I finished 8 books this week that spanded a variety of topics. I’ve been really getting back into psychology the last couple weeks, and there are some books on this list that I binged. Two of my favorites are ones that discuss the psychological importance of rethinking what we think we know and the importance of a beginner’s mindset. I also read some more books on money management and improving your writing. Enjoy!
Each of the links to the books are affiliate links, so if you use my link to purchase any of these books, some comes back to support what I do (and it also helps fund my reading habit).
Once again, Adam Grant releases a book that solidifies him as one of my favorite psychology writers. I didn’t really know what this new book was about before it launched, but I love Grant’s writing. Once I started reading it, I ended up binging the book in a day. This book is all about one of my favorite subjects, which is intellectual humility. In Think Again, Adam Grant challenges us to become alright with not knowing, being wrong, and rethinking our own conventional wisdom. Our egos hate when we do this, so it takes effort, but through psychological research and relevant stories, Grant explains how we can all begin working on this issue.
One of the other great features of this book is that Grant spends a couple sections explaining why it’s so difficult to get through to other people. In this day and age with people who are anti-vaxxers or there are those who believe the 2020 election was fraudulent despite a lack of evidence, I’m glad Grant helps explain how to have conversations with these types of people. As a recovering drug addict who worked in a treatment center, I appreciate how he highlighted the benefits of motivational reasoning, which is a powerful tool to help others rethink their beliefs. I can’t give this book enough praise, and I hope everyone grabs a copy. I can definitely see myself reading this book again.
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz
How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
For most of my life, I was depressed and suicidal, which is one of the main reasons I turned to drugs and alcohol. Today, with over 8 years sober, I try to help others with their mental health by giving them hope with my story as well as trying to learn as much as possible. When I saw this new book from Jesse Bering, I knew I had to read it although I was unfamiliar with his work. There are so many questions around suicide, and I have yet to find many books with much information behind the psychology of it all. There are many misconceptions about suicidality, but Jesse Bering did an amazing job with this book.
Bering was extremely thorough with his research on the subject, and he’s someone that shares from his personal experience as well. As someone who is also a fan of evolutionary psychology, I found Bering’s chapter on an evolutionary/social reason for why people may decide to end their life. I do think there were quite a few questions that were left unanswered by the end of this book, but it’s at no fault of the author. It’s just a subject that we’re still trying to learn more about so we can save more lives. By far, this is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject, and the author has gained me as a lifelong fan. I can’t wait to check out his other books.
Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope by Johann Hari
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case and Angus Deaton
I truly believe that we should all strive to be lifelong learners, so when I heard about this book from Tom Vanderbilt, I marked my calendar, and grabbed a copy on launch day. This was such a great book, and it was surprisingly inspiring. Tom is a great writer and researcher, and he wanted to learn more about the power of getting into the mind of a beginner and learning new skills. He documents his journey of learning how to play chess, how to surf, how to sing, how to draw, and more. Each step of the way, he provides psychological insights combined with some neuroscience to explain how learning something new is beneficial for our overall well-being.
The inspiring aspect of this book is the Tom was completely shameless (in a good way) in his pursuit of learning. Tom starts the book by not caring that he entered a chess tournament for beginners. Without ever singing, he decided to take vocal lessons and then joins a local chorus just to learn. Most of us get so self-conscious about learning something new that we don’t pick up new things. If nothing else, you’ll walk away from this book with more confidence to try something new while caring less what other people think.
SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully by Jane McGonigal
Standard Deviations: Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data, and Other Ways to Lie with Statistics by Gary Smith
I cannot express how important I think it is for everyone to read books about being skeptical of data and research. This book from Gary Smith was recommended while I was reading another book on skepticism and critical thinking, and Standard Deviations didn’t disappoint. The chapters in this book are short and sweet to give you examples and overviews about how data can be misinterpreted. I really enjoyed the book, but as someone who isn’t as into numbers as some people, there were a few parts that went over my head. Regardless if you’re a numbers person or not, this is a great book to open your mind and realize the flaws in our thinking and how data can be twisted to push agendas or make us make dumb decisions.
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
The Dumb Things Smart People Do with Their Money: Thirteen Ways to Right Your Financial Wrongs by Jill Schlesinger
I’m a 35-year-old man who is just now figuring out how to be financially responsible, and I’m also a huge psychology nerd who loves learning about why smart people do dumb things. So, when I heard about this book from Jill Schlesinger, I knew I had to check it out. This book is definitely a must-read for just about everyone. It covers typical topics such as investing and saving for retirement, but she uses some great examples of how people royally screw these things up. Personally, I was happy that specific chapters covered making a will, estate planning, and having touch conversations with family as we all get a bit older. Unlike some other books I’ve read, this one was willing to have some uncomfortable conversations.
My only critique of this book is what I’ve noticed about most books in this genre, which is that they can come off pretty privileged. Schlesinger grew up knowing how to be smart about money and has done this for most of her life. During a time when most people couldn’t afford a $400 emergency expense and have no money in savings, I really dislike when these book minimize expenses. They say “how cheap” it is to get various types of insurance “just in case” or to work with a lawyer for estate and will planning. Then, they go on to explain that “cheap” is $500 to $1000 for an appointment or $10,000 for additional types of insurance. Most people can’t afford these things, and when this is said in these books, it makes me realize that these books aren’t written for most people.
Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions by Gerd Gigerenzer
Optimism is a great characteristic, but sometimes it gets us into trouble. We over-estimate how happy something will make us like relationships or purchases, and we underestimate how much time a project will take us. As someone who is thankful for his skepticism and anxiety, I often wonder how people can put themselves in such bad situations due to their optimism. This book from Tali Sharot covers the pros and cons of the optimism bias from both a psychological and neuroscientific standpoint. The great part about this book is that it’s written for everyone and doesn’t get too heavy into jargon, so I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to better balance their optimism with pessimism or have a better understanding why some people take on way too much risk.
My only critique was that there was a chapter in this book on how misleading our memory can be. I love the subject and have read many books on memory, but it just felt out of place as a stand-alone chapter. Sharot ends up tying it back into the subject matter of the book in the following chapter, but I feel the chapters could have been combined as one single chapter. But that’s just a small criticism of an overall excellent book.
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Perception: How Our Bodies Shape Our Minds by Dennis Proffit and Drake Baer
This has to be one of the most underrated books I’ve ever read, and I’m upset with myself that it took me so long to read it. Pascal Boyer takes a completely unique perspective with his theories about how minds create societies through the lens of evolutionary psychology. I’ve read many books on this subject, but Boyer offered something fresh with this one. He dives into topics about in-group cooperation, tribalism, why minds create religions, and so much more. I think what I loved the most about this book is that each chapter starts with a series of questions that really get your wheels turning about human behavior. Throughout the book, Boyer isn’t cocky about his theories, either. He takes a humble approach that helps us start thinking in new ways, and I absolutely loved it.
Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil by Paul Bloom
As I’ve been working on my latest non-fiction book and trying to improve my writing, I’ve fallen in love with the books from Roy Peter Clark. I’m someone who can get a bit long-winded with my writing, so when I saw this book, I had to grab a copy. Just like his other books, Roy Peter Clark delivers. Not only will you learn how to write short through an assortment of tips, tools, and practices, but I found it extremely beneficial for switching up the pace of my writing. Since starting this book, I’ve noticed a lot of personal improvement in my own writing, and I highly recommend the book for all writers out there whether you’re a journalist or author.
More books from Roy Peter Clark:
If you need help with your mental health, I highly recommend the service I use, BetterHelp. They’re an affordable online therapy service, and by using this affiliate link, you help support The Rewired Soul.