Students love stories that take them behind the scenes of the research. Textbooks may have some great anecdotes but trade books (unencumbered by the more stringent guidelines for textbooks) can provide special material to really engage. To the average instructor narrowly trained in one area of psychology, it is difficult to build knowledge in the different areas of psychology.
Many books now provide the intellectually curious instructor with material to whet their own appetites for more psychology. Looking for great anecdotes to share in class and freshen up a class? Want updates on research that has not made it into textbooks as yet? The list below provides you options for fun (summer) reading.
I have sifted and winnowed through the many options to make your temptations manageable. Some are written by psychologists you will recognize. Others represent strong science writing. In all cases, the format allows the authors to take some liberties they may not have taken in peer reviewed journal article so watch for the warning bells of exaggeration, overgeneralization, or misinterpretation. Some topics are still contested or being fine-tuned (e.g., grit, mindsets). These alerts aside, I trust you will find a lot to like.
[Books are listed in descending order by publication date. Support your independent and local booksellers – Better World Books, Bookshop, or Thriftbooks.(Links provide quick information). Want another non-Amazon option? Try Storygraph instead of Goodreads].
History and Approaches
- The knowledge machine: How irrationality created modern science (Michael Strevens, 2020).
- The story of psychology. (Morton Hunt, 2007).
- Opening Skinner’s Box: Great psychological experiments of the twentieth Century (Lauren Slater, 2005).
Research Methods and Statistics
- Queer data: Using gender, sex, and sexuality data for action (Kevin Guyan, 2022).
- Invisible women: Data bias in a world designed for men (Caroline Criado Perez, 2021).
- Calling bullshit: The art of skepticism in a data-driven world (Carl Bergstrom and Devin West, 2021).
- The WEIRDest people in the world (Joseph Henrich, 2021).
- W.E. B. Du Bois’s data portraits: Visualizing Black America (Battle-Baptiste & Rusert, 2018, Eds.).
- Even the rat was White: A historical view of psychology. (Robert Guthrie, 2003).
- The lady tasting tea: How statistics revolutionized science in the twentieth century (David Salsburg, 2001).
- The neuroscience of you: How every brain is different and how to understand yours (Chantel Prat, 2022).
- The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA matters for social equity (Kathryn Paige Harden, 2021).
- Seven and a half lesson about the brain (Lisa Feldman Barrett, 2020).
- Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst (Robert M. Sapolsky, 2018).
- How the wiring of our brain shapes who we are (Kevin Mitchell, 2018).
- Connectome: How the brain’s wiring makes us who we are (Sebastian Seung, 2012).
- Incognito: The secret lives of the brain (David Eagleman, 2011).
- Generations: The real difference between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents, and What they mean (Jean Twenge, 2023).
- Free to learn: Why unleashing the instinct to play will make our children happier, more self-reliant, and better students for life (Peter Gray, 2005).
- The scientist in the crib: What early learning tells us about the mind (Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff, & Patricia Kihl, 1999).
Culture & Diversity
- Under the skin: The hidden toll of racism on health in America (Linda Villarosa, 2023).
- Different: Gender through the eyes of a primatologist (Frans de Waal, 2023).
- Caste: The origins of our discontents (Isabel Wilkerson, 2023).
- Medical apartheid: The dark history of medical experimentation on Black Americans from colonial times to the present (Harriet Washington, 2008).
- Outsmart your brain: Why learning is hard and how you can make it easy (Daniel Willingham, 2023).
- The extended mind: The power of thinking outside your brain (Anne Murphy Paul, 2022).
- Think again: The power of knowing what you do not know (Adam Grant, 2021).
- How we learn: Why brains learn better than any machine…for now (Stanislas Dehane, 2020).
- Thinking Fast and Slow – (Daniel Kahneman, 2013).
Motivation & Emotion
- How to deal with angry people: Ten strategies for facing anger at home, at work, and in the street (Ryan Martin, 2023).
- How emotions are made: The secret life of the brain (Lisa Feldman Barrett, 2017).
- The emotional life of your brain: How its unique patterns affect the way you think, feel, and live- and how you can change them (Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley, 2012).
- The marshmallow test: Why self-control is the engine of success (Walter Mischel, 2015).
- Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking (Susan Cain, 2013).
- Grit: The power of passion and perseverance (Angela Duckworth, 20160.
- Mindset: The new psychology of success (Carol Dweck, 2007).
- The cult of personality testing: How personality tests are leading us to miseducate our children, mismanage our companies, and misunderstand ourselves (Anne Murphy Paul, 2005).
- Biased: Uncovering the hidden prejudices that shape what we see, think, and do (Jennifer Eberhardt, 2020).
- The Lost Boys: Inside Muzafer Sherif’s Robbers Cave experiment (Gina Perry, 2019).
- The wisest one in the room: How one can benefit from social psychology’s most powerful insights (Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross, 2015).
- Blindspot: Hidden biases of good people (Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, 2014).
- Behind the shock machine: The untold story of the notorious Milgram psychology experiments (Gina Perry, 2013).
- The man who shocked the world: The life and legacy of Stanley Milgram (Thomas Blass, 2009).
- Breath: The new science of a lost art (James Nestor, 2021).
- How to change your mind: What the new science of psychedelics teaches us about conscientiousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence. (Michael Pollan, 2018)
- Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams (Matthew Walker, 2017).
- Mind over monsters: Supporting youth mental health with compassionate challenge (Sarah Rose Cavanaugh, 2023).
- The end of trauma: How the new science of resilience is changing how we think about PTSD (George Bonanno, 2021).
- The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma (Bessel Van Der Kolk, 2015).
- Crazy like us: The globalization of the American psyche (Ethan Watters, 2011).
- Shrinks: The untold story of psychiatry (Jeffrey A. Liberman, 2005).
- Exercised: The science of physical activity, rest, and health (Daniel Liberman, 2021).
- Secrets from the eating lab: The science of weight loss, the myth of willpower, and why you should never diet (Traci Mann, 2015).
- The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business (Charles Duhigg, 2014).
General Psych related reads
- Psych: The story of the human mind. (Paul Bloom, 2023).
- How do we know ourselves? Curiosities and marvels of the human mind (David Myers, 2022).
- Everyday applications of psychological science: Hacks to happiness and health (Landrum et al., 2022).
- The biggest bluff: How I learning to pay attention, master myself, and win (Maria Konnikova, 2020).
- The tale of the dueling neurosurgeons: The history of the human brain as revealed by true stories of trauma, madness, and recovery (Sam Keen, 2015).
- The Talk (Darrin Bell, 2023).
- Two heads: A graphic exploration of how our brains work with other brains (Uta Frith, Chris, Frith, and Alex Frith, 2022).
- Seek you: A journey through American loneliness (Kristen Radtke, 2021).
- Psychology: The comic book introduction (Grady Klein and Danny Oppenheimer, 2018).
- Neurocomic (Matteo Farinella and Hana Ros, 2013).
- A short annotated list of books for passionate teachers.
- Some of my books on teaching, SoTL, academia, and more you may be interested in.
Read something you think belongs on this list? Let me know @Regan.Gurung@oregonstate.edu
Books Suggested By Readers Currently on my list to read
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family (Robert Kolker, 2020)
Successful aging: A neuroscientist explores the power and potential of our lives (Daniel Levitin, 2020).
Happiness is a choice you make: Lessons from a year among the oldest old (John Leland, 2019).
Elderhood (Louise Aronson, 2019)
Being mortal: Medicine and what matters in the end (Atul Gawande, 2017).