13 books directly related to intelligence 📚

All 13 intelligence books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Birth of Intelligence: From RNA to Artificial Intelligence

By Daeyeol Lee,

Book cover of Birth of Intelligence: From RNA to Artificial Intelligence

Why this book?

If flavorful food has been a critical element in the evolution of our large brains, how did large brains give rise to our high intelligence?  This is to be found in the circuits of our cerebral cortex and the regions to which it is connected. Daeyeol Lee is one of the leaders in research on how the cerebral cortex generates behavior in monkeys, for its insights into how this occurs in humans.  This is providing new ways to define the neural basis of intelligence based on the application of new single-cell recording techniques in primates and brain scanning techniques in humans.  

With his approach based on a deep understanding of how primates gave rise to humans, Lee asks the critical questions: What is intelligence? How did it evolve from monkeys to humans? Can computers and artificial intelligence ever equal human biological intelligence in all its complexity?   Based on Lee’s research on the biological and computational underpinnings of decision making and intelligent behaviors, Birth of Intelligence proposes that true intelligence requires the living brain in its living organism, one of the basic issues at stake in the brain vs AI debate.

The Nature of Human Intelligence

By Robert J. Sternberg,

Book cover of The Nature of Human Intelligence

Why this book?

This collection of essays gives a good overview of current psychological research on human intelligence, ranging from traditional IQ research to criticisms of it by Robert Sternberg and Howard Gardner. It also includes overviews of research on cultural and brain aspects of intelligence. One startling observation is how little psychologists agree on a definition of intelligence.

The Inner Eye: Social Intelligence in Evolution

By Nicholas Humphrey,

Book cover of The Inner Eye: Social Intelligence in Evolution

Why this book?

Nicholas Humphrey is our Darwin of the human mind. I first came across him in the mid-1980s when his television series The Inner Eye was broadcast. It was a revelation to me that such an elegant, comprehensive, and beautiful theory as his existed, explaining the evolution and nature of human consciousness. I bought the accompanying book at once, and it remains for me the best explanation of consciousness—a constant source of inspiration, including for my novels. Humphrey’s social intelligence theory remains, after forty years, the most widely accepted explanation of the evolution of consciousness.

Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

By Daniel Goleman,

Book cover of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

Why this book?

For more than three decades now, we’ve seen corporations, nonprofits, and governments go under because one or more of their executive leaders proved emotionally unstable. Those leaders were either narcissistic, paranoid, bipolar, impulsive, or immature (temper tantrums, poor coping skills, crying, withdrawing, pouting).

Without self-awareness—and the awareness to identify emotional instability in others—leaders cannot hope to connect genuinely and build personal influence and loyalty among colleagues and staffers.

I love this book because of its research and real-life case studies. With almost every chapter, you’ll say, “Oh, I know that guy or gal!”

Better: You learn how to cope with them (or maybe more importantly, you learn if it will be impossible to ever cope with them).

Illuminating the Mind: An Introduction to Buddhist Epistemology

By Jonathan Stoltz,

Book cover of Illuminating the Mind: An Introduction to Buddhist Epistemology

Why this book?

Buddhist philosophers try to construct rational defenses of those claims about the nature of ourselves and the world that are central to the Buddhist project. So clarity about how we obtain knowledge is important to Buddhist thinkers. In this book Stoltz presents some of the fruits of their efforts, the epistemological theories of the tradition. What I most like about this book is the clarity with which Stoltz connects Buddhist theorizing about knowledge with trends in more recent western epistemology, bringing out both important overlaps and significant discontinuities. 

Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count

By Richard E. Nisbett,

Book cover of Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count

Why this book?

Richard Nisbett is one of the most influential social psychologists in the world, and we collaborated on the 1987 book Induction. His book on intelligence gives a good introduction to the psychology of intelligence and an incisive critique of attempts to use dubious research on a genetic basis for intelligence to explain racial inequality.

I Am a Strange Loop

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Book cover of I Am a Strange Loop

Why this book?

