The most recommended cognitive neuroscience books

Who picked these books? Meet our 30 experts.

30 authors created a book list connected to cognitive neuroscience, and here are their favorite cognitive neuroscience books.
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Book cover of What If? Short Stories to Spark Inclusion & Diversity Dialogue

Barbara B. Adams PsyD Author Of Women, Minorities, and Other Extraordinary People: The New Path for Workforce Diversity

From my list on workforce diversity that won’t piss you off.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t have a passion for the diversity, equity, and inclusion topic. I have an obligation. When I didn’t see or understand the horrific injustice of systemic oppression, I couldn’t do anything about it. Now that I see it, I cannot ignore it. I’ve become an expert through my work in organizational development. I work with technology, healthcare, financial services and educational services clients around the globe, and in 2016 I founded GAR (Gender, Age, Race) Diversity Consulting. Prior to GAR, I was a director in the National Diversity and Inclusion office at Kaiser Permanente, and I worked for many years as a global management and technology consultant with American Management Systems, Inc (now CGI). 

Barbara's book list on workforce diversity that won’t piss you off

Barbara B. Adams PsyD Why did Barbara love this book?

I love this book and have used it in many workplace training environments—both in-person and virtual. The stories in this book helped me to better understand my worldviews and mental models and how those models affect my thinking and actions toward others. The questions posed at the end of each story provide sensitive, caring, insightful, and non-judgmental opportunities for self-reflection, group sharing, and personal growth. This book is a powerhouse for inspirational human change!

By Steve L. Robbins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What If? Short Stories to Spark Inclusion & Diversity Dialogue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From incomparable storyteller and beloved diversity and inclusion expert, Steve L. Robbins, comes the 10th Anniversary Edition of his classic book used by scores of companies globally for diversity training.

This 10th anniversary edition of the beloved classic features 10 new stories written by Dr. Robbins that help readers gain deeper insight into the role our brains play in shaping our thoughts and actions, and what we can do to be more curious and open-minded in our diverse world. Based on his study of the fields of behavioural science and cognitive neuroscience, Robbins explores unconscious bias in many of its…


Book cover of Early Childhood and Neuroscience: Theory, Research and Implications for Practice

Angela Hodgkins Author Of Strength-based Practice with Children and Families

From my list on why working with young children is awesome.

Why am I passionate about this?

My professional background is in working with children, my career began as an NNEB nursery nurse and I did many jobs (nanny, childminder, preschool, reception class, after school club, primary school, special school, and in learning support). I then trained as a teacher of adults and went on to be a college lecturer. I am now a senior university lecturer, but my heart has always been in the early years. I am passionate about highlighting the incredible work that is going on in the early years and in schools and have a strength-based, empowering, and optimistic view, which I try to instill in my students. Working with young children is a privilege and a joy.

Angela's book list on why working with young children is awesome

Angela Hodgkins Why did Angela love this book?

This book is changing the way we view children’s development. It explains brain development in a really easy-to-understand way and it gives a completely child-centred view.

Reading this book will help you to understand children and their behaviour and it will ultimately make you a better practitioner. It is a ‘must’ for anyone working with children.

By Mine Conkbayir,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Highly Commended: Nursery World Awards 2017 Professional Book of the Year Early Childhood and Neuroscience is a practical guide to understanding the complex and challenging subject of neuroscience and its use (and misapplication) in early childhood policy and practice. The author begins by introducing the definition and history of neuroscience. The reader is then led through structured chapters discussing questions such as: Why should practitioners know about neuroscience? How can neuroscience help practitioners better provide for babies and children? and Is it relevant? Topics covered include the nature vs. nurture debate through the lens of neuroscience, epigenetics, the first 1001…


Book cover of Feeling Beauty: The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience

Anjan Chatterjee Author Of The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art

From my list on the science of art and aesthetics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by beauty and art. As a child growing up in India, I sketched frequently. Later, I became obsessed with photography. In 1999, I moved from my first academic job to join the newly forming Center of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. The move was an opportunity to rethink my research program. In addition to studying spatial cognition, attention, and language, I decided to investigate the biological basis of aesthetic experiences. At the time there was virtually no scholarship in the neuroscience of aesthetics. It has been an exciting journey to watch this field grow. And, it has been exhilarating to start the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, the first research center of its kind in the US.

