios based on brief flashes of experience, and come to a conclusion based on that knowledge. Gladwell draws on real-life examples to illustrate these ideas: from a psychologist who could predict whether a marriage would last from just a brief interaction with the couple, to antiquities experts who only need to glance at an object to tell it’s a fake. Put simply, Blink proves that the main difference between a good and a bad decision-maker is their mastery of “thin-slicing.” Can you learn to do it, too?

16. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

Have you ever walked into a clothing store and found yourself overwhelmed by choices among different shirts, skirts, or jeans, all of which look eerily similar? Not to mention the stress of weaving through other shoppers, worrying about prices, and working out your size. Barry Schwartz believes that this abundance of choices to make “no longer liberates, but debilitates” shoppers with consumer anxiety. The solution? Eliminating consumer choices (within reason).

Of course, Schwartz acknowledges that autonomy and freedom of choice are still critical to our well-being. It’s just that, while modern Americans may technically have more choice than ever before, they are no longer benefiting from it psychologically. The Paradox of Choice neatly establishes the psychology behind why choice overload makes us suffer — constant comparison, opportunity hunting, and buyer’s remorse, for example — and how to avoid consumer anxiety in the first place.

17. Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships by Camilla Pang

Explaining Humans is an intriguing in-depth exploration of the complexities of human behavior, as explained by hard science. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at an early age, author and scientist Dr Camilla Pang struggled to untangle the mess of the world around her — even asking her mother if she could find an instruction manual for humans. When she found that not even the best psychology books of the time provided such a manual, the only solution was to write her own. 

Backed up with copious amounts of scientific research and her own hard-won expertise, this book on psychology examines obscure social customs, what it means to be human in different cultures, and where proteins and molecular chemistry fit into all of this. What does it mean to understand someone? How do we recognize people’s motivations or expressions, and what dictates them to begin with? Whether this all feels foreign or far too familiar to you, Pang is sure to deliver some surprises.

18. Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker

The goal of Rationality is to make you more rational and help you understand why there is so much irrationality in the world. You may think that sounds pretty lofty, but try reading author and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker’s analysis before making concrete judgements! 

Pinker rejects the cliché idea that humans are an irrational species — how could any species discover and achieve so much without being inherently rational? Despite this, we live in a dichotic age of rationality vs. intense irrationality. Pinker’s explanation is that humans tend to think within the context of the low-tech settings in which we spend the majority of our lives. As a result, we don’t take advantage of the tools that our best thinkers discovered previously: critical thinking, logic, probability, correlation vs. causation, and ways to update our beliefs individually are not a part of our education. Fortunately, you can find these tools (and analyses of the crippling effects of irrationality) presented clearly and with good humor in Rationality !

19. Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People by Emily and Laurence Alison

We’ve all had to interact with difficult people before, whether that’s an annoying customer, a high-maintenance friend, or even a demanding stranger on the train. But imagine you had to deal with some of the most difficult people possible, managing extremely high-stress interactions: criminal interrogations. These interactions are a specialty of forensic psychologists Emily and Laurence Alison: they advise and train police, security companies, and even secret services on how to maneuver interviews with dangerous suspects. 

After experiences over the past thirty years that the “average” person could only imagine, the author duo have developed a revolutionary model for interpersonal communication. According to them, every interaction follows one of four types: Control (the lion), Capitulate (the mouse), Confront (the Tyrannosaur) and Co-operate (the monkey). It might sound abstract now, but once you’ve been taken through these types in Rapport, you’ll understand why they’re so praised. Learn to understand and apply them to your own goals and you can shape any conversation at will.

20. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment by Martin E. P. Seligman

You may have heard of this entry after its launch in 2004 caused international debate over the nature of real happiness. Authentic Happiness was the starting point for the science of Positive Psychology and the discussion of happiness in a scientific way. 

According to Martin Seligman, happiness has less to do with factors such as genes or luck, and more to do with focusing on your internal strengths rather than weaknesses. This isn’t to say that situational factors based on your genes wouldn’t impact you, or that being lucky enough to win the lottery wouldn’t change your life. Seligman’s point is that maintaining a positive mindset and building on one’s strengths is the most dependable route to long-lived happiness. To that end, Seligman supplies exercises, brief tests, and interesting programs that will help you identify your virtues and use them most efficiently.

21. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

It’s no secret that a high IQ doesn’t automatically make a  person smart or good (not to mention the long-standing debate over the reliability and biases of IQ tests). That said, what actually makes a person smart or good? Daniel Goleman’s innovative analyses in Emotional Intelligence certainly brings us closer to understanding. This book breaks down human processes into “two minds”, the rational and the emotional, to detail how they together shape the ways that we move through the world. 

Goleman draws on contemporary cognitive and behavioral research to show the factors that make higher IQ flounder where those with average IQ excel. The factors that go into this disparity are: self-awareness, self-discipline, and empathy, and their presence adds up to a completely different manner of intelligence. Luckily, this kind of emotional intelligence can be developed and strengthened at every age to ultimately benefit our health, work, and relationships.

22. The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease by Steven Taylor

Published in October 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Steven Taylor’s book about the importance of psychology in curbing the spread of deadly pandemics — stating that, at the time, the next pandemic could be soon — turned out to be frighteningly prophetic. Taylor posits that, while vaccinations and behavioral methods are crucial for stemming infection rates, psychological elements are equally important.

The Psychology of Pandemics explains psychology’s role in nonadherence to vaccination and hygiene programs and in mental health as people cope with the threat and loss of life. Taylor talks through every reason why understanding psychology is essential to managing societal problems that go hand-in-hand with pandemics. You need only consult a few history books to see that the same problems recurr every time we face a pandemic. These problems range from excessive fear to maladaptive behaviours to the xenophobia that occurs when people feel threatened by infection. Sound familiar? If you want to understand why the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in the way it did, this is definitely on the list of the best psychology books to try.

23. Human Givens : A New Approach to Emotional Health and Clear Thinking by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell

Feeling like something a little more laidback? Human Givens is a guide to emotional and physical health, as well as education, using the “human givens” approach. Authors Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell chronicle what some call the best psychological insight of this age — that we are all born with innate knowledge patterns known as “human givens”. These givens are experienced as physical and emotional needs, and only when those needs are met can one reach their full mental and physical potential. 

Griffin and Tyrrell suggest that how your innate needs connect with the world can shape not just your own health and happiness, but that of your family and friends. Human Givens takes this idea and looks at what every person needs to flourish, as well as how to actively pursue those things. Of course, this isn’t all just speculation: Griffin and Tyrell back up their approach with new scientific findings and ideas about how the mind works — as well as how to use those ideas to overcome the anxieties of the modern world.

24. Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View by Stanley Milgram

The next book on our list is what some might call a psychology classic. Psychologist Stanley Milgram performed a series of famous experiments in the 1960s with the view to better understanding obedience to authority, after numerous war criminals on trial had claimed they were “just following orders”. 

The experiments were controversial at the time, because they involved volunteer subjects being instructed to administer what they thought were progressively more painful shocks to another human being — the aim of this was to see how far people would obey orders even when they knew them to be morally gray. Though Milgram’s experiment was criticized for being immoral itself, it has since been vindicated as a breakthrough in understanding both obedience and psychology as a whole. Obedience to Authority has long been thought of as one of the best psychology books, offering Milgram’s personal insight into his groundbreaking methods, theories, and post-experiment conclusions.

25. Consciousness and the Social Brain by Michael S. A. Graziano

The final entry on our list delves into one of the great mysteries of the human race: the brain. How are we conscious, what is consciousness, and how does the brain create it? Why do some people have more of a constant running internal monologue than others? These are the big questions that Michael S. A. Graziano aims to tackle in Consciousness and the Social Brain.

The human brain has evolved a vastly complicated circuitry which allows it to be socially intelligent — one function of which is to be aware of others socially, to understand when someone other than oneself is thinking or feeling. Graziano’s theory is that the brain’s internal machinery that allows it to be aware of others also allows self awareness. The crux is that human awareness is layers upon layers of information that the brain has gathered, processed, and rendered — a wholly physical phenomena in the same way that generating heat or electricity might be. This is, of course, a hotly debated topic, with many people believing that to reduce the brain to only physicality would be reductive. Regardless of what you believe, Graziano’s scientific journey is a thrill to the last page!

Seeking more answers about human interaction? Check out our lists of the 60 Best Nonfiction Books of the 21st Century or the 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time !

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10 Psychology Books Everyone Should Read

22 Sep, 2023 | Blog Articles , Psychology Articles

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Psychology is a wide-reaching field, covering everything from social attachments to disorders of the brain and nervous system (neurology). We’ve put together a list of ten Psychology books that we think every student should read. Whether you’re preparing to study at University, just starting to explore your interest, or looking to deepen your knowledge of Psychology before attending our Oxford Summer School , these books will provide valuable insights and enhance your learning journey.

Table of Contents

1. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales  – Oliver Sacks

In this classic book, Sacks documents a number of fascinating and strange cases that he came across in his work as a neurologist.

The book is named after one of these cases: the man who mistook his wife for a hat had visual agnosia. This is a condition where people are unable to interpret visual information so cannot recognise objects or faces. From this to a case about a patient who couldn’t recognise his own leg, Sacks deals with the most extraordinary conditions.

It is an engaging and easy to read book, which will make you appreciate that a lot can go wrong in our brains. Such explorations of the human mind are central to our Psychology programme in our Oxford Summer Courses .

Picture of the cover of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a popular psychology book.

2.  The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry  – Jon Ronson

In The Psychopath Test, Ronson describes his quest to determine whether it is true that many high up CEOs and politicians are psychopaths.

He tells the story of his visits to psychopaths, as well as to the psychologists and psychiatrists who study them. The book also looks at how psychopaths are diagnosed and explores The Psychopath Test developed by Bob Hare.

Ronson offers intriguing insights into the minds of psychopaths, as well as some very interesting stories, making this book well worth a read.

Photo of the cover of the Psychopath Test, a popular psychology book.

3.  Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind  – V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee

Phantoms in the Brain is an engaging book which explores various neurological disorders, such as phantom limbs.

A phantom limb is a condition where amputees can feel their amputated limb after it is gone (and in some cases even feel pain in it which is very difficult to treat). The book describes the cause of this phenomenon, among many other conditions. The authors explain how these can inform our understanding of the brain and also present many interesting cases of patients with these conditions.

Reading this will give you an understanding of how the brain forms our perception of both the world and ourselves.

Photo of Phantoms in the Brain, a popular Psychology book.

4.  50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior  – Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio & Barry Beyerstein

As the title suggests, this book dispels 50 popular misconceptions in psychology. These are claims that are not scientifically true but still continue to be spread by the general public.

The authors aim to show that common sense can actually mislead people. 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology encourages us to think critically and evaluate these claims, rather than simply taking them to be true.

This is an interesting book, and definitely worth reading – most of us probably didn’t realise that many of these are misconceptions.

psychology books interesting

5.  The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language – Steven Pinker

Throughout this book, Pinker explores the idea that language is innate to humans, a phenomenon that he describes as ‘the language instinct’.

Pinker makes the case for language as an ability unique to humans: we evolved this to be able to communicate. The book explores many cases that support this idea that language and grammar are in-built (an idea that was first proposed by the linguist Noam Chomsky).

This is a perfect introduction to the psychology of language and linguistics. It is filled with intriguing cases and ideas that will give you a different perspective on how your brain works.

psychology books interesting

6. Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely

In Predictably Irrational, Ariely, who is a behavioural economist, rejects the widely held belief that humans make rational decisions. Rather, he makes the case for the idea that we behave irrationally. For example, we will eat another plate at an unlimited buffet even though we are already full.

The book examines many factors which contribute to these behaviours: expectations, emotions, social norms, among other forces. It uncovers the irrational mistakes that we consistently make – mistakes that are predictable. Ariely also offers advice on breaking these behaviours.

Reading this will challenge what you think you know about your own behaviour, and help you to stop making the same irrational mistakes.

Cover of Predictably Irrational, a popular Psychology book

7. Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow is an entertaining description of the research that Kahneman has conducted over his career.

In it, Kahneman explores the relationship between two modes of thought that he proposes us to have. System 1 is impulsive, automatic and intuitive: this happens without our conscious thought. However, System 2 is thoughtful, deliberate and calculating. The book describes how the interactions between these systems determine how we think and act.

Kahneman has written an enjoyable summary of recent work in social and cognitive psychology – which will almost certainly make you think differently about how you think.

Cover of Thinking Fast and Slow, a popular Psychology book.

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Thanks for signing up, 8. bad science – ben goldacre.

This is not just a psychology book, but rather it is about science in general – specifically bad science, as the title suggests.

Bad Science implores readers to be aware of the poor understanding of scientific evidence and statistics in our society. For example, Goldacre explores how science reporting in the media tends to produce very untrue accounts of real research and data. He also describes how pharmaceutical companies misuse statistics for their own benefits, and how homeopathy tricks so many people into thinking it is a cure.

This book is both witty and easy to read – and will make you question everything you’ve ever been told is true.

Cover of Bad Science, a popular Psychology book.

9. The Invisible Gorilla – Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

The Invisible Gorilla describes how, when we are focused on one thing, we tend to overlook everything else.

The title of the book refers to earlier research in this area: when participants are told to count how many times players passed the ball in a basketball game, they do not even notice someone dressed as a gorilla walking through the game!

Chabris and Simmons do a good job of demonstrating that, really, we don’t notice as much as we think we do in this entertaining book.

Cover of The Invisible Gorilla, a popular Psychology book.

10. Influence: Science and Practice – Robert Cialdini

Cialdini’s eye-opening book explores the topics of influence and persuasion. It teaches us both how to be more persuasive, and how to stop ourselves being persuaded to do things we don’t actually want to.

Cialdini explains that there are six psychological principles that drive us to comply to the influence of others, which he goes through in detail.

Influence is not only interesting, but will also help you to be more aware of the power of how you talk to people – even just in your everyday life.

Cover of Influence, a popular Psychology book.

Rachel is an undergraduate Psychology student at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, with a particular interest in perception. She believes that Psychology is an important science, as much of the human brain remains a mystery that we have yet to solve. She is excited to keep you up to date with the latest research in this field! In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, painting, and cooking all sorts of pasta dishes.

Do you want to boost your Psychology university application?

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  • The 34 Best Psychology Books That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

Best Psychology Books

Psychology is a broad and diverse field that concentrates on studying how people, including you, behave and think. It covers emotions, personality, and so much more.

When you understand psychology, you will understand yourself and the people around you.

You’ll also make better decisions, handle tough situations more easily, and get closer to reaching your full potential much faster than you could have ever imagined.

This fascinating science will even help you understand why you and those you’re closest to act the way you do and how you can change for the better.

Our over 1,000 summaries here at Four Minute Books include hundreds about psychology. We’ve hand-picked our top 34 favorite ones for this list so that you can learn from them and understand yourself better so you can take advantage of the power of your own mind.

If you want to discover new levels of productivity, mental toughness, happiness, and so much more, these books are just what you’ve been looking for.

Table of Contents

1. Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman

2. drive by daniel pink, 3. predictably irrational by dan ariely, 4. everything is f*cked by mark manson, 5. the wisdom of insecurity by alan watts, 6. do what you are by paul tieger, barbara barron, & kelly tieger, 7. the happiness hypothesis by jonathan haidt, 8. influence by robert cialdini, 9. the psychology of selling by brian tracy, 10. the tipping point by malcolm gladwell, 11. emotional intelligence by daniel goleman, 12. descartes’ error by antonio r. damasio, 13. men are from mars, women are from venus by john gray, 14. attached by dr. amir levine, 15. personality isn’t permanent by benjamin hardy, 16. the personality brokers by merve emre, 17. the road back to you by ian morgan cron, 18. my age of anxiety by scott stossel, 19. lost connections by johann hari, 20. reasons to stay alive by matt haig, 21. a first rate madness by s. nassir ghaemi, 22. social by matthew d. lieberman, 23. the social animal by david brooks, 24. words can change your brain by andrew b. newberg, 25. the secret life of pronouns by james w. pennebaker, 26. stumbling on happiness by dan gilbert, 27. flourish by martin seligman, 28. blink by malcolm gladwell, 29. the paradox of choice by barry schwartz, 30. mistakes were made, but not by me by carol tavris, 31. the honest truth about dishonesty by dan ariely, 32. switch by chip & dan heath, 33. the antidote by oliver burkeman, 34. the upside of your dark side by todd kashdan, other book lists by topic, other book lists by author, best books on psychology overall, favorite quote.

”Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.” — Daniel Kahneman

The Book in One Sentence

Thinking Fast And Slow shows you how two systems in your brain are constantly fighting over control of your behavior and actions, and teaches you the many ways in which this leads to errors in memory, judgment and decisions, and what you can do about it.

Why should you read it?

Our minds are driven by two systems that influence the way we think. One system is fast and works on the emotional side, while the other one is a tad slower and makes more use of logic. These two systems work together to shape the way we think and to influence our decisions and Kahneman wants to reveal in this book how to cope with our brain.

Key Takeaways

  • Your behavior is determined by 2 systems in your mind – one conscious and the other automatic.
  • Your brain is lazy and thus keeps you from using the full power of your intelligence.
  • When you’re making decisions about money, leave your emotions at home.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” — Daniel Pink

Drive explores what has motivated humans throughout history and explains how we shifted from mere survival to the carrot and stick approach that’s still practiced today – and why it’s outdated.

There are many ways out there to make use of when motivating ourselves, but some of them might just be wrong. Daniel Pink has put together this persuasive book to help us figure out how to be high performers in any field of our lives, by making use of the need to direct our lives. This book will help you change your perspectives on motivation.

  • The carrot and stick approach is dead.
  • Extrinsic motivation destroys intrinsic motivation.
  • Strive for the flow state in everything you do.
“The danger of expecting nothing is that, in the end, it might be all we’ll get.” — Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational explains the hidden forces that really drive how we make decisions, which are far less rational than we think, but can help us stay on top of our finances, interact better with others and live happier lives, once we know about them.

We make decisions daily and sometimes, we might not even think about the mechanism behind them. Humans are considered rational beings, but certain behaviours might end up making them… irrational, but in a predictable way, according to Ariely. This book will help you better understand your patterns of thought and who knows, maybe even break them.

  • We compare whatever we can, so give others easy comparisons to pick you.
  • Free is really just another price, but a powerful one.
  • You overvalue what you own.
“Hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness and depression. It is the source of all misery and the cause of all addiction.” — Mark Manson

Everything Is F*cked explains what’s wrong with our approach towards happiness and gives philosophical suggestions that help us make our lives worth living.

Even though we seem to have everything nowadays, from freedom to amazing technological discoveries, more and more people seem to drown in a feeling of hopelessness. A book concentrating on everything that is surrounding us, by putting things into perspective in a sharp, yet humorous way, it will make you consider things that you probably never even thought about before.

  • Pure logic won’t help you make the best decisions, a balanced brain will.
  • Hope won’t solve your problems, it takes acceptance and principles to do that.
  • The solution to mental illnesses is not chasing happiness, it is to attain true freedom from our addictions and dependencies.
“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live.” — Alan Watts

The Wisdom of Insecurity is a self-help classic that breaks down our psychological need for stability and explains how it’s led us right into consumerism, why that won’t solve our problem and how we can really calm our anxiety.

You would think that this age offers enough stability to human beings, but it sometimes seems to be exactly the opposite: we live in an age where things seem rather unstable and vulnerable. Alan Watts has put together this book where we put into perspective the idea that as much as we want to reach a perfect level of psychological security, many things make us go towards psychological insecurity.

  • Without religion to tell us it’ll be okay, life can become very uncertain, and that’s terrifying.
  • The happiness consumerism promises us is really just emptiness in a pretty wrapper.
  • Pleasure and pain always come in one package, and embracing that will make you less anxious.

