Did you know that thousands of books each year are released around the topic of psychology? From academic papers to short reads, they all attempt to educate the masses about the world of psychology.
There are many different reasons people why people read psychology books. Some read them to understand themselves and their own motivations. Academics and professionals hope to understand their clients and other people by developing their knowledge with insightful reads.
This trend has taken shape over the last 20 years with well-known, influential psychologists releasing reads on a variety of topics. Dan Ariely, John R. Anderson and Elliot Aronson have become notable names in the space, taking the limelight and attention towards the world of psychology.
We wanted to list 20 great psychology books for you to read and understand yourself better. Let’s immediately jump in!
1. Everything you need to know in life
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote from to Chaos – Jordan B. Peterson
A read from the clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, a book that has risen to the top of the best-sellers lists on popular sites like Amazon since its release in 2017.
“12 Rules for Life” explores simple rules to help navigate life. Everything from advice about managing anxiety to becoming more rooted as a person. Peterson explores a variety of topics that can help to provide a healthy dose of decision-making in your routine. Influenced by theories from Jung, Freud, Dostoevsky and many more throughout the book. The read has received a multitude of responses, from positive to negative, but “12 Rules for Life” has helped many people take control of their lives.
Peterson is a Canadian Clinical Psychologist with over 30 years experience and a lecturing role at Toronto University. Peterson also runs a popular YouTube channel with over 1M subscribers. Peterson is also known for his controversial conversations on language use.
2.Take a tour of your mind and what drives the way you think
Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
One of the most-read psychology books is this one by Daniel Kahneman. This 2011 book helps you understand topics in behavior science, engineering and medicine. Kahneman is a laureate and Nobel Memorial Prize winner.
The focus of the book surrounds two modes of thought. Contrasting the differences between the way the brain’s thought process works. The first mode referred to in the book as “System 1” a fast, unconscious and emotional method.
The second “System 2” a focus on a slower, more calculated thought process. Between these two modes, Kahneman uncovers the differences and how they can arrive at the same destination but using two different paths to the end result.
The book then goes onto uncover topics such as biases, over-confidence and choices rounding off that people place too much confidence on human judgement. This modern classic has sold over 1.5 million books to date and continues to help many people discover new ways to frame the thought process.
3. Reveal the social aspect of your mind and expose the bias
The Social Animal – David Brooks
Another 2011 read brings to light the subconscious and its impact on decision-making. Author, David Brooks, an American journalist shares his thoughts on how minds help to determine how we act and behave.
The core argument raised, is around deep internal emotions and how they establish the outward mindset that helps us make decisions. Brooks evaluates the brain as “dependent” in which he describes as “scouts” running into a neuronal network.
In a nutshell, the Social Animal by David Brooks focuses its attention on the universal approach to loneliness and how humans have an “urge to merge” and need to be continually understood by others around them. The Social Animal reached the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list on the release, with popularity on its book tour, even impressing the likes of ex-Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron. A must-read!
4. How and why do you choose?
The Art of Choosing – Sheena Iyengar
Choosing is one of the very different elements of our lives. We all make choices that shape our days and lives. Every day decisions are examined in Sheena Iyengar’s book The Art of Choosing.
Sheena uncovers whether a choice is activated naturally or moulded by the culture around us. Do people influence our decisions? And if so, how do they?
This book is perfect for those looking to understand the art of decision-making. The ones that are trying to understand what they’ve decided despite the influence coming from others around them. The choices we make daily define our habits and rituals. This book focuses its attention on redefining for those who struggle with this.
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5. Discover the secret to high performance and satisfaction
Drive – Daniel H. Pink
Daniel H. Pink has become very popular in recent years in the business space helping to cultivate advice around building strong leadership qualities.
Drive aims to uncover the premise of motivation and how it can drive people. Pink shares three elements that formulate the fuel behind true motivation. They are as follows:
- Autonomy — our desire to drive our direction
- Mastery — our aim to increase the quality of our efforts
- Purpose — our calling in life and what we do to serve others
The book draws on over four decades of scientific research on human motivation. Pink has quite some success in six popular reads around the topic of motivation and the workplace.
6. Improve your ideas
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Some Die – Chip & Dan Heath
This New York Times Best-Seller, Made to Stick is loved by many professionals in the business field looking to enhance their understanding of the anatomy of ideas uncovering all of the various success and failure stories to document how ideas have worked and not worked.
