The best books on human behavior

Who picked these books? Meet our 50 experts.

50 authors created a book list connected to human behavior, and here are their favorite human behavior books.
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What type of human behavior book?


Book cover of Models of Society and Complex Systems

Charles H. Anderton Author Of Principles of Conflict Economics: The Political Economy of War, Terrorism, Genocide, and Peace

From the list on the economics of conflict and peace.

Who am I?

Like many people, I am deeply troubled by the death and destruction from violent conflict. When I began my graduate work in economics at Cornell University, I was allowed to apply my economics learning to the problem of war. When I began teaching at Holy Cross College, my colleagues encouraged me to offer courses on the economics of war and peace. After many years of teaching, I compiled Principles of Conflict Economics (with John Carter) to serve as a textbook on economic aspects of conflict. I hope the book might encourage other economics professors and students to learn more about war and how to resolve conflicts nonviolently.

Charles' book list on the economics of conflict and peace

Discover why each book is one of Charles' favorite books.

Why did Charles love this book?

I appreciated how this book took on the challenge of applying advanced mathematical modeling and simulation techniques to gain new insights into the social evolution of norms and institutions in societies, which is a critical topic in many fields, including conflict and peace economics.

I learned much from the book’s coverage of selected conflict and peace topics such as riots, revolutions, the 2010 Arab Spring movement, and the social evolution of cooperation. I especially like how the mathematical models in the book are described intuitively using wonderfully imaginative diagrams.

In this way, both the mathematically and non-mathematically inclined can come away with a richer understanding of human behavior in dynamically changing social systems.

By Sebastian Ille,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Models of Society and Complex Systems as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Models of Society and Complex Systems introduces readers to a variety of different mathematical tools used for modelling human behaviour and interactions, and the complex social dynamics that drive institutions, conflict, and coordination. What laws govern human affairs? How can we make sense of the complexity of societies and how do individual actions, characteristics, and beliefs interact? Social systems follow regularities which allow us to answer these questions using different mathematical approaches.

This book emphasises both theory and application. It systematically introduces mathematical approaches, such as evolutionary and spatial game theory, social network analysis, agent-based modelling, and chaos theory. It…

Predictive Analytics

By Eric Siegel,

Book cover of Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die

Valliappa Lakshmanan Author Of Data Science on the Google Cloud Platform: Implementing End-To-End Real-Time Data Pipelines: From Ingest to Machine Learning

From the list on if you want to become a data scientist.

Who am I?

I started my career as a research scientist building machine learning algorithms for weather forecasting. Twenty years later, I found myself at a precision agriculture startup creating models that provided guidance to farmers on when to plant, what to plant, etc. So, I am part of the movement from academia to industry. Now, at Google Cloud, my team builds cross-industry solutions and I see firsthand what our customers need in their data science teams. This set of books is what I suggest when a CTO asks how to upskill their workforce, or when a graduate student asks me how to break into the industry.

Valliappa's book list on if you want to become a data scientist

Discover why each book is one of Valliappa's favorite books.

Why did Valliappa love this book?

As a data scientist in the industry, it is very helpful to understand the business context behind the problems that you are solving. In many cases, you are trying to predict behavior—who is likely to buy an item, who is likely to click on a link, who is likely to repay a loan, etc.

This book by Eric Siegel is a great introduction to predictive analytics as used in real-life. It will help you frame data science problems in standard ways. For example, suppose you are asked to score sales leads so that salespeople can prioritize their efforts. How would you do it? The common way to frame this problem is to predict the customer lifetime value (LTV) of every sales lead. Before you can do prediction, you have to be able to do analysis though.

The way you estimate the LTV is to break the problem into three sub-problems:…

By Eric Siegel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Mesmerizing & fascinating..." -The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"The Freakonomics of big data." -Stein Kretsinger, founding executive of

Award-winning | Used by over 30 universities | Translated into 9 languages

An introduction for everyone. In this rich, fascinating - surprisingly accessible - introduction, leading expert Eric Siegel reveals how predictive analytics (aka machine learning) works, and how it affects everyone every day. Rather than a "how to" for hands-on techies, the book serves lay readers and experts alike by covering new case studies and the latest state-of-the-art techniques.

