Fascinated by the human psyche? Want to know more about how your mind works? The best psychology books are a fascinating way to delve into these topics.
There’s so much to learn and discover about the human condition, from how to understand our emotions to how to make better decisions, which can in turn help you lead a happier, more fulfilled life. Knowledge, after all, is power.
Whether you prefer to read on one of the best eReaders, or generally favor print books, you might not have considered picking up one of the best psychology books before. Plenty of us turn to one of the best romance books, the best historical fiction books, or even the best thriller books to help us unwind at the end of a long day. But books on the human psyche are some of the best books of 2021, and can offer a truly incredible insight into our minds and why we function like we do.
Whether you’d like to develop healthy new habits, make quicker decisions or understand why humans often have irrational thoughts, then these are the books for you. Our pick of the best psychology books will help you to learn more about the human brain and understand how our minds and emotions really work.
The best psychology books to read in 2021
The below books cover a huge range of topics within the arena of human psychology, from habit-forming to the secrets of successful people, and how to tune our brains towards better and faster decision-making.
Our selection will help you to understand why we act the way we do, and how to change up your thoughts and behaviours for a smoother, easier, and more productive life.
1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
With 2 million copies sold, Thinking, Fast and Slow is an iconic popular psychology book that will literally change the way you think about… thinking. The book explains how our minds can be tripped up by error, irrationality and prejudice, even if we don’t realise it, and how to slow our thought processes for smarter decision-making. Featuring anecdotes, practical exercises and mind-blowing insights, this book will help you make better, smarter decisions both in your professional and personal life – by teaching you the art of calmer thinking.
• Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman at Amazon for US$11.54 (opens in new tab)
2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
In The Power of Habit, you’ll discover why certain habits exist, how to identify them and how they can be changed, with scientific explanations and ground-breaking research by business journalist Charles Duhigg. This bestselling book offers a whole new understanding of human potential and nature through a variety of stories, including anecdotes from the boardroom of Procter & Gamble, and the sidelines of NFL games. If you’re interested in learning how habits work and have a habit you’d like to kick, whether it’s losing weight, boosting productivity or becoming a morning person, this science-led book is for you.
3. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This bestselling offering by legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly is a must-read for any psychology buffs. The author has dedicated his career to understanding ‘flow’ – the investigation of ‘optimal experience’, a state of being and consciousness that makes an experience genuinely satisfying. This book explores how a positive state isn’t something that simply happens, but instead can be controlled and created with intention. A great read for anyone who wants to work towards deeper happiness, have a greater quality of life and unlock more potential in their own lives.
4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of Blink and The Tipping Point, where he explores the human psyche and gives a deeper understanding of how the human mind works. In Outliers, Gladwell asks (and answers) the question: why do some people achieve so much more than others? The answer is more complicated than you think. In the book, Gladwell gives unique insights into the concept of success and explains why the concept of success is not straightforward. With lively anecdotes and easy-to-follow scientific evidence, Outliers will change the way you think about your own life and success – in turn, helping you identify what’s unique about you.
5. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
A popular book club book (opens in new tab), New York Times bestselling author and psychologist Angela Duckworth explores the concept of ‘grit’- the blend of passion and persistence - in this remarkable book. Exploring the idea of grit through her own personal story, she explains how she is the daughter of a scientist who was often told of her lack of ‘genius’. But now a celebrated author and psychologist, Duckworth explains her theory that success is not about genius, but, in fact, perseverance. Drawing on personal experience, interviews with high-achievers and modern scientific experiments, Duckworth provides ground-breaking insights into the concept of grit – and why it matters.
6. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
This international bestseller, which has sold over 1 million copies, will change the way you think about habits for good. Using cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience, habit expert James Clear explains why small habits matter more than big ones, and how the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions is the key to lasting habit change. You’ll learn how small changes to your daily life can have a huge positive impact and how to change habits for good – making positive new ones that will really stick. Clear tells inspiring stories of CEOs and professional athletes who have used the science of tiny habits to produce incredible results – and how you can change your life, one small action at a time.
7. The Body Keeps The Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
If you’re looking for a book on the psychological effects of trauma on the body, then look no further than this iconic read by Bessel van der Kolk. Drawing on thirty years of experience helping sufferers of trauma, the author uses his expertise on the effects of traumatic stress on the body to offer a bold new solution from standard talk therapy and medication. Considered a seminal work on trauma, this book offers a pioneering new approach to trauma treatment and would be useful to anyway who wants a further understanding on trauma and how to overcome the effects of it.
- The Body Keeps The Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk at Amazon for £8.09 (opens in new tab)
8. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
Daniel Goleman, author of this bestselling book, believes that our view of human intelligence is too narrow – and it is, in fact, EI (emotional intelligence) not IQ, that matters most. Looking at the role of our emotions on thought processes, decision making and success, Goleman argues than emotional intelligence is of supreme importance – and how to create more of it. With insights into science, the workings of the brain and through personal stories, Goleman highlights how emotional intelligence can and should be nurtured in every individual.
9. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
If you’re ever wondered why you’ve made an irrational decision in the heat of the moment, this book is for you. In Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely takes a witty and original look at illogical decisions – and why we make them. Looking at how expectation, messaging and rationale affects our decision-making, the behavioural economist explores how rational thought is often hijacked by irrationality and how this is neurologically hardwired into us. This book will delight and surprise you, changing your understanding of human behaviour and why we make the choices we do.
10. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
The authors of Switch believe that change is hard - but also that it doesn’t have to be. Deep-diving into why we insist on seeing obstacles rather than the goal, avoid change at all costs and have difficulty switching our behaviours, this illuminating book explains the science of change and how to make it work for you. Using real-life examples and scientific studies, it explores the seemingly simply methods for change that have amazing results. A fantastic book for women (opens in new tab) who might struggle with changing their behaviors, you’ll come away with new insights and understanding of how to create change in the real world.
Angelica Malin is a journalist, entrepreneur, and founder and Editor-in-Chief of About Time magazine. She has written a book (her first) called She Made It, a toolkit for female founders in the digital age, which was published by Kogan Page in January 2021. Angelica was shortlisted for BSME’s Editors’ Editor of the Year and has featured in campaigns for brands such as NatWest, Asto and Courier Media. She also helps aspiring entrepreneurs through her platform, events and #SheStartedIt podcast.
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