The best neuropsychology books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about neuropsychology and why they recommend each book.

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Innate

By Kevin J. Mitchell,

Book cover of Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are

We neuroscientists know a lot about how brains are, but not how they come to be. This book fills that huge hole: it explains how genetics and development shape the growing brain, and the consequences this has for our personalities and our mental disorders. Mitchell’s thesis is that the stochastic nature of development is key to understanding much of the variation between brains, and it has changed the way I think about the wiring of brains.

Innate

By Kevin J. Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A leading neuroscientist explains why your personal traits are more innate than you think

What makes you the way you are-and what makes each of us different from everyone else? In Innate, leading neuroscientist and popular science blogger Kevin Mitchell traces human diversity and individual differences to their deepest level: in the wiring of our brains. Deftly guiding us through important new research, including his own groundbreaking work, he explains how variations in the way our brains develop before birth strongly influence our psychology and behavior throughout our lives, shaping our personality, intelligence, sexuality, and even the way we perceive…


Who am I?

I’m a British neuroscientist and writer who’s been using computers to study the brain since 1998, and writing about it since 2016. How I ended up a neuroscientist is hard to explain, for my formative years were spent devouring science books that were not about the brain. That’s partly because finding worthwhile books about the brain is so hard – few delve into how the brain actually works, into the kinds of meaty details that, for example, Hawking offered us on physics and Dawkins on evolution. So I wrote one to solve that problem; and the books on my list are just that too: deep, insightful works on how the brain does what it does.


I wrote...

The Spike: An Epic Journey Through the Brain in 2.1 Seconds

By Mark Humphries,

Book cover of The Spike: An Epic Journey Through the Brain in 2.1 Seconds

What is my book about?

We see the last cookie in the box and think, can I take that? We reach a hand out. In the 2.1 seconds that this impulse travels through our brain, billions of neurons communicate with one another, sending blips of voltage through our sensory and motor regions. Neuroscientists call these blips “spikes.” Spikes enable us to do everything: talk, eat, run, see, plan, and decide. In The Spike, Mark Humphries takes readers on the epic journey of a spike through a single, brief reaction. In vivid language, Humphries tells the story of what happens in our brain, what we know about spikes, and what we still have left to understand about them.

Drawing on decades of research in neuroscience, Humphries explores how spikes are born, how they are transmitted, and how they lead us to action. 

The Shallows

By Nicholas Carr,

Book cover of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Nicholas Carr of The Atlantic magazine wrote that Google's rich database of information has changed the way we think by taking away our deep research and focus, while affecting our cognition and weakening our ability to think critically. This provocation sparked a very useful debate that continues to this day. In this book, he focuses on attention, knowing that the depth of our thinking is directly related to it. He concludes that in our Net environment, thinking becomes more superficial.

The Shallows

By Nicholas Carr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nicholas Carr's bestseller The Shallows has become a foundational book in one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the internet's bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply? This 10th-anniversary edition includes a new afterword that brings the story up to date, with a deep examination of the cognitive and behavioral effects of smartphones and social media.

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.


I wrote...

Be Logical, Be Creative, Be Critical: the Art of Thinking in a Digital World

By Luc de Brabandere,

Book cover of Be Logical, Be Creative, Be Critical: the Art of Thinking in a Digital World

What is my book about?

AI and human intelligence. Fine, but who is programming who? The power of the computer should not come as a surprise since it was designed with the purpose of enabling humans to amplify their reasoning skills. But we should be aware that, if it allows us to think ahead, the computer influences our way of thinking as well. Thinking is clearly no longer what it used to be and, in my new book coauthored with Lina Benmehrez, I invite you to rediscover the art of thinking in a digital world through logic, creativity and sound argumentation!

This essay takes us back to ancient Greece where logical and critical thinking were first formalized. It also reminds us of more recent developments in cognitive sciences that include creative thinking. 

Resilient

By Rick Hanson, Forrest Hanson,

Book cover of Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness

Resilient is a book to savor slowly. In recovery from addiction, sometimes one’s foundation is shaky and unstable. Resilient provides a beautiful way to build a new solid foundation based on compassion, confidence, and courage. Rick Hanson is a popular psychologist and has lots of great books (along with a terrific podcast with his son) but I keep returning to this one. As a psychologist myself, I think Resilient hits all the themes that are important for a mind well-cared-for and a life well-lived.  