Best Books on Psychology For Beginners

“The right job enhances your life. It is personally fulfilling because it nourishes the most important aspects of your personality..” — Paul Tieger, Barbara Barron, & Kelly Tieger

Do What You Are will help you discover your personality type and how it can lead you to a more satisfying career that corresponds to your talents and interests..

Your perfect career is a… personality type away. This book will help you figure out what exactly it is that you are good at – by figuring out what your personality type is and which occupation is the best one for you, according to your result. By using different exercises and examples, this book will help you determine what path you need to follow to be satisfied with your life and career.

  • Notice the ways you connect with the world to identify your personality type.
  • Discover your optimal career path by considering your identity and what interests you.
  • No matter how old you are you can always change your occupation to something more satisfying.
“Love and work are to people what water and sunshine are to plants.” — Jonathan Haidt

The Happiness Hypothesis is the most thorough analysis of how you can find happiness in our modern society, backed by plenty of scientific research, real-life examples and even a formula for happiness.

If you want to understand happiness, but you are not sure where to start, this could represent a good starting point. There are many sayings out there regarding happiness that we might have used naturally, but are they still available today? Haidt’s book is provocative and puts under analysis the way traditional wisdom interacts with the modern world.

  • Surround yourself with the people you love the most and live in accordance with reciprocity.
  • Do work that matters to you.
  • Find a partner who will stand by your side through sunshine and rain and allow yourself to be part of something greater.
“Our best evidence of what people truly feel and believe comes less from their words than from their deeds.” — Robert Cialdini

Influence has been the go-to book for marketers since its release in 1984, which delivers six key principles behind human influence and explains them with countless practical examples.

Why do you, and other people, say ‘yes’? Is it because someone is persuading you or is there another reason? Robert Cialdini explains in this book six principles that will help us not only become better persuaders but also understand the psychology behind this act. These principles will also help you figure out what you need in order to achieve success.

  • You can use the reciprocity bias to build up a massive good karma account.
  • The scarcity bias works, because we hate to miss opportunities.
  • Make a small commitment to trigger your consistency bias and reach your goal.

Best Psychology Books For Sales and Marketing

“Help yourself warm up and prepare mentally by repeating, ‘I feel happy! I feel healthy! I feel terrific!’ It is not possible for you to talk positively to yourself, using words like this, without immediately feeling happier and more confident.” ― Brian Tracy

The Psychology Of Selling motivates you to work on your self-image and how you relate to customers so that you can close more deals.

How do you sell more? If this is a question that you still haven’t found an answer to, this book might be of good help, as it will provide you with enough ideas, strategies, and techniques to make you sell faster and more, all in a more efficient way.

  • Utilize the power of your subconscious to become more successful.
  • You will get more motivation and passion if you learn from the right people.
  • Questions are the holy grail of unearthing customers’ needs and they will help you make more sales.
“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” — Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point explains how ideas spread like epidemics and which few elements need to come together to help an idea reach the point of critical mass, where its viral effect becomes unstoppable.

It takes a tipping point to start something big, something that is rapidly adopted by people. Something that is an idea or a trend that spreads to the masses. And Malcolm Gladwell explains this idea in this bestseller, by analyzing diverse ideas and trends, to figure out what makes them so interesting, that people just seem to dive into them instantly.

  • Once an idea reaches the tipping point, it spreads like fire.
  • Three kinds of people are responsible for getting ideas to tip.
  • Without stickiness, no idea will ever tip.

Best Psychology Books About Emotions

“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.” — Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence explains the importance of emotions in your life, how they help and hurt your ability to navigate the world, followed by practical advice on how to improve your own emotional intelligence and why that is the key to leading a successful life.

Does having a high IQ give you a guarantee that you are going to be successful? According to Daniel Goleman, it takes a bit more to get to the highest point of success, by looking at how the two sides of our brain work together – the rational and the emotional. This book shows us how emotional intelligence determines various aspects of our lives and how it is also a way of being smart.

  • Emotional intelligence rests on self-awareness and self-regulation.
  • A high EQ makes you healthier and more successful.
  • You can boost your EQ by mirroring other people’s body language and thinking optimistically.
“Willpower is just another name for the idea of choosing long-term outcomes rather than short-term ones.” — Antonio R. Damasio

Descartes’ Error will help you understand why the argument that the mind and body are disconnected is false by using neuroscience and interesting case studies to identify how the body and our emotions play a vital role in logical thinking.

“I think therefore I am” can be easily considered one of Descartes’ most famous proclamations. But since its appearance, it has made science concentrate more on the cognitive side of things, rather than the emotional one. Antonio R. Damasio has written a provocative book that makes use of case studies, to demonstrate that we need emotions not only for being rational but also for our behavior.

  • Brain damage, like what Phineas Gage experienced when a rod went through his head, gives us clues about how the mind really works with the body.
  • Emotions are vital to our mind’s ability to function properly and think logically.
  • Your brain uses feelings from past experiences to construct somatic markers which help it make decisions faster.

Best Psychology Books About Love and Relationships

“When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences, then love has a chance to blossom.” — John Gray

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus helps you improve your relationships by identifying the key differences between men and women.

Men and women have different ways to communicate, even though they are both human beings. This book is based on years of successful counselling and can help you figure out how to communicate with the man or woman sitting beside you, without turning everything into a conflict. Is it all just about accepting each other’s differences? Let’s find out!

  • Women want men to listen to them while men desire solutions to problems.
  • Men are motivated when they feel useful, women are inspired when they feel loved.
  • Women and men communicate differently and assign separate meanings to the same words.
“Most people are only as needy as their unmet needs.” —Dr. Amir Levine

Attached delivers a scientific explanation why some relationships thrive and steer a clear path over a lifetime, while others crash and burn, based on the human need for attachment and the three different styles of it.

What would you say is your attachment style, based on how you feel towards your partner? This book helps us understand our attachment style, giving us a little bit of insight into the science behind love. Understanding your behavior in relation to the other will help you build a stronger and more satisfactory bond with your significant other.

  • Everyone needs attachment, it’s a prerequisite for a happy and healthy life.
  • There are 3 different attachment styles, which one are you?
  • Effective communication is the best way to guarantee your happiness in any relationship.

Best Psychology Books About Personality

“The only thing ‘special’ about those who transform themselves and their lives is their view of their own future. The refuse to be defined by the past. They see something different and more meaningful and they never stop fueling that vision.” — Benjamin Hardy

Personality Isn’t Permanent will shatter your long-held beliefs that you’re stuck as yourself, flaws and all, by identifying why the person you are is changeable and giving you specific and actionable steps to change.

Do people change their attitudes and behaviors throughout their lives or do they constantly stay the same? According to psychologist Benjamin Hardy, the idea that people never change is rather wrong and it keeps us away from being who we need to be. Offering practical advice and basing everything on science, this book will certainly catch your attention.

  • There are five destructive myths about personality that lead to mediocrity and support the fixed mindset that holds you back.
  • Your goals determine your personality and are the tool you need to change your identity.
  • No matter who you’ve been in the past or who you are now, you can upgrade how you see yourself and transform your future.
“To investigate the history of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the most popular personality inventory in the world, is to court a kind of low-level paranoia. Files disappear. Tapes are erased. People begin to watch you.” — Merve Emre

The Personality Brokers uncovers the true, yet un-scientific origins of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test.

There is a test out there that is used almost everywhere when it comes to determining someone’s personality – and that is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This book concentrates on figuring out how a personality indicator became such a huge success, while also trying to put into perspective all the things that could influence us to be ourselves.

  • Katherine Briggs-Myers and her daughter Isabel Myers based their personality test on the questionable principles of Carl Jung.
  • Briggs created her first personality test at a time when Americans were ready to receive it, thus beginning the era of self-help writing.
  • Although scientifically unsound, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator does have it’s benefits and uses.

The Road Back to You Book Cover

“The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you’re already in and how to get out of it.” — Ian Morgan Cron

The Road Back To You will teach you more about what kind of person you are by identifying the pros and cons of each personality type within the Enneagram test.

Human beings are all wired differently, but at the same, they all have positive and negative traits. This book concentrates on the Enneagram, which is an ancient personality typing system and can help you learn more about yourself. Filled with stories, this book will help you figure out how to get to a deeper knowledge of who we are as people, by diving into the spiritual side of things.

  • There are nine personality types in the Enneagram.
  • You might feel that your personal traits fall into multiple types, and that’s why the test has what are known as wing numbers to give you additional clarity.
  • Each number in the test has corresponding stress and security numbers to help you better understand how you react in different circumstances.

Best Psychology Books About Anxiety and Depression

My Age of Anxiety Book Cover (Best Books on Psychology About Anxiety And Depression)

“It is a fact – I say this from experience – that being severly anxious is depressing. Anxiety can impede your relationships, impair your performance, constrict your life, and limit your possibilities.” — Scott Stossel

My Age Of Anxiety is your guide to understanding an aspect of mental illness that most of us don’t realize is so severe, showing it’s biological and environmental origins and ways to treat it.

When would you say that you heard the term ‘anxiety’ for the first time? You might get to the conclusion that thirty-something years ago, this was not considered a diagnostic, while nowadays, it has become one of the most common mental illness diagnostics. Stossel gives us a bit of insight into how anxiety affects people and how to control it at the same time.

  • This disease can make life difficult and embarrassing.
  • Anxiety comes from evolution but is also a result of our experiences in childhood.
  • To treat this form of mental illness, you can use drugs and therapy.

Lost Connections Book Cover

“The more you think life is about having stuff and superiority and showing it off, the more unhappy, and the more depressed and anxious, you will be.” — Johann Hari

Lost Connections explains why depression affects so many people and that improving our relationships, not taking medication, is the way to beat our mental health problems.

One of today’s most common mental illnesses is depression. Even though there are many people out there suffering from depression, it is still rather unclear what causes it: is it a chemical imbalance or is it the way we live today? Lost Connections shares different stories, from different groups to help us have a better understanding of how depression works and how we can fight against it.

  • Depression is not the result of a chemical imbalance.
  • There are nine main causes of depression, and they all have to do with difficult life circumstances.
  • Social prescriptions help people feel valued and connected while medication does not.

Reasons to Stay Alive Book Cover

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more?” — Matt Haig

Reasons To Stay Alive shows you the dangers and difficulties surrounding mental illness, uncovers the stigma around it, and identifies how to recover from it by sharing the story of Matt Haig’s recovery after an awful panic attack and subsequent battle with depression and anxiety.

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel – or at least, this is one of the most important things that people have to understand. Living with depression is not an easy thing to do, whether it is you that is affected or someone close to you – and Matt Haig knows that, as he also suffers from depression. He has written this frank, yet encouraging book that reminds us that the little things do count and that life should be lived, for the better or the worse.

  • If you’re depressed, reading books to get out of your own head can help.
  • There are some benefits to mental illness, which even some of the world’s greatest leaders experienced.
  • Recovery won’t be as straightforward as you think, but it is possible.

A First Rate Madness Book Cover

“In times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones.” — Cal Newport

A First-Rate Madness shares the stories of many world leaders and explains how they prevailed despite their mental illnesses and struggles, showing you how to turn your psychological disadvantages into leadership strengths.

The world has had many notable leaders up to this point – but what do they all have in common when there is a critical moment unfolding? Analyzing leaders such as Gandhi, Churchill, or JFK – and not only – Ghaemi has figured out that what is seen as a mood disorder can be a very important quality for a leader. Are you curious to find out more regarding this subject?

  • Depression and bipolar disorder have benefits that may be helpful in leadership positions.
  • Historical leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, and JFK had disorders that helped them make better decisions..
  • Knowing the upside of mental illness can help us remove the stigma around it.

Best Psychology Books About Society

“It’s hard to find meaning in what we do if at some level it doesn’t help someone else or make someone happier.” Matthew D. Lieberman

Social explains how our innate drive to build social connections is the primary driver behind our behavior and explores ways we can use this knowledge to our advantage.

Human beings are social creatures, and that is a well-known fact. But what is a less known fact is to what extent we can be considered “social”. According to Matthew Lieberman, the need for humans to connect seems to be even more fundamental than the need we have for shelter or food. If you want to find out more about our need to be social and connect with other people, this book could be the best for you.

  • We were programmed to connect socially, which is why social pain hurts so much.
  • The ability to understand the feelings and thoughts of others helps us succeed in life.
  • Kindness, not money, will buy you happiness and health.
“People who succeed tend to find one goal in the distant future and then chase it through thick and thin. School asks students to be good at a range of subjects, but life asks people to find one passion that they will follow forever.” — David Brooks

The Social Animal weaves social science research into the story of a fictional couple to shed light on the decision-making power of our unconscious minds.

What would you say about a blend of fiction and non-fiction? Because that is exactly what David Brooks is doing in this book: he creates a couple that lives their lives to the fullest. By making use of diverse scientific references, Brooks analyses the traits of both characters and puts into perspective the elements that made them who they are and what drove them towards it.

  • Learning is not linear, it is a process of forward, backward, and side steps.
  • Changing your environment is more effective than willpower when cultivating new habits and behaviors.
  • Humans follow seven unconscious structures, so-called if/then rules, when framing a decision.

Best Psychology Books About Language

Words Can Change Your Brain Book Cover (Best Psychology Books About Language)

“Choose your words wisely, because they will influence your happiness, your relationships, and your personal wealth.” — Andrew B. Newberg

Words Can Change Your Brain is the ultimate guide to becoming an expert communicator, teaching you how to use psychology to your advantage to express yourself better, listen more, and create an environment of trust with anyone you speak with.

People spend a lot of time with other people, daily. But that does not necessarily make them the best communicators, as there is always something more to learn about how we can get our points across. This book will help you improve your communication skills, in order to be happy and successful, no matter which environment you have to use them.

  • If you want to connect with others better when talking, make sure that your mind is relaxed, present, and quiet.
  • Utilize the power of happy memories to get your smile just right.
  • You must listen well, speak slower, and even say less to understand others better and have them understand you.

The Secret Life of Pronouns Book Cover

“If you want to find your true love, compare the ways you use function words with that of your prospective partners..” — James W. Pennebaker

The Secret Life of Pronouns is a collection of research and case studies explaining what our use of pronouns, articles, and other style words can reveal about ourselves.

The way we talk gives a bit of insight into who we are and how we think. Or at least, that’s what Pennebaker has found out in his research – the words we use have a deeper meaning and can carry enough meaning to let us dive into the feelings we have and not only. If you are curious to figure out how the words we use are related to our ways of thinking, The Secret Life of Pronouns could help you out.

  • The manner in which you use style words reveals a lot about your social skills.
  • Your choice of pronouns reflects your upbringing and ways of thinking.
  • Examining function words can tell whether people are compatible with one another.

Best Psychology Books About Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness Book Cover (Best Psychology Books About Happiness)

“The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.” — Dan Gilbert

Stumbling On Happiness examines the capacity of our brains to fill in gaps and simulate experiences, shows how our lack of awareness of these powers sometimes leads us to wrong decisions, and how we can change our behavior to synthesize our own happiness.

We imagine a lot of things daily, but we mostly imagine the future – creating scenarios, mostly. Using the latest discoveries in psychology, economics, and cognitive neuroscience, Daniel Gilbert provides us not only with a brilliant but also accessible book that will put into perspective the fact that we tend to know very little about us and the people surrounding us.

  • Your brain is really bad at filling in the blanks, but it keeps on trying.
  • You should always compare products based on value, never on past price.
  • Bad experiences are better than no experiences.

Flourish Book Cover

“I’m trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.” — Martin Seligman

Flourish establishes a new model for well-being, rooted in positive psychology, building on five key pillars to help you create a happy life through the power of simple exercises.

How can you flourish? Well, the answers you are looking for might be right in the pages of this book, written by Martin Seligman, a founding father of what is called “the happiness research”. Concentrating on positive psychology, this book will help you realise that psychology is more than helping people with their suffering – it is a tool to help you build your life for the better.

  • Seligman’s PERMA model for happiness is the key to a life of profound fulfillment.
  • Simple positivity exercises can have life-changing effects, like these two.
  • IQ isn’t everything – success is based on character traits, not just intelligence.

Best Psychology Books About Decision-Making

Blink Book Cover (Best Psychology Books About Decision-Making)

Blink explains what happens when you listen to your gut feeling, why these snap judgments are often much more efficient than conscious deliberating, and how to avoid your intuition leading you to wrong assumptions.

What is behind every decision that we make? Why do some people choose something in the blink of an eye, while others spend a lot of time figuring out what to choose? Blink helps us understand the mechanism behind decision-making and the decisions themselves. If you want to have a better understanding of your mind and mechanisms, Malcolm Gladwell’s book will help you out.

  • Your unconscious is the world’s fastest filter of information.
  • Stress can lead your gut astray.
  • Put up screens in situations where you can’t trust your intuition.

The Paradox of Choice Book Cover

“The secret to happiness is low expectations.” – Barry Schwartz

The Paradox Of Choice shows you how today’s vast amount of choice makes you frustrated, less likely to choose, more likely to mess up, and less happy overall, before giving you concrete strategies and tips to ease the burden of decision-making.

We live in a world where choice is no longer a problem: at least from the perspective of quantity. And that is where it gets tricky: this abundance of choice can make us feel overwhelmed and can even lead to anxiety. So, how do we end up making the right choices? Barry Schwartz offers us practical advice that not only will help us make the right choice, but also be happy about the choices we made.

  • The more options you have, the harder it gets to decide, and to decide well.
  • The more options you have, the less happy you will be, no matter what you decide on.
  • Good enough is the best – become a satisficer.

Best Psychology Books About Human Behavior and Cognitive Biases

“History is written by the victors, but it’s victims who write the memoirs.” — Carol Tavris

Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me takes you on a journey of famous examples and areas of life where mistakes are hushed up instead of admitted, showing you along the way how this hinders progress, why we do it in the first place, and what you can do to start honestly admitting your own.

Ever since we are young, the one thing we do is hide. Of course, it’s not just about the hide and seek game, but the hiding of mistakes. Even as adults, we hate admitting that we have made a mistake. But the question is why do we act like this? This book will take you through the mechanisms in our brains that make us not admit our mistakes and provides enough advice to help you man up and admit your mistakes.

  • You make up self-justifications to deal with the cognitive dissonance your mistakes create.
  • Confirmation bias can lead you to change your entire morals.
  • Stop thinking you’re stupid for making mistakes.

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty Book Cover

“The more cashless our society becomes, the more our moral compass slips.” — Dan Ariely

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty reveals our motivation behind cheating, why it’s not entirely rational, and, based on many experiments, what we can do to lessen the conflict between wanting to get ahead and being good people.

Are people 100% honest or do they all have at least a bit of a tendency to cheat? Dishonesty is this book’s main concern and according to bestselling author Dan Ariely, there is some motivation behind cheating and it is sometimes not rational. Fascinated by how human beings make decisions, Ariely has once again looked into how irrationality might influence what we do, even in terms of cheating.

  • You don’t decide to cheat based on rational thinking.
  • You’re more likely to cheat when there’s a psychological distance between you and cheating.
  • Don’t wear fake designer clothes. Ever.

Switch Book Cover

“Knowledge does not change behavior. We have all encountered crazy shrinks and obese doctors and divorced marriage counselors.” — Chip & Dan Heath

Switch is about how you can lead and encourage changes of human behavior, both in yourself and in your organization, by focusing on the three forces that influence it: the rider, the elephant and the path.

Change might not be the easiest thing to do. Sometimes we cannot do it, because it’s not something depending on us, while other times we refuse to do it because we are scared of the outcome. Chip and Dan Heath have written this book that addresses exactly that challenge: the one of changing, and they want to help us understand what we can do when change is hard, in an entertaining and engaging way.

  • Focus on one specific, critical aspect of the change, so the rider doesn’t have to decide.
  • Get the elephant moving with a powerful emotion.
  • Make the path of change easy to follow, because human behavior is highly situational.

