100 books like Social Physics

By Alex Pentland,

Here are 100 books that Social Physics fans have personally recommended if you like Social Physics. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sarah McArthur Author Of The AMA Handbook of Leadership

From my list on working together towards a bright future.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong student of philosophy, leadership, and principled living. Having worked with great leaders of today and being an editor-in-chief of a leadership journal (Leader to Leader), I experience how their leadership continues the principles set forth in days long past, and I publish works by authors who are keeping these principles alive in their writing. I am grateful for the opportunity to recommend books that might help others as we grapple with how to be in the world today to create value for all.

Sarah's book list on working together towards a bright future

Sarah McArthur Why did Sarah love this book?

I'm not sure when I have learned more about humanity than with the books of Yuval Harari.

I recommend this book as it is the first of the series, and I could read it over and over and still not have captured everything that Yuval Harari explores and teaches us.

A great historian who uses history to explore our future, Yuval Harari is one whose books I read every chance I have.

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the…


Book cover of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Emily Guy Birken Author Of Making Social Security Work for You: Advice, Strategies, and Timelines That Can Maximize Your Benefits

From my list on changing the way you look at money.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was about 8, I remember taking all the money out of my piggy bank, counting it, and carefully putting it back in again. My sister called me Ms. Moneybags. But I wasn’t worried about accumulating money. I was fascinated by money’s pure potential. I could do anything with it! From that early interest in the potential of money, I grew to be an avid reader of financial books–and that led to a surprise career as a money writer. I still love to think about money’s potential and the best ways to allocate that potential, and I love to bring my readers with me on the fascinating journey.

Emily's book list on changing the way you look at money

Emily Guy Birken Why did Emily love this book?

As of 2023, behavioral economics is no longer a surprising new look at old economics principles–but that doesn’t change just how entertaining, surprising, and challenging you will find the experiments detailed in Predictably Irrational. 

In one notable experiment, Dr. Ariely placed six-packs of soft drinks next to plates of cash inside of communal dorm fridges–to prove we tend to be honest about cash but feel no compunction about swiping someone else’s Coke. In another memorable experiment, male volunteers were asked moral questions when they were in a state of arousal–which helped prove that morals are flexible depending on the circumstances. 

Reading this book will make you realize just how often you make decisions–especially financial decisions–that are weird, illogical, and irrational.

By Dan Ariely,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Predictably Irrational as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do smart people make irrational decisions every day? The answers will surprise you. Predictably Irrational is an intriguing, witty and utterly original look at why we all make illogical decisions.

Why can a 50p aspirin do what a 5p aspirin can't? If an item is "free" it must be a bargain, right? Why is everything relative, even when it shouldn't be? How do our expectations influence our actual opinions and decisions?

In this astounding book, behavioural economist Dan Ariely cuts to the heart of our strange behaviour, demonstrating how irrationality often supplants rational thought and that the reason for…


Book cover of Contagious: Why Things Catch on

Keith A. Quesenberry Author Of Brand Storytelling: Integrated Marketing Communications for the Digital Media Landscape

From my list on business books to master the art and science of brand storytelling.

Why am I passionate about this?

After 17 years in the advertising industry, I became a professor to teach what I learned in practice. Only then did I start reflecting, researching, and discovering why we were successful in some efforts and not in others. From that perspective, I’ve been crafting new ways to approach marketing that are not based on what worked in the past but on what works now in light of the dramatic changes in the field. Within marketing, I focus on social media strategy, digital marketing, and storytelling.

Keith's book list on business books to master the art and science of brand storytelling

Keith A. Quesenberry Why did Keith love this book?

Wharton Marketing Professor Jonah Berger has spent decades researching what makes ideas spread and marketing go viral. The best idea and brand story with the right archetype won’t make a difference if it isn’t seen. With today’s fragmented media landscape, you need to know what makes something catch on and drives word-of-mouth to spread your story.

This book outlines 6 characteristics of what makes things catch on with social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, and story. Understanding these factors helped improve my brand stories. Even social media advertising only buys an interruption. It doesn’t guarantee action and spread.

By Jonan Berger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why are some products and ideas talked about more than others? Why do some articles make the most emailed list? Why do some YouTube videos go viral? Word-of-mouth. Whether through face-to-face conversations, emails from friends, or online product reviews, the information and opinions we get from others have a strong impact on our own behaviour. Indeed, word-of-mouth generates more than two times the sales of paid advertising and is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.It is between 8.5 and 30 times more effective than traditional media.But want to know the best thing about word-of-mouth? It's available to…


Book cover of Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World

Marcus Collins Author Of For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be

From my list on helping people get people to take action.

Why am I passionate about this?

I study cultural contagion and how it influences people to help bridge the academic-practitioner gap for companies (from “blue-chip” brands to non-profits) that aim to put ideas in the world that inspire people to take action. When I’m not putting ideas in the world as the Head of Strategy at Wieden+Kennedy New York, I put people in the world as a Clinical Marketing Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. My entire career has centered on getting people to move, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some of the most notable campaigns in the past years that have created both cultural and commercial impact.