Prediction is booming. It reinvents industries and runs the world. Companies, governments, law…

Before You Know It

By John Bargh,

Book cover of Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do

Robert A. Prentice Author Of Behavioral Ethics in Practice: Why We Sometimes Make the Wrong Decisions

From the list on ethics explaining why good people do bad things.

Who am I?

It might be a stretch to call me an expert in ethics, but I have taught ethics for more than 30 years and I’ve read deeply in the field of behavioral ethics. I'm proud of the work I’ve done with the Ethics Unwrapped video project, though most of the credit goes to filmmakers Cara Biasucci (co-author of Behavioral Ethics in Practice: Why We Sometimes Make the Wrong Decisions) and Lazaro Hernandez (producer of Ethics Unwrapped). My passion for this topic is driven largely by the fact that I want my two daughters to live in a world where most people are trying to do the right thing most of the time. 

Robert's book list on ethics explaining why good people do bad things

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

Yale professor John Bargh is a wonderful writer and a great storyteller.

We all know that our minds operate at both a conscious and an unconscious level, but not until I read this book did I realize how much happens at the unconscious level and that this helps explain everything from how getting a flu shot affects our attitudes toward immigration to how having power can induce us to try to unfairly advantage people we perceive to be like us at the expense of “out-group” members. 

By John Bargh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'John Bargh's Before You Know It moves our understanding of the mysteries of human behaviour one giant step forward. A brilliant and convincing book.' - Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and David and Goliath

How much of what we say, feel and do is under our conscious control? How much is not? And most crucial of all: if we understood how our unconscious worked - if we knew why we do what we do - could we finally, fundamentally, know ourselves?

From checking a dating app to holding a cup of coffee or choosing who to vote for, our unconscious…

The Biggest Bluff

By Maria Konnikova,

Book cover of The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

Jonathan Grotenstein Author Of Ship It Holla Ballas! How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew

From the list on high-stakes poker for people who hate math.

Who am I?

As the kid of tournament bridge and Scrabble players, I’ve been hooked on games my whole life. None more so than poker, which has helped me make a living both at the tables and as a writer. I’m currently working on a TV adaptation of Ship It Holla Ballas!  

Jonathan's book list on high-stakes poker for people who hate math

Discover why each book is one of Jonathan's favorite books.

Why did Jonathan love this book?

Yet another magazine writer (this time, The New Yorker) using her advance money to take a shot at poker’s biggest tournament. But Konnikova’s enthusiastic and self-critical approach elevates her memoir into something more transcendent and celebratory than its predecessors. This is a love letter to poker, told with fierce intelligence and emotional honesty. If you want a deeper understanding of the game’s gravitational pull on a certain kind of mind, there’s no better guide.

By Maria Konnikova,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller * A New York Times Notable Book

"The tale of how Konnikova followed a story about poker players and wound up becoming a story herself will have you riveted, first as you learn about her big winnings, and then as she conveys the lessons she learned both about human nature and herself." -The Washington Post

It's true that Maria Konnikova had never actually played poker before and didn't even know the rules when she approached Erik Seidel, Poker Hall of Fame inductee and winner of tens of millions of dollars in earnings, and convinced him…

Being a Human

By Charles Foster,

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 the list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Paul's favorite books.

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?


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…

Algorithms to Live By

By Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths,

Book cover of Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Luc de Brabandere Author Of Be Logical, Be Creative, Be Critical: the Art of Thinking in a Digital World

From the list on how using computers influences the way we think.

Who am I?

During my life, I’ve been told that I was not a true engineer, not a true banker, not a true CEO, not a true entrepreneur, not a true teacher… But one day an executive told me: “I want to work with you because you’re not a true consultant.” I then realized it is was a privilege not to be a true something! I like to call myself a corporate philosopher. Fellow of the BCG Henderson Institute, and co-founder of Cartoonbase, I split my time between the worlds of academia and business. I have published several other books on various subjects such as language, mathematics, humor, or fallacies.

