The best books on dopamine

Many authors have picked their favorite books about dopamine and why they recommend each book.

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Solo Leveling, Vol. 1

By Chugong,

Book cover of Solo Leveling, Vol. 1

Solo Leveling (or Only I Level Up), in its webtoon form, is one of the peaks of LitRPG storytelling. The scenes are beautifully drawn, elevating the story beyond its original text-only format. You will be hard-pressed to find a more engaging read than this. The webtoon maintains tension incredibly well, and knows how to constantly supply its readers with little dopamine bombs along the way.

Solo Leveling plays with the formula of LitRPG, taking it off the rails by containing the game system inside the main character for much of the story, allowing him to grow stronger. Reading Solo Leveling is an absolute treat—perhaps doubly so for me as several of the niche ideas used in the story are also used in my books.

Who am I?

LitRPG is special. It really is. LitRPG provides authors with some of the most powerful tools in storytelling. Computer-simulated worlds make magic fully believable. They enable giant mysteries, actual monsters, forbidden treasures, and incredibly diverse adversaries. LitRPG can be a love story or a tale of revenge. It can bring hope, despair, or just desserts. It’s a perfect vehicle for modern fantasy—a setting where the apocalypse can be at hand, where humans can fight gods, and where the world itself might be sentient. My love for LitRPG drove me to write an epic containing a series of huge, underlying mysteries that would reveal themselves over the course of the story.

I wrote...

First Login

By Kevin Murphy,

Book cover of First Login

What is my book about?

First Login is a love letter to the LitRPG genre that embraces and subverts tropes in equal measure.

Eager for adventure, Corbin jumps into Chronicle, a simulated world where magic, monsters, and mysteries abound. For the first time in his life, he’s free to go anywhere and do anything, but not everyone who plays Chronicle has Corbin’s best intentions in mind. Even the system-generated NPCs seem to have it out for him. After stumbling upon a secret so incredible that it threatens to change everything, Corbin has to figure out how to keep it for his sake and for the sake of his friends.


By Oliver Sacks,

Book cover of Awakenings

A fascinating, readable nonfiction account of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness as children in the great epidemic of 1918. They grew to adulthood in a Bronx hospital, frozen in sleep for decades. The prognosis was hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Sacks dared to try a new drug, L-DOPA, giving his patients an astonishing, explosive, “awakening.” Dr. Sacks recounts case histories of his patients, their lives, and extraordinary transformations from his treatment. This book is a passionate exploration of the most general questions of health, disease, suffering, care, and the human condition. The patients’ realization of themselves as adults is heartbreaking. Dr. Sacks wrote:Awakenings came from the most intense medical and human involvement I have ever know.”

Who am I?

I divide my reading between works of imagination and historical nonfiction. All good fiction requires research to enhance it’s authenticity. Several years ago, I published a story set in the 1918 influenza epidemic. The research for the story was fascinating, and led me to John M. Barry’s book included in my recommendations. After editing a memoir for retired screenwriter and film director, Gerald Schnitzer (sadly now deceased), he invited me to co-author a novel set in the Four Corners featuring a virologist who combines science and spirituality to find a cure for a pandemic, which became Blood of the White Bear

I wrote...

Blood of the White Bear

By Marcia Calhoun Forecki, Gerald Schnitzer,

Book cover of Blood of the White Bear

What is my book about?

Images of White Bear Kachinas erupt from the dreams of virologist Dr. Rachel Bisette and invade her consciousness. Kachina calls for relief from a hantavirus epidemic in the Four Corners. Rachel rushes to the Southwest to lead the search for a vaccine. Only one survivor of the virus is known, but she is elusive. Eva Yellow Horn, an indigenous healer, carries the gift of immunity. As Rachel searches for Eva, she discovers this healer’s gift of healing beyond science. Eva also knows the truth about the deaths of Rachel’s parents years earlier, when her father investigated the Church Rock spill of radioactive waste. The pandemic is fiction, but the spill and its consequences are historical facts.  


By Gregory Berns,

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

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.

Who am I?

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.

I wrote...

Hello, Habits: A Minimalist's Guide to a Better Life

By Fumio Sasaki,

Book cover of Hello, Habits: A Minimalist's Guide to a Better Life

What is my book about?

Fumio Sasaki changed his life when he became a minimalist. But before minimalism could really stick, he had to make it a habit. All of us live our lives based on the habits we’ve formed, from when we get up in the morning to what we eat and drink to how likely we are to actually make it to the gym. In Hello, Habits, Sasaki explains how we can acquire the new habits that we want―and get rid of the ones that don’t do us any good.

Drawing on leading theories and tips about the science of habit formation from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, along with examples from popular culture and tried-and-tested techniques from his own life, he unravels common misperceptions about "willpower" and "talent," and offers a step-by-step guide to success.

The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History

By Fred H. Previc,

Book cover of The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History

If you’re reading my book recommendations, it’s almost certainly because you read the book Dan Lieberman and I wrote about dopamine. In that case, you’ll want to read the book that inspired us to write our book, Fred Previc’s seminal explanation of the technical aspects of dopamine and psychology. If you were hoping for a deeper diver on certain points, Previc’s text is the only way to go – and we remain grateful to him for his groundbreaking work.

Who am I?

I’m interested in everything – which is a problem, because there’s not time for everything. So how do you find the best of the world and your own place in it? Understanding your motivations is a good place to start, hence The Molecule of More. The rest comes from exploring as much as you can, and that begins with understanding the scope of what’s out there: ideas, attitudes, and cultures. The greatest joy in my life comes from the jaw-dropping realization that the world is so full of potential and wonder. These books are a guide to some of the best of it, and some of the breadth of it.

I wrote...

The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race

By Daniel Z. Lieberman, Michael E. Long,

Book cover of The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race

What is my book about?

The brain chemical dopamine ensured the survival of early man by setting our focus on getting things we don’t have, which were most often the requirements for staying alive. The modern world is a different place, but dopamine still drives us toward “more.” It is now what makes an ambitious professional sacrifice everything in pursuit of success, or a satisfied spouse risk it all for the thrill of someone new. It is why we seek and succeed; it is also why we gamble and squander. Our book explains the process and points toward a solution.

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