Anjan's book list on the science of art and aesthetics

Anjan Chatterjee Why did Anjan love this book?

This book is an excellent example of interdisciplinarity. Gabrielle Starr is a humanist—a literary scholar, by training—who probes neuroscience methods and how brain sciences can contribute to our understanding of aesthetics. She addresses literature, poetry, music, and visual art with ideas informed by experimental neuroaesthetics work.

By G. Gabrielle Starr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A theory of the neural bases of aesthetic experience across the arts, which draws on the tools of both cognitive neuroscience and traditional humanist inquiry.

In Feeling Beauty, G. Gabrielle Starr argues that understanding the neural underpinnings of aesthetic experience can reshape our conceptions of aesthetics and the arts. Drawing on the tools of both cognitive neuroscience and traditional humanist inquiry, Starr shows that neuroaesthetics offers a new model for understanding the dynamic and changing features of aesthetic life, the relationships among the arts, and how individual differences in aesthetic judgment shape the varieties of aesthetic experience.

Starr, a scholar…


Book cover of Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization

Rick Szostak Author Of Making Sense of World History

From Rick's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Inter-disciplinarian Complexity organizer Reader Traveler

Rick's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Rick Szostak Why did Rick love this book?

This is an engaging but serious exploration of the role of alcohol in human history. Slingerland’s main argument is that alcohol encourages both community and creativity.

In particular, it can encourage trust if people are more likely to say what they truly believe when intoxicated. I am skeptical of a strong link to creativity, but many other arguments in the book persuaded me. Slingerland makes a good case that alcohol was a/the key reason that humans developed agriculture.

Importantly, Slingerland recognizes that the earliest beers and wines were not as strong as today; he treats alcoholism as a modern scourge.

By Edward Slingerland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While plenty of entertaining books have been written about the history of alcohol and other intoxicants, none have offered a comprehensive, convincing answer to the basic question of why humans want to get high in the first place.

Drunk elegantly cuts through the tangle of urban legends and anecdotal impressions that surround our notions of intoxication to provide the first rigorous, scientifically-grounded explanation for our love of alcohol. Drawing on evidence from archaeology, history, cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, and genetics, Drunk shows that our taste for chemical intoxicants is not an evolutionary mistake, as we are so often…


Book cover of The Science of False Memory

Matthew J. Sharps Author Of Processing Under Pressure: Stress, Memory, and Decision-Making in Law Enforcement

From my list on cognitive science and the criminal justice system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a professor of cognitive and forensic cognitive science. I have consulted on hundreds of criminal cases, most involving violent crime, and have published a body of research on the cognitive dynamics involved in eyewitness memory, officer-involved shootings, and training for IED detection in counterterrorism environments. The dynamics I've studied in the law-enforcement/forensic realm have proven to be important in the realm of firefighting and other first-response emergency services, as I also discuss in my book Thinking Under Pressure. This is an important field of study across the emergency and first response services, and will probably become more important in the future.

Matthew's book list on cognitive science and the criminal justice system

Matthew J. Sharps Why did Matthew love this book?

We know from the work of Bartlett and Loftus that memory is malleable, changing in the directions of gist, brevity, and personal belief. 

This book provides a more modern academic view of these phenomena, demonstrating why eyewitness memory, and other aspects of memory such as those involved in combat situations and officer-involved shootings, may be entirely inaccurate without any ill will or prevarication on the part of the given witness.

Not an easy read, but an important one for those who wish to have a full understanding of memory in the criminal justice system.

