Great Reads For Intro Psych

Students love stories that take them behind the scenes of the research. Some textbooks have some great anecdotes but more often than not, it is the trade book (unencumbered by the more stringent guidelines for textbooks) that truly provide material to really engage. Furthermore, textbooks have a lot of ground to cover and do not have the space to always fully unpack certain topics. To the average instructor narrowly trained in one area of psychology, it is difficult to build knowledge in the different areas of psychology.

This is where trade books come in handy. Not only do they provide the intellectually curious instructor with material to whet their own appetites for more psychology, one can often find great anecdotes to share in class and freshen up a class. I have also found that many trade books provide 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. This alert aside, I trust you will find a lot to like.

History and Approaches

  1. The story of psychology. (Morton Hunt, 2007)
  2. The knowledge machine: How irrationality created modern science (Michael Strevens, 2020)

Research Methods and Statistics

  1. The WEIRDest people in the world (Joseph Henrich, 2021).
  2. The lady tasting tea: How statistics revolutionized science in the twentieth century (David Salsburg, 2001).
  3. W.E. B. Du Bois’s data portraits: Visualizing Black America (Battle-Baptiste & Rusert, 2018, Eds.).
  4. Queer data: Using gender, sex, and sexuality data for action (Kevin Guyan, 2022).


  1. The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA matters for social equity (Kathryn Paige Harden, 2021).
  2. Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst (Robert M. Sapolsky, 2018).
  3. Incognito: The secret lives of the brain (David Eagleman, 2011).
  4. Seven and a half lesson about the brain (Lisa Feldman Barrett, 2020).


  1. The scientist in the crib: What early learning tells us about the mind (Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff, & Patricia Kihl, 1999).
  2. 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)*.


  1. How we learn: Why brains learn better than any machine…for now (Stanislas Dehane, 2020).
  2. Thinking Fast and Slow – (Daniel Kahneman, 2013)

Motivation & Emotion

  1. How emotions are made: The secret life of the brain (Lisa Feldman Barrett, 2017).
  2. 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).


  1. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking (Susan Cain, 2013).
  2. 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).


  1. Biased: Uncovering the hidden prejudices that shape what we see, think, and do (Jennifer Eberhardt, 2020).
  2. The man who shocked the world: The life and legacy of Stanley Milgram (Thomas Blass, 2009).
  3. Blindspot: Hidden biases of good people (Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, 2014)*.


  1. Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams (Matthew Walker, 2017).
  2. How to change your mind: What the new science of psychedelics teaches us about conscientiousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence. (Michael Pollan, 2018)

Clinical/Psychological Disorders

  1. Shrinks: The untold story of psychiatry (Jeffrey A. Liberman, 2005).
  2. Crazy like us: The globalization of the American psyche  (Ethan Watters, 2011).
  3. The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma (Bessel Van Der Kolk, 2015).*


  1. Exercised: The science of physical activity, rest, and health (Daniel Liberman, 2021).
  2. The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business  (Charles Duhigg, 2014).

General Psych related reads

  1. The biggest bluff: How I learning to pay attention, master myself, and win (Maria Konnikova, 2020).
  2. 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).

Read something you think belongs on this list? Let me know or fill out this form.

  • *Contributor suggestions. Thank you: Jill Hogan (Siena College)

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