Best Psychology Books About Negative Thinking

The Antidote Book Cover (Best Psychology Books About Negative Thinking)

“The effort to feel happy is often precisely the thing that makes us miserable. Constant efforts to eliminate the negative, that is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy.” — Oliver Burkeman

The Antidote will explain everything that’s wrong with positivity-based self-help advice and what you should do instead to feel, live, and be happier.

How happy would you say you are right now? How happy would you be if it started raining or snowing? These two questions are just two examples from a long line of questions regarding happiness – we are all looking for it, but it seems to be quite a hard thing to achieve. And according to Oliver Burkeman, positive thinking might not always be the answer. Are you ready to try some of the unconventional methods this book proposes?

  • Thinking explicitly about happiness and pursuing it directly are actually counterproductive.
  • Imagining the worst-case scenario makes you resilient, not depressed.
  • Setting goals is just as likely to lead us into misery as it is to bring happiness.

The Upside of Your Dark Side Book Cover

“When we are open to new possibilities, we find them. Be open and skeptical of everything.” — Todd Kashdan

The Upside Of Your Dark Side takes a look at our darkest emotions, like anxiety or anger, and shows you there are real benefits that follow them and their underlying character traits, such as narcissism or psychopathy.

Are the positive things happening in your life the only ones meant to take you far and help you live a better life? Or is it necessary for us to also go through negative emotions and learn how to embrace our sadness or anger? Making use of years of research, this book helps us understand that the full range of emotions can help us change our lives.

  • Happiness can interfere with your performance.
  • Guilt is good, shame is shit.
  • Mindfulness takes a toll on you.

We love psychology because it is one of the most practical fields you can study. Human relationships live entirely in the realm of psychology. Therefore, everything you learn about it will help you deal better with other people and yourself. Our lives have changed for the better after studying these books. We know yours will too.

It’s not easy to understand your thoughts and emotions. But when you do, you unlock a new potential for better living that you never imagined possible. The more you learn about psychology, the better you’ll get at recognizing the thoughts and feelings that pull you down so you can learn how to overcome them and live happier and healthier.

What would be the first thing one should know in terms of psychology and how would it benefit themselves and others? Let us know!

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:

  • The 60 Best Business Books of All Time (Will Forever Change How You Think About Organizations)
  • The 20 Best Entrepreneurship Books to Start, Grow & Run a Successful Business
  • The 14 Best Finance Books of All Time
  • The 21 Best Habit Books of All Time to Change Any Behavior
  • The 33 Best Happiness Books of All Time That Everyone Should Read
  • The 60 Best History Books of All Time (to Read at Any Age)
  • The 7 Best Inspirational Books That Will Light Your Inner Fire
  • The 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time to Help You Become a Truly Inspiring Person
  • The 31 Best Motivational Books Ever Written
  • The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of
  • The 35 Best Philosophy Books to Live Better and Become a Great Thinker
  • The 25 Best Sales Books of All Time to Help You Close Any Deal
  • The 33 Best Self-Help Books of All Time to Read at Any Age
  • The 22 Best Books About Sex & Sexuality to Improve Your Love Life & Relationships
  • The 30 Most Life-Changing Books That Will Shift Your Perspective & Stay With You Forever

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:

  • All Brené Brown Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • Jordan Peterson Books: All Titles in Order of Publication + The 5 Top Books He Recommends
  • All Malcolm Gladwell Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Michael Pollan Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • Peter Thiel Books: A Comprehensive List of Books By, About & Recommended by Peter Thiel
  • All Rachel Hollis Books: The Full List of Non-Fiction, Fiction & Cookbooks, Sorted by Popularity & the Best Reading Order
  • All Ray Dalio Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Robert Greene Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Ryan Holiday Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Simon Sinek Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Tim Ferriss Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Walter Isaacson Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)

Last Updated on February 20, 2023

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The 50 Best Psychology Books on Influence, Persuasion, and Human Behavior

Reading is the supreme lifehack. Distilled insight that often took years to assemble can be grasped by the average reader in just a few hours. Books are nothing short of magic.

And the more you know about social psychology and human behavior, the better. Reading good psychology books lets you jump-start your education by absorbing what researchers, professors, and authors spent years putting together. I can’t think of a single better way to empower yourself than that.

What you read when you don’t have to determines what you will be when you can’t help it. —Oscar Wilde.

Note: While all of the books below will deal with the human mind, not all of them are purely scientific. Some books deal with persuasion, productivity , or creative work. With that caveat, let’s begin.

1. The Social Animal

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cA6upp

In my opinion, this is the best social psychology book ever written. This book seems to be in such high demand that prices are often outrageous. The demand is warranted, however: few books will give you as in-depth, interesting, and just a generally well-written overview of social psychology quite like Elliot Aronson’s classic. A must-read if you can obtain it; I consider it the best presentation of social psychology 101 ever written.

2. Influence: Science and Practice

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bQeH5X

This is considered the gospel on the psychology of persuasion. Cialdini’s now infamous work deserves the amount of praise it gets. Not only is the book easy to follow with tons of excellent examples explained in layman’s terms, but Cialdini also spends the time going into why these studies played out as they did. Lastly, he addresses how to defend yourself from persuasion techniques that wish to harm you rather than ethically convince you—scammers, people selling faulty products knowingly, disingenuous attempts to persuade, you get the picture. A frequently recommended book for a reason.

3. Thinking, Fast and Slow

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bPhvDp

One of my all-time favorite psychology books. Trying to go over what this book digs into would take me a whole post in itself. For behavioral research, there are few books that touch the scope and breadth that Dan Kahneman dives into with this masterpiece. Mr. Kahneman holds a Nobel Prize in economics as well, and this aspect shines through in the book’s many examples.

4. The Happiness Hypothesis

Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3Gc8Xjw

The author recently published a belter in The Atlantic , one in which he takes a very pessimistic tone. One wonders what’s changed since the publication of this book, which looks at how long standing maxims, aphorisms, and philosophical wisdom can enrich your point of view and even build resiliency. I greatly prefer the way this book blends history and current day parallels compared to similar books with a Stoicism slant.

5. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3wEFtYm

“I think, therefore I am.” But where’s the feeling? The authors of this book challenge the oft-cited quote by Descartes and use research to demonstrate that emotions are not superfluous or a limiter, but rather that emotions are foundational to rational thinking. It’s an interesting premise and well argued, and it’s nice to see the relationship between logic and emotion revisited—and challenged.

6. Words Can Change Your Brain

Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3NxfV4W

The authors use research to capture a concept they call Compassionate Communication, which is described as a process to bond with the person we’re communicating with through authenticity and trust. The book is a lot more practical than it may seem at first glance. My main gripe is the length: it’s far too long and suffers from business book syndrome, where the material could have happily lived as a long-form article instead of the book. Good insight, but try a summary or skip around a few pages.

7. Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization

Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3yZwvqp

Transcend begins with an interesting premise: what if Maslow’s hierarchy was unfinished? Author Scott Barry Kaufman discovered this may be the case by going through unpublished journals written by Maslow. That prompt turned into this book: an exploration of self-actualization based on the latest research that picks up where Maslow left off. Kaufman does a great job not only “finishing” Maslow’s work, but also adds new color and insight to the pursuit of self-actualization.

8. Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2c0BOIt

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, but just be forewarned that this should be used as a complement to the other more comprehensive entries on this list. While the book is informative, the studies are grazed over pretty quickly and not much depth is given to any individual study. It does make for a great “rabbit hole” read. This is where you find out about a study, look up more about it, find more related studies, and “go down the rabbit hole” searching for new material. A great starting point to getting your feet wet in a variety of persuasion-related studies.

9. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bXsFjy

The Heath brothers publish some of my favorite material on persuasion. Their book Switch aims to answer the question: “Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?” Specifically, why is it so hard to change things that have become commonplace? Their arguments are structured well, as is their other entry on this list, and incredibly readable; you can tell that a lot of effort was put into breaking the book down into appropriate sections and making it easy to pick up by anyone.

10. The Art of Choosing

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cqQkdC

This is the quintessential read on how human beings make choices and what external influences affect those choices. I first came across Sheena Iyengar’s work by finding out about her infamous “jam study” through an online publication. Needless to say, I was fascinated by the idea that choice can actually be overwhelming, causing people to delay choosing rather than benefit from the extra options offered. It’s a fantastic read and very enjoyable all the way through. I happen to consider Sheena a great writer as well as a great researcher.

11. Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cA7D01

Human beings have zero understanding of intrinsic value. We are heavily influenced by contextual clues when we examine things like “price” and “cost.” This has been shown via a number of studies, and this book offers a superb analysis of the literature. You’ll be very surprised to see just how easily marketing departments can influence our perception of things with subtle tweaks to pricing, making this an important read for every consumer, which is all of us.

12. Stumbling on Happiness

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bPiTpu

Despite the title of this book, this isn’t a self-help book by any means. It’s more concerned with the mechanics of the mind than with the application of those ideas. One reviewer pointed out a quote that fits the book well: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” It’s a fitting quote because the entire book reveals how your brain is essentially hard-wired into doing the exact opposite. Fortunately, Gilbert’s incorporation of research and insightful anecdotes make this one of the most enjoyable positive psychology books out there.

13. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cqS8Dt

Another book that may seem like self-help but really isn’t. Drive spends a majority of its time focusing on what gets us motivated in the workplace. It examines the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that allow us to keep pushing and questions which methods of utilizing both (with intrinsic being far more important) are the most effective for both employees and employers. The book is a really important read, and I love how Pink tackles the subject, but I couldn’t help but agree with the highest critical review: the book has some padding. If you don’t mind a few sections going on a bit longer than they should, though, this book is a must-read.

14. Predictably Irrational

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bMMbUB

Few books will make you question your own decisions quite like this one; Ariely shows how seemingly mundane or meaningless changes can greatly impact our behavior when we don’t realize what’s going on, which appears to be a majority of the time. As a sample, check out his famous pricing study in The Economist, and you’ll see how small changes can really play with our perception of things. I would put this book squarely on the understanding of your brain category in this list, but this book also has some fantastic insights on persuading others if you closely examine the given examples.

15. Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bWiRYK

I have two main comments on Sally’s writing: the first is a slight critique, in that the book often tries to take more established ideas and make them sound entirely new. The second is full of praise: it’s hard to title a book with the word “Fascinate” if it’s not a page-turner, and Sally’s writing will definitely hook you until the end. She also leaves readers with an actual game-plan and candid examples when ideas are brought up, which I loved. I enjoyed Sally’s speech and picked this book up when someone recommended it to me, and now I’m recommending it to you because it’s an insightful look at persuasion.

16. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2c4NVGx

Definitely one of my favorite marketing books ever written, but it’s not something that can only be enjoyed by marketers. This quote from Mark Twain is included in the book’s description: “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” The authors offer an explanation as to why these ideas can stay with us for so long. I feel like we all find ourselves asking a similar question at times—how did something catch on so quickly while a superior alternative faded away? Diving deeper, this book aims to address the 6 ways certain ideas just stay with us while others slip away.

17. Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2c4NJqL

This book is probably the most unique of all of the books on this list. I wouldn’t call it a book about persuading others, but it does address what could have been an incredibly boring topic for some readers, the application of statistics and how they affect you and turned it into a really easy read. I approached this book expecting to slowly crawl through it, but there are a ton of great examples, and Fung does a fantastic job of using stories to get his points across. Whether you’re a numbers person or just want to take a layman’s look at statistics and their involvement in the current affairs of the world around you, you’ll enjoy this book thoroughly.

18. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone (Especially Ourselves)

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bMMmPz

In case it hasn’t been made apparent so far, I’m a big fan of Dan Ariely’s work. There are some bold claims in this book: that perhaps honesty is but a choice between the benefit of cheating and our psychological motivation. Fortunately, Ariely makes some compelling arguments to back up each point addressed. As with Predictably Irrational, you’ll come away with a lot of questions, but in a good way: you’ll begin to re-think things that were formerly “obvious” in the context of what you just learned from Ariely. Many people have commented on how powerful the last two chapters are in particular: is there ever a context where cheating becomes socially acceptable? Ariely forces you to ask these and other meaningful questions, and the result is a powerful message with some great research & examples to comb through.

19. The Power of Habit (Why We Do What We Do)

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bXvfpV

This book came highly recommended, and I enjoyed it, but I have some thoughts. While the author does a great job of splitting up habits into appropriate sub-groups and showing how habits actually operate in the brain, there is one shortcoming: the book doesn’t specifically show you how to change any habit . Maybe my expectations were set for a different kind of book, but I found the lack of this aspect being addressed a bit unfulfilling. All that said, the book is still a very easy read and a great look at how habits manifest in the brain.

20. Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cqSFW0

This is another book that focuses more on serving up a bite-sized analysis of multiple studies rather than diving deeply into a few. As such, it serves as a fantastic jumping-off point and one of those rabbit hole books that I mentioned above: you’ll find yourself following up on multiple experiments in order to learn more. One fantastic thing that Roger Dooley has done is to break these studies up into separate categories, something that failed at the Yes! book above. With sections like Brainfluence Copywriting and Brainfluence Branding, you can tell what sort of studies you are about to get into. In some instances, I found the sources to be somewhat lacking: links to other books instead of the actual studies, for instance. But don’t let that stop you from picking up what is an otherwise great read.

21. Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cqUceD

This is one of the best beginner books for those interested in neuromarketing, or “brainy marketing,” as it is often referred to. This means that the book is a very easy read—studies are not cited in-depth, and the content can be easily consumed—and if you’re not new to this space, this book can seem a little simplistic. For instance, you could read my post on viral content and cover a whole section of this book on arousing emotions from buyers in a single blog post. But if you’ve never encountered this stuff before, this book, along with Influence, are must-haves for beginners. Those who have read a few of these books already can probably give this a pass.

22. The Branded Mind

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cqU5js

This book is not an easy read. That being said, it is a rewarding read if you can make it through. Du Plessis makes the argument that emotions are not in conflict with rational behavior and that they, in fact, can cause rational behavior. As mentioned, though, this book requires some patience: if you enjoy pop psychology only, be prepared for a challenge—this book reads more like a college textbook. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll get a lot out of this book, as it’s one of the most compelling books on the list.

23. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cqUgLv

I really enjoyed this book; it makes you think a lot about if having a ton of options at your disposal is good for your well-being. Schwartz argues that decision-making was a lot simpler years ago, and while the majority of the book focuses on a “buying angle,” the lessons here can be carried to many of life’s aspects. An abundance of choices has a tendency to trick our brain into thinking a lot of choices is a good thing when that is not necessarily the case. While Schwartz is very much an academic, the book reads quite fluidly and won’t trip you up with an abundance of scientific terms, although each point made is backed up quite eloquently.

24. Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bWkZQj

This is one of those amazing crosses between understanding marketing to utilize it for your entrepreneurial endeavors or simply understanding how brands try to persuade you. Some of the examples aren’t so mind-blowing, like grocery stores using crates to make fruit seem “farm-fresh,” but others are really interesting. I wish Lindstrom would have done a bit more analysis on each study, as he seems to just take each at face value. That being said, the studies cited are really interesting and very revealing in how easy it is for marketers to trick us.

25. The Compass of Pleasure

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cr2pQb

If you’ve ever wanted to know why cigarettes are one of the most addictive substances of all time or how dopamine can turn your brain into an addict for pleasure, this is the book for you. I would forewarn that this isn’t really a book to help addiction, but for understanding the nature of addiction and the processes in the brain.

26. The Buying Brain

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cr46gj

There is another book by Lindstrom called Buyology that often comes highly recommended when discussing books of this ilk. But I would say that you should skip that book and get this one instead. Pradeep creates a great overview of the emerging neuromarketing space and does so with a lot of good concrete examples. I enjoyed that specifically because many books have a problem of simply citing the research at hand: as a guy who regularly reads research papers, I appreciate the exposure to new research, but I could have just read it myself. This book avoids this problem by giving actionable steps for implementation.

27. The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bXG6Qt

You all know that I’m very interested in the psychology of language, and in particular, how psychology plays a role in storytelling . This book digs into how language can reveal a lot about a person. Some archetypes that are focused on include gender, affluence, liars, sadness, introverts vs. extroverts, and a variety of others. While the research in this book was excellent (and often collaborative), I wanted more. I felt like more examples could have been used in particular, but as for what’s there, it’s great.

28. Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bPszQX

If you head back up to #1 on this list, you’ll see that I’m an Elliot Aronson fan. If I could define this book in one word, though, it would be frightening. Even more so than Ariely’s contributions, this book exposes how everyone is at risk of refusing to admit to their mistakes, even when the evidence is conclusive. The research is accurate and cited appropriately, the book is still an easy, enjoyable read, and it’s from the guy who wrote my favorite social psych book of all time, with a talented co-author. What’s not to love.

29. Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bXFXN2

While this book specifically addresses social engineering, there are many psychological aspects that turn this into a very intriguing read on influence. The book definitely has an antagonistic tone, but that’s because of the subject matter: people are referred to as “victims,” and the activities are defined as “exploits” and “attacks” because that’s what they are. It’s kind of like watching those shows where a former thief shows the homeowners how easy it was to break into their house. Except with this book, manipulation is the subject at hand.

30. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bQq79O

This book focuses on the findings from the legendary Stanford prison experiment . If that research has fascinated you in any way, you need to check this book out; it essentially offers an “inside look” at much of the data from the study, including things like transcripts. It’s a compelling look at how even “normal” people fall into the roles of situations that many of us in the first world can hardly imagine happening or would like to deny. The last chapter is also quite intriguing for those familiar with the experiment: the author outlines a program intended to build resistance to mind-control strategies. Scary stuff, but a necessary read.

31. Obedience to Authority

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cAfNpg

Another book that is a tell-all about a fascinating, provocative, even horrifying psychology study known as the Milgram experiment , named after the lead researcher. If you are unfamiliar with the study, it was meant to test whether or not people would obey authority even when they were asked to do something that they knew was wrong. It details many accounts of participants showing signs of severe distress, yet continuing on with the applied shocks as actors in another room, pretending to be other subjects, screamed cries of pain. This book is a necessary read in understanding the construct and inherent dangers of authority.

32. The Optimism Bias

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cAggrE

Tali Sharot’s in-depth look is one of the better efforts to analyze the current research, along with Sharot’s own research, on optimism, memory, and their connections to our emotions and actions. My single gripe with the book is that it is too long. I wouldn’t normally make a statement like this, but what I mean is that certain parts of the book feel a bit wordy, although, given the topic and the tendency to pick apart certain aspects of research, it’s understandable. I still feel like the content could have been more concise, but as for what’s there, it’s great. This isn’t a pop psychology book: it takes a look at some deep research from a leading expert. Definitely worth picking up if you’re interested in neuroscience and studies on memory.

33. Mindfulness

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bMUpvQ

Author and professor Ellen Langer would posit that robotic or mindless behavior can lead to a lot of pain in life. I would agree, and the fact that so many other books on this list show just how susceptible we are to that sort of behavior, I’d say it’s a problem worth worrying about. The purpose of this book is to encourage the reader to be more mindful of their actions—and to notice when automatic behavior begins to take over. As a few disappointed reviewers have noted, the focus is on the process of creating more mindfulness in your life rather than the benefits of change.

34. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bMT8Fa

While I did really enjoy this book, there is certainly some merit to the top critical review on Amazon: “This book is a rehash of other, better books.” That’s not to say that Sway isn’t an enjoyable read. Rather, the book’s predecessors dive deeper into the same concepts. One of these is Influence, so at the very least, the book is in good company in terms of the things it talks about; it just did so much later and from a bite-sized perspective. Again though, this book can serve as a fantastic starter read that helps you find a ton of other great studies to check out. The content is also quality stuff and will be new to you if you aren’t an avid reader of psychology books, so don’t be afraid to give this one a go.

