The best books about the amazing human brain

Ginny Smith Author Of Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals
By Ginny Smith

Who am I?

I have always been curious, but it wasn’t until university that I discovered my fascination with brain science. Here was a real challenge. An incredibly complex system, full of mysteries and unknowns, that needed breaking down, and understanding at the most fundamental level. And not only that, but it was something that affected us all, every day. I was hooked. Since graduating, I have worked as a science communicator, sharing my love of the brain with anyone who will listen- via podcasts, books, blogs, and on stage. I also founded Braintastic Science! which provides spectacular shows, workshops, and resources to help young people understand and get the best out of their amazing brains.


I wrote...

Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

By Ginny Smith,

Book cover of Overloaded: How Every Aspect of Your Life Is Influenced by Your Brain Chemicals

What is my book about?

From adrenaline to dopamine, our lives are shaped by the chemicals that control us. They play a role in all aspects of our experiences, from how we make decisions, who we love, what we remember to basic survival drives such as hunger, fear, and sleep.

In Overloaded, author Ginny Smith explores what these tiny molecules do: what roles do cortisol and adrenaline play in memory formation? How do hormones and neurotransmitters affect the trajectory of our romantic relationships? Ginny meets scientists at the cutting-edge of brain chemistry research who are uncovering unexpected connections between these crucial chemicals. An eye-opening route through the remarkable world of neuro-transmitters, Overloaded unveils the chemicals inside each of us that touch every facet of our lives.

The books I picked & why

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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales

By Oliver Sacks,

Book cover of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales

Why this book?

Sacks is one of my all-time favourite writers, and I could have recommended several of his books. The man who mistook his wife for a hat is one of his collections of short stories about patients he worked with as a neurologist. These cases give a deep insight into the brain while remaining, at heart, stories about people. Sacks’ recounts the strangeness of these people’s symptoms, but the real focus is on how their lives, and those of their loved ones, are impacted. It is this sensitivity that shines through the book- you can see clearly on the page how much Sacks cares about his patients not just as puzzles to be solved, but as individual human beings. 

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales

By Oliver Sacks,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrating Fifty Years of Picador Books

If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self - himself - he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.

In this extraordinary book, Dr. Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients struggling to adapt to often bizarre worlds of neurological disorder. Here are people who can no longer recognize everyday objects or those they love; who are stricken with violent tics or shout involuntary obscenities, and yet are gifted with…


The Happy Brain: The Science of Where Happiness Comes From, and Why

By Dean Burnett,

Book cover of The Happy Brain: The Science of Where Happiness Comes From, and Why

Why this book?

In this book, Burnett takes the readers on his own journey of discovery, trying to find out what it is that makes us happy. Along the way, he explores topics from love to work to relationships and discovers that happiness isn’t as simple as it might seem. Written in Burnett’s signature witty style, with personal anecdotes and laugh-out-loud moments, this book is easy to read, but packed with neuroscience. It will leave you thinking differently about what it really is we need in order to be happy.

The Happy Brain: The Science of Where Happiness Comes From, and Why

By Dean Burnett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Happy Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do you want to be happy?

If so - read on. This book has all the answers.*

In The Happy Brain, neuroscientist Dean Burnett delves deep into the inner workings of our minds to explore some fundamental questions about happiness. For starters: what does it actually mean to be happy? Where does it come from? And is there a secret to making it last forever?

In his research into these questions - and many more besides - Burnett unravels our complex internal lives to reveal the often surprising truth behind what makes us tick. From whether happiness really begins at…


Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

By Richard Wiseman,

Book cover of Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

Why this book?

The UK’s only Professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology, Wiseman is a master of storytelling. Quirkology is a fascinating romp through some of the more unusual studies he has been involved in, as well as those conducted by other people. From whether time really does seem to pass more quickly when you are in love to constructing the world's funniest joke, Wiseman takes on the every day, and dismantles it to discover more about how our brains work.

Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

By Richard Wiseman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Quirkology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For over twenty years, psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman has examined the quirky science of everyday life. In Quirkology, he navigates the backwaters of human behavior, discovering the tell-tale signs that give away a liar, the secret science behind speed-dating and personal ads, and what a persons sense of humor reveals about the innermost workings of their mind- all along paying tribute to others who have carried out similarly weird and wonderful work. Wisemans research has involved secretly observing people as they go about their daily business, conducting unusual experiments in art exhibitions and music concerts, and even staging fake sances…


SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

By Bruce Hood,

Book cover of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

Why this book?

Humans are inherently superstitious. Even those of us who think of ourselves as scientists will ‘touch wood’ after saying something, or avoid walking under ladders. But why? In this book, Hood argues that these behaviors, and more complex beliefs like religion, develop as a byproduct of something our brains do that is vital for human survival—finding patterns. This is one of the first pop-sci books on psychology I read, and I clearly remember seeing Hood deliver a talk about it while I was at University. It helped stoke my curiosity about the topic, and how our incredible brains can drive such complex and nuanced behaviours. It is still one of my favourites over 10 years later. 

SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

By Bruce Hood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked SuperSense as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why is it that Tony Blair always wore the same pair of shoes when answering Prime Minister's Questions? That John McEnroe notoriously refused to step on the white lines of a tennis court between points? And that President-elect Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary, and continued the tradition the day of every following primary?

Superstitious habits are common. Do you ever cross your fingers, knock on wood, avoid walking under ladders, or step around black cats? Sentimental value often supersedes material worth. If someone offered to replace your childhood teddy…


Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain

By David Eagleman,

Book cover of Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain

Why this book?

Eagleman uses patient stories and metaphors to beautifully illustrate the remarkable flexibility of the human brain. Far from being static, our brains are constantly changing, shaped by our experiences and our surroundings. This comprehensive book explores the limits of our understanding of this ‘live wiring process. Based on his own research, as well as decades of work by other scientists, Eagleman explores how it is that we are able to learn to use new senses, adapt to new body parts, and form new memories.

Along the way, he examines how plasticity can explain common human experiences, from dreaming to heartbreak. This book will leave you with a newfound respect for our incredible brains and in awe of how they might allow us to incorporate technology into our lives in the future.

Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain

By David Eagleman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Livewired as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What does drug withdrawal have in common with a broken heart? Why is the enemy of memory not time, but other memories? How can a blind person learn to see with her tongue or a deaf person learn to hear with his skin? Why did many people in the 1980s mistakenly perceive book pages to be slightly red in colour? Why is the world's best archer armless? Might we someday control a robot with our thoughts, just as we do our fingers and toes? Why do we dream at night, and what does that have to do with the rotation…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the brain, life satisfaction, and neuroscience?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the brain, life satisfaction, and neuroscience.

The Brain Explore 112 books about the brain
Life Satisfaction Explore 134 books about life satisfaction
Neuroscience Explore 94 books about neuroscience

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Factfulness, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and The House of God if you like this list.