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13 Psychology Books to Read This Summer to Understand Humans Way Better

It’s summer, which means it’s also the season for summer book lists. The internet is awash with roundups of thrillers, romances, and assorted page-turners. And why not? Fiction is both super fun and a surprisingly good mental workout. Far be it from me to criticize anyone lying on a beach with a hefty novel this summer. I’ll be doing the same thing.

But if you’re an entrepreneur looking for a fresh alternative to the usual summer fare, then I have a suggestion for you: How about picking up a book or two on psychology?

The human brain is among the most complex things in the universe, which makes reading about it endlessly fascinating. Plus, no matter what industry or niche you work in, understanding human behavior in all its weirdness and complexity will make you better at your job. And there is no shortage of great new titles to pick from.

Niche site Behavioral Scientist recently came out with its latest selection of the best new books in the field. The lengthy list contains a ton of interesting-sounding titles on everything from what jellyfish can teach us about aging to the deep structure of poverty in America. It’s definitely worth a browse in its entirety, but below I’ve wicked out a baker’s dozen of titles that seem most immediately useful for entrepreneurs.

1. Anatomy of a Breakthrough by Adam Alter

Feel stuck in your life, career, or creative project? Then this guide to the science of motivation and creativity in the face of obstacles just might be for you. The book’s Amazon page is full of rave blurbs from A-listers. “If you’ve ever felt like you’re languishing, these pages hold the keys to regaining momentum,” claims Adam Grant. “A brilliant detective story about the sources of human creativity. I loved it,” raves Malcolm Gladwell.

2. Awe by Dacher Keltner

Adam Grant is also a fan of Awe, which he chose for a recent list of book recommendations. In it, Keltner — a University of California, Berkeley, psychology professor — rounds up all the latest science on the transformative powers of awe and how to add more of it to your life.

3. Foolproof by Sander van der Linden

“From fake news to conspiracy theories, from inflammatory memes to misleading headlines, misinformation has swiftly become the defining problem of our era … In Foolproof, one of the world’s leading experts on misinformation lays out a crucial new paradigm for understanding and defending ourselves against the worldwide infodemic,” explains the book’s back cover.

4. Generations by Jean M. Twenge

Twenge is known as a fierce advocate for the idea that smartphones are harming kids’ mental health, but in her latest book she takes a broader look at the phenomenon of generational change. Amazon describes it as “a groundbreaking, revelatory portrait of the six generations that currently live in the United States and how they connect, conflict, and compete with one another.”

5. The Good Life by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

If anyone knows what makes for a good life, it’s probably Waldinger and Schultz. They’re the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest study of happiness ever conducted, which has been running for more than 80 years. We’ve written about some of its headline findings here on, but The Good Life is the definitive deep-dive into what the study has discovered.

6. Magic Words by Jonah Berger

“Words are how we persuade, communicate, and connect. They’re how leaders lead, salespeople sell, and parents parent. They’re how teachers teach, policymakers govern, and doctors explain,” notes the book’s back cover. “But certain words are more impactful than others. They’re better at changing minds, engaging audiences, and driving action. What are these magic words, and how can we take advantage of their power?”

7. Mixed Signals by Uri Gneezy

This one seems pretty much self-recommending for entrepreneurs and their business leaders. “Getting [an] incentives balance right can be complicated. But Gneezy hopes his book provides insights that help people feel prepared to take on the concept and design better incentives,” explains the Financial Times.

8. Nobody’s Fool by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris

“From phishing scams to Ponzi schemes, fraudulent science to fake art, chess cheaters to crypto hucksters, and marketers to magicians, our world brims with deception,” says the back cover blurb of Nobody’s Fool. “Psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris show us how to avoid being taken in.” Sounds useful.

9. The Power of Language by Viorica Marian

If, like me, you’ve ever struggled mightily to learn a new languagethis book might be for you. “Some people speak Spanish, some Mandarin. Some speak poetry, some are fluent in math,” explains Amazon. “Every new language we speak shapes how we extract and interpret information. It alters what we remember, how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, how we feel, the insights we have, the decisions we make, and the actions we take.”

10. Psychonauts by Mike Jay

Looking for something more narrative and absorbing to read this summer? Then perhaps pick up Psychonauts, which tells the “provocative and original history of the scientists and writers, artists and philosophers who took drugs to explore the hidden regions of the mind … From Sigmund Freud’s experiments with cocaine to William James’s epiphany on nitrous oxide,” according to the book’s back cover.

11. Rethinking Intelligence by Rina Bliss

If you think that intelligence is a single, inborn talent that’s easily measured by an IQ test, then you might want to go with this myth-busting book from genetics expert Rina Bliss. It explains “what it truly means to be ‘smart,’ why conventional assessments are misleading, and what everyone can do to optimize their potential,” says Amazon.

12. Thinking With Your Hands by Susan Goldin-Meadow

Why do we gesture while we talk, and what do our hands reveal about what we’re thinking and feeling? “In Thinking With Your Hands, esteemed cognitive psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow argues that gesture is vital to how we think, learn, and communicate,” says the book’s back cover.

13. Your Brain on Art by Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross

Art shouldn’t just be made by a talented few and consumed passively by the rest of us, argues this much-lauded new book. Instead, Magsamen and Ross gather evidence that even the most unskilled and casual art-making can have profound positive effects on our health, psychology, and even communities.



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