Resilient

By Rick Hanson, Forrest Hanson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Your key to lasting happiness, self-love and inner peace

'A master of his craft' - Prof Mark Williams, bestselling author of Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world

Rick Hanson, author of the New York Times bestselling Hardwiring Happiness, is known for his trademark blend of neuroscience, positive psychology and contemplative practices. In Resilient, he explains how to build the very foundations of well-being by harnessing the power of positive experiences to build an unshakeable core.

Dr. Hanson poses that anyone can build up resilience, the key to a positive mindset, unshakeable sense of self and…


Who am I?

I’m a psychologist, an award-winning author, and a yoga and meditation devotee. Growing up in the Bronx, New York I saw firsthand the devastating impact addiction can have on individuals and families. That is why I have dedicated my professional life to understanding and supporting people recovering from addiction, mental illness, and life's challenges. I’m also the co-author of The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction, which offers lots of strategies to manage daily stressors. I wholeheartedly believe there is a path back to wellness. It takes a foundation of self-compassion and daily focus on your healing. You deserve to be healthy and happy.


I wrote...

The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress, and Anger That Trigger Addictive Behaviors, 2nd Edition

By Rebecca E. Williams, Julie S. Kraft,

Book cover of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress, and Anger That Trigger Addictive Behaviors, 2nd Edition

What is my book about?

If you struggle with addiction, know that you are not alone. Addictive behaviors are often the result of a significant loss. If you’re like many others, you may have turned to drugs, alcohol, or other troubling behaviors to avoid the pain of loss. But this only delays your healing, and can lead to a destructive cycle that leaves you feeling trapped. So, how can you break free?

This second edition of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction will help you identify the root of your addictive behaviors while providing coping strategies to deal with the strong emotions that come from experiencing a loss. With these powerful mindfulness exercises and lifestyle tips, you will be able to replace addictive behaviors with healthy behaviors to begin healing.

Descartes' Error

By Antonio Damasio,

Book cover of Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

The work of Dr. Damasio was foundational in building my understanding of how human emotions work, and their role in human actions and decision making. This book explores Damasio’s work in detail, giving a rich understanding of human emotions – and how they are not frivolous things but actually core to how humans act and behave. 

Descartes' Error

By Antonio Damasio,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the centuries since Descartes famously proclaimed, 'I think, therefore I am,' science has often overlooked emotions as the source of a person's true being. Even modern neuroscience has tended until recently to concentrate on the cognitive aspects of brain function, disregarding emotions. This attitude began to change with the publication of Descartes' Error. Antonio Damasio challenged traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. In this wonderfully engaging book, Damasio takes the reader on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury,…

Who am I?

Since I was young, I was fascinated with how the mind works; how all of our thoughts, feelings, memories, decisions, and actions come out of this lump of flesh in our heads. I studied consciousness, psychology, and neuroscience both at university, and on my own for decades. Once I started working in marketing, for many of the biggest and best brands in the world, I realized that marketers tend to have deep misconceptions and misunderstandings for how the mind actually works. My goal is to bridge the gap between all of the knowledge we have about the brain, and how that could be helpful to brands and marketers. 


I wrote...

Brand Seduction: How Neuroscience Can Help Marketers Build Memorable Brands

By Daryl Weber,

Book cover of Brand Seduction: How Neuroscience Can Help Marketers Build Memorable Brands

What is my book about?

In Brand Seduction, author Daryl Weber reveals the latest psychological and neuroscientific discoveries about how our minds process brand information and make decisions, and the important roles our emotions and unconscious play in our selections. 

Through simple language, engaging stories, and real-world examples, Brand Seduction shows you how to decode, build, and use these hidden brand fantasies to grow your brand and business.

How Things Shape the Mind

By Lambros Malafouris,

Book cover of How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement

I love the way Malafouris delves into deeply philosophical questions about the boundaries of the mind. Working from the perspective of cognitive archeology, he broadly examines what makes us human in our engagement with objects and each other. Why does it help to understand the mind this way? Whenever we want to learn more about how we do the things we do, theories like Malafouris’ material engagement theory can help us to organize familiar tasks and situations in a way that makes the underlying cognitive processes transparent. If you want to improve your performance in any area, conceptual frameworks like this one (and the one in my book) can bring tacit processes into focus. 

