100 books like The Moral Animal

By Robert Wright,

Here are 100 books that The Moral Animal fans have personally recommended if you like The Moral Animal. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Selfish Gene

Dennis L. Krebs Author Of Survival of the Virtuous: How We Became a Moral Animal

From my list on how we became a moral animal.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was younger, I got into a lot of trouble. Many good-hearted people helped me. In part, this inspired me to become a clinical psychologist. When I was in graduate school at Harvard, I became disillusioned with clinical psychology and inspired to figure out why people are motivated to help others. During this process, a lecturer from the Biology Department, Robert Trivers, approached me and we exchanged drafts of papers we were writing. Trivers’ ideas caused me to see altruism and morality in an entirely different, and much more valid, way. In Survival of the Virtuous I demonstrate how psychological findings on altruism and morality can be gainfully interpreted from an evolutionary perspective.  

Dennis' book list on how we became a moral animal

Dennis L. Krebs Why did Dennis love this book?

More than thirty years ago, when I was conducting research on the psychology of altruism and moral development, a biologist recommended that I read The Selfish Gene

Reading Dawkins’ book caused me to change my theoretical orientation completely.  It enabled me to see that if I wanted to understand altruism and morality, I needed to understand how the genes that guide the construction of the mental mechanisms that cause us to help others evolved. 

Although the title of the book implies that we are selfish by nature, the contents explain how selfish genes can guide the development of unselfish animals.  

By Richard Dawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The million copy international bestseller, critically acclaimed and translated into over 25 languages.

As influential today as when it was first published, The Selfish Gene has become a classic exposition of evolutionary thought. Professor Dawkins articulates a gene's eye view of evolution - a view giving centre stage to these persistent units of information, and in which organisms can be seen as vehicles for their replication. This imaginative, powerful, and stylistically brilliant work not only brought the insights of Neo-Darwinism to a wide audience, but galvanized the biology
community, generating much debate and stimulating whole new areas of research. Forty…


Book cover of Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior

Dennis L. Krebs Author Of Survival of the Virtuous: How We Became a Moral Animal

From my list on how we became a moral animal.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was younger, I got into a lot of trouble. Many good-hearted people helped me. In part, this inspired me to become a clinical psychologist. When I was in graduate school at Harvard, I became disillusioned with clinical psychology and inspired to figure out why people are motivated to help others. During this process, a lecturer from the Biology Department, Robert Trivers, approached me and we exchanged drafts of papers we were writing. Trivers’ ideas caused me to see altruism and morality in an entirely different, and much more valid, way. In Survival of the Virtuous I demonstrate how psychological findings on altruism and morality can be gainfully interpreted from an evolutionary perspective.  

Dennis' book list on how we became a moral animal

Dennis L. Krebs Why did Dennis love this book?

As a psychologist, I marveled at the integration of ideas from psychology and evolutionary biology (with some philosophy thrown in) about the evolution of morality presented by the biologist D.S. Wilson and the philosopher Elliott Sober. 
Unto Others is a bold book that challenges the pervasive position in biology that moral traits cannot evolve through group selection. Using examples from several species, these authors explain how competitions in which altruistic groups defeat selfish groups can select for altruistic traits even though selfish individuals within these groups fare better than altruistic individuals. 

I admired the courage of these authors to go against the grain and withstand the vilification that their iconoclastic ideas evoked.   

By Elliot Sober, David Sloan Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

No matter what we do, however kind or generous our deeds may seem, a hidden motive of selfishness lurks--or so science has claimed for years. This book, whose publication promises to be a major scientific event, tells us differently. In Unto Others philosopher Elliott Sober and biologist David Sloan Wilson demonstrate once and for all that unselfish behavior is in fact an important feature of both biological and human nature. Their book provides a panoramic view of altruism throughout the animal kingdom--from self-sacrificing parasites to insects that subsume themselves in the superorganism of a colony to the human capacity for…


Book cover of The Biology of Moral Systems

Dennis L. Krebs Author Of Survival of the Virtuous: How We Became a Moral Animal

From my list on how we became a moral animal.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was younger, I got into a lot of trouble. Many good-hearted people helped me. In part, this inspired me to become a clinical psychologist. When I was in graduate school at Harvard, I became disillusioned with clinical psychology and inspired to figure out why people are motivated to help others. During this process, a lecturer from the Biology Department, Robert Trivers, approached me and we exchanged drafts of papers we were writing. Trivers’ ideas caused me to see altruism and morality in an entirely different, and much more valid, way. In Survival of the Virtuous I demonstrate how psychological findings on altruism and morality can be gainfully interpreted from an evolutionary perspective.  