Luc's book list on how using computers influences the way we think

Discover why each book is one of Luc's favorite books.

Why did Luc love this book?

We have to learn how to properly use the Internet to prevent it from using us. We must comprehend the limits of artificial intelligence to take advantage of what it has to offer. Christian and Griffiths explore how algorithms can help us solve common – decisions and find strategies to humans.

By Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Algorithms to Live By as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating exploration of how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives.

In this dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, acclaimed author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths show us how the simple, precise algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. Modern life is constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? The authors explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal…

Tiny Habits

By Bj Fogg,

Book cover of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

Jones Loflin Author Of Juggling Elephants: An Easier Way to Get Your Most Important Things Done—Now!

From the list on when you are struggling with too much to do.

Who am I?

Way back in 1994 I decided to build my career on the mission of helping people make better choices with their time. And my goal has always been to keep the solutions simple. I believe we have way too much in our lives that is complex and hard. While my primary work is as a keynote speaker, I have chosen to devote a significant amount of my professional hours to being a coach. I love helping people develop a plan for improvement that is aligned with their values and goals, and then walking with them through their season of change.

Jones' book list on when you are struggling with too much to do

Discover why each book is one of Jones' favorite books.

Why did Jones love this book?

When I’m feeling overloaded with life it seems like making changes is impossible. Fogg’s amazing M-A-P strategy helped me lower the bar and make real progress on improving my personal health and ability to focus. I loved his real-life stories (especially about flossing) and simple approach to turning any routine into a habit.

By Bj Fogg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Improving your life is much easier than you think. Whether it's losing weight, sleeping more, or restoring your work/life balance - the secret is to start small.

For years, we've been told that being more healthy and productive is a matter of willpower: that we should follow the latest fad and make constant changes to our lifestyles. But whether in our diets, fitness plans or jobs, radical overhauls never work. Instead we should start with quick wins - and embed new, tiny habits into our everyday routines.

The world expert on this is Silicon Valley legend BJ Fogg, pioneering research…

The Humanity of Thucydides

By Clifford Orwin,

Book cover of The Humanity of Thucydides

Neville Morley Author Of Thucydides and the Idea of History

From the list on understanding Thucydides.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and classicist, teaching at the University of Exeter. I am equally interested in classical Greece and Rome, especially their economy and society, and in the ways that classical ideas and examples have been influential in the modern world.

Neville's book list on understanding Thucydides

Discover why each book is one of Neville's favorite books.

Why did Neville love this book?

There is an equally strong tradition of reading Thucydides not as a historian, just interested in past events as an end in itself, but as a kind of political theorist who wanted to his work to be useful, as a guide to ‘the human thing’. Sometimes this produces incredibly crude readings of his work, such as the idea that Thucydides was a Realist who preached the power of the strong over the weak (actually those are ideas associated with people in his book), but there have been many powerful interpretations by political theorists who have deep knowledge of the text and relevant scholarship, and who can use this to explore contemporary issues of power, justice, and human motivation. I find Orwin’s account rich and thought-provoking, clearly the product of vast experience and deliberation.

By Clifford Orwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thucydides has long been celebrated for the unflinching realism of his presentation of political life. And yet, as some scholars have asserted, his work also displays a profound humanity. In the first thorough exploration of the relation between these two traits, Clifford Orwin argues that Thucydides' humanity is not a reflection of the author's temperament but an aspect of his thought, above all of his articulation of the central problem of political life, the tension between right and compulsion. This book provides the most complete treatment to date of Thucydides' handling of the problem of injustice, as well as the…

Power vs. Force

By David R. Hawkins,

Book cover of Power vs. Force

Joe Contrera Author Of Extraordinary Results for Life: Discover Your Path to Be UN-ordinary

From the list on transforming your business and your life!.

Who am I?

For nearly 40 years, I have studied and written about blending the business world and the spiritual side of life together. By spiritual, I mean everything to do with our purpose and why we exist. I refer to this as being ALIVE @ WORK ®. We spend countless hours at work doing a j-o-b, when what we want most is knowing that we are making a difference in our lives and the lives of others. The key is taking 100% responsibility for our lives, knowing we have the power to change them in an instant. You will find this thread woven through all of my books and those I recommend.

