Weekly Non-Fiction Reading List 2.15.21
Whoo! What a great week of reading. This last week I finished 9 amazing books. I read everything from moral psychology, to the loneliness epidemic, to investing, to some evolutionary psychology and much more. 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).
The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology by Robert Wright
A few years ago when I was really into Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness, I was introduced to Robert Wright with his book Why Buddhism is True, and I fell in love with his work. Recently, I’ve been really interested in moral philosophy and psychology, and I remembered Robert Wright wrote this book, so I finally grabbed a copy. If you’re someone interested in the work of Charles Darwin and evolutionary psychology, you definitely need to get this book. It’s a bit long, and some of the chapters are dull, but it’s definitely a must-read for anyone interested in the subject.
In this book, Wright intertwines a sort of biography of Charles Darwin while explaining evolutionary psychology. The book starts with the evolutionary psychology of sex, love, relationships, and family while also telling the story of Charles Darwin. I found this pretty interesting because I don’t read biographies, but I was able to learn a lot more about Darwin. After Wright sets up the foundation, he dives into the topics that I really enjoy such as social interactions, tribalism, and social status. By far, my favorite chapters in this book were the ones on self-deception and evolutionary ethics. It took me a while to get through this book, but it was worth it.
Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene
The Enigma of Reason by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber
The Lonely Century: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That’s Pulling Apart by Noreena Hertz
Before I dive into the review, I think it’s important that I qualify myself. I’m an introverted millennial, and had it not been for technology like AOL Instant Messenger and social media apps in the following years, I wouldn’t have nearly as many connections as I have now. The ability to connect through technology was huge in my life, so I’m always skeptical about books like this that discuss the loneliness epidemic. But as a mental health advocate and recovering drug addict, I know that we have a mental health crisis, and deaths of despair are on the rise. As I talk with people, I see that loneliness is a major source of our problems, so I try to keep an open mind going into books like this one from Noreena Hertz.
With that being said, this book from Noreena Hertz was absolutely phenomenal. I’m always concerned that authors of these books are going to demonize technology, but Hertz didn’t do that. Throughout the book, Hertz did an excellent job backing her arguments with research and empathy while also pointing out the issues we face as a society. Aside from discussing some of the problems with technology, she dove into topics such as political polarization and the rise of AI, and I learned a ton. Best of all, her closing chapter provides a wide range of solutions. Although I definitely agree with her solutions, I can see how some would disagree with that type of government paternalism. But as someone who loves the work of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, I think these solutions could work. So definitely grab a copy of this book, and I’d love to know your thoughts.
Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case and Angus Deaton
The Kindness of Strangers: How a Selfish Ape Invented a New Moral Code by Michael McCullough
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
I’m an author, a social media influencer, and I also work in marketing at my day job. As someone who is a psychology nerd, I fell in love with Jonah Berger’s books a while back. The Catalyst is his newest book, and I read it within the first few days of launch, but I figured it’d be a good time to revisit it. Reading it a second time was definitely beneficial, and it’s more applicable to me today than it was when I first read it. There were suggestions and studies in here that I can not only apply when marketing the new book I’m working on, but it’s also helped me change minds of clients and colleagues for some projects.
More Jonah Berger Books:
The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain by James Fallon
This is a really interesting book for anyone interested in psychopaths, psychology, and neuroscience. James Fallon is a neuroscientist who studied the brains of psychopaths, and one day, he realized his own brain scan showed similarities with psychopaths. In this book, Fallon explains everything from the nature vs. nurture debate, to why some psychopaths never become aggressive, and many other fascinating topics. It’s a short read, and I feel it’s accessible to many readers even if they’re not familiar with the fields of psychology and neuroscience. Fallon is a great storyteller, which definitely helps you stay engaged throughout the book.
Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton
The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Simon Baron-Cohen
I binged this book in about a day, and it’s definitely one of my new favorite books. I love reading books about the flaws in my thinking, and understanding the psychology behind this has helped save my life. I’m a recovering drug addict, and my big “Aha!” moment was when I realized that I wasn’t the smartest person on earth and that I might just be wrong about the way I was living. This is why I love this book from James O’Brien. Most of the books like this (like the one I’m currently writing) explain the psychology behind different biases and heuristics, but this book caught me by surprise because it’s about James reviewing how he was wrong about different topics like racism, mental health, obesity and much more.
This book was completely unique with the way it approached this subject, and it was extremely inspiring. Reading the book was almost like reading a philosophy book because James asks such great questions and comes from a place of curiosity. I truly hope more people read this book and are inspired to practice some intellectual humility. I know it inspired me.
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz
Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed
How I Invest My Money: Finance experts reveal how they save, spend, and invest by Joshua Brown and Brian Portnoy
My review of this book is going to be a little bit different, but as a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, I really appreciated this book. Why? Well, I’m a new investor, and this book is a collection of short chapters from a lot of successful investors. Brown and Portnoy decided to ask a bunch of financial planners how they invest their money, and it reminded me of 12-step meetings. In a 12-step meeting, you listen to people who are doing the thing you want to do (in this case, investing wisely), and then you see which strategies might work for you.
This book covers the whole gambit of investing, and there were some strategies that resonated with me more than others. There were chapters from people who are risk averse, long-term investors like myself, and there were even some who discussed how they allocate some of their money towards charitable giving. But there are also some higher-risk investors in here, which isn’t my style, but it might be yours. As a new investor, there was some lingo in here that went over my head, but I was still able to grasp a lot of the concepts.
The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards
As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, which led me to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, a major part of my recovery and mental health is understanding what’s going on. I’ve been studying mental health and psychology for years, and this book has been on my list for a while, and I finally read it. This is an excellent book that everyone should read because it covers all of the biology behind stress, anxiety, and depression. Personally, it took me forever to read just because I get bored with biology, but it’s still a great book. If you enjoy biology and learning about hormones and neurotransmitters, this book is definitely for you.
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky
The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal
Rewire Your Anxiety: Practical Solutions for Managing Anxiety by Chris Boutté
I’ve read hundreds of books on psychology, but Jesse Bering is regularly able to take on subjects in a completely unique way. I love books from skeptics and learning why people believe in God or the supernatural, and sometimes the studies are repetitive as well as the way their written about. This is my second book I’ve read of Bering’s, and again, the brings so many new perspectives and studies while also intertwining some personal anecdotes. Not only did this book teach me more about the psychology of why people believe, but it opened my mind to better understand why people search for meaning in meaningless events and get stuck on the idea of having a purpose in life. If you’re interested in this subject, you definitely need this book.
Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves by Jesse Bering
The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe by Steven Novella
I am fascinated with human behavior and our unconscious motives, and that’s why this is my second time reading this book. Last year when I first read this book from Simler and Hanson, it was my introduction into this topic. I was curious why people do such absurd things, and the thesis of this book that there are unconscious, selfish reasons behind most of our behaviors. The first half of the book uses evolutionary psychology to explain some of our motives and how they benefit our survival, and the second half goes into specific scenarios. Why do we judge others? Why do we lie to ourselves? Why do we laugh? Why do we care about art? Why do we help others? All these questions and more are answered in this book, and that’s why it’s one of my all-time favorites.
Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke
The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett
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.