The-10-Must-Read-Psychology-Books

The 10 Must-Read Psychology Books Every Human Being Should Read

Do you know what’s the main goal of psychology? Not for a practicing therapist. But for us, the regular humans? While the answer lies somewhere in the list of must-read psychology books mentioned below, think about what first comes to your mind when the word psychology is mentioned… Let me help. The goal, most broadly, is to understand the human psyche. Then, by taking into account the learned material, to calm your mind when under stress. Smooth talk yourself when you are feeling worried. Help the fellow human being beside you feel the same – better. Yes, there is also the opportunity to persuade and influence others, but that’s just a side effect of doing the former.

But how do you learn about the human psyche and how do you amend the damaging feelings that are trying hard to force you to do bad stuff? To stop betraying yourself when you need to be strong? To feel courageous when fear creeps under your skin and tries to bring you down?

Here is where psychology books come in.

There are literally thousands of books written on the subject of human behavior. Thousands of scientific papers trying to explain how the human mind works and what are its functions. Research articles are written by famous psychologists who aim to uncover the mental characteristics and attitudes that govern our daily actions.

Naturally, if you’re new to the field of human behavior, you’ll ask yourself this: Where should I start? What books should I read if I want to understand how my mind, and also the mind of the person next to me, actually works? Why do I feel the way I feel? And why I’m still doing the same old mistakes that I swore that I’ll stop doing in the past?

Reading psychology shouldn’t be approached lightly. Some people read it just for fun. Others, professionals, read it because they have to. Third, want to take advantage of others and turn to the top books in the field of psychology to take advantage of others who step into their stores.

Psychology gives your superpowers. You start to see the hidden. The undiscovered in the self. What triggers emotions. What causes behavior. What stimulates inaction. And these things, in the wrong hands can be devastating.

But we shouldn’t read the best psychology books to take advantage of others. And no, we shouldn’t read psychology just to get others. Just to understand ourselves. We should read psychology so we can push the world forward. To reinforce good behavior in ourselves as well as in our peers and motivate them to do the same for their friends, too.

This article aims to cover one simple thing: What are the must-read psychology books that someone curious about understanding how the human psyche works should check.

As a passionate reader, online librarian, a person who summarized over 100 books, and also researcher. I was curious, myself, what books are considered must-reads on human psychology. That’s why I took a wild ride in the online world to compile this list of the best psychology books.

So, without further ado, here is a list of must-read psychology books I consider vital for anyone looking to become an expert on how we are designed to operate:

The 10 Must-Read Psychology Books:

1. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman book cover

What’s the book about?

Emotional intelligence is about your ability to steer your own emotions regardless of the outside circumstances. The skill to resist temptation. The masterful act of remaining calm when being provoked by arrogant assholes. And, the option to remain polite and reasonable to someone who’s the opposite of good to you.

This book will basically teach you how to become an emotional Jedi master. Introduce you to concepts that will help you keep your motivation high even when all seem hopeless. Understand your deeper feelings so you can modify your actions accordingly. And thirdly, learn how to navigate with ease in stressful social situations.

Who is it for?

Saying that this book is for everyone sounds too optimistic. But yes, everyone is a valid group. Since our emotions are an inseparable part of our lives, it does pay well to learn more about to handle stressful situations and also acquire additional techniques to do the same while dealing with agitated people – including yourself.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“People’s emotions are rarely put into words, far more often they are expressed through other cues. The key to intuiting another’s feelings is in the ability to read nonverbal channels, tone of voice, gesture, facial expression and the like.” Daniel Goleman

Read my summary | Get the book

2. Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini

Influence Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini book cover

What’s the book about?

Widely promoted by marketers and business owners for marketers and business owners. This book is the go-to title for everyone looking to make others purchase his/hers product. And while the text is actually not that tailored towards persuading people and forcing them to buy, the book has a lot to teach us about how to manage and work with other people.

Robert B. Cialdini offers simple, yet subtle methods to make others like you more. And once they like you more, you can basically make them do what you want them to do.

