Every few years I update my list of favorite psychology books, and it’s that time again. It turns out that this is my most popular blog post. So here’s my latest list. Let me know if you have some favorites that you think should have made it on my list but didn’t.
(These are in no particular order, i.e., #1 doesn’t mean it’s my favorite.)
I do have an Amazon affiliate account, so I’ve included a link to each book after the description if you are interested in purchasing or just getting more info.
And you may want to check out the post on the 7 Best User Experience Books.
1. Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, 2011 – If you want to understand how people think and how and why they react, then this is a must read. Daniel Kahneman is a Psychologist and a Nobel prize winner in Economics, but this book is all about how people think and react. It’s very well written, but I will warn you, it’s not an easy read. Plan to spend time reading this one. But it will be worth it for the understanding you get into why we do the things we do.
2. Redirect, by Timothy Wilson, 2011 – This is one of two books on my list by Timothy Wilson. If you want to know how to make permanent and lasting change in your behavior, or the behavior of someone you know, then this is the book to read. Wilson covers the recent and often very surprising research on interventions and therapies that result in people actually changing. Permanent behavior change is hard to come by. This book tells you what does and doesn’t work based on research.
3. Strangers to Ourselves: The Adaptive Unconscious, by Timothy Wilson, 2004 – This is the book that actually got me started seriously on the topic of the unconscious. I had read Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) and although that was an interesting book, I wanted more depth and detail. Gladwell referenced Wilson’s book so I started reading it and light bulbs went off for me. This one is a bit more academic and psychological, especially the first few chapters, but all in all, a great book with lots of interesting insights and strong research.
4. The Power of Habit , by Charles Duhigg, 2014. The science of habits — how we form them, change them, and why they are so powerful. Actually the information in one of the Appendices is, I think, the most powerful part of the book.
5. The Art of Choosing , by Sheena Iyengar, 2011. This is a thick book and research oriented, but it’s the best book out there for a survey of decision-making. Why do people make certain decisions? Why do they choose one thing over another? What makes them take action?
6. The Paradox of Choice , by Barry Schwartz, 2005. The premise of this book is that we all want lots of choices, but lots of choices don’t help us to choose. It’s easy to read and has lots of great research in it too.
7. The Knowledge Illusion by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, 2017. This book shows Sloman’s and Fernbach’s research on how our social networks frame what we think we know.
8. Drive, by Daniel Pink, 2011 – What really motivates people? This book covers the research on human motivation in the last few years. It’s well written, and an easy read, and will explode some long-standing beliefs.
9. How To Get People To Do Stuff by Susan Weinschenk, 2013. My book on the 7 drivers of motivation.
10. I Love You, Now Read This Book (It’s About Human Decision Making and Behavioral Economics) by Guthrie Weinschenk, 2019
We talked to some of these authors on our podcast Human Tech, so check those episodes out if you want to hear the authors discuss their ideas.