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10 Psychology Books You Should Read

Top Psychology Books

There are classic or influential books in every field that should be read to gain a fuller breadth of understanding. With an eye to this, we have asked the leaders of Northcentral University School of Psychology to share the indispensable psychology books from their reading lists.

Compiling their responses, we present 10 Psychology Books You Should Read, which have all made a considerable impact on the field of psychology.

Their recommendations follow in no particular order:

1. The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind, Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff & Patricia K. Kuhl; William Morrow Paperbacks, 2000.

As recognized authorities on children development, Gopnik, et al, conclude that infants solve problems the same way that scientists do research: They repeatedly test how things will work against real outcomes, and then modify their initial “theories” to match that observed reality. The authors use this core thesis to organize their research into a compelling and interesting read.

2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain; Broadway Paperbacks, 2012.

Filled with years of research from many sources, Cain, renowned for her TED Talk on the subject, offers a fascinating exploration of what constitutes the life challenges of the world’s introverts. Including a clear comparison and contrast of introverts and extroverts, the author explores how these highly sensitive people might better tackle public speaking, managing businesses, as well as navigating marriages and other relationships. It also explores introverts in light of the human population being predominately extroverted, and as a result introverts are often encouraged to adapt their style of relating. With a wide variety of interesting case studies, Cain chronicles the lives of introverts and what they quietly bring to the world.

3. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, by Michael White and David Epston; W.W. Norton & Company, 1990.

With its often light approach to serious subjects, White and Epston present their experience with a groundbreaking theory, that people encounter problems when “the stories of their lives” do not accurately represent their actual life experiences. White and Epston suggest that an effective approach to therapy is the process of shaping and reshaping the lives and experiences of their patients through “narrative storytelling” – by “storying” and “restorying” experiences – thereby helping their patients process life experiences. With interesting case studies, the authors show how this approach to therapy helps and empowers their patients.

4. The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients, by Irvin Yalom, M.D.; Harper Perennial, 2002.

A surprisingly easy read, Yalom, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University, uses his 40 years of clinical experience to give advice on best practices to the next generation of therapists. The result is as much a personal and profound memoir of his work as it is useful guidebook. Including his 85 insightful "tips for beginner therapists," Yalom’s book aims to enrich the therapy process for a new generation of patients and counselors.

5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5, American Psychological Association; American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.

The 5th Edition of this exhaustive manual is the most comprehensive, current, and critical resource for clinical practice available to today's mental health clinicians and researchers of all orientations, representing more than 10 years of effort by international experts across all aspects of mental health. The manual creates a common language for clinicians as they diagnosis mental disorders, and includes to-the-point information and specific criteria for facilitating objective assessment of symptoms wherever psychological care is offered.

6. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy, by Carl R. Rogers; Constable, 1974 (revised 2004).

One of America's most distinguished psychologists shares his experiences in helping people through what he called “becoming,” what we have come to know as “personal growth.” While contemporary psychology focuses on minute aspects of psychological behavior, or with diagnosing mental illness, Rogers espouses the view that psychology and psychiatry should aim higher, toward maximizing human potential. Using non-technical jargon, Rogers has written a book that is both groundbreaking and accessible.

7. The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.; Harper Perennial, 1960 (revised 2010).

While some see Szasz’s work as an attack and others consider it a work of genius, it is viewed by many as “the most influential critique of psychiatry ever written,” as Amazon.com puts it. To sum it up, as Szasz wrote so succinctly, “Psychiatry is…in the company of alchemy and astrology and commits it to the category of pseudoscience. The reason for this is that there is no such thing as ‘mental illness.’” By so doing, he called the views of every major American psychiatrist into question. While he acknowledges in the book that people have emotional problems, he insists that these are not mental diseases that can be treated by medicine like pneumonia or heart failure.

8. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales, Oliver Sacks, M.D.; Touchstone, 1998.

Hailed by The New York Times as “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century,” Sacks recounts the case studies of individuals afflicted with bizarre delusions and intellectual aberrations, but he treats each with great humanity, not as spectacle. Each is an exploration of people bravely attempting to deal with unbelievable mental obstacles. Whether schizophrenia or memory loss, Sacks moves his reader to empathize with their plight as well as their triumphs.

9. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman; Bantam Books, 1995 (revised 2005).

As Amazon.com put it, “Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why.” Thanks to this Pulitzer-nominate science writer there is clearer understanding, identifying five core areas of emotional intelligence, all based on psychology and advances in neuroscience. Goleman argues that our emotions are often more important than intelligence in determining individual success by examining factors like impulse control, self-motivation, empathy for others, and sensitivity in interpersonal relationships.

10. Games People Play, Eric Berne; Ballantine Books, 1964 (revised 1996).

Considered explosive upon its release 50 years ago, Games People Play altered our understanding of what is really going on in basic social interactions, and coined the phrase “transactional analysis.” Among the first in a wave of “pop psychology” books, Berne identifies and explores the often unconscious “mind games” we all play as we maneuver through life and relationships. Still revolutionary, Berne’s seminal bestseller is often referred to as among “the most original and influential popular psychology books” ever published.

Which psychology books have impacted your understanding of yourself or others? Which books would you place on your must-read list?

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