Marcus' book list on helping people get people to take action

Marcus Collins Why did Marcus love this book?

Working in social media marketing and studying the behavior sciences taught me how influence people are on other people.

However, Situations Matter, on the other hand, taught me how influential the environment—both literally and figuratively—is on our behavioral.

As Sommers argues, just as the museum visitor pays little heed to the influence that the frame has on the painting we view, we pay little heed to the context of the environment and its sway on our behavior.

I found that to be so powerful as a reframe of my scholarly work and a broadening of my marketing practice. 

By Sam Sommers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An "entertaining and engaging" exploration of the invisible forces influencing your life-and how understanding them can improve everything you do.

The world around you is pulling your strings, shaping your innermost instincts and your most private thoughts. And you don't even realize it.

Every day and in all walks of life, we overlook the enormous power of situations, of context in our lives. That's a mistake, says Sam Sommers in his provocative new book. Just as a museum visitor neglects to notice the frames around paintings, so do people miss the influence of ordinary situations on the way they think…


Book cover of The Lunar Men: A Story of Science, Art, Invention and Passion

Nicholas Hudson Author Of A Political Biography of Samuel Johnson

From my list on why the Enlightenment is the beginning of the modern world.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teacher and writer, I am a passionate believer in the ideals of the Enlightenment. In my understanding of these ideals, they include a belief in reason and honest inquiry in the service of humanity. More and more we need these ideals against bigotry, self-delusion, greed, and cruelty. The books recommended here are among those that helped to inspire me with continued faith in the progress of the human species and our responsibility to help each other and the world we live in.

Nicholas' book list on why the Enlightenment is the beginning of the modern world

Nicholas Hudson Why did Nicholas love this book?

What really attracted to me about this book was Jenny Uglow’s ability to bring the eighteenth century alive in her biographies of five men – Josiah Wedgwood, Mathew Boulton, James Watt, Eramus Darwin, and Joseph Priestley – who met every month near Birmingham when the moon was full (so that they could see their way home).

These men genuinely transformed the world with their discoveries that created and powered the first factories and revolutionized our understanding of the natural and chemical worlds. For some reason I always remember Uglow’s description of Wedgwood, who invented the process for mass producing china, being so scientifically curious that he insisted on sitting up to watch his own leg being amputated.

This book is a wonderful, personal introduction to the English Enlightenment.

By Jenny Uglow,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Lunar Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 1760s a group of amateur experimenters met and made friends in the English Midlands. Most came from humble families, all lived far from the center of things, but they were young and their optimism was boundless: together they would change the world. Among them were the ambitious toymaker Matthew Boulton and his partner James Watt, of steam-engine fame; the potter Josiah Wedgwood; the larger-than-life Erasmus Darwin, physician, poet, inventor, and theorist of evolution (a forerunner of his grandson Charles). Later came Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen and fighting radical.

With a small band of allies they formed the…


Book cover of Rosie Revere, Engineer

Judith V.T. Wilson Author Of Growing Smarter

From my list on embracing your mistakes and a growth mindset.

Why am I passionate about this?

My perspective as a parent, grandparent, and teacher has changed since I’ve read Mindset. I only wish I had heard about this book sooner. After I read Mindset, I felt like I had discovered the secret sauce for learning. As a teacher, I was always searching for new ways to motivate my students. I adopted innovative strategies and new trends that were engaging. As a result, I was named Teacher of the Year in my school district. Because Dweck’s messages about how the brain learns, the value of mistakes, and perseverance are key to improving a child’s achievement, I annually present this topic at both teacher conferences and parent meetings.

Judith's book list on embracing your mistakes and a growth mindset

Judith V.T. Wilson Why did Judith love this book?

I was like Rosie growing up. I loved to build with my brother’s Lincoln Logs, Legos, and blocks. I even tried my hand at building a tree “fort” once, quite unsuccessfully.

But unlike Rosie, I was creating for fun with no one around. Rosie, however, was showing her inventions to her uncle and aunt, and they loved them. She had a great imagination. I loved the book’s illustrations of Rosie’s gizmos and gadgets created out of treasures found in the recycling bins.

Even though her inventions often failed, her great, great aunt would exclaim it was a brilliant first flop…a perfect failure. But Rosie never quit. As a teacher I often select this book for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) read-aloud, since it’s a great example for girls.

By Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rosie Revere, Engineer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

From the powerhouse author/illustrator team of Iggy Peck, Architect comes Rosie Revere, Engineer, another charming, witty picture book about pursuing your passion. Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she's a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her Great, Great Aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal--to fly--Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt's dream come true. Her invention complete, Rosie attempts a test flight--but after a moment, the machine crashes to the ground. Discouraged, Rosie deems…


Book cover of The Most Magnificent Thing

Cindy Williams Schrauben Author Of This Could Be You: Be Brave Be True Believe Be You

From my list on picture books for growth mindset.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a parent, a former educator, and a children’s museum administrator, my passions have always centered around children and encouraging them to believe in themselves. I wrote my book to empower my own grandchildren with a growth mindset, which, in simple terms, means to believe in our own abilities, accept challenges, learn from our mistakes, and persevere. It is the belief that our abilities and talents are malleable as opposed to the view that we are either good at something or we are not. Adapting a growth mindset has been valuable in my own life, as well – it’s not just for kids. Please take a look at these books to give yourself and the kids in your life a healthy new perspective.

