The best books on choice and choosing

6 authors have picked their favorite books about choice and choosing and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams

Refuse to Choose is the original book for people who are curious about many unrelated subjects. It is a comforting and fun read, with lots of real-world examples. Highlights include her breakdown of the different “types” of scanners and her project organization method, the Scanner Daybook.

Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams

By Barbara Sher,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Don't know what to do with your life? Drawn to so many things that you can't choose just one? New York Times best-selling author Barbara Sher has the answer-do EVERYTHING!

"Designed to help you enjoy your many interests without feeling overwhelmed and unfocused"
- Metro New York

Author of Wishcraft and I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was..., Barbara Sher has become famous for her extraordinary ability to help people define and achieve their goals. What Sher has discovered is that some individuals simply cannot, and should not, decide on a single path; they are genetically…

Who am I?

Emilie Wapnick is an award-winning author and community builder. She is the founder and creative director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites (people with many passions and creative pursuits) integrate all of their interests to create dynamic, fulfilling, and fruitful careers and lives. Her popular TED talk, Why some of us don’t have one true calling, has been viewed 7 million times and she has been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, Forbes, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, BBC, and Vice.


I wrote...

How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don't Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up

By Emilie Wapnick,

Book cover of How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don't Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up

What is my book about?

What do you want to be when you grow up? It's a familiar question we're all asked as kids. While seemingly harmless, the question has unintended consequences. It can make you feel like you need to choose one job, one passion, one thing to be about. Guess what? You don't. Having a lot of different interests, projects and curiosities doesn't make you a "jack-of-all-trades, master of none." Your endless curiosity doesn't mean you are broken or flaky. What you are is a multipotentialite: someone with many interests and creative pursuits. And that is actually your biggest strength.

How to Be Everything will help you channel your diverse passions and skills to work for you. It offers a practical framework—used by real multipotentialites—to build a sustainable life and career around ALL of your passions.

Rationality

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

“For the time is coming when people will...turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” So wrote St. Paul, two millennia ago. And so it has come to pass in our age, with misinformation spreading faster than truth, and democracy threatened by anti-science conspiracy thinking. In response to this post-truth world, Pinker, with his characteristic wit and wisdom, exposes the roots and fruits of human irrationality and guides us to thinking smarter. A book for our time.

Rationality

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2021

'Punchy, funny and invigorating ... Pinker is the high priest of rationalism' Sunday Times

'If you've ever considered taking drugs to make yourself smarter, read Rationality instead. It's cheaper, more entertaining, and more effective' Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind

In the twenty-first century, humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding - and at the same time appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that discovered vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, quack cures and conspiracy theorizing?

In Rationality, Pinker rejects…


Who am I?

I’m a Hope College social psychologist who reports on psychological science in textbooks, general audience trade books, and essays. My career has progressed from experiments on group decision-making to reading widely in psychological science in search of discoveries and big ideas that educated people should know about. Two aims animate my writing: to enable people, amid a sea of misinformation, to think smarter about their lives, and to savor the wonders of their lives. 


I wrote...

How Do We Know Ourselves? Curiosities and Marvels of the Human Mind

By David G. Myers,

Book cover of How Do We Know Ourselves? Curiosities and Marvels of the Human Mind

What is my book about?

Reading my discipline’s discoveries leaves me sometimes surprised, occasionally awestruck, and frequently fascinated by our mind and its actions. This wee book’s 40 essays offer psychological research revelations—snapshots of the field’s mind-expanding discernments.

The essays are brief and playful musings that I hope you might enjoy during a bus ride, an office wait, or as bedtime mental morsels. Each has a simple premise: Although we all know a lot, we don’t know what we don’t know—even about ourselves. So, let’s shine the light of psychological science on our sometimes bewildering but ever-intriguing lives.

Blob

By Anne Appert,

Book cover of Blob

This recent title’s combination of silly and earnest has quickly become a favorite. Blob is able to shape itself into being anything it wants to be and it reminded me of my cloud character Lola. But unlike Lola, Blob isn’t sure at first what it wants to be, and the shapes it makes are a journey of self-exploration. As a grownup who has held many varied jobs over the years, the idea of not picking to be any one thing resonates with me. People, and blobs, get to be themselves, whatever that is.

Blob

By Anne Appert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A humorous picture book featuring a blob (n. a creature that can be anything they want) about embracing who we are and the many things we can be.

Blob is a creature of indeterminate kind. Blob can be a giraffe, cotton candy, and even an octopus. It's not until a certain someone continuously calls them "Bob" that Blob starts to question who they really are.