By C. J. Brainerd (editor), V. F. Reyna (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A decade or so of intensive research on false memory has revealed much that is not well understood outside the circles of scientists who specialize in such research. However, this research has produced findings that have major implications for a number of fields that are central to human welfare, such as medicine and the law. This book has been written to make those findings accessible to a much wider audience than research specialists including child protective
services workers, clinical psychologists, defense attorneys, elementary and secondary teachers, general medical practitioners, journalists, judges, nurses, police investigators, prosecutors, and psychiatrists. For that reason,…


Book cover of Freedom Evolves

Bernard Beckett Author Of Genesis

From my list on get your head around consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an educator at heart and have been teaching in high schools for over thirty years now. I get a kick out of helping young people see the world anew and think about ideas in ways that at first seem strange and challenging to them, both in the classroom and through my novels. Of course, to be any good at that, I have to be inquisitive and open myself, and there’s nothing like the topic of consciousness to make you feel feeble-minded and ill-informed. It’s such a wondrous topic because it sits at the precise meeting point of so many of our scientific, cultural, artistic, religious, and philosophical traditions.

Bernard's book list on get your head around consciousness

Bernard Beckett Why did Bernard love this book?

The issues of free will and consciousness are, to my limited mind, inextricably linked. And so, while Dennett somewhat overpromised and underdelivered with his well-known Consciousness Explained (tremendously hard not to underdeliver with a title like that) here I think he’s much more on the money. I think of all the books that I’ve read which address, either directly or tangentially, the issue of how the mind works, this is the one that gave me the clearest new insight into how we might think about, well, thinking. Dennett is a fine thinker and an excellent communicator but he tends to lose nuance when he goes combative. This is one of his gentler books, and all the better for it.

By Daniel C. Dennett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Can there be freedom and free will in a deterministic world? Renowned philosopher Daniel Dennett emphatically answers "yes!" Using an array of provocative formulations, Dennett sets out to show how we alone among the animals have evolved minds that give us free will and morality. Weaving a richly detailed narrative, Dennett explains in a series of strikingly original
arguments-drawing upon evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, economics, and philosophy-that far from being an enemy of traditional explorations of freedom, morality, and meaning, the evolutionary perspective can be an indispensable ally. In Freedom Evolves, Dennett seeks to place ethics on the foundation it…


Book cover of Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts

David Millett Author Of The Cure: Imagine There’s No Religion

From my list on love, hate, greed, passion, and self interest.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Millett is a digital artist. He is an accomplished author, filmmaker, and producer of paper and eBooks. He loves writing, painting, filmmaking, composing, and performing music.

David's book list on love, hate, greed, passion, and self interest

David Millett Why did David love this book?

This book is a joyous exploration of the mind and its thrilling complexities. It will excite anyone interested in cutting-edge science and technology and the vast philosophical, personal, and ethical implications of finally quantifying what consciousness is. How does our brain generate conscious thoughts? And why does so much of our knowledge remain unconscious? Thanks to clever psychological and brain-imaging experiments, scientists are closer to cracking this mystery than ever before.

By Stanislas Dehaene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2014 BRAIN PRIZE

From the acclaimed author of Reading in the Brain and How We Learn, a breathtaking look at the new science that can track consciousness deep in the brain

How does our brain generate a conscious thought? And why does so much of our knowledge remain unconscious? Thanks to clever psychological and brain-imaging experiments, scientists are closer to cracking this mystery than ever before.

In this lively book, Stanislas Dehaene describes the pioneering work his lab and the labs of other cognitive neuroscientists worldwide have accomplished in defining, testing, and explaining the brain events behind…


Book cover of The Neuroscience of You: How Every Brain Is Different and How to Understand Yours

Ron Jensen Author Of Death of the Antagonist

From Ron's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Neuroscience freak Spiritual detective Spirit science negotiator Former Pastor

Ron's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ron Jensen Why did Ron love this book?

According to this book, I have a lopsided, quirky brain. I dive deep into the details.

Most people have those beautiful brains with balanced hemispheres, able to take in the big picture and keep it all in perspective. I’ve been envious all my life, but no more. Now I’m ok with being a lopsided, detail-diving nerd.

