The best books about human nature

1 authors have picked their favorite books about human nature and why they recommend each book.

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Twisted Tales 2

By Deborah A Stansil,

Book cover of Twisted Tales 2

Twisted Tales has an entertaining, witty introduction. The stories fly by, making it easy to read even during short time periods. Great for readers who are short on time. It's a good horror book in that the “monsters” and horrific situations are realistic. I recommend it to readers who enjoy horrors and thrillers. 


Who am I?

I have taken part in the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge #atozchallenge since 2014. I volunteered on A to Z founder Arlee's group early on. I was elevated to co-host in 2017 and became the Team Captain in 2018. In 2019, I ran the "#AtoZChallenge Book Reviews, Tour, and Blog Hop!" My own book, Writing Book Reviews As An Author: Inspiration To Make It Easier, was created because of the challenge. I used my method of writing book reviews, broken down alphabetically, to create a month of blog posts. Then compiled those posts into a book. Authors depend on book reviews, but struggle to write them for others.


I wrote...

Writing Book Reviews as an Author: Inspiration to Make It Easier

By J Lenni Dorner,

Book cover of Writing Book Reviews as an Author: Inspiration to Make It Easier

What is my book about?

This book aims to provide inspiration to encourage people to write more book reviews. It is written for authors, though any reader can benefit.

Of Yesteryear

By Lauren Eden,

Book cover of Of Yesteryear

I love the way Lauren Eden describes everything about a relationship, from its beginning to its end, through her verses. 

The love and heartbreak are presented realistically and vividly. I felt as if I had participated in this relationship until its very end.

Only an artist who knows how to use precise and precious (for this theme) words can create a masterpiece that you want to reread when you need it the most.


Who am I?

I have created art from an early age. Years later, my studies in civil engineering allowed me to combine my love for the arts with my belief in an orderly world. Meanwhile, reading and writing have always been my favorite pursuits. While collaborating as an editor with other authors, assisting them in their writing endeavors, in 2014, I wrote and published my first book. Sharing my writing on Instagram gave birth to the idea of my first poetry book, something like, published in 2018. Since then, two more poetry collections have been published: A TriAngle in 2019 and something like in reverse in 2020.


I wrote...

something like

By Maria Tzoutzopoulou,

Book cover of something like

What is my book about?

something like is my endeavor to spin the words, like the threads of a delicate fabric, to weave something like poetry, something like silk.

The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank

By Erma Bombeck,

Book cover of The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank

Life happens. The septic tank overflows. Girls get in fights. Boys track dirt over your best carpet. You are absolutely going to ruin their lives with your attempt to explain the facts of life. Erma Bombeck takes these realities and laughs at them. You can’t help but laugh along with her from her tiny suburban home to her efforts to “forgive her enemies.”


Who am I?

Humans are absurd. We are. Short stories that present this in a true and honest fashion, without being cruel or vulgar are a rare and delicious gem. In all of these books there is not a single ounce of malice or bitterness. Humans are born, we live, we suffer, and then we die. These books don’t deny this, or ignore it, instead they choose to focus on the funny, the fun, the absurd lives that we live. 


I wrote...

Humans Are Weird: I Have the Data

By Betty Adams, Adelia Gibadullina (illustrator),

Book cover of Humans Are Weird: I Have the Data

What is my book about?

What will our little green friends think of us? Humans are weird, and after the shock of first contact is over the aliens will have to deal with us in all of our absurdity. Star Trek meets Monty Python in this book that explores the strangeness of human nature through the “eyes” of our alien friends. 

This human insists that this broom, identical down to the molecule to every other broom in the base, is the “wrong” broom. That human is getting far too close to the lava for no apparent reason. The other human is humming and literally climbing the walls? Why? Discover the answers along with our confused little friends.

The Blank Slate

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

First published 20 years ago by one of our best science writers, this book shattered the blank slate myth which dominated thinking at that time. The Blank Slate is a landmark against which I hope you will see how far we have come in recognizing the importance of genetics in psychology. The 2002 edition is still an excellent read but I recommend the updated 2016 edition with its new Afterword.


Who am I?

During my undergraduate studies in psychology, we were never exposed to genetics. In 1970, I began graduate training in psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, which was one of the few universities that had a course about genetics in psychology. The course floored me, and I knew right away that I wanted to study genetic influences in psychology. At that time, psychology was generally hostile to the notion of genetic influence. Now, 50 years later, most psychologists recognize the importance of genetics. The DNA revolution is changing everything by making it possible to predict psychological traits using DNA alone. 


I wrote...

Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are

By Robert Plomin,

Book cover of Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are

What is my book about?