Chip and Dan Heath share how ideas come to fruition and stick to our culture. This book is revered by many business individuals as a way to improve communication around ideas. Made to Stick will help you to appreciate the principles of successful ideas and help apply rules to make your own message stick, whatever industry you are in.
7. Spiritual lessons from a life in Nazi death camps
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
One of the older books in the psychology realm, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is regarded as one of the classics of the 20th Century. This heart-wrenching tale of Viktor’s experience in Auschwitz during World War II documents his psychotherapeutic methodology which helped to shape a purpose for life and feeling positive towards.
During his time at the concentration camp, Frankl evaluated that the more a prisoner spent on envisioning the future, the higher their chances of longevity. The first part of the book looks into Frankl’s own experience, part two channels his ideas of meaning.
8. Understand how habits work and change your life
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
Habits are very long-winded experiences and for some, very hard to adopt. Charles Duhigg, now an award-winning New York Times business reporter uncovers the scientific discoveries behind habits and how they work in The Power of Habit. This is a must-read for those who love to understand the human motivations behind decision and routine-making.
Duhigg received a lot of praise for this book as it brings together how our human nature works with habit-forming. The Power of Habit tells stories of successful business professionals to sports stars and formulates how they’ve succeeded woven together with scientific research.
9. Never think about thinking the same way
Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
From the author of Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell launched “Blink”. The second book in his line-up shares insights from psychology and behavioral economic research about the adaptive unconscious. Adaptive unconscious is the mental process that routinely captures and processing little information.
Within the book, many situations are explored, including the fast-processing of marital relationship researcher, John Gottman. Gottman is known for analysing a couple’s success rates simply by spending 15-minutes with them. With a 90% accuracy rating, Gladwell explores how this “thin-slicing” approach comes into play in our daily lives, like with Gottman and his fast decision-making process.
Many of the examples in Blink help to bring together the power of thinking and how without thinking we can make judgments. A good reflective analysis of human psychology and our spontaneous decisions.
10. Are you seeing traits in people or projecting your own?
Inner Gold – Robert Johnson
Bestselling Author of He, She, We and other psychology books, brings together an insightful read around trait analysis. Robert Johnson explores the psychology, traits, loneliness and spiritual elements of history. From the era of early Christianity to the myths of our modern age
Touching on the many elements discussed by Carl Jung, “Inner Gold” revolves around Psychological projection a popular theory “in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others” theorized originally by Giambattista Vico in the 1700s.
The book is praised for helping to understand the psychology behind personality, traits and ego.
11. Achieving higher ethics in your everyday life
The Honest Truth about Dishonesty – Dan Ariely
Doctor Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and New York Times bestselling author examines the topic of truth in his book “The Honest Truth about Dishonesty”. Known for his psychology books, Dan Ariely has produced classics such as “The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational” which has been praised far and wide.
In “The honest truth about dishonesty“, the act of truth is analyzed. Looking into the factors that lead us to cheat and keep us honest. The book underlines the various ways truth is tested in our modern society from school test scores to police departments around the world to help put dishonestly into perspective.
Perfect for those looking to understand the human motivations behind truth and dishonesty.
12. How to replicate successful ideas
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World – Adam Grant
Originals by Adam Grant explores the world of ideas, in a similar fashion to Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.
The book takes on examples to examine how people champion ideas and how they bring these ideas to fruition. From novel ideas to ideas with unique values, Adam evaluates what makes ideas winning inside of all walks of life reviewing how they can be replicated to help tackle the world’s biggest problems without the essence of risk. From entrepreneurial examples to workplace situations, there are plenty of methodologies to explore in this book.
Now famed for his work on the WorkLife podcast by TED, Adam Grant continues to expand his insights and research into how workplace psychology works.
13. Understand why your brain is wired for self-justification
Mistakes Were Made: (But Not By Me) – Carol Tavris
Supported by years of research Carol Tavris examines in “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)” about the concept of self-justification. From the exploration of how this works, how damage is caused and how it can be overcome. Our self-worth is affected when we make mistakes and we want to make ourselves aware of how we can overcome this in a healthy manner.
