The Psychology Christmas Book List
Updated: Dec 5, 2018
This is my festive contribution: a list of recommended books about Psychology. They are in no particular order.
1. Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
I have blogged on this book already, but I thought that it was fascinating enough to mention again. An indictment on the values of the enlightenment period, Pinker discusses many relevant issues to psychology like the impact upon mental illness in the post enlightenment age. The good news is we are all going in the right direction in terms of living in the best society possible.
2. Igen by Jean Twenge
Surrounded by them on a day to day basis, you might as well read about the generation that do not recall a time before the internet. What their era is doing to them, Twenge suggests, is rendering them unfit for adulthood. Preoccupation with smartphones and an obsession with safety (due in no small part to adult generations fussing too much) the ‘Igenners’ are victims of their own technocratic privilege.
3. Violence by Slavoj Zizek
Zizek’s YouTube presence puts him in the rockstar category of authors, but his book offers some fascinating ideas about how violence is needed to maintain a stable society. His subversive humour, inspired by psychoanalytical theory, makes this an amusing and thought-provoking read.
4. Lost Connections by Johann Hari
Former Independent journalist Johann Hari journeyed widely to bring expert and anecdotal interviews about anxiety and depression. His compelling style draws out the limitations of drug therapy in treating depression, and offers a far more meaningful treatment plan which is very close to home.
5. Behave by Robert Sapolsky
There’s a great documentary online featuring Sapolsky’s research into chronic stress in wild baboons. In Behave, Sapolsky takes a reductionist approach to human behaviour with an intricate look at genetic and neural influences, before drawing back to group and social influences. If you have Christmas with family members that you really can’t stand you’ll be delighted to pull this out of the stocking.
6. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
One hundred thousand years ago (give or take), our ancestors hunted and gathered the savannahs of Africa. Then we migrated, in some cases to new continents, finding new challenges and terrains, until we took the (ill-advised decision) to farm and create settlements. Harari’s book is the story of our cousins and the decisions that came to govern our species.
7. The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris
Another YouTube, rock star, Sam Harris describes how science can make sense of morality. He includes details of some cutting edge neuroscience in which notion of morality is understood as something which can be measured and quantified.
8. They F*** You Up: How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James
A psychotherapist favouring Freudian theory, Oliver James has a number of highly engaging books of which this is a favourite. How parents, in the words of the great Philip Larkin, tuck you up is taken up through psychological theory. There’s a compelling exercise in one chapter called ‘understanding your place in the family script’. It’ll leave you pondering why you are for hours.
9. The Social Animal by David Brooks
US writer David Brooks offers an audacious part fiction, part factual story in which he freezes the lives of two conventional individuals in order to account for their motivations according to cutting edge science. It’s a sort of an applied theory novel and well worth it.
10. Humanity by Jonathan Glover
An ethics professor, Jonathan Glover might better have called this ‘inhumanity’. At times it details the creativity man shows to man in the cruelty stakes. Still, it packs a punch of optimism in the end when Glover reflects on the way that humanity often is in a state of improvement.