Joe's book list on transforming your business and your life!

Discover why each book is one of Joe's favorite books.

Why did Joe love this book?

This book was a game-changer in helping to understand how quantum physics interacts with human behavior. It is a dense book with a great amount of research and science. That said, the point of the book is to explain, in an easily understandable way, how the practice of applied kinesiology can help guide us through life’s journey to discover simple truths.

I was introduced to this book back in 2009, and it started me on an incredible journey toward a better understanding of how the world works. It was instrumental in helping me to develop a Leadership Model in my 3rd book.  

By David R. Hawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This classic text explores how we as individuals can move towards our ultimate potential through understanding human behaviour and enhancing our level of consciousness.

Building on the accumulated wisdom of applied kinesiology (diagnostic muscle-testing to determine the causes of allergies and ailments) and behavioural kinesiology (muscle-testing to determine emotional responses to stimuli), David R. Hawkins MD, PhD has taken muscle-testing to the next level, in an effort to determine what makes people and systems strong, healthy, effective and spiritually sound.

Power vs. Force has become a spiritual classic and massively influential across the world. Now, Dr Hawkins reflects on his…

The Mind Is Flat

By Nick Chater,

Book cover of The Mind Is Flat: The Remarkable Shallowness of the Improvising Brain

Daniel Graham Author Of An Internet in Your Head: A New Paradigm for How the Brain Works

From the list on challenging everything you know about the brain.

Who am I?

I am trained in physics but moved over to psychology and neuroscience partway through graduate school at Cornell University because I became fascinated with the stupefying complexity of brains. I found that a lot of the main ideas and approaches in these fields seemed flawed and limited—things like defining something to study such as “emotion” or “perception” without specifying what measurable quantities are necessary and sufficient to understand those things. Luckily, I was (and continue to be) mentored by independent thinkers like neuroanatomist Barbara Finlay and computational neuroscientist David Field, who instilled in me their spirit of free and deeply informed inquiry. Today, more and more brain researchers are rethinking established ideas.

Daniel's book list on challenging everything you know about the brain

Discover why each book is one of Daniel's favorite books.

Why did Daniel love this book?

Thanks to Freud, one of the most cherished ideas in psychology is that we have an unconscious. Yet because it is by definition inaccessible, our unconscious is almost impossible to study scientifically. Freud himself certainly didn’t provide much reliable evidence for its existence. Nick Chater, a respected researcher of language and perception, argues that little if any evidence for an unconscious drive exists even now, almost a century after Freud. With lively and pugnacious arguments drawn from fascinating and diverse discoveries about language and perception, Chater deconstructs the unconscious and argues instead for a human mind that is inherently dynamic and in-the-moment. When I have assigned this book to my undergraduate students studying perception it has provoked some of the most heated debates, which is how I know it is a great book!

By Nick Chater,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A radical reinterpretation of how your mind works - and why it could change your life

'An astonishing achievement. Nick Chater has blown my mind' Tim Harford

'A total assault on all lingering psychiatric and psychoanalytic notions of mental depths ... Light the touchpaper and stand well back' New Scientist

We all like to think we have a hidden inner life. Most of us assume that our beliefs and desires arise from the murky depths of our minds, and, if only we could work out how to access this mysterious world, we could truly understand ourselves. For more than a…

Book cover of By Light We Knew Our Names: Stories

Jacqueline Vogtman Author Of Girl Country: and Other Stories

From the list on magical realism by women writers.

Who am I?

I’m a writer who loves all kinds of fiction, but I’m most passionate about magical realism and related genres (like fabulism and speculative fiction). I love when writers skirt several genres, especially when their use of the “strange” holds a funhouse mirror up to our world and allows us to see a deeper truth. My favorite writers craft prose that rivals poetry and delve into their characters’ interior worlds; for me, one of fiction’s greatest magic tricks is the ability to enter another’s world and create empathy. The five authors on this list do all of these things and more, and they serve as some of my greatest inspirations.  