35. Redirect

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cr4NGB

Wilson’s focus on this book can be summed up in two large, overarching points: (1) using the process of “story editing” to change our perception, and (2) that what is true of culture is also true of individuals. This book seeks to understand and to pass on knowledge, not to help you change your life. This book, being all about subtlety and subtle changes, does a good job of giving relevant examples that make somewhat opaque descriptions a lot easier to relate to. This is an interesting book and one of few that strays into the positive psychology territory—definitely worth checking out.

36. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bWruT2

Another reviewer’s summary of this book described it as “MythBusters for the brain,” an apt description. Misconceptions like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” are put to the test, and Medina does a great job of finding relevant research to put claims like that to bed. Funny enough, this book often appears on leadership lists, despite not being an outright leadership or management book. I’d say that its main two topics seem to hinge on productivity and relationship management, so it is easy to see why a business and the leadership-oriented crowd would enjoy this book. For everyone else, it is a very easy read and very much worth checking out.

37. You Are Not So Smart

But the book: http://amzn.to/2cg1938

Largely dealing with fallacies in our minds that happen to make us look very stupid when they’re in action, McRaney takes topics that are largely known by those with interest in the field, like the Dunning-Kruger effect , and creates an entertaining read on otherwise well-covered studies. The thing is, the presentation makes this book worthwhile even if you have already heard of a few of these, and McRaney is a great writer; his blog was featured on my list of successful blogs that are awesome and not about marketing. If you’re interested in how your brain is sabotaging you and in finding out more about the delusions we all hold, this book is the perfect place to start.

38. What Makes Your Brain Happy (and Why You Should Do the Opposite)

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2c4QsS6

Take this as a more serious version of the book above. Largely concerned with cognition and specifically with cognitive biases, David DiSalvo makes this book stand out in quite a few ways. The research isn’t rehashed like many books you’ll find in this space. Not only that, there are tactics and resource materials included in the book. My only problem with these is that they are clumped near the end instead of being sprinkled about the many great examples. An overall exciting book with a lot to offer. I’ve read this one very recently and was happy that I did.

39. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bQsk5j

This book is all about the levels of consciousness in the brain. As we’ve seen, your brain isn’t just the thing you think you control. While the examples in this book are quite interesting, considering it is a “real” neuroscience book, I expected a bit more from the research. However, the writing is captivating; if nothing else, you’ll learn how to write attention-grabbing headlines as Eagleman sends you page after page into highly interesting findings on our unconscious.

40. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2crAx1d

Whatever you make will be deemed original or cliché in comparison to what currently exists; creation may be about the lonely hours, but a final product is never judged in isolation. In other words, creative work lives in a dynamic, ever-changing ecosystem. Getting ahead of the curve, or doing the unexpected, means eschewing what everyone currently expects, which requires knowing what everyone expects. Knowing the metagame—or comparing your work to what exists today—is useful for spotting opportunities for differentiation. Originals will help you spot opportunities to stand out and dig into the research around how creative thinking works and what you can do to encourage those light-bulb moments.

41. Out of Character

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bQsPw6

Just what exactly is happening when someone breaks character? Is character even concrete, or is it more like a shade of gray? I found this book really fascinating in its singular focus on character and the psychology of how external events impact it. Living a humdrum life often makes understanding these peculiar acts difficult, and this book takes a look at a lot of examples that show us that if we were in similar circumstances, we’d be very likely to act in a similar manner. Great examples, great research, and a great focus make this a must-read.

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bQsUjo

The good part about this book is that the studies presented are interesting, and Gladwell does a superb job of showcasing how people are able to develop a sense of things; it becomes one of the more interesting books on the unconscious because of this. The problem with the book is apparent, though: it’s been pointed out by many others. This book seems like a collection of short stories and not a unified idea. That aside, the different sections are far too interesting to pass up for this general lack of unity.

43. The Person and the Situation

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2crB2bA

This book is about situational influence and its effects on our decision-making process. The authors do a great job of demonstrating the many types of faulty logic that we are prone to in a variety of environments. This book almost reads like one of those great textbooks that you had in college: the ones that you actually enjoyed, even though they were supposed to be academic. I would classify this as an introductory book, however, so keep that in mind if you are very familiar with the field.

44. The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2c4ST76

If I could sum up this book in a single phrase, I would call it a more academic Influence. What I mean is that the book takes a very scholarly approach to the psychology of influence but is perhaps a little bit less practical than Cialdini’s work. For a true academic understanding of persuasion, though, this book is fantastic. It came highly recommended by a former professor of mine, and I’m glad I picked it up. If you enjoyed the former recommendation at all, the one that covers Zimbardo’s prison experiment, you should consider this book, too.

45. Situations Matter

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2cr82xU

I really enjoyed the writing style of this book. My goal with this blog has always been to take interesting psychology and neuroscience research and turn it into actionable, digestible posts for readers. I can appreciate when an author has a fun writing style to keep things engaging. That being said, it’s not for everyone. The research, however, is enjoyable for academic and laymen readers alike. I’d sum the subject matter being about the psychology of “context,” and the implications are pretty powerful. For instance, “Who we love is more explained by geography, familiarity and state of mind than we realize.” One of those books that prompts you to ask intriguing questions.

46. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bXK8Zq

This is a book that falls squarely into positive psychology, but it is, bar none, one of the best out there. Self-control and work ethic go hand-in-hand in my opinion: many people want to work hard, but it’s a lack of self-control that prevents them from doing so. And let’s be frank here, everybody suffers from a lack of self-control from time to time . If you are interested in applying psychology to improve yourself and your mind, this is the book for you. If not, you’ll still walk away with a great understanding of how self-control works in our minds. This book is practical, the science is sound, and the author, Kelly McGonigal, is highly recognized: I have no hesitation recommending this one.

47. The Tipping Point

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bQuIsC

As with much of Gladwell’s work, I found this really interesting but maybe a bit short of the hype surrounding it (and there was a ton of hype, so it’s hard to approach this book with neutral anticipation). Gladwell would suppose that there are 3 types of gifted people who are essential to “sticky” ideas: Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople. While all of the information is great in explaining that there are critical aspects of things that become “epidemics” or “go viral,” he doesn’t really get into how that happens, just that it does. Now, it’s not like I was looking for a “how to create a viral campaign” from this book, but the examples are lacking in that area. Still, a highly important book, and it references the monkey sphere , so I needed to include it.

48. How to Win Friends and Influence People

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bQtSMv

With the reach that this book has had in its long lifetime, it’s unlikely that you’ve never encountered it before. In order to mix things up a bit, since this book is so well known, I thought I might offer some fantastic insights from one of my favorite book reviews of all time :

The advice is largely sound, but I think the reader should keep in mind the context within which this book was written … [it was] intended primarily as a companion book to Dale Carnegie’s classes on how to be a good salesman … these techniques work very well in the context of sales and public relations, i.e., in relationships that are not expected to be deep and/or long-lasting. What I found most interesting was that the last chapter… was to describe those individuals with whom none of Dale Carnegie’s techniques work. In this unpublished chapter, Carnegie wrote that there were some people with whom it was impossible to get along. You either needed to divorce such people, “knock them down,” or sue them in court. Why is that chapter absent from this book, you ask? Well, Dale Carnegie was in the middle of writing this chapter when he was offered a trip to Europe, and rather than complete this last chapter, he decided to take the trip. The uncompleted book was sent off to publishers, and Carnegie shipped off to Europe.

The making of something often reveals the intentions of the maker, and this is one of those factoids that adds a lot of color and context to this book—and should help you view the advice from the right lens.

49. Strangers to Ourselves

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2c4U1aM

Your conscious mind isn’t always in control—a common theme in the psychology books on this list. This book is one of the biggest jolts in this category of understanding that concept; it’s definitely a psychology book, but the questions it brings up almost make it feel like the book was written for philosophy majors. While it’s an easy read, it’s certainly challenging to the mind, I didn’t find the research as compelling as some other similar books, but the questions raised by Wilson are by far some of my favorites.

50. The Invisible Gorilla (How Our Intuitions Deceive Us)

Buy the book: http://amzn.to/2bWsLcZ

Before reading this book, watch this video and count how many times the players in the white shirts pass the basketball. Go on, I’ll wait. How many did you count? That’s the study that the book gets its name from, and it looks at how we often have massive illusions about our attention. Even if the study didn’t trick you, you’ll still likely enjoy the book. If the study did get you, you’ll love it even more.

Books are a uniquely portable magic

That’s a quote from Stephen King that perfectly captures the joy of reading—and learning. A last note: this list was compiled based on a large scope—social psychology, persuasion, understanding one’s mind—and it was also not limited to strictly scientific books so that it could be enjoyed by a wide variety of people. Some pop-psychology is obviously going to appear on the list. Thanks for reading, and please share this article if you enjoyed it.

Copyright © 2023 • Sparring Mind

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Most Recommended Books

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

“We tend to see ourselves as not unlike rats, creatures driven by the short-term reward centres in our brains. But what Gilbert does fantastically well is to argue that, actually, humans are better at long-term thinking than almost any other animal. A chimpanzee may strip off the leaves from a branch to make a tool to poke into a termite hole, but that chimp will never make a dozen of those tools and put them aside for next week. Yet this is exactly what humans do.” Roman Krznaric , Philosopher

psychology books interesting

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

“ The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is a fascinating book that provides a wealth of insight into social interaction, which Goffman describes in terms of theatrical performance. This concept is explored in Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It . One of its most quotable lines is: ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.’ Goffman contends that the roles we play in our daily lives and social interactions are performative in nature, because we always strive to create a favorable impression. According to Goffman, our social interactions are largely governed by avoidance of embarrassment.” Övül Sezer ,

psychology books interesting

Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt

“She suggests that the Nazis, like Eichmann, who were responsible for such evil acts were stupid, short-sighted, and ordinary.” Paul Bloom , Psychologist

psychology books interesting

Principles of Psychology by William James

“A wonderful summary of what was known and what questions were being asked at the dawn of psychology as a science in the 19th century. James is widely mis-cited and misunderstood as someone who advocated for a classical, common sense view of emotion. The irony is that he advocated for just the opposite.” Lisa Feldman Barrett , Psychologist

psychology books interesting

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

“What would that be like? What would it be like to be unable to lay down any new memories, to think it’s 1945 all the time and everybody you meet is new? It’s fascinating to imagine, and I feel a lot of sympathy for the Mariner even though he doesn’t know how bad he has it.” Eric Schwitzgebel , Philosopher

Browse book recommendations:

  • Applied Psychology
  • Child Psychology
  • Social Psychology

The best psychology books combine scientific rigour with accessible writing. We turned to some of the most eminent psychologists working today for their book recommendations. Psychology may not have all the answers, but it can help you have a better understanding of yourself and others; what motivates thoughts, feelings, and actions. Using the distilled knowledge of psychology presented in these books can empower you to make better decisions, control habits, be more motivated and productive, maybe even be a little happier.

Our experts include Daniel Goleman , author of the ultra-bestselling book  Emotional Intelligence ;  Professor Carol Dweck , whose book  Mindset , on motivation, success and forming a 'growth mindset,' has sold more than a million copies; Dr Andrew Lees , one of the most cited neurologists in the world; and Harvard professor, linguist and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker (author of hit popular psychology books including  The Language Instinct   and  The Blank Slate ). In total more than 80 experts have helped make these lists. Our most recommended psychology book is Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

We already have reading lists outlining the best books on mindfulness , consciousness , depression , teenage mental health , child psychology and cognitive neuroscience .

To keep up to date, check out our list of new psychology books .

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 , recommended by Cal Flyn

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - Psych: The Story of the Human Mind by Paul Bloom

Psych: The Story of the Human Mind by Paul Bloom

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - The Success Myth: Letting Go of Having It All by Emma Gannon

The Success Myth: Letting Go of Having It All by Emma Gannon

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner

Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - Data Baby: My Life in a Psychological Experiment by Susannah Breslin

Data Baby: My Life in a Psychological Experiment by Susannah Breslin

It's that time of year again: January is the month to batten down the hatches, work off all those rich festive meals, and get to work on your new year's resolutions. Understanding the workings of your own brain—theoretically or even in purely practical terms—can be an important tool for achieving your goals. Here our deputy editor spotlights some of the most notable psychology and self-help books published in 2023 to help you on your way.

It’s that time of year again: January is the month to batten down the hatches, work off all those rich festive meals, and get to work on your new year’s resolutions. Understanding the workings of your own brain—theoretically or even in purely practical terms—can be an important tool for achieving your goals. Here our deputy editor spotlights some of the most notable psychology and self-help books published in 2023 to help you on your way.

The best books on Character Development , recommended by Angela Duckworth

The best books on Character Development - The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success by Walter Mischel

The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success by Walter Mischel

The best books on Character Development - A Curious Mind: The Secret To a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

A Curious Mind: The Secret To a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

The best books on Character Development - Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

The best books on Character Development - Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein

Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein

The best books on Character Development - Path to Purpose by William Damon

Path to Purpose by William Damon

Can we cultivate qualities like grit, tenacity and kindness? How about habits of the successful—hard work, perseverance and productivity? Angela Duckworth , bestselling author of Grit and founder of the Character Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, recommends five books, including a title that graces every CEO's shelf.

Can we cultivate qualities like grit, tenacity and kindness? How about habits of the successful—hard work, perseverance and productivity? Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit and founder of the Character Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, recommends five books, including a title that graces every CEO’s shelf.

The best books on Anxiety , recommended by Lucy Foulkes

The best books on Anxiety - Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers

The best books on Anxiety - How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

The best books on Anxiety - Helping Your Child with Fears and Worries by Cathy Creswell & Lucy Willetts

Helping Your Child with Fears and Worries by Cathy Creswell & Lucy Willetts

The best books on Anxiety - Mindfulness For Health: A Practical Guide To Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress And Restoring Wellbeing by Danny Penman & Vidyamala Burch

Mindfulness For Health: A Practical Guide To Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress And Restoring Wellbeing by Danny Penman & Vidyamala Burch

The best books on Anxiety - Jog On: How Running Saved My Life by Bella Mackie

Jog On: How Running Saved My Life by Bella Mackie

Feeling anxiety is a natural part of being a human being, but for some people it can cause terrible mental and physical anguish and prevents them from leading happy and fulfilling lives. Lucy Foulkes , a psychologist at University College London, talks us through books that can help with anxiety.

Feeling anxiety is a natural part of being a human being, but for some people it can cause terrible mental and physical anguish and prevents them from leading happy and fulfilling lives. Lucy Foulkes, a psychologist at University College London, talks us through books that can help with anxiety.

The best books on Emotional Intelligence , recommended by Daniel Goleman

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education by Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education by Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice by ed. Durlak et al

Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice by ed. Durlak et al

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - The Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science by ed. Seppälä et al

The Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science by ed. Seppälä et al

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart by Tara Bennett-Goleman

Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart by Tara Bennett-Goleman

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most by Elizabeth Lesser

Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most by Elizabeth Lesser

We are taught to value intelligence and academic ability, but raw mental firepower does not always translate into success at work or a life of contentment. Just as important are the skills that make up 'emotional intelligence,' says Daniel Goleman , whose bestselling book popularised the concept. Here he chooses five emotional intelligence books that explore its practical applications.

We are taught to value intelligence and academic ability, but raw mental firepower does not always translate into success at work or a life of contentment. Just as important are the skills that make up ’emotional intelligence,’ says Daniel Goleman, whose bestselling book popularised the concept. Here he chooses five emotional intelligence books that explore its practical applications.

The best books on Mindset and Success , recommended by Carol Dweck

The best books on Mindset and Success - How Children Fail by John Holt

How Children Fail by John Holt

The best books on Mindset and Success - The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould

The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould

The best books on Mindset and Success - Developing Talent in Young People by Benjamin Bloom

Developing Talent in Young People by Benjamin Bloom

The best books on Mindset and Success - Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

The best books on Mindset and Success - The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

If you've stepped inside a school recently, you've probably heard teachers talking about the importance of  a 'growth mindset.' Here psychologist Carol Dweck , who pioneered research into this key concept, explains what it's all about and recommends books—other than her own—that shed light on it.

If you’ve stepped inside a school recently, you’ve probably heard teachers talking about the importance of  a ‘growth mindset.’ Here psychologist Carol Dweck, who pioneered research into this key concept, explains what it’s all about and recommends books—other than her own—that shed light on it.

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 , recommended by Avram Alpert

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want by Ruha Benjamin

Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want by Ruha Benjamin

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O'Rourke

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O'Rourke

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else) by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else) by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living by Dimitris Xygalatas

Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living by Dimitris Xygalatas

At the turn of the year, many of us take the opportunity to think about our lives—how they are going, and how we hope to live them in future. We asked Avram Alpert , author of The Good-Enough Life , to recommend five of the best self-help books of 2022 that might help our bids for self-improvement; his choices remind us that self-help is not only about life-hacks and diets, but about bringing the world more in line with our ideals.

At the turn of the year, many of us take the opportunity to think about our lives—how they are going, and how we hope to live them in future. We asked Avram Alpert, author of The Good-Enough Life , to recommend five of the best self-help books of 2022 that might help our bids for self-improvement; his choices remind us that self-help is not only about life-hacks and diets, but about bringing the world more in line with our ideals.

The Best Books on Emotions , recommended by Lisa Feldman Barrett

The Best Books on Emotions - The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust by Tiffany Watt Smith

The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust by Tiffany Watt Smith

The Best Books on Emotions - Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Best Books on Emotions - Principles of Psychology by William James

Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion and Pride by David DeSteno

The Best Books on Emotions - Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Not every culture has a word for 'fear.' Smiling was an invention of the Middle Ages. There's a lot that will surprise you about the way we process emotions, says the neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett . Here she picks five books that illustrate our understanding of how emotions work.

Not every culture has a word for ‘fear.’ Smiling was an invention of the Middle Ages. There’s a lot that will surprise you about the way we process emotions, says the neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett. Here she picks five books that illustrate our understanding of how emotions work.

The best books on Happiness , recommended by Jonathan Haidt

The best books on Happiness - Dhammapada

Ambition by Gilbert Brim

The best books on Happiness - Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

The best books on Happiness - Dancing in the Streets by Barbara Ehrenreich

Dancing in the Streets by Barbara Ehrenreich

Most of us want to be happy, and yet it's hard to achieve. Jonathan Haidt , psychologist and author of  the classic  The Happiness Hypothesis , talks us through five books, old and new, to better understand happiness.

Most of us want to be happy, and yet it’s hard to achieve. Jonathan Haidt, psychologist and author of  the classic  The Happiness Hypothesis , talks us through five books, old and new, to better understand happiness.

The best books on Depression , recommended by Bryony Gordon

The best books on Depression - Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

The best books on Depression - Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest

Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest

The best books on Depression - Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

The best books on Depression - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The best books on Depression - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Writing about her life in memoirs and a newspaper column allowed the author Bryony Gordon to "join the dots" to see the true face of her own mental illness. Here, she chooses five books to help with depression, books in which she has found solace and a sense of community among those who suffer from depression.

Writing about her life in memoirs and a newspaper column allowed the author Bryony Gordon to “join the dots” to see the true face of her own mental illness. Here, she chooses five books to help with depression, books in which she has found solace and a sense of community among those who suffer from depression.

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology , recommended by Chris Paley

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind by David M Buss

Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind by David M Buss

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - Homicide by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson

Homicide by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe by Joanne Souza & Paul M. Bingham

Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe by Joanne Souza & Paul M. Bingham

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner

The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner

Human traits are a product of natural selection—and the story of how we have evolved explains many of our psychological quirks today. Chris Paley , author of Unthink and  Beyond Bad , recommends five of the best evolutionary psychology books—and explains how experimental data might finally get to the bottom of the question of free will.

Human traits are a product of natural selection—and the story of how we have evolved explains many of our psychological quirks today. Chris Paley, author of Unthink and  Beyond Bad , recommends five of the best evolutionary psychology books—and explains how experimental data might finally get to the bottom of the question of free will.

We ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview.

This site has an archive of more than one thousand seven hundred interviews, or eight thousand book recommendations. We publish at least two new interviews per week.

