Understanding human behavior and how people think can teach you a lot about yourself, as well as how to best deal with others.
And in creative writing, if you’re developing a character, understanding their motivations and behaviors can make all the difference when it comes to making the character relatable and your story plausible.
Even if you don’t have any psychology background, reading books on psychology is a great way to get start learning about human psychology.
24 Best Books About Psychology
These books offer a good start for anyone who wants to know more about this fascinating field:
1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
This bestseller will teach you 6 principles of persuasion that will allow you to wield influence with your words. This book is excellent for those who have great ideas but have trouble getting other people to acknowledge them.
2. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell has spent years studying how people succeed, and he shares his findings in this book. His 10,000-hour rule is introduced in this book as a way for anyone to achieve expertise in any given field.
3. Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole by Dr. Allan Ropper and Brian David Burrell
This book deals with frontline clinical neurology, which involves the challenge of healing the body while the mind is under siege. He shares examples of cases he personally encountered, making its narrative-feel great for teaching students about brain disease symptoms.
4. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
This book delves into behavioral research and contains many examples related to economics, which shouldn’t be surprising, considering the author was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.
5. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
The Heath brothers take a look into why it seems so difficult to make permanent changes in our lives, our communities, and our companies. They offer a well-structured argument that’s broken down into understandable sections, making this book a smooth read for anyone regardless of education or experience.
6. The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
The author studies how people make choices, as well as looks into what external factors play into those choices, and how choices can overwhelm some people, causing them to delay the decision even in light of all the benefits offered them.
7. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman
This book, the result of a new breed of psychology studies that focuses on positive psychology, looks into the different effects of optimism and pessimism on depression and how people respond to failure. Through clinical research, he shows how optimism can enhance your quality of life.
8. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
This book on positive psychology explains what your brain is hard-wired to do. The author uses expert research and relevant anecdotes to bring his point across in an enjoyable read.
9. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
An award-winning psychologist, the author takes a look at ancient ideals and wisdom and puts them to the test of modern science, then applies these results to 21st century life. He leads interesting discussions that dissect beliefs, religions, behavioral biases, morality, and consciousness.
10. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
Daniel Pink studies what motivates people in the workplace, examining both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators that lead a person to persist through difficulty.
11. Seven Longings of the Human Heart by Mike Bickle and Deborah Hiebert
Combining psychology and principles from the ancient text of the Bible, Mike Bickle shares the seven longings inherent in every human heart and shows how we cannot reason them away, but instead need to embrace them as natural parts of ourselves.
12. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
The author examines how seemingly trivial changes that we don’t always notice can affect our behavior. This book will help you understand the way your brain works, while also helping you understand how best to persuade others.
13. The Private Life of the Brain by Susan Greenfield
From the reading list of Oxford University’s psychology course, this book looks at the effects of neurological injuries and disorders, the use of drugs, and a person’s dreams in schizophrenia. Though sometimes a heavy read, it provides a solid foundation for neuroscience research.
14. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The book focuses on the different subgroups of habits and shows how they operate in your brain. It contains explanations of how habits are formed or changed and real-life cases to help you understand the full potential of human nature.
15. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely packs this book with bold ideas, challenging us to rethink old views of cheating and dishonesty. He builds up his case to a compelling conclusion, asking whether there is ever any context that makes cheating acceptable.
16. The Little Book of Psychology by Emily Ralls and Caroline Riggs
A great book to pick up for a beginner’s overview of psychology, this will introduce you to famous psychologists, key theories, and psychological studies. At just 128 pages, it’s an informative read for new psychology students.
17. Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince by Roger Dooley
Using bite-sized explanations of several studies, this book is a great starting point for anyone wanting to learn persuasion skills.
18. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz
Schwartz looks at the effect that too many options can have on your decision-making process. He proposes that it tricks us into thinking all those options are a good thing, even when that’s not necessarily so. The author effectively explains things in easily-understandable terms.
19. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo
The book that inspired the film The Stanford Prison Experiment deals with the issue of why people who are good can be persuaded to do evil, and examines the line between bad and good. The author details his infamous experiment where volunteers were put in a mock prison and assigned the roles of either guards or prisoners.
20. Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds by Martin Lindstrom
Although this book seems to have a marketing slant, it also offers a look into how brands persuade people to buy their products. It includes several interesting studies that reveal how marketers use specific tactics to win people over.
21. The Compass of Pleasure by David Linden
This book takes a look into why some substances are addictive and why we are drawn to things we believe are pleasurable. It will help you understand the nature of addiction and what addictive substances do to your brain.
22. The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain by Tali Sharot
Tali Sharot takes an in-depth look at memory, optimism, and how they connect with our emotions and behavior. It uses neuroscience and studies conducted on memory to help you understand its main principles.
23. Mindfulness by Ellen Langer
The main premise of this book is that mindless behavior leads to much pain in life. It will challenge you to be more mindful of your actions, being careful to note when automatic behavior snaps into place.
24. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving by John Medina
This book looks into productivity and relationship management, making it also a good choice for those who want to learn about management or leadership.
Great Books About Psychology
Reading books on human psychology can help you understand more about yourself, others, and the world around you.
Understanding human behavior is also important if you want to create well-developed characters that readers can connect with. For more on character development, check out our guide on how to create a character profile.
Do you have a favorite book on psychology? Share it with us in the comments below!