How Things Shape the Mind

By Lambros Malafouris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Things Shape the Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


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.

Buddha's Brain

By Rick Hanson, Richard Mendius,

Book cover of Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

If you have an inner critic who berates you like Logan in Succession, you need this book. Learn how to work your mind and creating what you want is so much easier. Rick guides you to understand how your brain works – science is so cool! - and then how to change your brain so it works far better and that Logan guy shuts the hell up.

Buddha's Brain

By Rick Hanson, Richard Mendius,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Buddha's Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Gandhi, and the Buddha all had brains built essentially like anyone else's, yet they were able to harness their thoughts and shape their patterns of thinking in ways that changed history.

With new breakthroughs in modern neuroscience and the wisdom of thousands of years of contemplative practice, it is possible for us to shape our own thoughts in a similar way for greater happiness, love, compassion, and wisdom.

Buddha's Brain joins the forces of modern neuroscience with ancient contemplative teachings to show readers how they can work toward greater emotional well-being, healthier relationships, more effective actions, and…


Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with the creative process since I was 8 and read Harriet the Spy and realized her writing saved her and after I spied on one of my parent’s cocktail parties and wondered why everybody was so dull (I was so cheeky). Still, it’s the quest that drives me: how do we be fully ourselves in this world and how does creativity help? I explore this question on my podcast Create Out Loud and in my weekly newsletter, and these books have helped me formulate, if not answers, creative and mindful practices that sustain me daily. I hope they inspire you too.


I wrote...

Why Bother: Discover the Desire for What’s Next

By Jennifer Louden,

Book cover of Why Bother: Discover the Desire for What’s Next

What is my book about?

In Why Bother? best-selling author Jennifer Louden dares you to face the question we all ask at some point: why bother? Why bother to create, to write, to love, to risk disappointment again? She shows how to prioritize what’s calling you, especially when you’ve sidelined your creative dreams to raise kids, pay the rent, or take care of aging parents. And crucially, she shows you why tapping into your desires will give you the energy to move forward—even when there seems to be no point. Why bother is not a question to be ashamed of or run from, it’s a question to embrace and let it show you what’s next.

Mindworks

By Ernst Pöppel,

Book cover of Mindworks: Time and Conscious Experience

When I moved to San Diego I began to get interested in time perception as well as the physics of time. My colleague Patrica Churchland kindly gave me this book to read. It’s a popular, accessible book on cognitive science and time perception. I couldn’t put it down. For sure it changed my academic path. I knew the mind plays all kinds of tricks on us, but the way it creates our inner sense of time experience still amazes me. 

Mindworks

By Ernst Pöppel,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I am a philosopher of science who has an obsession with time. People think this interest is a case of patronymic destiny, that it’s due to my last name being Callender. But the origins of “Callender” have nothing to do with time. Instead, I’m fascinated by time because it is one of the last fundamental mysteries, right up there with consciousness. Like consciousness, time is connected to our place in the universe (our sense of freedom, identity, meaning). Yet we don’t really understand it because there remains a gulf between our experience of time and the science of time. Saint Augustine really put his finger on the problem in the fifth century when he pointed out that it is both the most familiar and unfamiliar thing.


I wrote...

What Makes Time Special?

By Craig Callender,

Book cover of What Makes Time Special?

What is my book about?

As we navigate through life we instinctively model time as having a flowing present that divides a fixed past from open future. This model develops in childhood and is deeply saturated within our language, thought and behavior, affecting our conceptions of the universe, freedom and the self. Yet as central as it is to our lives, physics seems to have no room for this flowing present.

Does physics really “spatialize” time, as is commonly alleged? By looking at the world "sideways" - in the spatial directions -- Callender shows that even relativity theory makes significant distinctions between the spacelike and timelike directions, often with surprising consequences.

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.