Jacqueline's book list on magical realism by women writers

Discover why each book is one of Jacqueline's favorite books.

Why did Jacqueline love this book?

Full disclosure: Anne is a dear friend and was an MFA workshop-mate of mine.

But even if she wasn’t, I’m confident this would still be one of my favorite collections. There is so much magic in Valente’s writing, in the gorgeous prose but also in the content of the stories: ghosts, pink dolphins, tiny librarians, Northern Lights.

Much of the magic is not supernatural, but just the magic of the natural world, and Valente is a master of place; I’ve always admired her use of setting. Many of the stories deal with loss, grief, and pain, but the magic acts as a way to transcend these things, which is what I aim to do in my stories as well.

By Anne Valente,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked By Light We Knew Our Names as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From ghosts to pink dolphins to a fight club of young women who practice beneath the Alaskan aurora borealis, By Light We Knew Our Names examines the beauty and heartbreak of the world we live in. Across 13 stories, this collection explores the thin border between magic and grief.

Unmasking the Face

By Paul Ekman, Wallace V. Friesen,

Book cover of Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions from Facial Expressions

Zachary Elwood Author Of Verbal Poker Tells

From the list on understanding human behavior.

Who am I?

I’m a former professional poker player and the author of a trilogy of books on poker behavior (aka poker tells). I have a psychology podcast called People Who Read People. I also do some independent research and writing: my research into online deception has been featured in the NY Times and Washington Post, and other places. I’ve been interested in psychology since I was a kid, probably due to my dad’s eclectic bookshelf that included a bunch of psychology and philosophy books.

Zachary's book list on understanding human behavior

Discover why each book is one of Zachary's favorite books.

Why did Zachary love this book?

Paul Ekman is a well known researcher of human behavior and facial expressions and indicators of lying. He’s written several books that many serious students of behavior have read, and this is a good one to start with. He delves into the meaning of various facial expressions, and also explains how research shows the universal, cross-cultural nature of our underlying emotions and how those show up in our faces.

By Paul Ekman, Wallace V. Friesen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Using scores of photographs of faces that reflect the emotions of surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness, and sadness, the authors of UNMASKING THE FACE explain how to identify correctly these basic emotions and how to tell when people try to mask, simulate, or neutralize them. In addition, it features several practical exercises that will help actors, teachers, salesmen, counselors, nurses, and physicians--and everyone else who deals with people--to become adept, perceptive readers of the facial expressions of emotion.

Book cover of The Best of All Possible Worlds: Mathematics and Destiny

Joseph Mazur Author Of The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time

From the list on narrative merit in mathematics and science.

Who am I?

Meaningful communications with people through life, books, and films have always given me a certain kind of mental nirvana of being transported to a place of delight. I see fine writing as an informative and entertaining conversation with a stranger I just met on a plane who has interesting things to say about the world. Books of narrative merit in mathematics and science are my strangers eager to be met. For me, the best narratives are those that bring me to places I have never been, to tell me things I have not known, and to keep me reading with the feeling of being alive in a human experience.

Joseph's book list on narrative merit in mathematics and science

Discover why each book is one of Joseph's favorite books.

Why did Joseph love this book?

Ekeland’s book is an entwinement of philosophical views of scientists with metaphysics dealing with nature’s directives. It’s an embroidery of lively anecdotes involving illustrious individuals and great historical moments of human decisions. We go through the Peloponnesian Wars, Venetian concessions to the Hapsburg emperor Maximilian, Darwin’s voyage to the Galapagos, and other enriching accounts. His explanations are clear, elegant, fluid, exhilarating, and suspenseful, reminding me of the effortless style of Richard Feynman. While reading, I felt compelled by a force of nature and purpose to learn about the best of all possible worlds.   

