The 10 Best Psychology Books for Success in Life and Work

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Want to be more successful, in life and work? Want to better understand yourself and others, make better decisions, and form successful habits? The most life-changing lessons about how to be a better thinker come from the field of psychology, and some of the most innovative researchers have written books that are both profound and practical.

Here’s our carefully researched list of the top 10 psychology books of all time. To compose this list, we used quantitative criteria such as:

  • High-quality recommendations from successful leaders like Charlie Munger, Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama
  • Number of weeks on bestseller lists like the New York Times
  • Common perception and ratings by common readers, from networks like Amazon and Goodreads

Don’t have time to get the benefits of reading? That’s where Shortform comes in. With Shortform, you can get the key lessons from the best nonfiction books in minutes, not in hours. Our experts condense the key lessons from psychology books like these into an efficient summary. Check out our high-quality summaries of these 10 books to see if you can learn more quickly.

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

TITLE: Thinking, Fast and Slow
AUTHOR: Daniel Kahneman
TIME: 66
READS: 53.8
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: thinking-fast-and-slow-summary-daniel-kahneman

We’re so self-confident in our rationality that we think all our decisions are well-considered. In reality, our minds are besieged by deep-rooted evolutionary biases. Where they once enhanced survival, they now lead to poor decision making.

Thinking, Fast and Slow is a masterful book on psychology and behavioral economics by Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman. It presents an overall framework of cognition that explains why the biases exist and how they work.

This is a book to take your time and chew on. You should apply each learning to mistakes you’ve made and decisions you’re mulling over. The rewards are important: you’ll make better decisions and maximize your happiness.

In a 2016 interview with Wired, former president Barack Obama included Thinking, Fast and Slow in a list of the ten books that have shaped him.

2. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell

TITLE: Blink
AUTHOR: Malcolm Gladwell
TIME: 30
READS: 36.3
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: blink-summary-malcolm-gladwell

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explores the decisions we make in the blink of an eye. We’re often taught to view these snap judgments as inferior to decisions based on rational analysis, but Gladwell shows us that decisions made intuitively can be as good as, and sometimes better than, conscious decisions. Blink delves into how and why we make the gut decisions we do, when it’s unsafe to trust our guts, and what we can do to make all our snap judgments smarter, less biased, and more efficient.

Publishers Weekly said, “Gladwell…has a dazzling ability to find commonality in disparate fields of study….in this entertaining and illuminating book on how we make snap judgments.”

3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini

TITLE: Influence
AUTHOR: Robert B. Cialdini
TIME: 36
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: influence-psychology-of-persuasion-summary-robert-cialdini

Have you ever wondered how persuasion works? How are salespeople, fundraisers, and politicians able to lure us into compliance— without even thinking that we’re being manipulated? 

This is what Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion sets out to answer. The book shows how the persuaders of the world use our basic mental instincts against us, transforming them into tools of compliance. By exploring the origins and common uses of six principles of persuasion—reciprocity, commitment/consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity—you’ll learn to spot when you’re being hustled and discover how to beat the persuaders at their own game.

Said Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Charlie Munger, “Robert Cialdini has had a greater impact on my thinking on this topic than any other scientist.”

The Journal of Marketing Research said, “For marketers, this book is among the most important books written in the last ten years.”

4. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg

TITLE: The Power of Habit
AUTHOR: Charles Duhigg
TIME: 22
READS: 42.8
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-power-of-habit-summary-charles-duhigg

Do you have any bad habits you want to break? Or do you want to start a new habit, like healthier eating, exercise, or reading more?

You’re not alone. People try and fail to change their habits all the time. But they often fail because they believe it’s simply about willpower – stopping the habit brute force – without understanding the nature of the habit and how to most effectively change it. The Power of Habit gives you an incredibly useful framework for understanding your habits and for changing them. In short, you must set up a routine that gives you fast positive feedback, and keep doing it until it becomes a fully-formed habit. Learn the strategies for developing a lasting habit here.

Jim Collins, author of business bestsellers like Good to Great, called The Power of Habit “sharp, provocative, and useful.”