The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History

By Fred H. Previc,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What does it mean to be human? There are many theories of the evolution of human behavior which seek to explain how our brains evolved to support our unique abilities and personalities. Most of these have focused on the role of brain size or specific genetic adaptations of the brain. In contrast, in this text, Fred Previc presents a provocative theory that high levels of dopamine, the most widely studied neurotransmitter, account for all major aspects of modern human behavior. He further emphasizes the role of epigenetic rather than genetic factors in the rise of dopamine. Previc contrasts the great…

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.

Book cover of Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integrative Handbook of the Mind

In this uniquely structured book, Dan Siegel covers the major elements of interpersonal neurobiology, which is one of the most exciting theoretical constructs currently available. Siegel and I are definitely on the same page in applying complex dynamical systems theory to the understanding of mind/body integration, consciousness, and the essential role of interpersonal relationships in healthy human development.

Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology

By Daniel J. Siegel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many fields have explored the nature of mental life from psychology to psychiatry, literature to linguistics. Yet no common "framework" where each of these important perspectives can be honored and integrated with one another has been created in which a person seeking their collective wisdom can find answers to some basic questions, such as, What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? How do we know things, how are we conscious of ourselves? What is the mind? What makes a mind healthy or unwell? And, perhaps most importantly: What is the connection among the mind, the brain, and…

Who am I?

I have spent my entire professional life quietly patrolling the frontiers of understanding human consciousness. I was an early adopter in the burgeoning field of biofeedback, then neurofeedback and neuroscience, plus theory and practices of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, plus steeping myself in systems theory as a context for all these other fields of focus. I hold a MS in psychology from San Francisco State University and a PhD from Saybrook Institute. I live in Mount Shasta CA with Molly, my life partner for over 60 years. We have two sons and two grandchildren.


I wrote...

Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

By Jim Brown,

Book cover of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

What is my book about?

In this thoroughly-researched and exquisitely crafted treatise, Jim Brown synthesizes the newest understandings in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and dynamical systems theory for educators and others committed to nurturing human development. He explains complex concepts in down-to-earth terms, suggesting how these understandings can transform education to truly engender optimal learning and intelligence. He explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and mind.

Brown then offers a model of optimal human learning through life-long brain development within a supportive culture–drawing on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Steiner–and how that work is being vastly expanded by neuroscience and dynamical systems thinking.

Book cover of The River of Consciousness

The meaning of evolution, the foundation of creativity, the nature of consciousnessnobody can write so clearly and evocatively about these things as Oliver Sacks did over his long and productive career. This book offers a fresh look into the mind of a big thinker. Sacks explores issues and ideas across a remarkable breadth of disciplines. Here, he delved into questions most people probably have never thought to ask about evolution, botany, medicine, as well as the arts. He explores the science and humanity in everything, including his own growing awareness of memory loss. Having read most of his other books, I found this one as new and novel and enlightening as the first I came across decades ago.  

The River of Consciousness

By Oliver Sacks,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’ve been exploring the natural world most of my life as a gardener, naturalist, student, and researcher. I’ve come to appreciate the essentiality of our dependence on plant and other animal life. But I always want to know more. So I try to read across diverse areas of science as well as history, anthropology, linguistics, and archaeology. I want to know the mind of the thinker, the discoverer of ideas, the developer of technology. I want to understand the process of creativity from the view of the artist or inventor. Thus, I seek first-person accounts of scientists, doctors, inventors, as they struggle to understand the world that fascinates them.


I wrote...

Lives of Weeds: Opportunism, Resistance, Folly

By John Cardina,

Book cover of Lives of Weeds: Opportunism, Resistance, Folly

What is my book about?

Take a new look at weeds, those pesky plants that frustrate our struggle to nourish body and soul. In Lives of Weeds: Opportunism, Resistance, Folly, I show how weedy plants have entangled humans from the Agricultural Revolution to the development of GMO crops, ensnaring us in social inequality, economic instability, and environmental quandaries. I weave history, biology, and ecology with personal experience and humor to show how the evolution and persistence of weeds arise from human efforts to shape the natural world. Portraits of eight plant species reveal how weeds became more serious and troublesome through well-intentioned attempts to eradicate them. They point to ethical questions about food, agriculture, and the environment in relation to people’s complicated attitudes and behaviors toward weedy plants.

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