Who is it for?

Mainly for marketers and designers who are creating products and hoping to persuade the masses to get these products. Yet, everyone interacting with human beings on a daily basis can benefit from the resources gathered by Dr. Cialdini. Interesting fact: Worldwide, Influence has sold over 2 million copies.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided.” Robert B. Cialdini

Read my summary | Get the book

3. The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson

The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson book cover

What’s the book about?

When I read The Social Animal, I didn’t know that I was holding a masterpiece. I was hellishly unaware of how heavily mentioned and praised this book was. I simply thought it was amazing and I moved on. Now, I know. This book was designed to teach you how to work the social dynamics. Elliot Aronson offers plain and quite funny insight as to what psychologists know about human behavior in the social context.

Who is it for?

For those who are interested in upgrading their skills when interacting with others. The book covers a lot of ground in the field of human behavior. Making it a must-read psychology book, not only for the people interested in the field. But also for every self-respecting individual looking for ways to become a better citizen of the world. Here are some of the contexts included in the book: terrorism, conformity, obedience, politics, race relations, advertising, war, interpersonal attraction, and the power of religious cults.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“The more similar a person seems to you in attitudes, opinions, and interests, the more you like the person. Opposites may attract, but they don’t stick.” Elliot Aronson

Read my summary | Get the book

4. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud book cover

What’s the book about?

Freud’s goal in this book is to make the unconscious, conscious. According to his studies, our real self, our real longings, are revealed in our dreams. The problem? The stories we dream about are heavily encrypted. There is a reason for that too. Since our dreams are about what we want, but what we still don’t have, if you clearly see what you lack in the dream, the dream will quickly turn into a nightmare.

Who is it for?

For those of us who are interested in learning their deepest thoughts and ambitions. The secret desires encrypted in our dreams. The book wants to help you understand what your unconscious holds and what steps you can take to reveal your true desires in the physical world.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“What is common in all these dreams is obvious. They completely satisfy wishes excited during the day which remain unrealized. They are simply and undisguisedly realizations of wishes.” Sigmund Freud

Get the book

5. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks book cover

What’s the book about?

Based on real stories, the book explains how patients who lost their identities struggle to find their real selves. The title is actually from a real case, a man who mistook his wife for a hat that had visual agnosia. This is a state of mind where people cannot successfully interpret incoming visual information, which leads to an inability to recognize objects or faces. The brilliant tales in this famous psychology book deconstruct what it means to be a human.

Who is it for?

People interested in learning more about real clinical cases. People who want to find ways to understand how to find themselves even when everything seems lost. The author of the book is also the person behind the much-celebrated title of Awakenings. A book which was adapted into a film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“To be ourselves we must have ourselves – possess, if need be re-possess, our life-stories. We must “recollect” ourselves, recollect the inner drama, the narrative, of ourselves. A man needs such a narrative, a continuous inner narrative, to maintain his identity, his self.” Oliver Sacks

Get the book

6. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky

Behave The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky book cover

What’s the book about?

An almost impossible to read book on human behavior. After all, who has the time to read 800 pages? Yet, people label it as a masterful distillation of academic research on social behavior. The celebrated neurobiologist and primatologist, Robert Sapolsky, creates a genre-defining examination of how we act and why we do what we do.

Who is it for?

People interested in figuring out why behavior occurs. What type of neurobiological signals transfer just a second before we do something. Keep in mind that this book should be approached with patience. Take your time and savor every sentence.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“Why is it that our automatic, intuitive moral judgments tend to be nonutilitarian? Because, as Greene states in his book, “Our moral brains evolved to help us spread our genes, not to maximize our collective happiness.” Robert M. Sapolsky

Get the book

7. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman book cove

What’s the book about?

The seminal work of Daniel Kahneman explains that there are two systems in our brains that define our actions. System 1 is highly emotional. Reacts impulsively based on intuition and it’s fueled by the desire of our genes to survive another day. System 2 is a lot slower. It involves thinking deeply about things and being rational. Fast thinkers usually make wrong decisions, while slow thinkers can win Nobel prizes.

