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10 Books Practicing Psychologists Read That You Should Probably Read Too

Wondering how you can learn psychology through books? My advice: Read what practicing psychologists and therapists read.

Yes, in this article I’ll cover what type of books popular, and not so, behavior scientists, Ph.D. practitioners, and psychology veterans recommend and read in their spare time.

After all, it’s one thing to read articles like must-read psychology books, or the best books for psychology students. But quite another if you’re serious about becoming a better reader of the human mind and a better predictor of human behavior. This list will unravel what’s behind the curtains. Behind the desks of practicing psychologists who are actively talking with people about their emotional troubles.

After a deep dive into the endless depths of the online forums and university about pages, we’re going to see what current famous psychologists are reading related to their area of expertise. With this, you will have a better idea of what type of books you should probably update your library with if you want to master the exciting field of cognitive functions and behaviors.

10 Books Psychologists Read and Recommend:

1. Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

Delusions of Gender cordelia Fine book cover

Recommended by Nicholas Epley. He is the John Templeton Keller Professor of Behavior Science and Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.1

What’s the book about?

A book that explains the differences between sexes. This title outlines the latest research in neuroscience and psychology. In particular, Cordelia Fine debunks the myth of hardwired differences between men’s and women’s brains. According to the author, the gender differences are much smaller than what we are told and than what we expect them to be.

Who is it for?

People who are interested in understanding the differences, or the lack of them, between male and female brains. If you want to learn more about the fascinating world of gender, numerous psychologists recommend this read.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“When the environment makes gender salient, there is a ripple effect on the mind. We start to think of ourselves in terms of our gender, and stereotypes and social expectations become more prominent in the mind. This can change self-perception, alter interests, debilitate or enhance ability, and trigger unintentional discrimination. In other words, the social context influences who you are, how you think and what you do.” Cordelia Fine

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2. Beginning Mindfulness by Andrew Weiss

Beginning Mindfulness by Andrew Weiss book cover

David Ranks has a Ph.D. and he’s a practitioner and the University of Utah.2

What’s the book about?

Life can be so chaotic. We don’t even realize how we spend our time. We simply exist. In this book, Buddhist teacher Andrew Weiss presents a practical step-by-step guide to mindfulness training. The content is presented as a ten-week course that walks us through a variety of mindfulness exercises.

Who is it for?

Mostly for people who want to learn the guiding principles of mindfulness through formal and informal practices. Also, for people who are unable to focus. Such that can’t concentrate on one thing for more than 10 seconds. This book promises to help you tame your sporadic thoughts so you can find mental clarity.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“When you are in touch with what comes up, and at the same time maintain the direction of metta, you can enter so deeply into your own anguish that you can emerge from it with your perspective transformed and your heart widened.” Andrew Weiss

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3. The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook by Martin M. Anthony

The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook by Martin M. Anthony book cover

Simon Rego, Psy.D., attending psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.3

What’s the book about?

The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook explains why shy people suffer when in social situations. But most of all, the title aims to help readers overcome “outside” situations that terrify them. Equip folks with the skills they need to gain confidence in order to escape paralyzing social phobias. Level up their social game by practicing exercises shaped and carefully tailored by practicing psychologists.

Who is it for?

People looking for help to overcome their social anxiety. If you’re constantly feeling stressed when you go out and talk to people, you’ll most probably need to check this book. The research-based exercises will give you the tools you need to become a social wunderkind.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“To summarize, fear is an emotional reaction to an immediate danger, whereas anxiety is a state of apprehension about some future threat. For example, worrying about giving a presentation that is a week away is a reflection of anxiety, whereas experiencing an adrenaline rush while in the midst of giving a presentation is usually an example of fear.” Martin M. Anthony

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4. The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

The Language Instinct How the Mind Creates Language book cover

Brian A. Wandell. The first Isaac and Madeline Stein Family Professor. He joined the Stanford Psychology faculty in 1979.4

What’s the book about?