Dennis' book list on how we became a moral animal

Dennis L. Krebs Why did Dennis love this book?

My introduction to Richard Alexander was a set of compelling words that he wrote in the margin of a draft of one of my early papers on the evolution of altruism: “no, no, no, no.” I had gotten it wrong. 

In The Biology of Moral Systems, Richard Alexander presents an account of how morality evolved in the human species that has proven almost exactly right. The key to understanding morality, he argues, is to view it as a system that evolved to enable individuals who can benefit from cooperating with one another to resolve their conflicts of interest in mutually beneficial ways. 

Alexander explains how the moral systems that have evolved in human societies are structured in ways that enable people to reap the benefits of increasingly indirect systems of reciprocity.  

By Richard Alexander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Despite wide acceptance that the attributes of living creatures have appeared through a cumulative evolutionary process guided chiefly by natural selection, many human activities have seemed analytically inaccessible through such an approach. Prominent evolutionary biologists, for example, have described morality as contrary to the direction of biological evolution, and moral philosophers rarely regard evolution as relevant to their discussions.The Biology of Moral Systems adopts the position that moral questions arise out of conflicts of interest, and that moral systems are ways of using confluences of interest at lower levels of social organization to deal with conflicts of interest at higher…


Book cover of The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts And the Evolution of Cooperation

Dennis L. Krebs Author Of Survival of the Virtuous: How We Became a Moral Animal

From my list on how we became a moral animal.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was younger, I got into a lot of trouble. Many good-hearted people helped me. In part, this inspired me to become a clinical psychologist. When I was in graduate school at Harvard, I became disillusioned with clinical psychology and inspired to figure out why people are motivated to help others. During this process, a lecturer from the Biology Department, Robert Trivers, approached me and we exchanged drafts of papers we were writing. Trivers’ ideas caused me to see altruism and morality in an entirely different, and much more valid, way. In Survival of the Virtuous I demonstrate how psychological findings on altruism and morality can be gainfully interpreted from an evolutionary perspective.  

Dennis' book list on how we became a moral animal

Dennis L. Krebs Why did Dennis love this book?

Matt Ridley is a science writer who has a rare knack for explaining complex ideas in ways that are witty and comprehensible to a lay audience. 

In Origins of Virtue, he weaves engaging anecdotes about academics who have argued that the function of traits we consider virtues is to uphold systems of cooperation into accounts of their ideas. I found his discussions of game theory especially interesting. 

Richard Dawkins may have provided the best review of Ridley’s book when he wrote, “If my Selfish Gene were to have a volume two devoted to humans, The Origins of Virtue is pretty much what I think it ought to look like.” 

By Matt Ridley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

If, as Darwin suggests, evolution relentlessly encourages the survival of the fittest, why are humans compelled to live in cooperative, complex societies? In this fascinating examination of the roots of human trust and virtue, a zoologist and former American editor of the Economist reveals the results of recent studies that suggest that self-interest and mutual aid are not at all incompatible. In fact, he points out, our cooperative instincts may have evolved as part of mankind's natural selfish behavior-by exchanging favors we can benefit ourselves as well as others.Brilliantly orchestrating the newest findings of geneticists, psychologists, and anthropologists, The Origins…


Book cover of Being a Human: Adventures in Forty Thousand Years of Consciousness

Paul Pettitt Author Of Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

From my list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went to university wanting to become a Roman specialist, but ended up going backwards in time until I landed with a bump on the hard flints of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). I research aspects of the behaviour of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) indigenous Europeans – the Neanderthals – and the origins and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. I undertake fieldwork across Europe, and I’m particularly interested in the origins and early development of art – both on portable objects and cave walls – and the long-term evolution of our treatment of the dead. My scientific love is how we can try to get inside the mind of our most remote ancestors.

Paul's book list on understanding the evolution of the human mind

Paul Pettitt Why did Paul love this book?

A raw and bloody gem of a book, which plunges the reader into the cold and dirty world of our deep past, not just seen but experienced by its multi-talented author.

A philosophical hankering to know what it means to be human – and what we have inherited from our evolutionary past -leads this trained veterinarian, barrister, and writer to go back to nature in a Derbyshire wood. He and his long-suffering son experience the freezing, claw-red, and skin-tearing nature of the wild, as they seek to live similarly to our prehistoric ancestors.

Drawing inspiration from the 40,000 years of the Upper Palaeolithic, in an environment similar to the Mesolithic, Foster paints a blistering, spraining, and chilling account of the demands of a more primitive life. Essential reading from the comfort of my couch.