By Ivar Ekeland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Best of All Possible Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Optimists believe this is the best of all possible worlds. And pessimists fear that might really be the case. But what is the best of all possible worlds? How do we define it? This question has preoccupied philosophers and theologians for ages, but there was a time, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when scientists and mathematicians felt they could provide the answer. This book is their story. Ivar Ekeland here takes the reader on a journey through scientific attempts to envision the best of all possible worlds. He begins with the French physicist Maupertuis, whose least action principle, Ekeland…


By Timothy D. Wilson,

Book cover of Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live by

Susan M. Weinschenk Author Of How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the art and science of persuasion and motivation

From the list on understanding human behavior.

Who am I?

I have a Ph.D. in Psychology and a lifelong fascination with people and why they do the things they do, including why I do the things I do. My life and career have been all about trying to learn as much as I can about psychology, brain science, how people think, how people learn, and how to use this body of knowledge and research to understand myself and others. My work is about applying behavioral science to the design of technology to better fit and serve people.

Susan's book list on understanding human behavior

Discover why each book is one of Susan's favorite books.

Why did Susan love this book?

Redirect describes the research on how self-stories drive our behavior. “Self-stories” are the small stories we tell ourselves and others about why we do what we do. There are two reasons why this book is so amazing: First, it makes you see that these largely unconscious self-stories are really controlling our whole lives, and secondly, Dr. Wilson shares his research on how very easy it actually is to change the stories and therefore change our lives. I’ve used his techniques many times to make it through my own life challenges and it works. Changing your self-story is the only way to get your life to change. Luckily, if you follow Dr. Wilson’s research and techniques you will discover it is much easier than you think to change the stories.

By Timothy D. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What if there were a magic pill that could make you happier, turn you into a better parent, solve a number of your teenager's behavior problems, reduce racial prejudice, and close the achievement gap in education? There is no such pill, but story editing -- the scientifically based approach described in Redirect -- can accomplish all of this.

The world-renowned psychologist Timothy Wilson shows us how to redirect the stories we tell about ourselves and the world around us, with subtle prompts, in ways that lead to lasting change. Fascinating, groundbreaking, and practical, Redirect demonstrates the remarkable power small changes…

Twice-Told Tales

By Nathaniel Hawthorne,

Book cover of Twice-Told Tales

Jeff Greenberg Author Of The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life

From the list on the core desires that guide human behavior.

Who am I?

I am a Regents Professor of Psychology at the University of Arizona. Ever since I was a child growing up in the South Bronx, I have been interested in why people are so driven to believe they are right and good, and why there is so much prejudice in the world. This has led to me to a lifelong exploration of the basic motivations that guide people’s actions, and how these motivations influence how people view themselves and others, and the goals they pursue.

Jeff's book list on the core desires that guide human behavior

Discover why each book is one of Jeff's favorite books.

Why did Jeff love this book?

Many works of fiction explore the core human motivations and how they guide human behavior, but perhaps none more thoroughly and incisively than this collection of Hawthorne short stories. Hawthorne’s stories undoubtedly inspired The Twilight Zone and countless other works of fantasy and science fiction that convey messages about how human desires and cultural worldviews lead people toward thwarted goals and tragic outcomes. As such, they nicely complement the analyses conveyed by the other four books I have recommended. His stories explore guilt, anxiety, and ambition, as desires for security and growth conflict with the values of prevailing worldviews and often lead to misguided or fruitless efforts of people trying to make a lasting mark on the world.

By Nathaniel Hawthorne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Twice-Told Tales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This compilation of short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne gained its name from the fact all had appeared in magazines and periodicals before comprising part of this book. Released in 1837, the Twice-Told Tales range in genre from the mystery fiction from which Hawthorne made his name, to sensuous and emotional tales depicting pastoral life and events, to horror stories filled with tension. As with his masterworks, many of the stories pay attention to the distant past; a fascination for Hawthorne. Many are inspired by existing folk tales and allegorical stories, and are placed into the short story form so the…

Book cover of A Natural History of the Senses

Rachel Herz Author Of Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food

From the list on intellectual and creative inspiration.

Who am I?

I’m a neuroscientist, author, educator, TEDx speaker, and leading expert on the psychological science of smell. I am captivated by stories and the “why” and “how” science of the world around us. The books I’ve chosen spoke to me during periods when I was seeking answers and blooming intellectually and creatively. They provided inspiration from the skill with which words were crafted and revelation from the ideas they conveyed. I owe these books a debt of gratitude and hope that my writing may offer to others a smidge of the illumination and motivation that these works gave to me.