After a series of funny yet enlightening discoveries about all the possible things they can be, Blob realizes that the best thing to be is . . .

Blob.

(With the L.)

Author, artist, and…


Who am I?

A former microbiologist and attorney turned children’s book author, I’m delighted to advocate for children’s self-confidence and critical thinking skills in literature. I like to write about things that I know, to share my passion, and about things I don’t know—to learn more. Stories have been an escape and a learning tool for me and I want to share stories that do the same for children today.


I wrote...

Lola Shapes the Sky

By Wendy Greenley, Paolo Domeniconi (illustrator),

Book cover of Lola Shapes the Sky

What is my book about?

Lola Shapes the Sky tells the story of a playful cloud named Lola. She isn’t like the other clouds in the sky. She would rather make shapes than weather. Rain? Nope. Shade? Nope. Snow? Nope. The other clouds bully and then abandon Lola. But the people on the ground remind Lola that there’s value in what feels right to her. Standing up for herself, Lola shows that clouds that make beautiful shapes and clouds that make weather can co-exist.

Jane, Unlimited

By Kristin Cashore,

Book cover of Jane, Unlimited

Jane, Unlimited is a marvelously constructed book that focuses on Jane, a girl grieving her aunt and making umbrellas, who gets an invitation to a mysterious island mansion. I am here for all mysterious island mansion books. This estate is named Tu Reviens–"You come back” in French. That is, of course, a clue to the premise. There are a couple of possible love interests, but it’s not a love triangle and I don’t think it would annoy the people who are dead set against triangles.

Jane, Unlimited

By Kristin Cashore,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’m a history instructor and often think about alternate historical outcomes, but you don’t get to choose those. Wish the Spanish Armada hadn’t sunk? Tough luck. But you can take a novel in any direction—kill a character, bring them back, let them fall in love, make them eat an egg salad sandwich… When the book itself is about parallel worlds, it increases those possibilities exponentially. In What Goes Up, Rosa and Eddie have very different backgrounds—Earth is two different worlds for them. What happens when there’s another world out there and they meet themselves in a different place? As one character asks, how much do you trust yourself?


I wrote...

What Goes Up

By Katie Kennedy,

Book cover of What Goes Up

What is my book about?

Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA's mysterious Interworlds Agency. They're not exactly sure what the top-secret program entails, but they know they want in. Rosa has her brilliant parents' legacies to live up to, and Eddie has nowhere else to gohe's certainly not going to stick around and wait for his violent father to get out of jail. Even if they are selected, they have no idea what lies in store. But first, they have to make it through round after round of crazy-competitive testing.

And then something happens that even NASA's scientists couldn't predict...

Nudge

By Cass R. Sunstein, Richard H. Thaler,

Book cover of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness

This book introduced the concept of nudging into the public discourse, and I guess all of us have encountered it one way or the other. How many reminders have I gotten to sign up for this or that program?… Alas, I love Thaler and Sunstein's concept of choice architects. It made me think about power as a capacity to affect not only people but also the very framework in which people make decisions.

Nudge

By Cass R. Sunstein, Richard H. Thaler,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

As an archaeologist, I love prehistoric things and what can I learn from them about the people that made them and left them behind. I study ancient Maya commoners in what is now modern Guatemala. Their material remains are humble but include depictions and symbols normally found in the palaces of Maya kings and queens. First I wondered and then I studied how the title-giving war owl fell into the hands of Maya commoners. By approaching this process as innovation, I discuss creativity in the past and cultural changes that result from it.


I wrote...

War Owl Falling: Innovation, Creativity, and Culture Change in Ancient Maya Society

By Markus Eberl,

Book cover of War Owl Falling: Innovation, Creativity, and Culture Change in Ancient Maya Society

What is my book about?

How do innovation and creativity lead to social change in ancient societies? I discuss the ways eighth-century Maya (and Maya commoners in particular) reinvented objects and signs that were associated with nobility, including the symbol of the owl. Decision-making—the ability to imagine alternate worlds and to act on that vision—plays a large role in changing social structure over time. My “Garden of Forking Paths” model shows how innovators were those individuals who imagined an array of possible futures and negotiated power to reach desirable outcomes. Societal constraints or opportunities dictated whether members’ ideas were realized. Pinpointing where and when Maya inventions emerged, how individuals adopted them, and why, War Owl Falling connects technological and social change in a novel way.   