Who is it for?

Everyone looking for ways to level-up their rationality and prevent impulsive decisions from ruining their lives. Thinking, Fast and Slow is proudly placed on all online mush-read psychology books shelves for a good reason – it’s absolutely fascinating.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.” Daniel Kahneman

Read my summary | Get the book

8. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk book cover

What’s the book about?

Bessel van der Kolk is a pioneering researcher and one of the world’s foremost experts on traumatic stress. And with his book, he created an authoritative guide to the effects of trauma and pathways to recovery. The pages explore (mainly) the life of veterans and their painful emotional experiences after their years in the military. Consider this a how-to guide on how you can heal your mind from trauma.

Who is it for?

People interested in helping others who struggle from traumatic experiences and what to understand what causes them. Reportedly – by readers and reviewers of the book- this work can help you recover from sabotaging thoughts and lack of motivation.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself… The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.” Bessel A. van der Kolk

Read my summary | Get the book

9. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely book cover

What’s the book about?

Dan Ariely explains that we are not – I repeat, we are not – rational humans. We are bound to make stupid choices. We constantly need to remind ourselves why certain things are good for us and why we need to keep doing them, eating healthy food, for example. Along with this, why certain behaviors are bad and why we need to stop ourselves every time we see a chocolate cake. Plus, a long list of other destructive habits we need to stop doing if we want to steer our lives in the right direction.

Who is it for?

For people who want to stop doing the same types of mistakes regularly. For people who want to challenge the imposed social norms and ignite a train of thoughts that can lead to a substantial change. The groundbreaking research by Dan Ariely will help us become a bit more rational and a bit more innovative.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“Ownership is not limited to material things. It can also apply to points of view. Once we take ownership of an idea — whether it’s about politics or sports — what do we do? We love it perhaps more than we should. We prize it more than it is worth. And most frequently, we have trouble letting go of it because we can’t stand the idea of its loss. What are we left with then? An ideology — rigid and unyielding.” Dan Ariely

Get the book

10. The Evolving Self by Robert Kegan

The Evolving Self by Robert Kegan book cover

What’s the book about?

In this no so widely shared book, but absolutely a must-read, Robert Kegan explains how our behavior, as well as our motivations, change with age. The author uncovers the typical way an individual evolves; What type of experiences he’ll eventually adore; What are his relationships with the items and the people around him. By revealing these stages of evolution, he aims to help us grow more competent of our desires and learn that the things we own don’t define who we are – we just have them.

Who is it for?

The Evolving Self is especially good for curious parents who want to understand their children and what they can do to help them grow into more humble and caring individuals. Personally, I think that everyone should read this book. It contains a lot of hard-to-get words, but the ideas shared are surely transformational.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“If you want to understand another person in some fundamental way you must know where the person is in his or her evolution…the way in which the person is settling the issue of what is ‘self’ and what is ‘other’ essentially defines the underlying logic (or ‘psychologic’) of the person’s meanings.” Robert Kegan

Read my summary | Get the book

Some Closing Thoughts

I’ve deliberately made this list of must-read psychology books shorter – containing only 10 books. Because, what’s the point of checking 20, 30, or even 50 titles on psychology if you read none of them, right?

Also, I wanted to share that the list of books mentioned above is after checking various other publications offering similar lists. Plus, of course, taking into account the psychology books I’ve already read and summarized.

If you’re just getting started in the field of human behavior and how the psyche works, each of these books is a good starting point.

If you’re already a passionate psychology reader, I hope you found titles you haven’t seen before.

Either way, the field of human psychology is something we all, I believe, should take some time to explore. After all, this field uncovers the mechanics of how our brains operate. And by learning how we’re programmed, we can become more reasonable humans who care for each other.

Subscribe to The Study Newsletter

A biweekly bookish newsletter for lifelong learners and wanderers alike. Consider it your private space to discover new interesting reads.

Share this with others