Rachel's book list on intellectual and creative inspiration

Discover why each book is one of Rachel's favorite books.

Why did Rachel love this book?

A Natural History of the Senses is gorgeously written and poetic while simultaneously presenting accurate basic science about our five senses. Diane Ackerman stunningly shows how a gifted writer can decipher a field, captivate the general public, and elicit the fascination and wonder that a topic deserves. I am also ever delighted by the fact that the book starts with the sense of smell, rather than relegating it to the least and last section as most books on our senses do. A Natural History of the Senses is a beautiful compendium of biology and a tour of human perception.

By Diane Ackerman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Natural History of the Senses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Diane Ackerman's lusciously written grand tour of the realm of the senses includes conversations with an iceberg in Antarctica and a professional nose in New York, along with dissertations on kisses and tattoos, sadistic cuisine and the music played by the planet Earth.

“Delightful . . . gives the reader the richest possible feeling of the worlds the senses take in.” —The New York Times

Lucia Lacorte, Poor Sport

By Christianne Jones, Marisa Morea (illustrator),

Book cover of Lucia Lacorte, Poor Sport

Claire Annette Noland Author Of Evie's Field Day: More Than One Way to Win

From the list on help children develop good sportsmanship.

Who am I?

As a children’s librarian, teacher, and parent, I know that children have big feelings. I write heart-filled books that speak to the issues that they deal with while navigating new experiences. I was inspired to write Evie’s Field Day because of the frustrations most children deal with when they lose. I hope that my book will encourage children to enjoy the process of playing sports and games with others and the rewards of being a friend and a good sport.

Claire's book list on help children develop good sportsmanship

Discover why each book is one of Claire's favorite books.

Why did Claire love this book?

Llama Lucia may be the self-appointed founder and president of the Get Gaming Club but she is a terrible sport. She pouts when she loses and gloats when she wins. Before long, her friends won’t play with her. Her grandfather will play but it turns out he’s a worse sport than Lucia who begins to realize how her bad behavior upsets her friends.

This child-friendly book is perfect to begin discussions on cheating, fairness, and how to be good at both winning and losing.

By Christianne Jones, Marisa Morea (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lucia Lacorte, Poor Sport as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lucia Lacorte loves games. But few friends enjoy playing games with her. When she loses, she cries and yells. And when she wins, its even worse: she dances around and rubs it in. You see, Lucia Lacorte is a very poor sport. Can anyone get through to Lucia and show her that being a good sport is the fun in fun and games? Author Christianne Jones uses humour and rhyme to teach early learners about the importance of good sportsmanship in this entertaining picture book from the Little Boost series.


By Tom Vanderbilt,

Book cover of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)

Anne Lutz Fernandez Author Of Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives

From the list on understanding America’s car system.

Who am I?

I’ve been interested in car culture since my anthropologist sister and I first began collaborating on a research and writing project on the topic over fifteen years ago. At that time, I had just moved from a transit-rich city to a car-dependent suburb and she had just moved from a suburb to a walkable city, which got us talking about just how much this singular object—the car—shaped our everyday lives. Carjacked was published in 2010, and since then I’ve continued to read and write about transportation, although I also write a lot about education—another obsession for another list of recommended books.  

Anne's book list on understanding America’s car system

Discover why each book is one of Anne's favorite books.

Why did Anne love this book?

I did not expect to thoroughly enjoy a book with ninety pages of footnotes on a subject that people love to complain about day in and day out. But Vanderbilt, who has a great sense of humor and unrelenting interest in human behavior, took me along easily on his quest to satisfy his many questions about drivers, driving, roads, and traffic safety. The answers to those we’ve often asked ourselves on the road (usually while cursing), are often surprising. 