The one and only Steven Pinker aim to explain everything there is to know about language. According to Pinker, language is part of our DNA. It’s an instinct we can’t live without. It’s wired into our brains. In simple words, grammar is built-in. Regardless of the language children will learn at some point, they will use the words grammatically without any instruction. The book The Language Instinct explains why this is, how the brain computes language, and how language evolved.

Who is it for?

Language-addicts who want to know how we produce language, how we learn it, how it’s structured in our heads. Plus, when it’s best to start learning a new foreign language. (Spoiler alert: As soon as possible!)

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“The very concept of imitation is suspect to begin with (if children are general imitators, why don’t they imitate their parents’ habit of sitting quietly in airplanes?).” Steven Pinker

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5. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher K. Germer

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer book cover

This book is recommended by Jenny Taitz, Psy.D. She is a clinical psychologist and author of How to Be Single and Happy.5

What’s the book about?

This book is about enhancing your self-worth. The online world is constantly meshing with the real world. Social media sites full of seemingly “perfect” people make you feel intimidated and not enough on a daily basis. Perfect, it seems, is the new normal. But where does this leaves us? How does this make us feel? That’s right, truly overwhelmed and suffering. The title will teach you how to remove the destructive thoughts that whisper “I’m not worthy” from your brain.

Who is it for?

People who struggle with self-validation. People who strive hard to appear flawless everywhere online and feel emotionally exhausted by the whole process of trying to prove to others their uniqueness. If you’re too hard on yourself, this book will teach you how to find acceptance.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“Actually, when bad things happen to us, we tend to have three unfortunate reactions: self-criticism, self-isolation, and self-absorption. Neff’s three components of self-compassion direct us exactly in the opposite direction: self-kindness, recognizing the common humanity in our experience, and a balanced approach to negative emotions.” Christopher K. Germer

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6. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly Brené Brown cover

Tess Brigham. She is a San Francisco-based psychotherapist with more than 10 years of experience in the field.6

What’s the book about?

Vulnerability is hardly discussed topic. However, this is something we experience daily. Whether the arena is the office, your home, during a meeting with a client, we often feel exposed, fragile, and barely able to speak. This book will teach you how to handle difficult conversations. Find the courage to keep progressing even if you’re feeling emotionally threatened. And as a bonus, the content in the book will aid you in your parenting journey.

Who is it for?

Insecure individuals who find it hard to maintain a positive self-talk attitude. Also, for parents who are unsure of how to maintain a healthy relationship with their children. A powerful question the author asks in the book is, “Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?”

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” Brené Brown

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7. On Becoming a Person by Carl R. Rogers

On Becoming a Person A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy by Carl Rogers cover

Jordan Bernt Peterson. Canadian professor of psychology and a clinical psychologist. He’s also a world-famous author of several highly read books.7

What’s the book about?

While the book was first published in 1961, it’s still a vital read for people who want to find the part of themselves that is holding them down. The book uncovers, the revolutionary at the time, client-centered therapy. This psychotherapeutic practice is now considered mainstream in the field of psychology. Rogers explains in great length the different branches of psychology, and also, he connects client-centered therapy to education, leadership in the workplace, and family life.

Who is it for?

Even if you’re not a practicing psychologist or a therapist, the book is still highly recommended for people who want to improve themselves. As readers of this book report, it can positively help you fight through the tough situations we experience daily. Break the self-imposed limitations and find positivity even in the grimmest times.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“A person is a fluid process, not a fixed and static entity; a flowing river of change, not a block of solid material; a continually changing constellation of potentialities, not a fixed quantity of traits.” Carl R. Rogers

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8. The Stress-Proof Brain by Melanie Greenberg

The Stress-Proof Brain by Melanie Greenberg cover

Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with clients managing anxiety and depression.8

What’s the book about?

