The best books about why people make the decisions they do

The Books I Picked & Why

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

By Douglas R. Hofstadter

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Why this book?

This book introduced me as a teenager (long ago) to the questions that I have pursued over the course of my career. What is special about the human mind? How can we begin to think about issues like understanding and awareness? How can we begin to do research that might, in the long run, shed some light on the answers to these questions?


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Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

By Annie Duke

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

Why this book?

This clever little book is a highly digestible introduction to some of the key ideas that psychologists have had about how humans make judgments and decisions, when people do well, and when we are prone to error. The ideas are engaged in the author’s domain of expertise, through a game that everyone can relate to: poker. The book shows how learning to be a better poker player is a microcosm of learning how to be a more effective decision maker so you can achieve your own goals, whatever they are.


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The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

By Barry Schwartz

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Why this book?

One obstacle to being a happy decision-maker in modern Western society is that we are constantly being told that more is better, having more choices means we are more likely to find the perfect option. But what if there is no perfect option? And what if choice itself makes us unhappy? Maybe we should spend less time making decisions and more time enjoying ourselves.


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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

By Robert B. Cialdini

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Why this book?

This is a best-selling book for a good reason: It lists the top ways to persuade other people. Method number one: Persuade people to believe X by informing them that others believe X. Oh, how we like to conform.


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Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

By Kurt Andersen

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Why this book?

This book offers an insightful exploration of why Americans make the decisions they do, as individuals and as a society. It makes a compelling case that Americans are distinct in our flightiness, our failure to perceive and live in reality. This explains both the allure and promise of America, as well as much of its weirdness and its failures.


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