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25 Most Influential Psychology Books 2010–2020

psychology books interesting

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind—primarily, the human mind, but also animal minds (comparative psychology). Understood as the study of human subjective consciousness, or the “soul” (psukhē, in Greek), psychology was for centuries an aspect of philosophy, with roots in such basic works of classical civilization as Plato’s Phaedo (early 4th c. BC), Aristotle’s On the Soul (c. 350 BC), and Augustine’s Confessions (c. 400 AD).

Key Takeaways

  • The most influential psychology books featured on this list were chosen for their academic influence and popular impact on the field of psychology. Both the classic books and contemporary works on psychology and its specializations, such as evolutionary psychology, social psychology, and cognitive psychology, are featured.
  • These psychology books also represent a wide spectrum of interests, from empirical research to real-life examples of the human experience. You can use these books to improve your own life and clinical practice for this reason.
  • Keep in mind that many of these psychology books are their respective author’s life’s work and, thus, their views may be limited by their times (i.e., context).

A Brief History of the Field of Psychology

Slowly—over the course of several centuries following the Scientific Revolution and culminating in the nineteenth century—new scientific disciplines split off from psychology. Notable examples include the empirical study of human sensory capabilities (“psychophysics”) and the histology and physiology of the brain. During the twentieth century, these studies matured into the fields we now know as experimental psychology and neuroscience.

During the second half of the twentieth century, several new disciplines budded off from the main body of psychology. These disciplines—notably, psycholinguistics and cognitive science—attempt to understand human mentality from the point of view of logico-mathematical models that have nothing directly to do with the material (physiological) character of the brain. More particularly, cognitive science is based on the hypothesis of computationalism—a philosophy which holds that the mind stands in the same relation to the brain as computer software stands to hardware.

After shedding all of these daughter fields, psychology remains a vibrant field of research focused on the subjective mind. Today, the discipline of psychology consists of a wide variety of subfields, including clinical psychology, child psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, evolutionary psychology, and many others.

One of the most important of these is clinical psychology, which is an applied field that attempts to alleviate the suffering of those with mental illnesses. Clinical psychology, or “psychotherapy,” is itself very broadly conceived, including a broad spectrum of different therapies. These go by such names as psychoanalysis, existential psychology, phenomenological psychology, humanistic psychology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and a host of others.

With these considerations in mind, we have compiled a list of the most influential books in psychology over the past decade (2011–2021). We have assigned an objective measure of “influence” to each book on the basis of the number of references it has received in both the academic literature and the popular media.

Note that our list does not necessarily represent the most popular psychology books overall published during the past ten years, nor is it a straightforward list of psychology bestsellers during that time frame—for several reasons.

For one thing, we have excluded psychology textbooks and technical reference works, as well as sacred texts and fictional works which may contain related material.

Several of the works included on the list are classics in the field, dating to the early twentieth century. Nevertheless, ours is not a list of the most influential psychology books of all time. Such a list would have a very different look and feel to it.

Rather, our list provides you with the 25 books on psychology that have had the greatest combined academic and popular impact over the past decade.

Getting Your Hands On Must-read Published Books on Psychology

The most influential psychology books are popular among aspiring and practicing psychologists for the useful insights made by their authors. Their diverse subject matter, from the prehistoric origins of human sexuality to the psychology of evil, make for interesting reading, too. The classic work of C.G. Jung and Sigmung Freud complete the list of must-read psychology books.

Remember, however, that critical reading is crucial in getting the most from these psychology books! You will gain a better understanding of the cognitive, mental, and social processes involved in people’s reactions and relationships to others and to their environment.

Here are tips to get the most out of reading these influential psychology books:

Keep Your Clients/Patients in Mind

As an aspiring or practicing psychologist, you’re in the best position to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and families. Your main concerns are their well-being, first and foremost, and their ability for self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-regulation. In doing so, they are able to improve their human relationships and enjoy happiness in their everyday life.

You can then look for useful insights, methods and tips from the authors that you can apply in your own life and clinical practice. Take notes, too, if you can.

Increase Your Knowledge and Skills

Oftentimes, psychologists rely on the personal experiences of other individuals and professionals toward the improvement of their practice and profession. Many of these books were written based on first-person experiences and viewpoints, such as Sex at Dawn and Dreamseller: An Addiction Memoir . You will gain a better appreciation of the struggles that many of your clients/patients face in their lives by reading these accounts.

Of course, it’s always a great idea to return to the classics! The Collected Works of C.G. Jung and The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud continue to have profound effects on contemporary psychology. You may even be able to find new topics for your scientific research—either to prove or disprove their theories, for example—from revisiting these books.

You can also share your newfound knowledge and insights, discuss classic theories, and explore research topics with your colleagues after reading these books. The windows to the human mind that these books provide are, indeed, invaluable to your own professional advancement and personal development.

Many of these books are also opportunities to expand your knowledge of applied science in psychology. You can take the existing body of knowledge presented in these books and apply them to contemporary theories. You will likely be able to assist patients with mental illnesses, for example, in their decision-making processes.

When reading these psychology books, you must remember that the authors have their own biases, too, based on their personal experiences and their specific periods. An open mind is then a must, but you should also keep in mind the contemporary body of knowledge in psychology.

In your readings, you must also remember that psychology is an ever-evolving field. You should keep the core ethics of the profession in mind, particularly integrity, fidelity and responsibility, and respect for people’s dignity and rights, at all times.

Read on for a look at The 25 Most Influential Books in Psychology.

25 Most Influential Books in Psychology

1. the righteous mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion.

By: Jonathan Haidt , 2012

Book Cover for The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Haidt (b. 1963) is a social psychologist at New York University. His research is focused on the social context and sources of individual happiness, and related topics. One of his principal claims is that morality is shaped by emotion and intuition more than by reasoning.

The book under consideration here explores some of the ways in which differing notions of right and wrong affect people’s political opinions and allegiances.

His conclusion is that one of the main reasons for disagreement between political conservatives and liberals is the different ways in which they understand the claims of morality. Haidt identifies five separate dimensions of moral thinking, namely:

  • Fairness/Reciprocity
  • In-Group/Loyalty
  • Authority/Respect
  • Purity/Sanctity

He then observes that liberals typically only acknowledge moral claims lying within the first two dimensions, whereas conservatives recognize moral claims from all five dimensions. For this reason, Haidt calls liberals “two-channel” moral thinkers and conservatives “five-channel” moral thinkers.

2. Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

By: Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, 2010

Book Cover for Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

Freelance psychologist Ryan (b. 1962) and psychiatrist Jethá (age unknown) are a married couple who boast of having an “open” marriage. One might say that this book is a polemical review of the paleontological and anthropological literatures whose purpose is to give their personal sexual tastes the imprimatur of cutting-edge evolutionary psychology.

Evolutionary psychology is a field which endeavors to reconstruct the “environment of evolutionary adaptedness” (EEA) of the human species. The idea is that “natural” human behavior can be read directly off the primatological and ethnographic evidence. Then, it is claimed that the unhappiness of modern humans is due to the distortion of our natural instincts by the social structures of civilization. In this way, human “liberation” consists in throwing off the restraints of civilization and returning to the prehistoric social structures which conform better to our EEA instincts.

More specifically, this book maintains that “polyamory” is the default setting of human sexuality in the EEA, and that the institution of monogamy is both a corruption of our natural proclivity for sexual promiscuity and a primary source of human suffering. Sigmund Freud (see #16 below) argued along similar lines long ago, and one might argue that this book’s main objective is to substitute the putative scientific authority of Darwin for the now-tarnished reputation of Freud.

Sex at Dawn was republished in 2011 with a new subtitle: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships .

3. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

By: Maria Konnikova , 2013

Book Cover for Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

Konnikova (b. 1984) is a Russian-born psychologist, author, and podcaster. In earlier work, she applied her knowledge of psychology to the analysis of confidence artists and poker players, and to exploring such related topics as trust, misdirection, bluffing, strategy, and games of chance.

The book under discussion here uses a beloved fictional character—the master detective Sherlock Holmes created by British author Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930)—as a means for exploring such subjects as empirical observation and logical thinking. Holmes, who first appeared in Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel, A Study in Scarlet , was the protagonist of three more novels and 56 short stories published by Conan Doyle over four decades up through 1927.

Konnikova distinguishes what she calls Holmes’s “habits of mind” and shows how they interrelate with findings from the modern-day fields of psychology and neuroscience. These include inquisitiveness, mindfulness, restraint, and seeking objective evidence no matter whether it confirms or refutes one’s prior beliefs.

Konnikova also maintains that these habits need to be supplemented with what she calls a “a healthy dose of skepticism”—basically, a willingness to question everything one believes. If one imitates Sherlock Holmes in all these respects, she argues, then one may become a more rational thinker.

4. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

By: Philip Zimbardo , 2007

Book Cover for The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evi

Zimbardo (b. 1933) is a psychologist at Stanford University. He is primarily known for the so-called “Stanford prison experiment” that he conducted with the participation of Stanford student volunteers in 1971. The book under consideration here is fundamentally an explanation of the results and a consideration of the many implications of that famous experiment.

The set-up for the Stanford prison experiment was as follows: a group of college students were randomly assigned to two subgroups. One group was designated as “guards” and the other group as “inmates.” Then, a mock-prison environment was created and each sub-group was tasked with playing out its prescribed role within that environment.

The experiment was more “successful” than Zimbardo could have imagined. Having internalized the idea that their actions were implicitly sanctioned by authority, the “guards” quickly began to exert more and more force on the “inmates,” amounting to what would have been torture in a real-life situation and leading to an emotional breakdown on the part of one student-inmate, who had to be removed from the study. The entire experiment had to be shut down ahead of schedule to avoid even worse consequences.

In this book, Zimbardo also applies the lessons he feels were learned from his 1971 experiment to other situations, notably, the abuses that occurred at the American-run Iraqi prison, Abu Ghraib, in 2004.

In summary, Zimbardo believes that his 1971 Stanford study shows that “situations can have a more powerful influence over our behavior than most people appreciate.” He has also stated that we ought to stop thinking of cases of abuse of authority in terms of “bad apples,” and begin thinking of them instead in terms of “bad barrels”—that is, institutions—that spoil the good apples within them.

5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

By: Susan Cain , 2012

Book Cover for Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Cain (b. 1968) is a lawyer and author. She has been on the faculty of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, which trains women for leadership roles in business and the professions. She has also delivered many lectures on the psychology of introverts, including several TED talks.

Cain is best known for the book under discussion here. A separate version of the book for the benefit of teenagers and their parents appeared in 2013 under the title, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts .

Cain’s principal thesis is that the psychological characteristics typically associated with introverted personality types, especially creativity, are valuable to society. Therefore, introversion should not be considered pathological, but rather ought to be valued and accommodated by the institutions of an extrovert-dominated mainstream society, especially in the public schools.

6. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

By: Steven Pinker , 2002

Book Cover for The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

Pinker (b. 1954) is a cognitive scientist, linguist, and author. He is a well-known advocate of both evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of the mind. Pinker is currently Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.

Among Pinker’s many bestselling popular science books (see #18 below), the one under consideration here is perhaps of the greatest psychological and philosophical significance. Its thesis is very simple to state: the concept of the blank slate (tabula rasa) is no longer tenable in the light of modern science. The implications of this idea, however, are profound.

“Tabula rasa” means “a writing-tablet wiped clean” in Latin. The term is most closely associated with the English philosopher, John Locke (1632–1704). It expresses the idea that human beings are born without any significant inborn instincts or propensities. It is equivalent to the idea that education and the social environment more broadly are what determine a person’s psychological characteristics, not his or her genetic or biological endowment. In other words, “blank slate” takes the “nurture” side of the “nature/nurture” controversy.

Pinker’s book does several things. First, it presents a powerful scientific case for the impact that biology has on human personality—and thus for the falsity of the blank-slate hypothesis.

Second, the book explores the manifold ramifications of accepting the false blank-slate model of human personality and behavior, from utopian social engineering, to releasing hardened criminals back into society, to blaming parents for all the psychological difficulties faced by their children.

In short, Pinker believes that effective intervention in human affairs, whether in the form of psychotherapy or of political action, presupposes a realistic view of the biological roots underlying human nature-and as such, serves as a rejection of the blank slate theory.

7. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

By: Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray , 1994

Book Cover for The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

Herrnstein (1930–1994) was a psychologist at Harvard University, while Murray (b. 1943) is a political scientist and freelance author, who since 1990 has been a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute.

The book under consideration here marshals a wealth of empirical data to support the authors’ main thesis: that innate intelligence (as measured by IQ tests) is a good predictor of success in life (as measured by employment status, income level, marriage status, avoidance of crime, addiction, mental illness, etc.).

The claim that IQ may be represented by a normal distribution (bell curve) and the claim that innate intelligence makes some contribution to life success are in themselves difficult to dispute. However, the book became exceedingly controversial for its claims regarding the relationship between race and IQ.

Among these were the claim that different IQ distributions for different racial groups are centered upon different mean values (that is, the bell curves for different groups do not line up perfectly), as well as the claim that this difference in intergroup mean IQ values may partly explain intergroup differences in life outcomes.

The latter claim, especially, has been denounced by many observers as not only scientifically unsupported, but as inherently racist. Herrnstein died just as the book was being published, but Murray has been emphatic that the authors never denied the importance of the influence of environment upon human life outcomes and that their empirical claims about IQ should be viewed as only one factor among many.

8. Thinking, Fast and Slow

By: Daniel Kahneman , 2011

Book Cover for Thinking, Fast and Slow

Born in Mandatory Palestine and raised in Paris and in Israel, Kahneman (b. 1934) is today a professor of psychology at Princeton University. One of the founders of the discipline of behavioral economics, in 2002 he received the Nobel Prize for Economics.

This book is a summary statement of his life’s work and is written for a broad, educated audience. Behavioral economics is too large a subject to fully encapsulate here, but perhaps its central claim is that traditional economics, which assumes that human beings are purely rational agents, has failed to take “irrational” motivations properly into account. In this book, the author contextualizes this fundamental principle within the framework of evolutionary biology.

The book’s basic idea is that human beings possess two separate but parallel cognitive systems. One of these, the “slow” system, relies upon deductive reasoning, thus conforming more closely to the traditional economist’s view of human nature.

The other system, the “fast” one, is a set of cognitive abilities that we have inherited from our primate ancestors, which provide quick responses to situations critical for survival in which time is of the essence. Such responses are sometimes known as “judgments under uncertainty.” These fast cognitive systems latch onto environmental regularities which provide an organism with inductive rules-of-thumb to act upon in lieu of deductive reasoning.

9. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

By: Jonathan Haidt , 2006

Book Cover for The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

This book is the first one that psychologist Haidt (see #1 above) wrote for a popular audience. It proved to be equally popular with academic reviewers and ordinary readers.

The structure of the book is well summarized by its subtitle: Haidt basically compares some of the most important findings of contemporary psychology with many of the precepts of the ancient wisdom traditions, as embodied in the teachings of the Buddha, Socrates, Jesus, and others.

His conclusion is that the two traditions, ancient and modern, complement each other well, particularly in relation to such profound aspects of human experience as happiness, virtue, purpose, and meaning.

The book has 10 substantive chapters, each of which examines one theme treated by modern psychology and ancient wisdom traditions, namely:

  • Dimensions of the self
  • How we change our minds
  • Reciprocity
  • Blaming others

10. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

By: Dan Ariely , 2008

Book Cover for Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Ariely (b. 1967) was born in New York City to Israeli parents, who returned to Israel when Dan was three. Thus, Ariely was raised in Israel, in the town of Ramat HaSharon, and earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tel Aviv University.

He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for graduate school, taking a PhD in cognitive psychology in 1996. Later, Ariely completed a second doctorate (in economics) at Duke University under the supervision of the founder of behavioral economics and economics Nobelis, Daniel Kahneman (see #8 above). Today, he is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University.

In addition to having published numerous academic articles and seven books for a popular audience, Ariely has given several TED talks which together have received more than 15 million views.

The book under consideration here is an attempt to make some of the basic findings of behavioral economics accessible to the general reader. More specifically, the book aims to arm readers with knowledge of some of the subconscious motivations driving much of human behavior so that they can better bring them under conscious control. In this way, readers will be able to avoid procrastination, make better decisions, and in general better achieve their goals.

A revised and expanded edition of the book was published in 2010.

11. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

By: Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt , 2019

Book Cover for The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

Lukianoff (b. 1974) is a lawyer who in 1999 established the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to protect the first-amendment rights of college students. Together with celebrity psychologist Haidt (see #1 and #9 above), in 2015 he penned an essay with the same title as this book in The Atlantic magazine. The book is basically an expansion of that essay.

The title of the essay and the book is an allusion to the similarly themed book, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students , published in 1987 by University of Chicago philosopher, Allan Bloom (1930–1992).

The basic claim of Lukianoff and Haidt is that the recent introduction of “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and similar concepts aimed at protecting America’s college students from confronting any ideas that might hurt their feelings by challenging their worldview is killing higher education in the U.S.

The authors’ argument is that free and open intellectual debate is the raison d’être and life’s blood of a university. They argue that no institution which systematically closes itself off from rational criticism can qualify as a worthy heir of the distinguished, nearly thousand-year-old tradition of Academia.

12. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

By: Roy Baumeister and John Tierney , 2011

Book Cover for Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Baumeister (b. 1953) is an American-born social psychologist currently teaching at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Tierney (b. 1953) is a journalist and author specializing in reporting on science and related issues. Baumeister is the author, co-author, or co-editor of some 30 volumes of academic and popular writings.

Baumeister’s wide-ranging work touches on topics from self, sexuality, belonging, and social rejection, to self-esteem, self-control, motivation, aggression, and self-defeating behaviors, to consciousness and free will.

Baumeister is perhaps best known for his theory of “ego depletion,” which hypothesizes that there is a finite amount of mental energy available to drive willpower in the exertion of self-control.

A major topic of this book is a spectrum of therapies devised on the basis of the author’s ego depletion theory by Baumeister himself and others. This discussion explores various methods of husbanding mental energy in order to strengthen the willpower necessary to exercise self-control—which Baumeister sees as the “greatest human strength.”

13. Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

By: Robert Whitaker , 2010

Book Cover for Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

Whitaker (b. 1952) is a science journalist and author. Of his five published books, three are on the topic of psychiatry and mental illness.

The book under consideration here takes as its point of departure the following information unearthed by Whitaker: the number of persons declared officially disabled due to mental illness by the US government (and thus eligible to receive federal disability checks) approximately doubled during the 23 years between 1987 and 2010 (the year of the book’s publication). Whitaker says that he wrote this book in an effort to discover the reason behind this striking fact.

More specifically, the author considers several different theories that have been advanced, such as the dismantling of mental wards and hospitals and the invention of more-effective antipsychotic drugs. He shows that upon close examination the facts do not support these theories.

Whitaker concludes that the huge increase in mental illness in America at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries may be due to iatrogenic effects of the new drugs themselves—a claim that has been extremely controversial.

The author maintains a website, madinamerica.com, to provide interested readers access to the original data upon which his research and conclusions were based.

14. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification

By: Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman , 2004

Book Cover for Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification

This book is an academic handbook authored by two prominent leaders in the field of positive psychology—that is, the psychology of optimism, mental health, character, and well-being.

In its publicity for this book, the publisher has stated that, just as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) assesses and facilitates research on mental disorders, Character Strengths and Virtues provides a theoretical framework for understanding and developing therapeutic applications in the field of positive psychology.

Peterson (1950–2012) was a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he was formerly chair of the clinical psychology department. He is one of the founders of the relatively recent sub-discipline of positive psychology.

In addition to the book under consideration here written with Seligman, Peterson has authored a textbook, A Primer in Positive Psychology (2006), and co-authored a popular book on positive psychology, as well as a two-volume history of psychology.

Seligman (b. 1942) is Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychology. He is also an expert in the field of positive psychology and is probably best known for his concept of “learned helplessness.” In addition to the volume discussed here, he has published six books for a popular audience.