5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

TITLE: Quiet: The Power of Introverts
AUTHOR: Susan Cain
TIME: 37
READS: 23.8
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: quiet-power-of-introverts-summary-susan-cain

A third to a half of Americans are introverts, according to author Susan Cain, but they’re often marginalized. In Quiet, Cain contends that Western society is designed around an “extrovert ideal” that celebrates those who are bold and charismatic. However, unbridled extroversion can lead to disasters, such as the fall of Enron and the 2008 financial crisis. By overvaluing extroverts and treating introverts as misfits, society loses out on introverts’ unique strengths—for instance, they’re highly creative, astute observers, and adept at solving complex problems. Cain argues for a balance in society, school, and work that lets introverts be true to themselves and where the two personality types complement each other.

The Wall Street Journal called Quiet “rich, intelligent…enlightening.”

6. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, by Daniel Goleman

TITLE: Emotional Intelligence
AUTHOR: Daniel Goleman
TIME: 52
READS: 50.6
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: emotional-intelligence-summary-daniel-goleman

Do you constantly get swept away by your emotions? Would you like to learn how to control your emotional reactions at home or at work? Or maybe you’re uncomfortable with emotions, and don’t understand why you or anyone else feels them? Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is a comprehensive look at what emotions are and why we have them, how we can get better at managing them, and why the well-being of humanity might depend on us doing so.

Said the New York Times of Emotional Intelligence, “Anyone interested in leadership…should get a copy of this book.”

7. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth

AUTHOR: Angela Duckworth
TIME: 21
READS: 63.8
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: grit-summary-angela-duckworth
AMZN_ID: 1501111116

Do you have problems finishing things? Do new ideas distract you from previous ones? Do you get derailed by setbacks more often than you would like?

Then you could use more grit. In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth shows how grit – the combination of passion and perseverance – distinguishes high achievers, and why talent isn’t as important as most people think. Learn the 4 major components of grit, and how to develop grit in yourself, your kids, and your teammates.

Arianna Huffington called Grit “masterful…Grit offers a truly sane perspective: that true success comes when we devote ourselves to endeavors that give us joy and purpose.”

8. Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

TITLE: Outliers
AUTHOR: Malcolm Gladwell
TIME: 31
READS: 30.5
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: outliers-summary-malcolm-gladwell

There is a tendency, in Western culture, to assume that success and failure result primarily from individual factors such as passion, talent, intellect and hard work.  

In Outliers, Gladwell argues that success (or failure) may depend more heavily upon external factors than we think. These include where and when you were born, what kind of family you were born into, how you were parented, and whether or not you experienced financial security.

The New York Times Book Review said of Gladwell, “[he’s] as close to a singular talent as exists today…Outliers is a pleasure to read and leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward.”

9. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck

TITLE: Mindset
AUTHOR: Carol S. Dweck
TIME: 42
READS: 33.1
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: mindset-the-new-psychology-of-success-summary-carol-dweck

You have powerful beliefs that affect what you want in life and whether you get it. In Mindset, psychologist and researcher Carol S. Dweck argues that your mindset can determine the course of much of your life, starting as early as your preschool years. 

You learn one of two mindsets from your parents, teachers, and coaches: that personal qualities such as intelligence and ability are innate and unchangeable (the fixed mindset) or that you and others can change and grow (the growth mindset). This view shapes your personality and helps or hinders you from reaching your potential. Understanding and adjusting your mindset can change your career, relationships, the way you raise your children, and your overall satisfaction in life.

Bill Gates said of Mindset, “One of the reasons I loved Mindset is because it’s solutions-oriented….The greatest virtue of the book is that you can’t help but ask yourself things like, ‘Which areas have I always looked at through a fixed-mindset lens?'”

10. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know, by Malcolm Gladwell

TITLE: Talking to Strangers
AUTHOR: Malcolm Gladwell
TIME: 41
READS: 25.3
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: talking-to-strangers-summary-malcolm-gladwell

Talking to Strangers is an eye-opening book about the impossibility of truly understanding a stranger. By breaking down some of the most famous events in recent human history, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell shows us the strategies we often use when dealing with people we don’t know—and how deeply flawed those strategies are. 

In this book, you’ll learn:

  • How Hitler fooled so many prominent world leaders
  • Why the financial industry failed to stop Bernie Madoff for so long
  • What really happened to Sandra Bland

Oprah said, “Talking to Strangers is a must-read…I love this book…Reading it will actually change not just how you see strangers, but how you look at yourself, the news–the world…Reading this book changed me.”

The 10 Best Psychology Books for Success in Life and Work

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Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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