Cindy's book list on picture books for growth mindset

Cindy Williams Schrauben Why did Cindy love this book?

I love the way it encourages kids and adults alike to dream, imagine, and create. Even when things don’t turn out like we’ve planned, we can pivot and continue to learn.

This book speaks to my own experiences as an author and the need to be resilient and enjoy the process.

By Ashley Spires,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Most Magnificent Thing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog.

The girl has a wonderful idea. “She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in…


Book cover of Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin

Mara Rockliff Author Of The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer

From my list on kids who love to tinker.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a children’s author best known for digging up fascinating, often funny stories about famous people—and forgotten people who deserve to be famous again. I’ve written about kids who grew up to be great at everything from making movies to inventing a new language. I want readers to know there are lots of different ways to be smart, and that being “good with your hands” also means being good with your mind.

Mara's book list on kids who love to tinker

Mara Rockliff Why did Mara love this book?

I am a big Franklin fan, as anyone knows who has read my own book about him. This is my favorite book about Franklin as an inventor. I love Gene Barretta’s bright, cartoony illustrations and cleverly written text, which juxtaposes familiar modern-day scenes with Franklin’s astonishing array of innovations (he even invented the odometer??) in a rollicking salute to a Founding Father far ahead of his time.  

By Gene Barretta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Now & Ben as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

The inventions and inspiration of Benjamin Franklin and how they've stood the test of time

What would you do if you lived in a community without a library, hospital, post office, or fire department? If you were Benjamin Franklin, you'd set up these organizations yourself. Franklin also designed the lightning rod, suggested the idea of daylight savings time, and invented bifocals-all inspired by his common sense and intelligence. In this informative book, Gene Barretta brings Benjamin Franklin's genius to life, deepening our appreciation for one of the most influential figures in American history.

Now & Ben is a 2007 Bank…


Book cover of Pharmaphobia: How the Conflict of Interest Myth Undermines American Medical Innovation

John L. LaMattina Author Of Pharma and Profits: Balancing Innovation, Medicine, and Drug Prices

From my list on the challenges of discovering breakthrough medicines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the former president of Pfizer Global Research, where I led research groups around the globe in finding new medicines to treat cancer, addiction, AIDS, immunological diseases, and pain. After retiring from Pfizer, I have been closely involved with biotech companies that also are seeking breakthrough drugs. This industry is a crucial part of the healthcare ecosystem, as evidenced by the remarkable response and, ultimately, the crushing of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, it is not just underappreciated but is treated with scorn by many. This booklist provides sources from which the reader can gain a full understanding of the value of the biopharmaceutical industry, the challenges it faces, and its importance to the world’s health.

John's book list on the challenges of discovering breakthrough medicines

John L. LaMattina Why did John love this book?

There are a lot of critics of the biopharmaceutical industry who belittle the contributions of this industry by accusing it of overselling the value of new medicines, underselling safety, and having numerous conflicts of interest with academic researchers.

This book details the importance of collaborations between doctors and industry for the development of new drugs. For anyone involved in pharmaceutical R&D, it is refreshing to read accounts about successful interactions that lead to breakthroughs.

Rather than look at healthcare as “good guys vs. bad guys,” this book gives great examples of partnerships that result in saving lives.

By Thomas P. Stossel,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World

Bryant Wieneke Author Of The Day Albert Einstein Discovered Relativity

From my list on famous scientists, focusing on their aha! moment.

Why am I passionate about this?

Albert Einstein famously said that he wanted to know God’s thoughts. At least for now, the best I can hope for is knowing the thoughts of monumental figures of science through the ages. In my short and very readable biographies, I focus on the aha! moments when Einstein, Darwin, Carson, Edison, Carver, and others had their epiphanies, when they not only envisioned how to break through longstanding barriers, but understood how to create the foundation for a better future. I believe we can all not only understand how they did it, but we can identify with these inspiring—and very humancreative acts.

Bryant's book list on famous scientists, focusing on their aha! moment

Bryant Wieneke Why did Bryant love this book?

The Wizard of Menlo Park is written with a deep appreciation for the genius of Thomas Edison, following him from his youthful enterprises to his ground-breaking inventions. Edison was a fascinating character, brilliantly described in this full biography. If anyone had a full slate of aha! moments, it was Thomas Edison. 

By Randall E. Stross,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Wizard of Menlo Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thomas Edison’s greatest invention? His own fame.

At the height of his fame Thomas Alva Edison was hailed as “the Napoleon of invention” and blazed in the public imagination as a virtual demigod. Starting with the first public demonstrations of the phonograph in 1878 and extending through the development of incandescent light and the first motion picture cameras, Edison’s name became emblematic of all the wonder and promise of the emerging age of technological marvels.

But as Randall Stross makes clear in this critical biography of the man who is arguably the most globally famous of all Americans, Thomas Edison’s…


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