By Tom Vanderbilt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book

One of the Best Books of the Year
The Washington Post • The Cleveland Plain-Dealer • Rocky Mountain News

In this brilliant, lively, and eye-opening investigation, Tom Vanderbilt examines the perceptual limits and cognitive underpinnings that make us worse drivers than we think we are. He demonstrates why plans to protect pedestrians from cars often lead to more accidents. He uncovers who is more likely to honk at whom, and why. He explains why traffic jams form, outlines the unintended consequences of our quest for safety, and even identifies the most common mistake drivers…

Book cover of War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views

Michael Ruse Author Of A Philosopher Looks at Human Beings

From the list on human evolution and the human story.

Who am I?

Our discovery that we are modified monkeys rather than modified mud is a human achievement on a par with a Mozart opera or a Vermeer painting. As a historian and philosopher of science, my lifelong mission has been to see how this knowledge transcends earlier myths about divine creation and opens the way to a far richer and more optimistic vision of human nature, our achievements, and our future possibilities. New knowledge can be terrifying. It can also be exciting and liberating. It is an obligation, a privilege, and a joy to be able to express our full humanity. The authors I shall introduce exemplify this so very much.

Michael's book list on human evolution and the human story

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

From anthropology and archeology, Douglas Fry and his co-contributors tell us that our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, in small bands, on a five-million-year camping trip around the globe. We had to have adaptations for harmonious communal living. Wary of strangers, we would realize that wanting to fight them was stupid. Man the “killer ape” is fiction. Then, 10,000 years ago, came agriculture, with a population explosion producing abundant goods that others would covet. The consequence was war and prejudice and other vile beliefs and behaviors. Ex-Quaker as I am, I have written a book, Why We Hate: The Roots of Human Conflict, appearing in Spring 2021, arguing that, by making the appropriate cultural moves, we can again attain our natural state of cooperation and peaceful living.

By Douglas P. Fry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Have humans always waged war? Is warring an ancient evolutionary adaptation or a relatively recent behavior-and what does that tell us about human nature? In War, Peace, and Human Nature, editor Douglas P. Fry brings together leading experts in such fields as evolutionary biology, archaeology, anthropology, and primatology to answer fundamental questions about peace, conflict, and human nature in an evolutionary context. The chapters in this book
demonstrate that humans clearly have the capacity to make war, but since war is absent in some cultures, it cannot be viewed as a human universal. And counter to frequent presumption the actual…

Explaining Humans

By Camilla Pang,

Book cover of Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us About Life, Love and Relationships

Ed Thompson Author Of A Hidden Force: Unlocking the Potential of Neurodiversity at Work

From the list on challenging perceptions of neurodiversity.

Who am I?

As a young businessperson in London in my early 30s, I was as ignorant of neurodiversity as much of the rest of the world. In the mid-2010s, I got fascinated by the topic thanks to conversations with autistic family members, who encouraged me to bring some of my expertise in corporate diversity programs to the field of “neurodiversity at work”. The topic of neurodiversity chimed with me, too, as I’d suffered a traumatic brain injury in a serious car accident, and there were aspects I could relate to. I founded neurodiversity training company Uptimize to help ensure organizations across the world understand how the importance of embracing and leveraging different types of thinkers.

Ed's book list on challenging perceptions of neurodiversity

Discover why each book is one of Ed's favorite books.

Why did Ed love this book?

Explaining Humans engagingly begins, “It was five years into my life on Earth that I started to think I’d landed in the wrong place. I must have missed the stop.”

Part popular science, part memoir, part clarion call for neuroinclusion, Pang’s book is full of sophisticated and memorable observations about humans, neurodiversity, and Pang’s own neurodivergence.

I particularly enjoyed her comparison of the teamwork between human cells (neutral, effective, politics-free!) with that of typical human collaboration…and how much it made me realize that we can all substantially improve the latter at work to get the best out of each other and fulfill our collective potential.

By Camilla Pang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


How proteins, machine learning and molecular chemistry can teach us about the complexities of human behaviour and the world around us

How do we understand the people around us? How do we recognise people's motivations, their behaviour, or even their facial expressions? And, when do we learn the social cues that dictate human behaviour?

Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her and the way people worked. Desperate for a solution, Camilla asked her mother if there was…