What made you the way you are? – your personality, your mental health, and your cognitive abilities. Professor Plomin’s book, Blueprint, is the culmination of his 45 years of research trying to understand the genetic and environmental influences that make us different, our nature and nurture. He is one of the world's top behavioral geneticists who offers a unique, insider's view of the exciting synergies that came from combining genetics and psychology.

In Blueprint, he concludes that inherited DNA differences are the major systematic force, the blueprint, that makes us who we are as individuals. The power to read our DNA blueprint will transform science, society, and how we understand ourselves.

Themes and Conclusions

By Igor Stravinsky,

Book cover of Themes and Conclusions

Igor Stravinsky was one of the most influential and innovative music composers of the 20th century. He was also remarkably intelligent, humorous, and insightful. This book is a collection of interviews, letters, and notes made by and about Stravinsky. Some of these writings would interest only classical music enthusiasts, but much of the book comprises witty observations of human nature, art, and what it really means to praise or critique someone.


Who am I?

I am an associate professor of neuroscience at the Donders Institute in the Netherlands. My research lab focuses on discovering how the brain uses electrical signaling to compute information, and transfer information across different regions of the brain. I also have a few decades of experience teaching scientific coding, data analysis, statistics, and related topics, and have authored several online courses and textbooks. I have a suspiciously dry sense of humor and insufficient patience to read five books on the same topic.


I wrote...

Linear Algebra: Theory, Intuition, Code

By Mike X Cohen,

Book cover of Linear Algebra: Theory, Intuition, Code

What is my book about?

Linear algebra is the study of matrices (like a spreadsheet of numbers) and operations acting on them. Linear algebra used to be an advanced topic that was only of interest to advanced mathematics students. But modern computing has brought linear algebra to the forefront of human civilization: Nearly everything that computers do — from video graphics to financial modeling to machine learning to artificial intelligence — is implemented using linear algebra. I have tried to present linear algebra in a way that is rigorous yet lucid, explaining proofs and concepts while also using diagrams and code to show how linear algebra is applied and used in practice. This textbook can be used for self-study or as part of a university-level course.

Practical Wisdom

By Barry Schwartz, Kenneth Sharpe,

Book cover of Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing

I love this book because it demonstrates the human value of being excellent in personal and professional contexts. Like many musicians, I strive for excellence and in this book Schwartz &  Sharpe draw a picture of excellence that includes “practical wisdom” – knowing how to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons. A lovely book that is sure to be a helpful guide for those of us seeking personal fulfillment through any kind of meaningful activity.


Who am I?

As an interdisciplinary scholar with professional musical training, I surveyed the literature in cognitive science for conceptual frameworks that would shed light on tacit processes in musical activity. I was tired of research that treats the musician either as a “lab rat” not quite capable of fully understanding what they do or as a “channel” for the mysterious and divine. I view musicians as human beings who engage in meaningful activity with instruments and with each other. Musicians are knowledgeable, skilled, and deeply creative. The authors on this list turn a scientific lens on human activity that further defines how we make ourselves through meaningful work and interactions.


I wrote...

Grounding the Analysis of Cognitive Processes in Music Performance: Distributed Cognition in Musical Activity

By Linda T. Kaastra,

Book cover of Grounding the Analysis of Cognitive Processes in Music Performance: Distributed Cognition in Musical Activity

What is my book about?

This book presents four case studies of expert thinking in instrumental music performance. It draws uniquely on dominant paradigms from the fields of cognitive science, ethnography, anthropology, psychology, and psycholinguistics to develop an ecologically valid framework for the analysis of cognitive processes in musical activity. By presenting a close analysis of activities, including instrumental performance on the bassoon, lessons on the guitar, and a group rehearsal, Kaastra provides new insights into the person/instrument system, the musician’s use of informational resources, and the organization of perceptual experience during a musical performance. Engaging in musical activity is shown to be a highly dynamic and collaborative process invoking tacit knowledge and coordination as musicians identify targets of focal awareness for themselves, their colleagues, and their students.

The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw

By Patrick F. McManus,

Book cover of The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw

The pure and real absurdity of the stories in this book kept me coming back again and again. The cranky old backwoods-man, the paranoid mother, and the hard-as-nails grandmother all felt like real people to me, and you never knew when Strange the dog would show up. Experience the world through the eyes of a child growing up in early 20th-century backwoods America.

Who am I?

Humans are absurd. We are. Short stories that present this in a true and honest fashion, without being cruel or vulgar are a rare and delicious gem. In all of these books there is not a single ounce of malice or bitterness. Humans are born, we live, we suffer, and then we die. These books don’t deny this, or ignore it, instead they choose to focus on the funny, the fun, the absurd lives that we live. 


I wrote...

Humans Are Weird: I Have the Data

By Betty Adams, Adelia Gibadullina (illustrator),

Book cover of Humans Are Weird: I Have the Data

What is my book about?