Essentialism

By Greg McKeown,

Book cover of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

In our world of 24/7 connectivity and overly busy lives, Greg McKeown provides the key to happiness and success; decide what you want to achieve (i.e., what’s essential to you), and then focus all of your energy on that while tuning out other distractions. As someone who tries to “do it all,” this book helped me understand how to be strategic in how I spend my time.

This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt stretched too thin, who has said yes when wanting to say no, or who has felt the frustration of having precious time dedicated to someone else’s agenda.

Essentialism

By Greg McKeown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The life-changing international bestseller that started a global movement - now updated with the new 21-Day Essentialism Challenge and an exclusive excerpt from EFFORTLESS

Have you ever found yourself struggling with information overload?

Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilised?

Do you ever feel busy but not productive?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is to become an Essentialist.

In Essentialism, Greg McKeown, CEO of a Leadership and Strategy agency in Silicon Valley who has run courses at Apple, Google and Facebook, shows you how to achieve what he calls the disciplined pursuit of…


Who am I?

I'm the founder of Life Organized Inc, a firm specializing in the organization of people, their lives, and physical spaces. Known for creating solutions that are as aesthetically appealing as they are practical, I transform spaces from the inside out. My areas of expertise include home and office organization, time management, digital decluttering, organizing for academic success, maximizing productivity while working from home, and management of everyday chaos. I'm a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the NYU Stern School of Business.


I wrote...

Secrets of an Organized Mom

By Barbara Reich,

Book cover of Secrets of an Organized Mom

What is my book about?

My book offers a life-changing approach to decluttering and streamlining your home so you and your family can live a simpler, less chaotic life.

Room by room, I address the most problematic areas in the home—from the tornado-struck play area to the packed basement—and tackle organizing in manageable bites. In addition to organizing tips, I address how to avoid social overload, preaching the power of “No”—for example, when your child wants to attend multiple birthday parties in one weekend. As the mother of twins, I have first-hand insight into the lives of crazed moms. Combining the humor of a sympathetic friend and the no-nonsense advice of a true type-A personality, I offer clever, appealing solutions that are genuinely achievable for everyone.

The Art of Choosing

By Sheena Iyengar,

Book cover of The Art of Choosing

Almost everyone has more stuff than they can hold at once. Picking up something new involves setting down something that you already had. Iyengar’s book is the background for every marketing decision ever made, but from the consumer’s perspective: when there is so much stuff in the world, how do you make a choice? Part psychology, part business manual, Iyengar illustrates how much decision-making we do every single day.

The Art of Choosing

By Sheena Iyengar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Every day we make choices. Coke or Pepsi? Save or spend? Stay or go? Whether mundane or life-altering, these choices define us and shape our lives. Sheena Iyengar asks the difficult questions about how and why we choose: Is the desire for choice innate or bound by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Her award-winning research reveals that the answers are surprising and profound. In our world of shifting political and cultural forces, technological revolution, and interconnected commerce, our decisions have far-reaching consequences. Use this…

Who am I?

I’m an archaeologist, which means that I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many places to dig and survey ancient remains. What I’ve realized in handling those dusty old objects is that all over the world, in both past and present, people are defined by their stuff: what they made, used, broke, and threw away. Most compelling are the things that people cherished despite being worn or flawed, just like we have objects in our house that are broken or old but that we keep anyway.


I wrote...

Book cover of Cities: The First 6,000 Years

What is my book about?

Cities are such a strange concept that they had to be invented: in the deep past, everyone lived in villages. Yet cities provide so many things that a village cannot: diversity, entertainment, higher education, economic opportunities, and a sense of excitement accompanied by ever-increasing quantities of stuff. How did cities get started? What characteristics do modern cities share with ancient ones, both positive and negative? And what is it like to actually dig a city as an archaeologist, going down to the very bottom of the earliest urban centers to find out what made them so attractive to ancient inhabitants? 


The Paradox of Choice

By Barry Schwartz,

Book cover of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

More is not always better. More choices, more options—although they are what we crave to have and even see them as part of our definition of "freedom" sometimescan be devastating and paralyzing. As I was writing my own book, which deals a lot with choices and the way we make them, Barry Schwartz's clear and smart book was a reminder about how narrowing down our options can be a good thing.

The Paradox of Choice

By Barry Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Whether we're buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions-both big and small-have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented. As Americans, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all…

Who am I?

As I was writing The Coincidence Makers I found out I am not writing about coincidences, at all. I found out I was writing about fate and free will, about the way we make choices, and how these choices affect us, define us and change us. Choices and the way they build our happiness is the theme of this list, which is made out of books that I read before or during the writing process of my own (fiction) book, and probably influenced it, one way or another.