I think glorious failures are far more interesting than modest successes, and let’s face it, any book that attempts to explain consciousness is bound to fail on so many levels. What I love about Hofstadter’s work is its boldness and reach. He’s as happy in the world of abstract metaphor as he is speaking of science or mathematics, and understands that we need new metaphors of consciousness just as badly as we need new scientific models. And even though he flounders at times, it kind of doesn’t matter, because of the sheer energy and verve of his quest: sort of Don Quixote with a calculator. For the math geeks amongst you, there’s an unusually clear and careful discussion of the incompleteness theorem as well. What’s not to like?

Use Your Head: How to Unleash the Power of Your Mind

By Tony Buzan,

Book cover of Use Your Head: How to Unleash the Power of Your Mind

Why this book?

Tony Buzan was a genius who discovered the secret of bringing out the innate genius in others. This all-round manual illustrates all aspects of Tony’s teachings which can transform your mental power in every aspect of your life. At university Tony realised that there was no handbook or operations manual for the human brain, so he decided to write it himself. This is it. 

Fifteen Dogs

By André Alexis,

Book cover of Fifteen Dogs

Why this book?

Imagine a bet between the Greek gods Hermes and Apollo who both agree to grant human intelligence to a group of dogs staying overnight in a veterinary clinic. The wager? If the dogs end up more unhappy than humans with their newfound consciousness, then Hermes must bow to a year of servitude to Apollo. The catch? When the dogs find they’re more capable of complex thought, the pack is split between the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. Not used to human thoughts and feelings, the dogs become divided while struggling between their old familiar world and a strange new one. Though I found this fantasy novel disturbing at times, Alexis proves that you can indeed teach an old genre new tricks.

Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

By Howard E. Gardner,

Book cover of Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Why this book?

Hailed by educators throughout the world, Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has been applied to hundreds of classrooms and schools. It shatters the theory that being smart is only measured by math and English skills. Through scientific and unquestionable documented historical research. Goodbye to SATs. Now we can acknowledge that geniuses can also be measured by linguistics, music, mathematical, spatial, body, and personal intelligence. A politician, athlete, architect, dancer, or musician can be brilliant in what they do but may not be able to write, speak, or do mathematics. We have known this to be our experience but now Gardner’s research makes it a fact. Now it’s time to change those old, outdated, and irrelevant SAT exams!

The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are

By Daniel J. Siegel,

Book cover of The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are

Why this book?

I am a great admirer of Dr. Siegel who is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. This is a terrific book in which Siegel explores the role of interpersonal relationships in forging key connections in the brain. As he says, “Human connections shape neural connections, and each contributes to mind. Relationships and your personal linkages together shape the mind. It is more than the sum of its parts; this is the essence of emergence.” His description of brain architecture is excellent

Siegel’s emphasis on relationships is important and I fully agree with it. His take on the mind is interesting. He says, “The mind is a process that emerges from the distributed nervous system extended throughout the entire body and also from the communication patterns that occur within relationships.” I echo those sentiments in The Embodied Mind when I say that the mind is more than the brain. Where I differ from Siegel is in suggesting that at the present the most scientifically supported evidence points to the mind as being a hybrid operating reversibly between quantum and classical realms.

The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers

By Richard J. Aldrich, Rory Cormac,

Book cover of The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers

Why this book?

I am fascinated by how different countries approach intelligence, both from how they organize intelligence activities and how intelligence informs policymaking. These various approaches highlight there is not a common approach to intelligence and help explain why simple definitions of intelligence are insufficient at capturing various intelligence activities and organizations. The Black Door looks at how British Prime Ministers have used intelligence and their relationships with intelligence organizations over the past century. A well-written account by two thoughtful and prolific scholars, the reader will appreciate how British Prime Ministers have used intelligence to not only understand the world but to also act.  

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

By Max Tegmark,

Book cover of Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Why this book?

This book looks into a distant future when machines are much more capable than humans of doing absolutely everything. How do we ensure humanity continues to flourish? Max is a physicist and he thinks on a much longer time scale than the rest of us. But he does so in an entertaining and provocative way.