5 Fun Psychology Books To Better Understand Why We Do What We Do

Humans are naturally inquisitive creatures and what’s more fun to inquire about than the human mind!? For me psychology is the study of “why we do what we do.” It cultivates understanding toward both ourselves and those around us bringing more ease and joy into our lives.

The following are my top five book recommendations if you’re looking to learn more about what makes us tick. 

The psychology of business

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

We’ve all heard the mantra “it’s all about mindset” and “the power of positive thinking”. While the way these terms are generally overused usually has me rolling my eyes, this book isn’t an eye roll. “The Happiness Advantage” is all about how to cultivate love in yourself and others so you can be more productive and thus, more successful. Achor flips the age old idea that success=happiness on its head so that happiness=success. It has had a lasting effect on how I run my business and lead others. 

I was working at Lululemon when this book was recommended to me and for anyone who has worked retail, you know it can be extremely difficult to love your job. Between the rude customers and the menial tasks it can make you want to pull your hair out. This wasn’t an option because 1.) I love my hair and 2.) I had big goals with Lululemon and knew that working in the store was how I was going to get there. Enter “The Happiness Advantage”. 

One of the seven principles Achor outlines is all about relating aforementioned menial tasks to larger impacts. For example, folding a stack of black stretchy pants. You might think, “why does it matter if they are neat and tidy and visually organized, when someone’s just going to come by five minutes later and wreck the whole thing?”

But if you think about a mom who has been running errands all day and cleaning up after other people and the one thing she does for herself that day is stopping by Lululemon to buy herself a new pair of her favorite leggings and the perfectly folded pile of pants saves her time by making it easy to find what she’s looking for and someone gets to clean up after her for once. That is making someone’s day, and who doesn’t feel happy when you make someone’s day?

The psychology of race

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? By Beverly Daniel Tatum

As a white woman who became aware of my privilege within the last year, I turned to books as a starting place for my antiracism education and action. For anyone who benefits from any kind of privilege or if your looking to learn more about this topic, this book is a must read. Tatum analyzes how issues of race play out on a daily basis and affect us psychologically like why we gravitate towards people who have shared experiences with us i.e. sit with kids of our race at lunch.

Tatum wrote this book over two decades ago but it is still relevant, if not more so, today. The newest release includes Tatum’s analysis on more current political and social events –– like the 2008 recession, the election of Barack Obama and affirmative action backlash –– and updated research to give readers a framework for thinking and talking about racial identity. Tatum wants “to help others move beyond fear, beyond anger, beyond denial to a new understanding of what racism is, how it impacts all of us, and ultimately what we can do about it.”


The psychology of relationships

Attached by Amir Levine + Rachel Heller

My therapist recommended this book to me a few years ago when I was in a not so great relationship. Looking back she was probably trying to gently hint that he was not the best guy for me. Thanks, Heidi! 

There’s a quiz at the beginning of the book to help you figure out which attachment style you are. I’ll never forget when I took the quiz. I immediately knew I was an Anxious and my partner was an Avoidant (these are the hardest relationships to make work because you respond to conflict in exactly the opposite way).

I started crying because I thought our relationship was doomed (spoiler alert…it already was way before I read the book) and I had him take the quiz and he was like “babe, don’t worry about this, we’re both totally Secure attachment styles.” I believed him against my better judgement because let’s be real, who wants to be labeled anxious? 

But the truth ALWAYS comes out.

The relationship ended (I now embrace my Anxious attachment style. We are fiercely loyal companions), but my learnings from this book have lived on. What’s amazing is Dr. Levine and Dr. Heller aren’t trying to change anything about you; they simply show you how you attach to a romantic partner (and validate that it is completely normal to attach to your partner), why you react certain ways in a relationship and give you a framework for how you can best support you partner and visa versa.

And it’s based in science. Now if that doesn’t make you feel less crazy for the sometimes “crazy” way you might act in a relationship, I don’t know what will.

The psychology of yoga

How Yoga Works by Geshe Michael Roach

Yoga in Western society (for the most part) is about the physical body.

“How can I get that amazing yoga bod?”

“How can I learn to do all those cool acrobatic looking poses that make great IG posts?”

“How can I sweat my stress away?”

But the physical part of yoga is just one tiny part of the practice. The bigger part is how the mind-body connection can lead to healing.

This magical book teaches the Sutras and the psychology of yoga through a relatable and engaging narrative (you’ll be rooting for the rag tag cast of characters the whole time). This way of teaching, through story versus through lists, diagrams and how to’s, landed for me and has changed the way I not only practice yoga but also life. 

P.S. The author knows his shit. He is the ONLY westerner to be given the title Geshe from the Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery in Tibet. It took him 20 years of studying to receive that title so I think we can agree that he’s a reliable source.

The psychology of the future

The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku

I come from a family of nerds (no real surprise since I’m writing an article on psychology books) and this book was recommended to me by my very smart brother. I was skeptical because he is “science smart”, like studied physics, computer science and math in college smart.

I love learning and reading about how the brain works but I’m not into books that I need a dictionary on hand to get through. I was pleasantly surprised, this book was mind blowing (pun intended) and approachable.

Kaku does an amazing job of talking about advanced neuroscience and technology in a very readable and digestible way. He covers a wide array of topics, everything from artificial intelligence to telepathy. My favorite part about this book is his optimistic outlook.

There is so much out there talking about what’s wrong with the world, life, humans etc. and offering no solutions to the problems. This book is a refreshing look at how we can harness technology and the power of our brains to create a better future.

What’s the best psychology book you’ve read? We want your suggestions! Comment below.

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