This book advances a taxonomy developed by the authors, which identifies 24 measurable “character strengths” necessary for mental health, which are in turn organized into six classes of “core virtues”: namely, wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

15. Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism

By: Melanie Joy , 2009

Book Cover for Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism

Joy (b. 1966) is a former professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Joy resigned her academic position to devote her attention full-time to writing and vegan activism. In addition to this book, Joy is the author or co-author of five other volumes on veganism, “carnism” (meat-eating), and other issues.

The author also co-founded, in 2010, the vegan activist website, Beyond Carnism, previously known as the Carnism Awareness and Action Network.

Joy’s basic thesis is that human beings do not require meat for nourishment; therefore, we are not carnivores by biological necessity, but rather by choice.

She also points to the inconsistency between the way we lavish love and care on some animals (dogs, cats, etc.), while treating other animals (pigs, cows, and others) which possess the same capacity for joy and suffering with (as she sees it) great callousness and cruelty. For these psychological and moral reasons, Joy argues, we both can and should choose to renounce the consumption of meat.

The author’s most-recent book is The Vegan Matrix: Understanding and Discussing Privilege Among Vegans to Build a More Inclusive and Empowered Movement (2020).

16. The Interpretation of Dreams

By: Sigmund Freud , 1899

Book Cover for The Interpretation of Dreams

Freud (1856–1939) was, of course, one of the most famous and important thinkers of the past century. Born in Freiberg, Austria (now Příbor, Czech Republic), into a middle-class Jewish family, he pursued courses in biology and medicine at the University of Vienna. There, he studied philosophy with Franz Brentano (1838–1913) and physiology with Ernst Wilhelm von Brücke (1819–1892), eventually spending six years working in Brücke’s laboratory on the comparative anatomy and physiology of human, vertebrate, and invertebrate brains. He received his MD degree in 1881.

After a period working in Vienna General Hospital, in 1885 Freud spent a short fellowship at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris working with the neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893), a pioneer in the therapeutic use of hypnosis. The following year, he established a private practice in Vienna, concentrating on female patients exhibiting symptoms of what was then known as “hysteria” (neurosis).

Beginning with his second book, Studies on Hysteria (1895), co-authored with the physician and physiologist, Josef Breuer (1842–1925), Freud began to develop his elaborate theory of the human psyche in terms of three fundamental forces reified as the Ich (the “I,” or “ego”), the Es (the “it,” or “id”), and the Über-Ich (the “over-I,” or “superego”). Freud also proposed the idea that mental illness is mainly caused by sexual repression, and pioneered the “talking cure” therapy we have come to know as “psychoanalysis.”

All of this was elaborated in a series of important monographs published by Freud over the next 40-odd years, notably, the 1899 book under discussion here, as well as The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904), Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Totem and Taboo (1913), Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), The Ego and the Id (1923), The Future of an Illusion (1927), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), and Moses and Monotheism (1939). The Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung) concentrates on the putative meaning of dreams in terms of Freud’s theory and on the use of such interpretations in psychoanalytic therapy.

This book was first translated into English in 1913 by Viennese-born psychoanalyst, Abraham Brill (1874–1948). Another translation, which has become standard, was published in 1953 as volume V of the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud , under the general editorship of the British psychoanalyst, James Strachey (1887–1967). This edition has been reprinted numerous times.

17. Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit

By: John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker , 1995

Book Cover for Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit

Douglas (b. 1945) is a retired special agent with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Olshaker (b. 1951) is a professional writer.

This book—which is the basis for a popular TV series, which ran for two seasons in 2017 and 2019—recounts Douglas’s 25 years of experience in tracking and studying serial killers and mass murderers.

On the basis of decades of personal interviews with captured serial killers and others, the author developed a special “criminal-personality profile” to help law-enforcement officials better understand the thinking of such men so as to more effectively track them down and thwart their crime sprees.

The book provides disturbing portraits of several more recent serial killers, who have become famous through the reporting of the media. These include the Atlanta child murderer, Wayne Williams; the California serial rapist and killer, Edmund Kemper; the Anchorage, Alaska, serial killer, Robert Hansen; and the South Carolina killer, Larry Gene Bell.

The book was reprinted in 2017.

18. How the Mind Works

By: Steven Pinker , 1997

Book Cover for How the Mind Works

Pinker (see #6 above) is the author or editor of some 15 academic and popular volumes. The book under consideration here is the second of his books aimed at a general audience.

As a cognitive scientist and linguist, Pinker has a view of the mind known as “computationalism,” which posits a close analogy between the human mind and the computer such that the mind is to the brain as software is to hardware.

In addition, Pinker is also an enthusiastic proponent of “evolutionary psychology,” a relatively new psychological sub-discipline which attempts to explain aspects of contemporary human behavior in terms of the “selection advantage” of the behavior in the context of our “environment of evolutionary adaptedness” (EEA) during the Pleistocene epoch (see also #2 above).

This book is basically an attempt to demonstrate how these two seemingly disparate theories of the human mind—computationalism and evolutionary psychology—may be understood as complementary.

A fluent and prolific writer, Pinker is able to explain this dovetailing in terms accessible to a broad, popular readership.

19. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

By: William James , 1902

Book Cover for The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

James (1842–1910) was a professor of psychology and philosophy at Harvard University. Brother of the great novelist Henry James (1843–1916), William James was also one of the founders of the American school of philosophy known as “Pragmatism.”

James’s first significant book was his Principles of Psychology , published in 1890 in two volumes. This ground-breaking work summarizes the scientific advances in the understanding of the human mind made by the end of the nineteenth century, in a manner accessible to a broad, educated audience. James possessed a superb writing style, making him one of the most readable first-rate thinkers in the entire history of philosophy.

James insisted on paying attention to subjective or lived experience, in addition to the objective findings of the empirical science of his day. In this way, he may be considered a pioneer of the phenomenological movement, which was being developed at the same time by Franz Brentano (1838–1913), Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), and others.

Though James was a cutting-edge scientist, and by no means an orthodox theist, he maintained (controversially, but in line with his Pragmatist philosophy) that beliefs should be judged according to their “cash value” (i.e., the value they hold for the believer). Accordingly, he took religions seriously as human institutions and as valid belief systems.

The book under consideration here is a careful and scholarly—and extremely interesting—description and analysis of a wide range of historical religions and other religious phenomena. The book was derived from the Gifford Lectures for 1901–1902, which James was invited to deliver at the University of Edinburgh.

The book has been reprinted numerous times.

20. Man’s Search for Meaning

By: Viktor Frankl , 1946

Book Cover for Man's Search for Meaning

Frankl (1905–1997) was an Austrian-born neurologist and psychologist. After receiving his MD in 1930, he worked at the Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital in Vienna, where he specialized in treating suicidal women.

In 1942, Frankl and his family, who were Jewish, were initially deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where his father died of starvation. Subsequently, the surviving family members were sent to Auschwitz, where Frankl’s mother and brother were gassed. His wife later died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen. Frankl himself spent a total of three years in four different concentration camps.

After the war, Frankl returned to the University of Vienna as a graduate student, where he earned a PhD in philosophy in 1948. Eventually, he became a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna. He also held visiting professorships at Harvard University and elsewhere in the US.

Frankl is perhaps best known for his development of a form of humanist or “existential” psychotherapy he called “logotherapy,” which places emphasis on the importance of meaning and purpose for a balanced life and a healthy mind.

Frankl published 39 academic and popular volumes. The book under consideration here was originally published in 1946 as ...trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager [In spite of everything, saying Yes to life: A psychologist experiences the concentration camp].

The book was translated into English in the same year. It has often been reprinted.

21. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung

By: Carl Jung , 1953–1980

Book Cover for The Collected Works of C.G. Jung

Jung (1875–1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He studied medicine at the University of Zurich, then worked at the Burghölzli psychiatric hospital in Zurich. After studying in Paris with pioneering French psychologist, Pierre Janet (1859–1947), Jung obtained a teaching position at the University of Zurich, where he once again occupied a position with the Burghölzli.

Shortly after 1900, during his first stay at the Burghölzli, Jung (pronounced “Yoong”) met the psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (1857–1939), who was already in touch with Sigmund Freud (see #16 above). This led to a correspondence and later a close collaboration and friendship between the young Jung and the older man.

At first, Jung was clearly a sort of disciple of the founder of psychoanalysis. However, with time, he began to develop a set of distinctive concepts, which went far beyond anything Freud had suggested. Perhaps the most famous of these was Jung’s notion of the “collective unconscious,” which takes the Freudian idea of the unconscious and projects it onto the human species as a whole.

Similar Jungian ideas include “archetype,” “persona,” and “shadow.” He also invented the concepts of “extroversion” and “introversion.” Jung also had a strong interest in what are now known as “paranormal” phenomena.

These typically Jungian teachings, which were heterodox from Freud’s point of view, eventually led to a break between the two men.

Jung was a prolific writer. His writings have been published in a uniform set of 20 volumes, plus eight supplementary volumes, known as the Collected Works . This edition was published gradually over a period of almost 30 years between 1953 and 1980. Many of the individual volumes are monographs which have appeared in other editions, as well.

22. The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves

By: Dan Ariely , 2012

Book Cover for The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves

In this book, Ariely (see #10 above) applies the findings of behavioral economics pioneered by his mentor, Daniel Kahneman (see #8 above), to the problem of lying, cheating, fraud, and other forms of dishonesty.

The book recounts both scientific experiments conducted by Ariely and others, as well as personal anecdotes, which throw light on how people conduct themselves with respect to honesty/dishonesty under a variety of different social circumstances. Ariely’s main findings are (a) that minor infractions of honesty are extremely common, if not ubiquitous; and (b) that one of the main factors influencing such infractions is the availability of rationalization.

For example, the author arranged to have both dollar bills and cans of soda left lying around a dormitory common area. It turns out, perhaps counterintuitively, that more people helped themselves (i.e., stole) to the sodas than the dollar bills.

Ariely concluded that the explanation for this finding is that the thieves were better able to convince themselves that taking the sodas was not “really” stealing—something that they could not plausibly have done with respect to the paper currency.

23. The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap

By: Susan Pinker , 2008

Book Cover for The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap

Pinker (b. 1957) is a former clinical psychologist, Wall Street Journal social-science columnist, and author. She is the sister of Steven Pinker (see #6 and #18 above).

The “paradox” mentioned in the title of this book refers to the discrepancy between (a) the fact that women as a group generally do better in school than men at all levels; and (b) the fact that men are still disproportionately represented in the upper echelons of most professions (the “gender gap”).

After reviewing the evidence for both of these well-known facts, Pinker then considers various theories that have been advanced to explain the paradox. In conclusion, she rejects the notion that systemic discrimination is the main explanation.

Rather, in the apt words of one of the book’s reviewers, she “posit[s] the idea that women don’t have the same preferences as men and therefore, might actually choose different paths, not be forced into them by the patriarchy.”

24. Dreamseller: An Addiction Memoir

By: Brandon Novak and Joe Frantz , 2008

Book Cover for Dreamseller: An Addiction Memoir

Novak (b. 1978) is a professional skateboarder, Jackass series stunt performer, pornographic film actor, CKY crew member, author, and motivational speaker. Frantz (b. 1977) is a filmmaker, author, and podcast host.

The book under consideration is a memoir which recounts Novak’s struggles with drug addiction. Among other things, it describes his downward spiral into drug use—culminating with heroin addiction—attempted suicide, and institutionalization in mental hospitals.

In addition to co-writing the book, Frantz also created a 2009 documentary film based on the memoir: Dreamseller: The Brandon Novak Documentary .

After the appearance of the book and the film, Novak relapsed and started using heroin again. This time he was arrested, spent 10 months in prison, and later, on probation. He has been clean since 2015.

25. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development

By: Carol Gilligan , 1982

Book Cover for In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development

Gilligan (b. 1936) received her PhD in social psychology from Harvard University, where she wrote her dissertation, “Responses to Temptation: An Analysis of Motives,” under the supervision of Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1967), who is best known for his six-stage theory of moral development in children. Today, she is professor of Humanities and Applied Psychology at New York University.

Gilligan first came to the attention of the academic world through a series of academic papers critiquing Kohlberg’s work as male-biased and of limited applicability to females.

The book under the consideration here summarizes Gilligan’s work for a broad, intellectual readership. In it, the author recounts three major empirical studies that she pursued over several years. In these studies, she employed questionnaires to elicit the reasoning that her female subjects used in thinking through the three different moral dilemmas. Gilligan concludes that, while the women’s reasoning was immature according to Kohlberg’s criteria, such an inference from the data is profoundly unfair to women.

Instead, Gilligan argues that the empirical data support an entirely different conclusion—namely, that women and men are different kinds of moral reasoners. Whereas men typically employ abstract logical reasoning in thinking about difficult moral cases, women typically reason in terms of an ethics of caring that is primarily directed towards the needs of all the persons involved in such cases.

This ground-breaking book was reprinted with a new preface by the author in 2016.

Interested in truly diving into the psychology discipline? Start by checking out the Most Influential Schools in the Field of Psychology over the last 20 years!

For additional study tips and tools, check out our full library of study guides for students .

Or find study tips, learning tools, tips for campus life and much more with a look at our Student Resources Headquarters .

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.

8 of Psychology’s Greatest Books From the Classics to Today

Your summer reading list for great psychology books starts here..

Posted June 7, 2014 | Reviewed by Matt Huston

The psychology section of any bookstore, from the online superstores to your favorite neighborhood nook, covers an enormously wide range of topics and interests. You’ve undoubtedly got your own list of the best books in psychology, but if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the area, see how mine compares with yours.

My criteria for selecting these 8 books were that they are widely available, in libraries or inexpensive (if not available for free), and that they represent the diversity of the field. I wanted to include some historically important works as well as contemporary writings that are sure to become classics in the coming years. These were also books that I felt changed my own view of the field and my understanding of some of its fundamental concepts, so there’s a personal slant reflected in this list as well. With that in mind, let’s get started!

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)

This book is not an easy read by any means, as Freud ’s brilliance was not only in his analytical mind but in the breadth of his intellectual interests. You won’t find a simple set of “how-to's” to figure out the meaning of your own personal dreams by reading this work, either. Instead, you’ll gain insight into the processes that produced Freud the psychoanalyst and would eventually lead to his charting the paths of the id, ego, and superego through development.

There are, however, plenty of entertaining stories mixed in with Freud’s philosophical analyses. He relates his own and others' dreams of others in considerable detail, showing how he proceeds through what we now know as free association to understanding their meaning to the dreamer. Once you read even a few pages, you’ll see why, unlike the myth , you can’t just plug a dream into a formula and expect to come out with its meaning.

Charles M. Duhigg, The Power of Habit (2012)

After reviewing this book when it first was published, I felt that despite having taught the psychology of learning for my entire career , I was able to grasp the field in an entirely new way from this great book. Sure, everyone in psychology, from the intro psych student to the most highly-regarded researcher, knows about classical conditioning . We’ve all learned of its role in thoughts, actions, addictions. But it’s not always easy to see how these behavioral principles apply to our everyday behaviors.

Duhigg identifies the basic process that links cue to habit and shows how it plays out in our common everyday lives. Why do you crave a cookie break at 2:30 every afternoon? Why is it that you can’t walk through a shopping mall without having the fight the desire to walk into Cinnabon? How about your inability to stop online gaming, shopping, or Facebook -checking?

You’ll have to read the book for yourself to find out how this simple, basic, process works. Once you do, not only will you recognize yourself in many of the examples he provides, you’ll also learn how to take those habits, bend them, and eventually break them forever. Of course, we can’t always shake our addictions on our own, but by understanding what causes them, you’ll gain important insights that will help you seek, and make, the changes you desire on a more permanent basis.

Karen Horney, The Neurotic Personality of Our Time (1937)

So, when you saw this title, did you think “of our time” must surely be now? Though it was published in 1937, neurotic personalities have always existed and most likely will continue to exist well into the future. It’s quite likely that because she was translating her theory into pop terms that she (or her publisher) advised her to add the “of our time” to give it a self-help twist.

The basic premise of Horney’s theory indeed has universality. We develop what she called a “false self” in order to cover up our own feelings of anxiety and insecurity. You may, for example, feel that you’re not as smart as the other people around you, but you don’t want to let on so you put on the airs of someone who feels superior and confident. Not only do you become psychologically dishonest, but eventually you lose sight of who you truly are. Additionally, you may actually lose out on opportunities for advancement that could build your self-esteem . Let’s say that you’re afraid of failing a test that you’re being given at school or on the job. You put off and put off the studying you need to do for this test, so that when you inevitably fail at it, you can say it was because you didn’t study. These self-defeating behaviors are, to Horney, the core of neurotic behavior. Your only hope is to allow your real self and false self eventually to come more into line so that you can accept yourself, flaws and all.

psychology books interesting

Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (2012)

If all this focus on happiness in today’s pop psych is getting to you, then you’ll definitely be happy when you read about its antidote. This was another book I read and reviewed that had a powerful impact on me. It’s not that I’m a negative psychologist by any means, but I agree with Burkeman that there’s more to psychological health than feeling happy-in-the-moment. If those ephemeral and fleeting moments of joy become your goal in life, not only are you destined to become the opposite of happy, but you’ll also be missing out on the opportunity to gain true fulfillment.

Apart from agreeing with Burkeman’s basic thesis, I also found myself contemplating, in the years since reading it, the benefits of mental cleansing that he describes as the path to gaining greater underlying appreciation of life. Burkeman went on a journey that I most likely will never have the chance to do: He entered a meditation retreat where, detached from the outer world, he and his fellow journeyers explored their own inner lives. You can follow Burkeman, as did I, through this experience and perhaps you’ll emerge with a new awareness of how a bit of realistic pessimism might be a good thing after all.

Carl Gustav Jung, Man and His Symbols (1964)

Jung’s take on psychology definitely veered toward the spiritual . Although the theory became the basis for one of the most widely use (and abused) tests (see Adam Grant’s and my blog posts on the topic), it was Jung’s insights into our cultural icons, or what he called “archetypes” that may have been his greatest contribution. This book is appropriately illustrated with images so that the reader can understand Jung’s analysis of their symbolic meaning.

Another interesting feature of this book, for me, was his exploration of the notion of “synchronicity.” He describes dreams that his patients relayed to him in which the events reportedly foretold later experiences that would actually occur, leading one to die and the other to be the victim of an assault.

Even if you don’t buy his theory, you’ll still gain cultural insights that will open your eyes to the psychological meanings of the images we encounter on a daily basis, from brand logos to action heroes. After reading Jung’s impressive analyses, you’ll never think of Spiderman the same way again.

Gina Perry, Behind the Shock Machine , 2013

The classic Milgram experiments are a staple in the social psych section of virtually every intro psych course in the world. Instructors and students alike are appalled at the apparent cruelty that average people are ready and able to impose on their fellow humans. I came across Perry’s book when it was still available only in Australia, and was delighted that the author was able to get a copy for me to review.

Suffice it to say that after reading the fascinating story that literally goes “behind” the experiment, I never thought about social psych the same way again. Perry uncovers details about Milgram the man that I had never realized nor had most psychologists, I venture to guess.

She also contextualizes his research in the field of social psych at the time (the 1950s-60s) in which researchers concocted elaborate scenarios to try to elicit behaviors out of unwitting participants that they might never have otherwise shown. Indeed, this is her point about the Milgram studies. Perhaps we’re not as evil as he would have had us believe. After reading the book, you can decide for yourself.

Matthew Hutson, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking , 2012

The title alone is enticing enough, but as you start to delve into the irrationality of the human mind, you’ll find yourself drawn into more than just a spell. A science writer and Psych Today blogger , Hutson writes in a way that respects the underlying empirical studies that he describes in just enough detail to give the work credibility while also entertaining us with knowledge about our own cognitive foibles. I reviewed the book after reading about it in the New York Times, and it’s another one whose message has stuck with me ever since.