Carol is a well-known social psychologist, lecturer and writer of many books. As a fellow at the Amercian Psychological Association and Psychological Science in the Public Interest, her study in “Mistakes Were Made” has been notably mentioned.
14. Understand how our perceptions stems from our brain
Incognito: The Secret Lives of Your Brain – David Eagleman
Cognitive psychological research is growing by the day and research on our brain continues to amaze the world of psychologists and expands our insights into how to treat disorders.
Renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman explores exactly the topic of the brain in his book, “Incognito: The Secret Lives of Your Brain” uncovers the role of the subconscious mind and the elements it operates. The conscious brain is active all day long with the subconscious running alongside with very little acknowledgement. The subconscious brain accounts for a surprising number of activities and decisions that come to light in this book.
A national bestseller, Incognito has been praised by many neuroscientists as a way to understand how the brain works and how to appreciate all its actions on a daily basis.
15. Understand the powerful influence of context in your life
Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World
“Situations Matter” is a thought-provoking book that explores the importance of context in your progression.
Sam Sommers, a social psychologist, reviews how context forces us to examine how we act and think about work and life. This book explores how the world affects you and your thought process. This book helps many to re-frame situations and how you can react to them based on the context. Taking control of context and shaping your decision-making to the reactions around you can have a massive impact on your outcomes in life.
16. Learn how your intuitions can deceive you
The Invisible Gorilla – Chabris & Simons
One of the most famous experiments in psychology has been the Invisible Gorilla conducted by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. “The Invisible Gorilla” experiment tested the theory of selective attention.
During the experiment, you are asked to count how many times players in white t-shirts throw a ball between them. Midway through the experiment, a man in a gorilla suit walks through. Many people do not see the gorilla and are tricked by selective attention despite the gorilla in plain view.
This book explores Chabris and Simon’s research into attention, perception, memory and reasoning to expose institutions that can get used into trouble. Examining the everyday illusions that test our reactions and how we can perceive decisions.
17. Discover your ability to imagine the future and whether it will make you happy
Stumbling On Happiness – Daniel Gilbert
Daniel Gilbert, psychologist and winner of the Royal Society of Science Prize in 2007, brings together how and why people don’t know how to make themselves happy.
Happiness is one of the hardest things to master thanks to the complexity and individuality of its needs. This book, “Stumbling On Happiness” examines how happiness works using many varieties of analysis, from the neuroscientific aspect to the philosophical angle. By combining these approaches, you can get a sense of the importance of happiness and how society perceives happiness. Revealing what motivates us to be happy and how the brain evaluates the future.
18. Learn to communicate better and score the likes of all people
How to Win Friends And Influence People – Dale Carnegie
A classic by Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” explores how you can communicate with other people and dominate the relationships you have with the people around you.
With over 30M copies sold worldwide, this is a classic that helps you to understand how humans are motivated to connect with others and teaching you the tactics to communicate in the best possible manner to build long-standing relationships. This book is perfect for building bridges with people and growing your social reach in a healthy and productive manner. Dale Carnegie’s efforts with this book back in 1936 have placed this book at 19 on the Top 100 TIME Most Influential Books.
19. Is there a human nature?
The Blank Slate – Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker’s 2002, “The Blank Slate” explores dogmas in our human nature.
For many beginners to psychology, this is one of the more advanced books that has gained popularity and explore theories such as evolutionary psychological adaptions as well as counter-arguments against tabula rasa models explored in social sciences. Steven Pinker has gained popularity through his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and computational theory of mind. He is a cognitive psychology and professor of psychology at Harvard University.
In essence, in The Blank Slate Steven Pinker explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings.
20. How to change when change is hard?
Switch – Chip & Dan Heath
“Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” is a follow-up book from Chip and Dan Heath to best-seller Made To Stick. The book explores the concept of change and how it affects our lives. For many, change, is very difficult to cope with, whether that is in our careers, or routine or our relationships.
Switch evaluates why change is hard and how you can overcome this feeling of adaptation showcasing examples how you can use embrace change instead of fearing it.
This list of psychology books has been put together to help you get a taster for the topic of psychology and explore concepts from traits, changes, work, ideas, perspective and many more to help build a healthy insight into the world of psychology.
Let us know in the comments below what you’ve read from these psychology books and whether you have any extended thoughts on your experience and learnings.