Dr. Chantel Pratt, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Washington, gives a sense of just how big, unique and wonderfully complex the brain is.

The topic of neuroscience investigates an organ containing more than 80 billion neurons, with millions of them talking with one another at any given second. When I grasp the breadth and complexity of the brain, it makes me consider how our ideas about religion come to be. Is it all a foolishly simplified delusion? Or is there a quiet force playing with all those brain cells?

By Chantel Prat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From University of Washington professor Chantel Prat comes The Neuroscience of You, a rollicking adventure into the human brain that reveals the surprising truth about neuroscience, shifting our focus from what’s average to an understanding of how every brain is different, exactly why our quirks are important, and what this means for each of us.

With style and wit, Chantel Prat takes us on a tour of the meaningful ways that our brains are dissimilar from one another. Using real-world examples, along with take-them-yourself tests and quizzes, she shows you how to identify the strengths and weakness of your own…


Book cover of The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain

Keith J. Holyoak Author Of The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

From my list on the creative mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA, and also a poet. Growing up on a dairy farm in British Columbia, I immersed myself in the world of books. My mother showed me her well-worn copy of a poetry book written by her Scottish great-great-aunt, and I longed to create my own arrangements of words. Later, as a student at the University of British Columbia and then Stanford, my interest in creativity was channeled into research on how people think. I’ve studied how people use analogies and metaphors to create new ideas. In addition to books on the psychology of thinking and reasoning, I’ve written several volumes of poetry.

Keith's book list on the creative mind

Keith J. Holyoak Why did Keith love this book?

Did you ever have a sudden insight, a new idea—something that made you go, “Aha!”? It’s as if your brain had been doing unconscious work, then suddenly “reported up” to your conscious mind. This book by two prominent cognitive neuroscientists gives a clear picture of what scientists have learned about how brain networks connecting the two hemispheres give rise to creative insights. Their book helped me think about how new metaphors might be discovered—just one example of what the creative mind can do.

By John Kounios, Mark Beeman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Where do great ideas come from? What actually happens in your brain during a 'Eureka' moment? And how can we have more of them?

It has been two millenia since Archimedes supposedly first shouted 'Eureka!' as he sat in his bath. The word - Greek for 'I have found it' - captures the feeling we have all experienced during moments of sudden insight. Despite a century of scientific inquiry into the nature of these particular moments, their origin has remained a mystery.

Mark Beeman and John Kounios, leading experts on the neural bases of insight and creative thinking, have conducted…


Book cover of Stumbling on Happiness

Victor Haghani Author Of The Missing Billionaires: A Guide to Better Financial Decisions

From my list on intelligent financial decision-making in less than 200 pages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have over four decades of experience working and innovating in the financial markets and have been a prolific contributor to academic and practitioner finance literature. I started my career at Salomon Brothers in 1984, where I became a managing director in the bond-arbitrage group, and in 1993 I was a co-founding partner of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. I founded Elm Wealth in 2011 to help clients, including my own family, manage and preserve their wealth with a thoughtful, research-based, and cost-effective approach that covers not just investment management but also broader decisions about wealth and finances.

Victor's book list on intelligent financial decision-making in less than 200 pages

Victor Haghani Why did Victor love this book?

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert uses wit and science to reveal how we generally fail to predict what makes us happy and how we can do better.

I loved his discussions of why lottery winners aren't happier for long, how our memories create a "rosy past" illusion, and even why bad experiences can sometimes be better than good ones.

I loved the engaging stories and insightful experiments that Gilbert uses to dismantle common assumptions about happiness and offers fresh perspectives. I gained self-awareness and discovered unexpected paths to finding and savoring happiness.

Strap in for a thought-provoking journey that may just change how you view your own happiness and that of others-all with a healthy dose of humor.

By Daniel Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Stumbling on Happiness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bringing to life scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, this bestselling book reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. 

• Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?

• Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight?

• Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they…