By taking readers through the ins and outs of cognitive science, Hutson also provides basic lessons in the experimental method. The book also provides an A-B-C primer for the student of skepticism. You’ll undoubtedly recognize your own irrational beliefs among the 7 while at the same time gaining the tools to identify and target ones that Hutson may have as yet left undiscovered.

Susan R. Barry, Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions , 2009

Scientists who write about their own experiences present readers with unique opportunities to understand a phenomenon. Susan Barry , a neuroscientist at Mount Holyoke College (and Psych Today blogger), provides such a perspective to our understanding of depth perception. Every intro psych (if not high school biology) student knows that we need slightly disparate images to reach the two retinas of our eyes in order to see the world in perfect 3-D. Perry had an unusual condition that caused her to be stereoblind from early infancy, meaning that she could not see the world with the depth afforded to the rest of us. Her successful treatment was written up by Oliver Sacks in 2004 as the case of “Stereo Sue,” drawing public attention for the first time to her condition.

To appreciate what Barry went through involves learning about the “normal” way that we all perceive depth. You never realize how much you take for granted about navigating the world until you learn about a story such as Barry’s. You also don’t realize, perhaps, just how tricky the whole process of depth perception can be. There are some great images to illustrate this process along with a few entertaining experiments you can perform yourself. The bottom line is that the brain is far more plastic than we usually give it credit for, and that even what might seem an insurmountable challenge can be overcome.

In summary, if you make it through all 8 of these books, or even just sample 1 or 2, you’ll have gained valuable knowledge. You’ll have a sense of where psychology has come from, and where it’s likely to head in the years to come as more great books, and psychologists, contribute to our fascinating field.

Please feel free to add your own suggestions to the comments section here, or tweet to me on Twitter @swhitbo or through my Facebook group, " Fulfillment at Any Age ."

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2014

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. , is a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her latest book is The Search for Fulfillment.

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7 must-read psychology books to help you better understand yourself and your potential

Psychologist Dr Christian Jarrett recommends seven of the best books on psychology.

Christian Jarrett

It's an age-old question – how much can a person truly change, deep down? In my book, Be Who You Want ( £14.99, Hachette ), I looked for an answer from the fascinating world of personality psychology. I read widely to discover what contemporary psychology considers to be the fundamental traits that make us who we are, and most exciting, whether we can choose to change them.

The following seven books I drew on will help you better understand who you are now, and who you might become.

Read more about personality change:

  • How to change your personality, according to a cognitive neuroscientist
  • A neuroscientist explains how easy changes to your routine can improve your personality
  • Instant Genius podcast: Personality change, with Dr Christian Jarrett

7 of the best psychology books

The art and science of personality development.

psychology books interesting

Dan P McAdams

Contemporary scientific psychology views human personality as made up of five key traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. In his book from 2015, the US psychology professor Dan P McAdams introduces readers to these traits, explains their relative stability and their powerful consequences for our lives.

Crucially, however, McAdams explains that there is more to who you are than your basic traits –you are also defined by your goals and by the stories you tell about your own life. What I found especially inspiring was his exploration of how these elements of your identity can interact with your basic traits –suggesting that, by changing your goals and your personal story, you can begin to transform who you are.

psychology books interesting

Tasha Eurich

An argument I make in my book is that before embarking on a journey of deliberate personality change, you must make an honest and realistic assessment of the kind of person you are today. Similarly, in her book from 2017, the US business psychologist Eurich argues that self-understanding is the "meta-skill" of the 21st Century.

Of course, there are various personality tests you can take online, and it makes sense to ask trusted friends and relatives to score you on those tests too (after all, we all have various blindspots about our own traits).

However, beyond those basic tests, Eurich offers various fun and creative ways to find out more about yourself and how you'd like to change, such as by asking yourself the so-called "miracle question" –if a miracle occurred overnight and a change occurred to you that had beneficial consequences for many aspects of your life, what would that change be?

I'm Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want To Come

psychology books interesting

Jessica Pan

While there are many advantages to being introverted, such as the ability to work quietly without constantly craving fun distractions, there are also sound reasons why people might want to learn to become more sociable and outgoing – many studies show that, on average, extraverts are happier, have better health and more friends than introverts.

But is such a transformation realistic? An introvert myself, I found inspiration from Pan's hilarious memoir published in 2020, in which she describes how she came out of her own introverted shell and spent a year living as a full-blown extravert, including performing standup and joining an improv group.

Live More, Think Less

psychology books interesting

Pia Callesen

When people are surveyed about which trait of theirs they would most like to change, overwhelmingly the most popular choice is to become less neurotic –that is, to enjoy more emotional stability and to spend less time worrying.

It is encouraging that a growing amount of research suggests that various forms of psychotherapy can lead to reductions in trait neuroticism. One of the most promising approaches is so-called meta-cognitive therapy, which is the focus of clinical psychologist Pia Callesen's book from 2017.

For any chronic worriers out there, one of her tips is to set aside a set period of time each day to vent your worries, either thinking about them or writing them down. If you do this, you'll find it much easier to let your anxious thoughts go at other times of the day.

Rebel Ideas

psychology books interesting

Matthew Syed

One nugget that surprised me the most when doing background reading for Be Who You Want was the far-reaching implications of the trait that is openness to experience. This describes your willingness to not only try out new things and go to unfamiliar places, but also to consider alternative viewpoints and arguments.

People who score highly in this trait tend to be more creative and they are even less vulnerable to dementia later in life. A book that will help you harness your openness is Syed's book Rebel Ideas . Through riveting case studies, he demonstrates the value of diverse thinking and the ability to approach problems with an open mind.

Indistractable

psychology books interesting

When it comes to success at school and at work, the personality trait that is most important is conscientiousness –this includes your orderliness and self-discipline. Luckily, you aren't stuck with your current levels of this trait.

A lesson I discovered from my research on Be Who You Want is that aspects of our personality are akin to skills. Whatever your natural inclinations, you can learn to become more focused, thus boosting your conscientiousness. Eyal's book from 2019 is one of the best I've come across for helping you to do this.

In contrast to many other books in the genre, he doesn't lay the blame for our collective loss of focus on social media and digital devices. Rather he teaches you to get to roots of why you are tempted to seek out distraction (whether from your phone or elsewhere), and how to take an ameliorative action, such as by reframing a task to make it more exciting or reminding yourself of your larger goals. One consequence of reading his book is that you're bound to see your conscientiousness increase.

The Wisdom of Psychopaths

psychology books interesting

Kevin Dutton

Alongside the so-called Big Five personality traits, many psychologists also recognise three further dimensions to our characters, reflecting the so-called "dark side" of human nature –narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. It's generally understood that while these traits are morally dubious, they evolved because they each offer certain advantages.

Take narcissists –thanks to their surface confidence and bravado, they tend to grab the limelight and make a positive first impression (though it soon wears off). In Be Who You Want , I explore whether we can borrow some of the advantages of the dark traits, without slipping over to the dark side.

To help, I read Dutton's book – The Wisdom Of Psychopaths – in which he explores the notion of "successful psychopathy", based on the idea that there are upsides to this trait, including having "fearless dominance", which allows certain ruthless people to excel in certain arenas such as politics and special forces operations.

One way to channel this attitude in your own life (without becoming a full-blown psychopath!) is to interpret difficult situations as challenges, rather than as threats, for example by focusing on what you can control and seeing the experience as a learning experience rather than a test.

Read more book lists:

  • 70 best science books you need to read in 2022
  • 7 of the best dog books to help you understand your furry friend
  • 5 of the best dinosaur books for adults and kids
  • 7 of the best science audiobooks to listen to in 2022

Share this article

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The 8 Best Psychology Books for Students

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

psychology books interesting

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter.

psychology books interesting

  • What to Look For

If you are interested in learning more about the science of the mind and behavior, there are plenty of great psychology books to help you get started. What are some of the best books for psychology students to read?

While your psychology classes already have required reading lists, there are a number of great psychology books that can supplement your studies. From guides to help you succeed in school to reviews of the ​ history of psychology , the following books are some of the best choices for psychology students interested in boosting their grades and deepening their knowledge of psychology. Even if you are just a casual student of the subject, these psychology books can offer insights into the field and its history.

Here are the best psychology books for students.

Pioneers of Psychology by Raymond E. Fancher & Alexandra Rutherford

Anyone who thinks history is boring should definitely read Fancher and Rutherford's engaging look at the history of psychology, from its philosophical beginnings to the modern day.

As this text proves, psychology books devoted to the history of the field need not be dry or dull. The book offers a very human view of some of the great thinkers that have influenced psychology, including Descartes, Locke, Darwin, Freud, and Skinner.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

When it comes to psychology books, there are a few texts that you should absolutely purchase. The APA style manual is a must-have for any psychology student. Get this book early on in your academic career and keep it on hand to consult as you write research papers, literature reviews, lab report , and other writing assignments.

How to Think Straight About Psychology by Keith E. Stanovich

Keith E. Stanovich's How to Think Straight About Psychology serves as a nice complement to any research methods course.

Learn more about critical thinking skills and how to identify pseudoscience. Explore other topics in psychology as well such as experimental control, correlational studies, and experimental studies.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

This book from neurologist Oliver Sacks is a great read for both psychology students and a general interest audience. The author explores clinical stories of patients who suffer from neurological disorders, offering an engaging and thoughtful look at neurological problems.

While some psychology books are targeted at an audience with an extensive background in the topic, this book can be easily enjoyed by anyone new to psychology.

The Psychology Major's Handbook by Tara L. Kuther

Tara L. Kuther offers some excellent tips for students in this handy psychology book.

Learn about some of the many reasons to major in psychology, find great tips for academic success and learn more about some of the careers available to psychology majors.

Career Paths in Psychology by Robert Sternberg

Have you ever wondered exactly what you can do with a psychology degree? Psychology is a broad and diverse subject, so there is considerable variation in the type of careers that psychology students can pursue.

This comprehensive overview from psychologist Robert Sternberg offers an excellent look at some of the career options available to students as well as professionals who are considering a career change. Explore some of your choices and think about how you can achieve your academic goals.

Getting In by the American Psychological Association

If you are thinking of studying psychology at the graduate level, then this guide from the American Psychological Association is a must-have for your growing collection of psychology books.

Each step of the admission process is broken down into easy-to-follow segments, and hand timetables make it simple to track your progress.

Cracking the GRE Psychology Subject Test by The Princeton Review

In order to get into a psychology graduate program, you will most likely need to take the GRE subject test in psychology.

Prepare yourself for the test with this test prep book , which offers a quick review aimed at refreshing your knowledge of various topics within psychology.

What to Look for in a Psychology Book for Students

Up-to-date research.

Used books can be helpful in some contexts. However, psychology is an evolving science with new findings and updated research. If you’re looking for a psychology book to supplement your studies, make sure it’s not outdated.

Trusted Sources

It’s becoming easier to self-publish books either in print or digital formats. As a result, there are more people than ever who are releasing books for public consumption. Some of these people aren’t qualified experts for the disciplines they’re writing about. Research the authors and publishers of psychology books you aren’t familiar with to make sure they’re coming from a trusted source.

Easy to Understand

Many books about health and science are dense and difficult to understand. Luckily, there are many books that break these subjects down for audiences who aren’t as familiar with technical jargon. When you’re choosing psychology books, keep this in mind so that you can easily understand the psychology concepts you wish to learn.

Frequently Asked Questions

Your professor chooses specific psychology books to inform their course design. While other psychology books help explain common concepts, there’s no guarantee that the information is exactly the same. There are advances and new discoveries in psychology that may not be reflected in older editions. Additionally, your professor may utilize the review questions or other unique passages in their selected resources, so it’s best to keep those on hand.

There are many jobs you can pursue with a degree in psychology because it gives you insight into the way people think and behave. Most obviously, there are entry-level opportunities in mental health that are a great fit, like mental health technicians and case managers.

There are also many psychology majors who go on to have successful careers in marketing, education, advertising, sales, and many other industries. Figure out what interests you and it’s likely that your degree in psychology is a reliable step in the right direction.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Best-Psychology-Books-For-Beginners-book-list-cover

The 10 Best Psychology Books For Beginners To Jump-Start your Education

  • Ivaylo Durmonski
  • Reading Lists

What books should I read if I’m interested in psychology? What are the best psychology books for beginners? These are common questions people ask themselves if they want to learn psychology by themselves. And while it might seem intimidating if you’re just getting started, don’t get discouraged. It’s fully possible to become an expert in understanding how the human mind works. Figure out why people behave in a certain way. Spot errors in the way you act and make proper adjustments.

Finding the best psychology books to read, especially if you’re a beginner, is not an easy task. Our libraries are crowded. Supposedly great titles that aim to make you a swift persuaded or a mind reader are everywhere. Books that promise to help you figure out others so you can find the ultimate way of controlling a conversation or simply calming folks when they are feeling stressed are all over the place.

To find the best ones for you personally, you should stop. Stop and consider a couple of questions. The first question you should ask yourself if you want to uncover the hidden traits in your, and others, personalities, is this one: What type of field I want to start exploring? What type of discipline do I want to get better at?

There are different types of psychology. Yes, I was amazed, myself, when I first started reading about human behavior but it soon became apparent to me that it’s not only about how we behave. There is behavioral psychology. Cognitive psychology ( CBT ). Evolutionary psychology. Even the secret society of dark psychology. (Check out a list of the best dark psychology books .)

But let say you’re just getting started. If this is the case, congratulations. I’ve compiled a list of some of the greatest, beginner-friendly psychology books for newcomers. These are easy to read and will introduce you to the core concepts about the human mind and how we’re structured to work. (You’re a psychology student? Check this list then: Best Psychology Books For Students ).

The 10 Best Psychology Books For Beginners:

1. the psychology book by nigel c. benson, 2. how to win friends and influence people by dale carnegie, 3. the emotional brain by joseph e. ledoux, 4. the happiness hypothesis by jonathan haidt, 5. stumbling on happiness by daniel todd gilbert, 6. the confidence game by maria konnikova, 7. flow by mihaly csikszentmihalyi, 8. the path to purpose by william damon, 9. how children fail john holt, 10. the invisible gorilla by christopher chabris.

The Psychology Book Big Ideas Simply Explained book cover photo

What’s the book about?

If you’re a total beginner in the field of psychology, a newbie. It’s best to start with this book. It’s a combination of more than 100 ideas in the field of – yes! you guessed it – psychology. The book covers a lot of ground. How it all started – the history of psychology. The most recognized names, ideas, and fundamental concepts around behaviorism, psychotherapy, and developmental psychology. Plainly, this is an easy-to-get encyclopedia of the fascinating field of psychology. It’s also excellent for children who are taking their first steps into their teenage years.

Who is it for?

People who are just getting started in the field of psychology. The pictures and the nicely designed pages will break it down for you. You’ll understand the most interesting bits and pieces in the area of psychology. Expect: lots of big ideas simply explained and backed with a lot of images, so you can familiarize yourself with all major concepts.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“Despair evaporates when we stop denying who we really are and attempt to uncover and accept our true nature.” Nigel Benson

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How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie book cover photo

One of the most praised books in the self-help industry. Dale Carnegie teaches us how to win friends by focusing on a couple of simple techniques. The most overlooked technique to get others to like you and join your side? Listen to them. Really listen. This is a bestseller for a simple reason. The stories and the methods are timeless. The book is easy to understand and easy to implement. And lastly, what Carnegie teaches us about influencing is not to force others to do stuff they don’t like. It’s about acknowledging their personalities and desires and finding the optimal solution for both of the parties.

I read How to Win Friends and Influence People more than 10 years ago. While I’ll probably find the content of the book cheesy now, I highly recommend it to people who want to improve both their personal and professional lives. This book will open your eyes to so many possibilities – so many mental models . One important thing, even if you find the advice mentioned too simple and too vague, follow them. I can assure you that you’ll see positive changes in your relationships with others once you obey the commands of Dale Carnegie.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie

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The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux book cover photo

Our brains are full of complex systems. And while you surely don’t need to know everything, you definitely need to understand this part: our emotions govern our actions. This book will explain, in a relatively easy-to-understand way, what is the so-called “emotional brain” and why you need to care about it. Once you introduce yourself to the emotions your brain produces, you’ll better understand yourself and finally stop reacting with strong annoyance, displeasure, or hostility when the situation doesn’t require it.

The Emotional Brain is a very good introduction to the emotional side of our brains. If you still don’t know that it’s not just you. That there are also emotions that are actually the ones that control you. You will finally reveal your hidden motives in your daily actions and escape from what was previously almost impossible to get out of situations. So essentially, this book is for people who want to properly manage their moods and their relationships with others.

“We do not tremble because we are afraid or cry because we feel sad; we are afraid because we tremble and sad because we cry.” Joseph E. LeDoux

The Happiness Hypothesis book cover photo

We are happier when we are surrounded by friends and family members, but we’re still restlessly pursuing career success and more money. Where this leads us? To more misery and more suffering. By sharing great stories and by making connections between religion, ancient philosophy, and psychology, the author wants to help us move away from pain and get closer to pleasure.

People who are stuck in the rat race . Folks who have more than enough but who are still pushing for even more. This book aims to teach you about the things that have real value in our lives and persuade you that some things shouldn’t be on focus – continuous pursue for acquiring more money, playing status games , or wicked unconscious maneuvers (for the last part you can also check Games People Play by Eric Berne).

“If you are in passionate love and want to celebrate your passion, read poetry. If your ardor has calmed and you want to understand your evolving relationship, read psychology. But if you have just ended a relationship and would like to believe you are better off without love, read philosophy.” Jonathan Haidt

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd book cover photo

We are consistently wrong about many things. Our memory is terrible. We tend to misremember how we felt in the past. And we are terrible at predicting what type of activities or things will make us feel joy in the future. This book aims to explain why we are awfully unimpressive at knowing what is going to make us satisfied in the long term. Daniel Todd Gilbert will bombard you with plenty of questions that will allow you to define what happiness means for you.

If you are constantly fooling yourself on what sorts of things or relationships will bring you joy. If you are terrible at predicting what activity will make your life better. This book is for you. Full of brilliant, funny, and science-based stories, the revelations in this book will help people add an extra dose of joy to their lives.

“Most of us appear to believe that we are more athletic, intelligent, organized, ethical, logical, interesting, open-minded, and healthy-not to mention more attractive-than the average person.” Daniel Gilbert

The Confidence Game Why We Fall for It book cover photo

A mesmerizing book that looks at how con artists are able to persuade millions of people. Why Ponzi schemes work and why we are still failing into “obvious” scams. Maria Konnikova explores the secret world of charlatans. What mind games they play on us and most importantly, why we continue to label “too good to be true” stories as legitimate.

Totally recommended to naive people who are new to the field of psychology. This book will not only show you how other people take advantage of you, but also save you a lot of money. By gaining the ability to quickly identify pyramid schemes, you’ll finally understand that there isn’t such thing as free money.

“The confidence game—the con—is an exercise in soft skills. Trust, sympathy, persuasion. The true con artist doesn’t force us to do anything; he makes us complicit in our own undoing. He doesn’t steal. We give. He doesn’t have to threaten us. We supply the story ourselves. We believe because we want to, not because anyone made us. And so we offer up whatever they want—money, reputation, trust, fame, legitimacy, support—and we don’t realize what is happening until it is too late.” Maria Konnikova

Flow The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi book cover photo

The famous author, with you’ll-never-say-his-name-right, introduces the concept of “optimal experience.” This book explains in length what types of tasks can unlock true happiness. How you can concentrate better, improve the quality of your work and enter the magical space of flow – a place where you are 100% focused on the current task. This book is heavily mentioned by all productivity experts for a good reason. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches us exactly what the title entails – diving “in the zone” when you do certain things.

Especially good for people who are having a hard time concentrating. Thanks to the content of the book, you’ll understand how you should approach your tasks. What exactly you need to do to improve your skills in your field of choice. Furthermore, it will help you figure out what type of activities you should aim towards and what type of activities you should ditch.

