7 Inspiring Psychology Books for the Layperson

As a 3-year psychology undergrad, I've read a LOT of books. My favorites by far have been texts that are designed for the layperson. Not necessarily self-help in a Dr. Phil sort of way, but self help in a sense that reading and digesting these texts will provide you with self compassion and efficacy. I'm a big believer that complex psychological concepts can be broken down into a language that is easily understood (and is accessible) by all. While some psychologists deny the information found within these self-help books and stand adamantly against philosophy, I am convinced that we must understand all realms of psychological texts in order to truly understand the field of psychology. 

1. The Managed Heart by Arlie Hochschild

The Managed Heart covers the "commercialization of human feeling" and the psychological consequences of corporations disregarding the emotions of their employees.

As a retail worker myself, I certainly found a plethora of relatable concepts and stories in this text (particularly "emotional labor").

If you demand that an employee exert emotional labor while dealing with customers or fans (forcing a smile, executing an immense amount of patience, dealing with "irates", etc.), there will be inevitable consequences stemming from exhaustion and a lack of feeling appreciated or valued.

2. Mistakes Were Made (... But Not By Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Mistakes Were Made (... But Not By Me) covers the concept of self-justification as it relates to responsibility and blame, and how it can destroy relationships. Couples, friends and strangers can place blame or anger onto each other without realizing their own faults in situations of tension, and therefore successfully ruin bonds that are entirely salvageable.

This text goes over ways that you can save your relationships by admitting your faults, and covers the science as to why all of us "justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts."

3. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

The Happiness Hypothesis explores what truly makes humans happy and dispels the myth that genetics has nothing to do with emotional well-being.

As listed in Happy the documentary, 50% of happiness comes from our genes (referred to as our "genetic set point"), 10% comes from our circumstances (income, social status, age), and finally, 40% of our happiness is set by daily actions we pursue that can increase our fulfillment (changing a routine, etc.).

The text covers ancient wisdom in order to discover the "modern truth" of happiness.

4. Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney
 

Willpower covers the concept of self-control, how individuals motivate themselves and stay on track to reach their goals.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Roy Baumeister back in 2012--he is a sweet but firm personality, very knowledgable about his areas of focus in psychology.

Proclaimed "the greatest human strength", willpower is a necessary trait that we all must work to obtain. The main lesson given in this text is that we must exhibit greater self-control in order to achieve our goals and become the best version of ourselves.

5. Stumbling Upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling Upon Happiness is a fantastic book regarding the various aspects of our happiness (similar to The Happiness Hypothesis, only more modern context), written by Dan Gilbert, a prominent psychologist in the happiness/positive psychology movement.

I've been a fan of Gilbert's work, including his short This Emotional Life documentary series (available on Netflix), and his work included in the Happy documentary.

This text focuses greatly on the reality of the future, not the imagination and prediction that our minds create.

6. The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte

The Resilience Factor researches and attempts to explain the ways that humans embody resilience. Resilience is the number one factor in determining whether you can overcome from negative experiences and challenges that life presents.

Discussing the various ways that humans can utilize resilience, as well as notice the setbacks that inhibit them from exhibiting resilience is the main focus of this text.

Filled with interactive quizzes that help you discover your ease of resilience, self-efficacy and compassion, the book allows its readers to directly apply resilience training to their own lives. Your QOL (quality of life) is greatly impacted by your level of resilience.

7. The Soul's Code by James Hillman

The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling is not necessarily a psychology text, however it weaves the psychological discipline with philosophy, taking from centuries of work on "the soul".

Is the soul real? Do we have an imprinted design (or code) of our unique souls? Does our soul determine our character? Our calling? These questions are answered using iconic examples including Mohandas Gandhi.

Continuing from the initial questions, Hillman explores the ways that parents might be able to raise their children to have great self-efficacy and become successes by listening to their own soul's code.

What are your favorite psychological texts for the layperson?

Still on my bookshelf for future reading: The Lucifer Effect by Phillip Zimbardo The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt Nobody Left to Hate by Elliot Aronson Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments by Gina Perry