What will our little green friends think of us? Humans are weird, and after the shock of first contact is over the aliens will have to deal with us in all of our absurdity. Star Trek meets Monty Python in this book that explores the strangeness of human nature through the “eyes” of our alien friends. 

This human insists that this broom, identical down to the molecule to every other broom in the base, is the “wrong” broom. That human is getting far too close to the lava for no apparent reason. The other human is humming and literally climbing the walls? Why? Discover the answers along with our confused little friends.

Cranford

By Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell,

Book cover of Cranford

It’s never the plot that draws me to a novel; it’s always other ingredients like people and place and, in these regards, Cranford is a stellar delight. The protagonist is a frequent house guest in the small town of Cranford, giving readers intimate access to the quirky social codes of its mostly female population. From the ones who care about social mores to the ones who care less, these wonderful vignettes document their attempts to outwit a visiting magician, or foil rumored night-burglars, or adapt to the losses of loved ones. Each woman has had a journey in some way stifled by the patriarchy of the 1800s but these ladies’ timeless and absorbing intelligence, compassion, loyalty, ingenuity, forbearance, and above all, wit, shine through.


Who am I?

I’d thought I was writing a novel about someone putting a life back together after everything fell apart but, when I’d finished, readers told me I’d written a book about vivid, authentic friendships. It was a welcome surprise. From Charles Dickens to Sylvia Plath, nuanced characters have always interested me and so, when writing, I set myself the task of believable dialogue and interactions which readers can relate to like it’s their own friends sitting around a table; laughing, crying, or bickering. When a life falls apart it’s often friendships that are tested to breaking but then become stronger as a result.


I wrote...

Keep Walking, Rhona Beech

By Kate Tough,

Book cover of Keep Walking, Rhona Beech

What is my book about?

Rhona’s candid, messy journey will make you laugh, cry and remember. Not a typical break-up book, it's much more profound. Rhona has been casually swapping one job for another while comfy in a long relationship, until it ends abruptly and her efforts to adapt to that change are thrown by unwelcome news... 

This beautifully written, pacey satire about female friendship, heartbreak, career change, conceiving and illness will appeal to fans of Fleabag. Join Rhona on a laugh (and cry) out loud search for meaning amongst the bars, offices, and clinics of Scotland. Will her friendships survive the challenges? Will she survive? At once funny and tender, Keep Walking, Rhona Beech is a clear-sighted look at a generation that was told they could have it all.

The Gap

By Thomas Suddendorf,

Book cover of The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals

If you want to understand humans, you need to know how we differ from and how we’re similar to the rest of the animal kingdom. This book covers that topic better than any other. It might seem like the differences between us and them are obvious, but when you read this book you realize that it’s not so obvious after all. Suddendorf does an amazing job describing the science of us and them, and then shows you two key differences that you’ve probably never thought of, but play a central role in separating us from everyone else.


Who am I?

I’m a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Queensland. I’ve had the good fortune to spend my life studying humans and trying to figure out how they got that way. These are some of the best books I’ve read on this fascinating topic. They might seem to be all over the map, but understanding human nature requires approaching it from many different perspectives, and these books will get you started.


I wrote...

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

By William Von Hippel,

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

What is my book about?

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

All Things Bright and Beautiful

By James Herriot,

Book cover of All Things Bright and Beautiful: The Warm and Joyful Memoirs of the World's Most Beloved Animal Doctor

To little grade school me this book was high fantasy. A healer with amazing powers walking through another world. A vet doing his rounds in Pre-WWI Yorkshire. I laughed at every absurdity. The poodle that believed she was pregnant. The boxer that wouldn’t stop farting in his high-class lady’s house. Everything made me laugh while transporting me to a world where old men drink pints in pubs while their “wee bron doggie” sits under their stools.


Who am I?

Humans are absurd. We are. Short stories that present this in a true and honest fashion, without being cruel or vulgar are a rare and delicious gem. In all of these books there is not a single ounce of malice or bitterness. Humans are born, we live, we suffer, and then we die. These books don’t deny this, or ignore it, instead they choose to focus on the funny, the fun, the absurd lives that we live. 


I wrote...

Humans Are Weird: I Have the Data

By Betty Adams, Adelia Gibadullina (illustrator),

Book cover of Humans Are Weird: I Have the Data

What is my book about?

What will our little green friends think of us? Humans are weird, and after the shock of first contact is over the aliens will have to deal with us in all of our absurdity. Star Trek meets Monty Python in this book that explores the strangeness of human nature through the “eyes” of our alien friends. 

This human insists that this broom, identical down to the molecule to every other broom in the base, is the “wrong” broom. That human is getting far too close to the lava for no apparent reason. The other human is humming and literally climbing the walls? Why? Discover the answers along with our confused little friends.

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