By Charles Foster,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE ATLANTIC, KIRKUS REVIEWS, AND NEW STATESMAN

A radically immersive exploration of three pivotal moments in the evolution of human consciousness, asking what kinds of creatures humans were, are, and might yet be

How did humans come to be who we are? In his marvelous, eccentric, and widely lauded book Being a Beast, legal scholar, veterinary surgeon, and naturalist extraordinaire Charles Foster set out to understand the consciousness of animal species by living as a badger, otter, fox, deer, and swift. Now, he inhabits three crucial periods of human development to understand…


Book cover of Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind

Bryan Farha Author Of Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims

From my list on critically analyzing paranormal claims.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a licensed mental health professional, I once had a client claiming to be demonically possessed, and requested that I get an exorcist to drive the evil spirits out of her body. Instead, I utilized a therapeutic approach to challenge “irrational” beliefs. The problem was gone. I realized that people were prone to strange beliefs and started to read and listen to “experts” who were skeptical in nature. To my surprise, I saw Carl Sagan distinguishing astrology (pseudoscience) from astronomy (science). His talk was clear, convincing, and logical. I was hooked.

Bryan's book list on critically analyzing paranormal claims

Bryan Farha Why did Bryan love this book?

David Buss combines the fields and research provided by both psychology and biology to examine human behavior from an evolutionary vantage point. And he makes a compelling case. Critical thinking questions and case studies are included in the book. He explains human behavior from an evolutionary perspective, based on what is “adaptive.”

By David Buss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Where did we come from?

What is our connection with other life forms?

What are the mechanisms of mind that define what it means to be a human being?

Evolutionary psychology is a revolutionary new science, a true synthesis of modern principles of psychology and evolutionary biology. Since the publication of the award-winning first edition of Evolutionary Psychology, there has been an explosion of research within the field. In this book, David M. Buss examines human behavior from an evolutionary perspective, providing students with the conceptual tools needed to study evolutionary psychology and apply them to empirical research on the…


Book cover of What's Our Problem? A Self-Help Book for Societies

Tobias Rose-Stockwell Author Of Outrage Machine: How Tech Amplifies Discontent, Disrupts Democracy--And What We Can Do about It

From my list on why everything feels terrible right now.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, designer, and technologist, I've always been fascinated by the extraordinary potential of the internet. It’s our species' greatest invention to date, giving us powers our ancestors would have only dreamed of. But I'm equally aware of its darker side. We now live an inordinate amount of our lives in spaces controlled by algorithms that have strange agendas. A key part of my work is exposing how the subtle designs of our online spaces can dramatically change our emotions, making them much more contagious. By translating these insights into understandable narratives, my goal is to foster digital resilience, and help us take back some real measure of control of our digital lives.

Tobias' book list on why everything feels terrible right now

Tobias Rose-Stockwell Why did Tobias love this book?

A rare book that is as funny as it is profound, illustrating why things feel so broken.

Tim is the creator of the popular blog Wait But Why, and his unique blend of curiosity and storytelling flair is on full display here. The book eschews the standard left-right political analysis for an exploration of how our brains work (and what impact this has on the decisions that shape societies). 

By Tim Urban,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What's Our Problem? A Self-Help Book for Societies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the creator of the wildly popular blog Wait But Why, a fun and fascinating deep dive into what the hell is going on in our strange, unprecedented modern times.

Between 2013 and 2016, Tim Urban became one of the world's most popular bloggers, writing dozens of viral, long-form articles about everything from AI to colonizing Mars to procrastination. Then, he turned his attention to a new topic: the society around him. Why was everything such a mess? Why was everyone acting like such a baby? When did things get so tribal? Why do humans do this stuff?

This massive…


Book cover of The Life of Dad: The Making of a Modern Father

Mark Williams Author Of Fathers and Perinatal Mental Health: A Guide for Recognition, Treatment and Management

From my list on for new fathers about their mental health.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mark Williams is a keynote speaker, author, and international campaigner. In 2004 he himself experienced depression and suffered in silence for years until he entered community mental health services. He founded International Fathers Mental Health Day and #Howareyoudad campaign to make sure all parents are having support for the whole family. In 2020 Mark published the report called "Fathers Reaching Out - Why Dads Matter" to explain the importance of paternal mental health which has far better outcomes for the whole family and the development of the child when we include fathers. Mark is also an ambassador for Mothers For Mothers Charity.

Mark's book list on for new fathers about their mental health

Mark Williams Why did Mark love this book?

