The best books for learning how to think logically and critically

Peg Tittle Author Of Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason
By Peg Tittle

Who am I?

Of all my university courses, the one that had the greatest impact on me was called "Informal Logic." Accurate, but misleadingly dry and academic. One of the assignments in that course—and the one I remember most, of all my university assignments—was to prepare a "Crapbook": a collection of ten bits of crap—ads, arguments, whatever—that were full of crap (essentially, incorrect reasoning/logical fallacies). I loved it. So when, twenty years later, I was hired by a small university to teach Critical Thinking …  


I wrote...

Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason

By Peg Tittle,

Book cover of Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason

What is my book about?

Content-wise, this is a pretty standard textbook for use in university critical thinking courses: it covers the nature and structure of argument, the many ways you can 'get it wrong,' and so on.  Simply put, it will help you make, understand, and evaluate arguments.  

What sets it apart is that the difficult bits are presented in baby steps (so you can use this text on your own); there are lots of opportunities for practice (critical thinking is, after all, a skill—you learn by doing); these opportunities are, for the most part, real-world ads, editorials, claims, conversations, speeches, etc.; and there is a 300-page appendix providing answers, explanations, and analyses for the forementioned practice bits (which means, instructors, I've done much of your work for you!).

The books I picked & why

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Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking

By Vincent Ruggiero,

Book cover of Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking

Why this book?

Most people are led through life by their feelings. Feelings are fine, they enrich our lives, but as the sole guide for making decisions, they fall short. Ruggiero, a huge name in critical thinking, starts from this point, the point of being led by our feelings. And that alone makes this a very good guide to critical thinking.


With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies

By Morris S. Engel,

Book cover of With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies

Why this book?

There are many critical thinking/informal logic books that focus exclusively (or mainly) on fallacies, and although that's not all there is to critical thinking, and although it encourages an adversarial approach ("Let me tell you what mistakes you're making"), it is good to have at least one such book on hand. I like Engel's book because of its classification system (fallacies of ambiguity, fallacies of presumption, fallacies of relevance), because of its clarity, and because of its many illustrations and exercises.


Logic and Mr. Limbaugh: A Dittohead's Guide To Fallacious Reading

By Ray Perkins Jr.,

Book cover of Logic and Mr. Limbaugh: A Dittohead's Guide To Fallacious Reading

Why this book?

What can I say? Logic and Mr. Limbaugh is a crapbook (see my introduction) dedicated exclusively to Rush Limbaugh. Although dated (1995), this little book is extremely engaging, entertaining, and enlightening. And applicable to all the other Rush Limbaughs out there, past, present, and future. (Might there be a Logic and Mr. Trump manuscript-in-progress?)


Critical Thinking and Popular Culture: Reading and Writing the American Experience

By Peter Elias Sotiriou,

Book cover of Critical Thinking and Popular Culture: Reading and Writing the American Experience

Why this book?

Although many critical thinking texts include some analysis of bits from popular culture, I wanted to include this book on my list because, as its title indicates, it focuses on popular culture­—which is good because most of us immerse ourselves in popular culture and so it influences our thinking in a huge way. There's a whole chapter. There's a whole chapter dedicated to "Analyzing American Television," another dedicated to "American Advertising and the Subtle Art of Manipulation," and one dedicated to "Popular Culture in Speeches."  


The Reasonable Woman: A Guide to Intellectual Survival

By Wendy McElroy,

Book cover of The Reasonable Woman: A Guide to Intellectual Survival

Why this book?

I initially thought McElroy's title referred to the counterargument to 'the reasonable man' standard in legal reasoning—the view that, given the sexism in our society, what is reasonable for a man to think is not the same as what is reasonable for a woman to think (classic example: it's reasonable for a woman to think that a man who is following her may have assault in mind; a man who is similarly followed might reasonably think the man wants to ask for directions). However, re-reading the preface, I see that she is responding to, and rejecting, the view that women are unreasonable. Excellent! Not only is this book a good guide to critical thinking, it has the added value of being "framed for women" (Joan Kennedy Taylor).    


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in critical thinking, logic, and pop culture?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about critical thinking, logic, and pop culture.

Critical Thinking Explore 25 books about critical thinking
Logic Explore 22 books about logic
Pop Culture Explore 73 books about pop culture

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Art of Logic in an Illogical World, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, and Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom if you like this list.