I wrote...

The Coincidence Makers: A Novel

By Yoav Blum,

Book cover of The Coincidence Makers: A Novel

What is my book about?

Guy, Emily, and Eric are three seemingly ordinary people who work for a secret organization devoted to creating and carrying out coincidences. What the rest of the world sees as random occurrences, are, in fact, carefully orchestrated events designed to spark significant changes in the lives of their targets—scientists on the brink of breakthroughs, struggling artists starved for inspiration, loves to be, or just plain people like you and me…

But a secret mission, a killer who can't hurt a fly, and memories from previous lives are going to change all that and teach them about the true nature of fate, free will, and the real meaning of love.

Book cover of The Midnight Library

Is it time travel? Maybe. What if we made different choices? Do we regret the ones we made? Nora Seed’s portal between life and death is a library full of books with all her regrets and missed opportunities. The former librarian in me loved the idea of going back to fix our past mistakes – or were they? This is one of the most uplifting books I have ever read.  

The Midnight Library

By Matt Haig,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Midnight Library as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling WORLDWIDE phenomenon

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction | A Good Morning America Book Club Pick | Independent (London) Ten Best Books of the Year

"A feel-good book guaranteed to lift your spirits."-The Washington Post

The dazzling reader-favorite about the choices that go into a life well lived, from the acclaimed author of How To Stop Time and The Comfort Book.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of…

Who am I?

I’m an avid lifelong reader who became a librarian, my dream job that kept me close to books and everything about them. I’ve seen so many changes in women’s lives since then. My oldest known ancestor was a woman born in 1778. What was her life like compared to mine? What would she think of me? In my time travel novel, I try to answer those questions. I’m drawn to stories that deal with universal women’s themes – family, love, fulfilling work, inequality, domestic abuse, motherhood, sisterhood, daughterhood – the list seems endless, as are the many ways authors use time travel to explore them.   


I wrote...

Where the Stork Flies

By Linda Wisniewski,

Book cover of Where the Stork Flies

What is my book about?

Kat is at loose ends after her husband ditched her and their daughter followed suit. When a lost time traveler appears in her Pennsylvania kitchen, she grasps at the chance to give her life meaning by helping the woman find her way home. But a mysterious stranger insists they are together for a purpose. Slipping through a portal to an 1825 Polish village, Kat meets her own ancestors and discovers how her own mistakes derailed her life. Can she bring her new understanding of forgiveness and unconditional love back to the present and heal her family before it’s too late?

Nudge

By Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein,

Book cover of Nudge

After "bias," what is the second-most-popular behavioral science buzzword? Nudge, of course. Some think nudges are a brilliant invention; others claim they're a tool for cynical manipulation. Whether you are in one camp or in the other, the place to start is the book that made the case for "libertarian paternalism," now in a new, "final" edition. If you think you already know what nudges are, you may be surprised to find that "choice architecture," as Thaler and Sunstein call it, is a much more subtle art than you think.

Nudge

By Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Once again a New York Times bestseller! First the original edition, and now the new Final Edition*

An essential new edition revised and updated from cover to cover of one of the most important books of the last two decades, by Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

More than 2 million copies sold

Since the original publication of Nudge more than a decade ago, the title has entered the vocabulary of businesspeople, policy makers, engaged citizens, and consumers everywhere. The book has given rise to more than 400 "nudge units" in governments around the world and…

Who am I?

I had a long career as a management consultant, advising business leaders about their most important choices. One question never stopped bothering me: why do really, really great businesspeople sometimes make really, really bad decisions? After 25 years, I finally decided that this question was interesting enough that I wanted to become a professor in order to study it. So that’s what I do now – and I write about what I find.   


I wrote...

You're About to Make a Terrible Mistake: How Biases Distort Decision-Making and What You Can Do to Fight Them

By Olivier Sibony,

Book cover of You're About to Make a Terrible Mistake: How Biases Distort Decision-Making and What You Can Do to Fight Them

What is my book about?

We all make decisions all the time. It’s so natural that we hardly stop to think about it. Yet even the best business leaders make frequent, predictable errors. Indeed, for some types of business decisions, error is not the exception: it is the rule.

In You’re About to Make a Terrible Mistake! you’ll discover dozens of stories that illustrate the most common decision-making traps. And whether your organization is a fledgling nonprofit or a multinational corporation, you’ll find some detailed, practical advice on how to avoid these mistakes and make better decisions.

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