Dr Machin draws on her research and the latest findings in genetics, neuroscience and psychology to tell the story of fatherhood. She will show the extraordinary physiological changes a man undergoes when he becomes a father, investigate how a man’s genes can influence what sort of father he will be, and will show how a dad makes a unique contribution to his child’s life, helping to foster independence of mind and spirit.

By Dr. Anna Machin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE STORY OF FATHERHOOD AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A FATHER TODAY, BASED ON A DECADE-LONG STUDY OF NEW AND EXPECTANT FATHERS.

Becoming a father is one of most common but also one of the most profoundly life-altering experiences a man can have. It is up there with puberty, falling in love and experiencing your first loss. Fifty years ago a father's role was assumed to be clear: he went to work; he provided the pay cheque; and he acted as a disciplinarian when he got home. But today a father's role is much more fluid and complex.

Dr…


Book cover of Satisfaction: Sensation Seeking, Novelty, and the Science of Finding True Fulfillment

Fumio Sasaki Author Of Hello, Habits: A Minimalist's Guide to a Better Life

From my list on harnessing the power of habits.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I became a minimalist, I found that having less made my household chores so much easier. Before then, I thought I was a loser who lets dirty dishes and laundry pile up. But when my environment changed, what I had believed was my personality also shifted. Once my apartment was tidy, it became a habit to do the dishes right away and vacuum the floor before going out, and my life became consistently enjoyable. But other habits were harder nuts to crack, like quitting drinking or exercising regularly. In Hello, Habits I write about my journey of acquiring these habits through a process of trial and error.

Fumio's book list on harnessing the power of habits

Fumio Sasaki Why did Fumio love this book?

Why do we need to acquire good habits to begin with? One reason is we can’t feel a sense of fulfillment or achievement where there’s no stress. People like Elon Musk and Bill Gates surely have enough wealth to spend the rest of their lives lying on the beach, but that’s not what they do. Eating sweets is all it takes for the neurotransmitter dopamine to be released and give us a dose of happiness, but that doesn’t satisfy us for very long. In this book, author Gregory Berns focuses on the stress hormone cortisol. He shows us, in an approachable and entertaining manner, that a reasonable amount of stress is what actually helps us experience a deep sense of satisfaction.

By Gregory Berns,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?



“A discussion that is meaty, contemporary and expansive . . . Berns artfully blends social critique with technical expertise.”—The Washington Post Book World

In a riveting narrative look at the brain and the power of novelty to satisfy it, Dr. Gregory Berns plumbs fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and evolutionary psychology to find answers to the fundamental question of how we can find a more satisfying way to think and live.

We join Berns as he follows ultramarathoners across the Sierra Nevadas, enters a suburban S&M club to explore the deeper connection between pleasure and pain, partakes of a…


Book cover of The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy

Joseph P. Forgas Author Of The Psychology of Populism: The Tribal Challenge to Liberal Democracy

From my list on why populism threatens liberal democratic societies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an experimental social psychologist and Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. I grew up in Hungary, and after an adventurous escape I ended up in Sydney. I received my DPhil and DSc degrees from the University of Oxford, and I spent various periods working at Oxford, Stanford, Heidelberg, and Giessen. For my work I received the Order of Australia, as well as the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the Alexander von Humboldt Prize, and a Rockefeller Fellowship. As somebody who experienced totalitarian communism firsthand, I am very interested in the reasons for the recent spread of totalitarian, tribal ideologies, potentially undermining Western liberalism, undoubtedly the most successful civilization in human history.

Joseph's book list on why populism threatens liberal democratic societies

Joseph P. Forgas Why did Joseph love this book?

Bill is an accomplished evolutionary psychologist and a good friend of mine.

In this book he offers an evolutionary account of how human beings came to survive and become the dominant species on the planet largely because of our unparalleled ability to cooperate and form successful groups.

The evolution of consciousness, a unique mental ability to imagine, represent, predict, and model the behavior of others played a crucial role in our evolutionary success, and the book offers a lucid, readable, and highly entertaining overview of our evolutionary history, focusing on the development and functions of our psychological habits and abilities in particular.

By William Von Hippel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the compelling popular science tradition of Sapiens and Guns, Germs, and Steel, a groundbreaking and eye-opening exploration that applies evolutionary science to provide a new perspective on human psychology, revealing how major challenges from our past have shaped some of the most fundamental aspects of our being.

The most fundamental aspects of our lives-from leadership and innovation to aggression and happiness-were permanently altered by the "social leap" our ancestors made from the rainforest to the savannah. Their struggle to survive on the open grasslands required a shift from individualism to a new form of collectivism, which forever altered the…


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