How to outmaneuver the things that are stressing us out? How to calm the brain and survive the day? People all over the world are asking themselves these questions. In this research-based book, Melanie Greenberg, practicing psychologist and executive coach in Marin County, is sharing resources on how to properly respond to the stressful situations our current times are constantly creating.

Who is it for?

Especially good for people living busy lives (all of us probably) who, no matter how hard they try, can’t reach the level of happiness that’s all over the news and social media. This book promises that, through exercises, you’ll find effective ways to respond to stress.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“When outcomes are uncertain, most of us spend a great deal of energy ruminating, worrying, and second-guessing ourselves. Not only is this a waste of time, but it makes us less likely to succeed.” Melanie Greenberg

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9. Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain cover

The leaders of Northcentral University School of Psychology.9

What’s the book about?

This book praises introverts who dislike self-promotion and roll their eyes every time they see a selfie online. Susan Cain explains how you can live an interesting life even if you’re regularly handwriting letters, love libraries, and barely speak when among others. She goes even further and proves that most of the so-called famous people we see on the TV and online these days are, in fact, insecure introverts who also feel like a fraud even though they don’t show it.

Who is it for?

Shameful introverts that think that they don’t belong in a crowder room. Shy, contact avoiders who are doing everything possible to stay away from social contact. Quiet by Susan Cain will help you find your inner strength even if your go-to place is the quiet corner of the library on Friday night.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” Susan Cain

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10. Nudge by Richard H. Thaler

Nudge Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler cover

Robert Cialdini. The author of the absolute best-seller, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. A must-read psychology book.10

What’s the book about?

We are pressured to make choices on a daily basis. What to have for dinner. What to buy. What to say. Sadly for us, these choices are often suboptimal. The Nobel Prize winner, Richard H. Thaler, wants to enhance our decision-making skills, remove our biases when facing a choice, and hopefully make the best out of the situation we are experiencing.

Who is it for?

If you want to understand yourself better. Become more flexible. Learn more ways to navigate in the modern world where we are bombarded with options. And also, for people who want “to nudge people toward the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society, without restricting our freedom of choice.”

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“You want to nudge people into socially desirable behavior, do not, by any means, let them know that their current actions are better than the social norm.” Richard H. Thaler

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Some Closing Thoughts

If you’re interested in self-learning, immersing yourself into the vast field of psychology, a common question is: Where do I start if I want to learn psychology?

Of course, taking a class and enrolling in a university is probably the best answer. But what if you’re too old for school, or you simply want to learn about the field but don’t want to actually become a practicing therapist, for example?

Well, then, the best answer is reading the books practicing psychologists read.

The titles above are all recommended by psychologists who are recognized in their fields. People who have years of experience and are working with patients.

The logic is simple: If you read what psychologists read – the places they get their ideas and strategies when working with people – you’ll learn the core concepts that will help you better understand human behavior. This, as you can imagine, will make you better at spotting errors in your actions as well as flaws in the surrounding people.


Footnotes:

  1. Gerber, Eve. The best books on Behavioral Science recommended by Nicholas Epley. FiveBooks blog.
  2. Meyers, Laurie. Recommended reading. Psychologists share the contents of their self-help shelves. American Psychological Association.
  3. Meyers, Laurie. Recommended reading. Psychologists share the contents of their self-help shelves. American Psychological Association.
  4. Wandell, Brian. Suggested Reading in Psychology. Stanford University site.
  5. Borges, Anna. 17 Therapist-Approved Books That Will Teach You Something New About Yourself. Self website.
  6. Brigham, Tess. A psychotherapist shares the 5 best parenting books for raising strong and confident kids. CNBC website.
  7. Dr. Peterson, Jordan. Great Books. Literature and Philosophy. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson website.
  8. Capetta, Amy. These Are The Best Books for People With Anxiety, According to Psychologists. GoodHousekeeping website.
  9. 10 Psychology Books You Should Read. Northcentral University School of Psychology website.
  10. Burton, Jonathan. 6 books that influence guru Robert Cialdini wants you to read. Market Watch website.
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