“On the job people feel skillful and challenged, and therefore feel more happy, strong, creative, and satisfied. In their free time people feel that there is generally not much to do and their skills are not being used, and therefore they tend to feel more sad, weak, dull, and dissatisfied. Yet they would like to work less and spend more time in leisure.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Path to Purpose by William Damon book cover photo

Commonly prescribed for parents, this book can surely help everyone who is struggling to find a sense of purpose in his life. William Damon investigates why so many young people these days are unable to find a career path that seems worthy. Why inspiration is usually a missing ingredient in the life of most teenagers, and why these same youngsters seemingly can’t figure out what they should do with their lives.

For everyone who can’t find his place in this world. I’ll personally recommend this book to all young people. Even if you do know what you want to do, this book will help you define your goals even better. Also, for individuals, regardless of age, who are still aimlessly wandering around the hemisphere, this is a must-read book. It offers a variety of practical tasks that will give you a sense of direction.

“My mom “wants me to have my own choices, but she wants my choices to be math and science.” Ben, age twelve

How Children Fail John Holt book cover photo

A scientific approach to how children learn – or more precisely, how they do not learn. John Holt focuses on providing us with gimmick-free lessons on how teachers should teach children. Instead of forcing knowledge through clever teaching methods. He provides insightful information about how students naturally learn new information. This allows us to tailor our approach, which leads to better communication between teachers and children.

Often cited as the go-to guide that can positively transform our flawed educational system. How Children Fail will provide knowledge workers with useful insights on how to modify their approach in school. Also, as you can guess, it’s especially good for parents who want to educate their children. How to prepare them for the world by enhancing their thinking and problem-solving skills.

“For many years I have been asking myself why intelligent children act unintelligently at school. The simple answer is, “Because they’re scared.” I used to suspect that children’s defeatism had something to do with their bad work in school, but I thought I could clear it away with hearty cries of “Onward! You can do it!” What I now see for the first time is the mechanism by which fear destroys intelligence, the way it affects a child’s whole way of looking at, thinking about, and dealing with life. So we have two problems, not one: to stop children from being afraid, and then to break them of the bad thinking habits into which their fears have driven them.” John Holt

The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris book cover photo

The Invisible Gorilla is one of the best psychology beginner books for a simple reason: the hidden gorilla experiment demonstrating our inattentional blindness is heavily cited in other famous books. The title explains in an accessible language why and how our eyes can fool us. What type of information remains hidden for the mind to see. And, what are our biases we usually don’t see in the way our brains cope with the world.

If you haven’t watched the famous invisible gorilla video, go ahead and check it now – you can see the video here . It still amazes me how some people are not able to see the gorilla in the video. If you’re wondering the same, this book will go through the experiment in length. It’s a great read that will help you understand how focused attention can make you blind to the outside world.

“Beware of memories accompanied by strong emotions and vivid details—they are just as likely to be wrong as mundane memories, but you’re far less likely to realize it.” Christopher Chabris

Some Closing Thoughts

The field of psychology is an important academic discipline. Yet, few people understand how crucial what glass-wearing knowledge workers who study the mind can teach us.

Regardless of your age, you need to take some time to study how we are designed to operate. What type of mistakes we tend to make and how we can adjust our behavior.

This will not only help you make good habits stick and improve self-discipline . But also support your efforts to properly assess your current condition – the factors that undermine your existence.

The recommendations above are what I can label good psychology books to read for beginners.

I’ve intentionally picked easy-to-read titles. Such that are absent of complicated language and impossible-to-get concepts.

After all, if you are new to the field of psychology, you’d want to start with something light. Something accessible yet still eye-opening.

And, before you go. Keep in mind this…

Don’t hope to get everything. Focus on understanding the basics.

I can assure you that the more you learn about how we behave, the more you’ll want to learn. Once you figure out the essentials, move on to some more complicated reads – i.e., my list of psychology must-reads .

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*Psychology Resource Guide: Research Tips

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Citing Sources

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psychology books interesting

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Browse our Library Tutorials Collection for guidance on the following concepts:

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psychology books interesting

  • Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Articles
  • Common Source Types
  • Background Research

Peer-reviewed articles  are:

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  • trusted and valued in academic communities

Peer-Review Basics:

Peer-Review Advanced: 

Your research will uncover several types of sources: books , and two different types of articles  broken down below. There are always exceptions, but this list will give you a sense of what to expect before you start looking!

psychology books interesting

  • Content: Long exploration of a topic with  CONTEXT  and  THEORY . They might explain a topic top to bottom, or cover several perspectives.
  • Use : Context, theory, background, and sometimes an opportunity to find other sources using their footnotes/endnotes. 

Scholarly/Academic Journal Articles

psychology books interesting

  • Content:  Usually  NARROW  and  SPECIFIC  but thorough. May contain the results of a study or experiment. May contain ideas for future research.
  • Use : Up to date information on the topic. Focus on the conclusions  and what the authors learned while doing their study.   

"Popular" Articles from Websites and Magazines

psychology books interesting

  • Content : EXPLANATORY INFORMATION  about some aspect of a topic. Watch out for oversimplification and especially slant/bias, depending on the source.
  • Use:  Getting up to speed on a topic. Getting the current "coverage" on a topic. Discovering angles you didn't know about.

What is Background Research?

Research that:

  • gives you a broad idea about what your research topic is about
  • provides information about specific terms used in the topic
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This information can help you effectively search for information on your topic.

This is a link to the Background Research tutorial video available at https://library.campbell.edu/tutorials/background-research/

There are many different sources for Background Research :

Encyclopedias.

General Encyclopedias

  • These are designed for general readers and contain information on a variety of topics (e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica, World Book)

Subject Encyclopedias

  • These focus on one field or topic, such as religion, psychology, or African American history (e.g. Encyclopedia of Psychology)

Books on the topic

  • books can provide a good overview of the topic, and their lists of sources can point you to resources that you can use

There are many good podcasts that can give overviews on a variety of topics (e.g.  Stuff You Should Know )

  • This online encyclopedia can be a good way of getting on overview of your topic.  Very useful for information on popular culture.  Looking at the history of the entries is also a good way of seeing the conflicts that are related to the issue

Useful Resources to Find Background Information

Comprehensive, non-biased reporting and analysis on issues shaping our world.

An online reference library that has over 350 titles from 60 different publishers.

Included only links to electronic journals in the field of education that are scholarly, peer-reviewed, full text and accessible without cost.

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ScienceDaily

To boost a preschooler's language skills, consider reminiscing

'parent talk' study compares reminiscing, book sharing and toy play as language learning settings.

Language skills are strong predictors of academic, socioemotional and behavioral outcomes when children enter school. They learn language in preschool years by interacting with others, especially their parents. Book sharing is a popular way parents engage young children in conversation. However, not all parents are comfortable with book sharing and not all children like having books read to them.

A new study on "parent talk" by Florida Atlantic University, in collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark, provides an alternative. To boost the quality of a preschooler's language experience and skills, consider reminiscing with them.

To determine the effects of encouraging parents to reminisce with their children, researchers examined properties of conversations between Danish parents and their 3- to 5-year-old children as they engaged in three different activities. The parents and children were asked to share a wordless picture book (book sharing), reminisce about past events, and build with LEGO bricks.

From transcripts of parent-child conversations in these three activities, researchers measured properties of parent speech that have been found to be related to children's language development. They also measured how much the children talked, as child output also has been found to be a positive predictor of their language growth.

Results of the study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology ,reveal that reminiscing is very good at eliciting high quality speech from parents, and in many ways, is just as good as book sharing. Book sharing and reminiscing were higher than toy play on three measures of interactive quality: less frequent use of directives, more frequent use of what/who/where questions, and more frequent use of why/how questions.

Only reminiscing, not book sharing, differed from toy play in parent speech being higher in grammatical complexity and in more frequently expanding child utterances. Both reminiscing and book sharing increased the lexical richness of parent speech compared to toy play.

"Findings from our study should bolster arguments that have been made for reminiscing as a basis for culturally sensitive intervention to increase the quality of children's language experience," said Erika Hoff, Ph.D., senior author and a professor, Department of Psychology, FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. "Talk in reminiscing is characterized by longer and more complex sentences than talk in many other settings, and particularly elaborative reminiscing in which the adult scaffolds and encourages the child's talk, has been found to benefit children's language growth. Reminiscing also is argued to be more widespread as a naturally occurring practice across cultures and levels of socioeconomic status than book reading."

Interestingly, researchers did not find any differences between mothers and fathers. Until now, literature on differences between fathers' and mothers' talk to their children has been scant with mixed findings and heavily reliant on samples in the United States. A Danish sample offered the opportunity to study differences between mothers and fathers in a place where parenting roles are less gender-typed than elsewhere.

While findings provide new evidence that reminiscing is an activity that elicits parent use of rich language, the researchers caution that it does not diminish differences in the quality of parent speech related to parent education level. More educated parents more frequently labeled objects and events, their speech was grammatically more complex, and they more frequently repeated and expanded their children's prior utterances.

"Reminiscing is good, but it's not a magic bullet that closes societal and educational gaps. The applied motivation behind our line of research is to find ways that will close the gap in the language experience of children from more advantaged and less advantaged families," said Hoff. "Of course, it's good to find activities that enrich all children's language experience, and all children will benefit from such experiences. However, such activities can't be expected to eliminate all differences in children's experience."

Even though differences in language use associated with parent education are not eliminated, an important finding from this study is that the biggest effects on the quality of parent talk to children is the activity that parents and children are engaged in.

"I would suggest to parents that it's not just important to spend time with your children. What you're doing when you're spending time with them also is important," said Hoff. "It's good to carve out some time just to have a conversation. If you like reading books, read books, if you would rather talk about planning the future or talking about the past, do that. Make time to have conversations with your children."

Study co-authors are Fabio Trecca, Ph.D., senior researcher; Anders Hojen, Ph.D., an associate professor; and Dorthe Belses, Ph.D., a professor, all with the School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University; and Brett Laursen, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

This research was supported by Styrelsen for Uddannelse og Kvalitet (The Danish National Agency for Education and Quality) and by TrygFonden (grant 147476 to Belses).

  • Child Psychology
  • Child Development
  • Learning Disorders
  • Language Acquisition
  • Educational Psychology
  • K-12 Education
  • Early childhood education
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Interpersonal relationship
  • Hyperactivity
  • Great Ape language
  • Memory-prediction framework
  • Asperger syndrome

Story Source:

Materials provided by Florida Atlantic University . Original written by Gisele Galoustian. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Erika Hoff, Fabio Trecca, Anders Højen, Brett Laursen, Dorthe Bleses. Context and education affect the quality of parents' speech to children . Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology , 2024; 91: 101632 DOI: 10.1016/j.appdev.2024.101632

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30 Best universities for Psychology in Moscow, Russia

Updated: July 18, 2023

  • Art & Design
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Liberal Arts & Social Sciences
  • Mathematics

Below is a list of best universities in Moscow ranked based on their research performance in Psychology. A graph of 2.66M citations received by 371K academic papers made by 30 universities in Moscow was used to calculate publications' ratings, which then were adjusted for release dates and added to final scores.

We don't distinguish between undergraduate and graduate programs nor do we adjust for current majors offered. You can find information about granted degrees on a university page but always double-check with the university website.

1. Moscow State University

For Psychology

Moscow State University logo

2. National Research University Higher School of Economics

National Research University Higher School of Economics logo

3. Moscow Medical Academy

Moscow Medical Academy logo

4. Russian National Research Medical University

Russian National Research Medical University logo

5. RUDN University

RUDN University logo

6. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology logo

7. National Research Nuclear University MEPI

National Research Nuclear University MEPI logo

8. Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration logo

9. Moscow State Pedagogical University

Moscow State Pedagogical University logo

10. Bauman Moscow State Technical University

Bauman Moscow State Technical University logo

11. Finance Academy under the Government of the Russian Federation

Finance Academy under the Government of the Russian Federation logo

12. Moscow State Institute of International Relations

Moscow State Institute of International Relations logo

13. N.R.U. Moscow Power Engineering Institute

N.R.U. Moscow Power Engineering Institute logo

14. Moscow Aviation Institute

Moscow Aviation Institute logo

15. Plekhanov Russian University of Economics

Plekhanov Russian University of Economics logo

16. Russian State University for the Humanities

Russian State University for the Humanities logo

17. State University of Management

State University of Management logo

18. Russian State Social University

Russian State Social University logo

19. Moscow State Linguistic University

Moscow State Linguistic University logo

20. New Economic School

New Economic School logo

21. National University of Science and Technology "MISIS"

National University of Science and Technology "MISIS" logo

22. Russian State University of Oil and Gas

23. mendeleev university of chemical technology of russia.

Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia logo

24. Moscow Polytech

Moscow Polytech logo

25. Moscow State Technological University "Stankin"

Moscow State Technological University "Stankin" logo

26. National Research University of Electronic Technology

National Research University of Electronic Technology logo

27. Moscow State University of Railway Engineering

Moscow State University of Railway Engineering logo

28. Pushkin State Russian Language Institute

Pushkin State Russian Language Institute logo

29. Russian State Agricultural University

Russian State Agricultural University logo

30. Moscow International University

Moscow International University logo

Universities for Psychology near Moscow

Psychology subfields in moscow.

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  1. 25 Best Psychology Books to Read in 2023

    1. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt Buy on Amazon Add to library A professor of social psychology, Jonathan Haidt wrote The Happiness Hypothesis as an accessible vessel for his research into moral foundations theory.

  2. 10 Psychology Books Everyone Should Read

    Table of Contents 1. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales - Oliver Sacks In this classic book, Sacks documents a number of fascinating and strange cases that he came across in his work as a neurologist. The book is named after one of these cases: the man who mistook his wife for a hat had visual agnosia.

  3. Greatest Psychology Books (758 books)

    Loves these kind of books. Great fun to read and educational as well. Doesn't matter if they are truly scientific, as long as they keep people thinking then it's a good book. ... "Julie wrote: "Note: Psychology books differ greatly from Pop Psychology books. For example, Malcolm Gladwell vs. books by Fromm, Skinner, Jung, Freud, Piaget, or ...

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    5. The Wisdom Of Insecurity by Alan Watts Best Books on Psychology For Beginners 6. Do What You Are by Paul Tieger, Barbara Barron, & Kelly Tieger 7. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt 8. Influence by Robert Cialdini Best Psychology Books For Sales and Marketing 9. The Psychology Of Selling by Brian Tracy 10.

  5. 50 Must-Read Psychology Books (Best Complete List)

    Sparring Mind The 50 Best Psychology Books on Influence, Persuasion, and Human Behavior Reading is the supreme lifehack. Distilled insight that often took years to assemble can be grasped by the average reader in just a few hours. Books are nothing short of magic. And the more you know about social psychology and human behavior, the better.

  6. 20 Best Psychology Books of All Time

    The 20 best psychology books recommended by Dan Pink, Simon Sinek, Brian Tracy, Andrea Barber and James Altucher.

  7. The 10 Must-Read Psychology Books Every Human Being Should Read

    Thinking, Fast and Slow is proudly placed on all online mush-read psychology books shelves for a good reason - it's absolutely fascinating. Thought-Provoking Quote: "This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution." Daniel ...

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    In total more than 80 experts have helped make these lists. Our most recommended psychology book is Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. We already have reading lists outlining the best books on mindfulness, consciousness, depression, teenage mental health, child psychology and cognitive neuroscience. To keep up to date, check out our list ...

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    Lists Sociology Books 542 books — 437 voters Best Cognitive Science Books 355 books — 525 voters Growth Mindset 371 books — 399 voters Medicine and Literature 1,857 books — 2,020 voters Inspiring Books 4,125 books — 3,388 voters Best Positive Change Books 999 books — 618 voters Psychology Books More psychology books...

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    Dreaming 8 of Psychology's Greatest Books From the Classics to Today Your summer reading list for great psychology books starts here. Posted June 7, 2014 | Reviewed by Matt Huston The...

  12. 24 Best Books About Psychology: Fascinating Reads on Human Behavior

    24 Best Books About Psychology These books offer a good start for anyone who wants to know more about this fascinating field: 1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini This bestseller will teach you 6 principles of persuasion that will allow you to wield influence with your words.

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    Viktor E. Frankl (shelved 7896 times as psychology) avg rating 4.37 — 698,306 ratings — published 1959 Want to Read Rate this book 1 of 5 stars 2 of 5 stars 3 of 5 stars 4 of 5 stars 5 of 5 stars Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Hardcover) by Susan Cain (Goodreads Author) (shelved 6356 times as psychology)

  15. The 8 Best Psychology Books for Students

    The Psychology Major's Handbook by Tara L. Kuther. Tara L. Kuther offers some excellent tips for students in this handy psychology book. Learn about some of the many reasons to major in psychology, find great tips for academic success and learn more about some of the careers available to psychology majors.

  16. The Best Psychology Books for Every Topic

    Find a topic that interests you and you may find yourself becoming more confident, more decisive and more understanding of others. It never hurts to pick up a book and create some new, good habits! Browse these psychology books and learn more about cognitive, clinical, social and developmental psychology today. 10 Best Selling Psychology Books ...

  17. 20 Best Social Psychology Books of All Time

    Joseph Henrich. A New York Times Notable Book of 2020A Bloomberg Best Non-Fiction Book of 2020A Behavioral Scientist Notable Book of 2020A Human Behavior & Evolution Society Must-Read Popular Evolution Book of 2020A bold, epic account of how the co-evolution of psychology and culture created the peculiar Western mind that has profoundly shaped ...

  18. The 10 Best Psychology Books For Beginners

    Check this list then: Best Psychology Books For Students ). 1. The Psychology Book by Nigel C. Benson. 2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. 3. The Emotional Brain by Joseph E. LeDoux. 4.

  19. LibGuides: *Psychology Resource Guide: Research Tips

    Books on the topic. books can provide a good overview of the topic, and their lists of sources can point you to resources that you can use; Podcasts. There are many good podcasts that can give overviews on a variety of topics (e.g. Stuff You Should Know) Wikipedia. This online encyclopedia can be a good way of getting on overview of your topic.

  20. Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

    The University UNESCO Chair "Cultural-historical Psychology of Childhood" has currently launched a unique international Master's program "Cultural-historical Psychology and Activity Approach in Education", with participation of experts from Australia, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Lithuania and Switzerland.

  21. Meet Nadezhda Ladygina-Kohts: The first woman to study animal psychology

    Animal psychology is a laboratory science. Only by placing animals in situations that can never happen in the wild can scientists analyse their mental processes. ... The book was translated into several languages and earned Nadezhda Ladygina-Kohts widespread recognition. Primates have insights. Nadezhda experimented with various animals but ...

  22. 20 Best New Psychology Books To Read In 2024

    A list of 20 new psychology books you should read in 2024, such as Psychology 2e, Social Psychology and The Happiness Trap. Categories Experts Newsletter. BookAuthority; BookAuthority is the world's premier site for book recommendations, helping you discover the most recommended books on any subject. Explore; Home; Best Books; New Books ...

  23. To boost a preschooler's language skills, consider reminiscing

    Book sharing is a popular way parents engage young children in conversation. ... published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology,reveal that reminiscing is very good at eliciting high ...

  24. 30 Best Psychology universities in Moscow, Russia [Rankings]

    Moscow 30. Saint Petersburg 17. Omsk 6. Tomsk 6. Below is the list of 30 best universities for Psychology in Moscow, Russia ranked based on their research performance: a graph of 2.66M citations received by 371K academic papers made by these universities was used to calculate ratings and create the top.

  25. About MSUPE

    About MSUPE. Moscow State University of Psychology & Education - the first psychological university and one of the top universities of psychological studies in Russia. Founded under the initiative of the Moscow Government, the University aims at training highly qualified specialists in the field of education, healthcare and social protection.