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10 Books Psychology Students Should Be Reading

By Janice Monti

These books, recommended to us by professionals and students, can broaden your knowledge of the field beyond the required readings typically assigned in psychology courses. Whether you are an aspiring psychologist or simply interested in learning more about human behavior, these recommendations introduce you to classical and contemporary areas of inquiry. The list includes important statements on the philosophy of science, neuropsychology, and psychotherapy, including applications in child psychology and attachment theory and self-help guides for success and personal fulfillment.

Book Recommendations for Psychology Students

  • 1. Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition by Thomas Kuhn

    This landmark study challenged the prevailing view of scientific progress as a peaceful development of accumulating theories and research. Instead, Kuhn viewed scientific advancement as the result of intellectually violent clashes between paradigms, resulting in scientific revolutions punctuated by relatively calm periods of normal science.

    Dr. Diana Concannon, Dean of Forensic Studies at Alliant International University, describes Kuhn's book as a "thought-provoking perspective on the way in which science -- including the scientific principles upon which psychology is based -- evolves."

  • 2. Neuropsychological Assessment: Fifth Edition by Muriel Deutsch Lezak, Diane B. Howieson, Erin D. Bigler, and Daniel Tranel

    Recognized as "the bible" in the field of clinical neuropsychology, this text explains the major neurobehavioral disorders associated with brain dysfunction and injury, and provides updated coverage of current neuroscience research, adult clinical practice, and assessment techniques and treatment. The revised edition includes newly developed testing batteries for issues such as frontal lobe and executive function evaluation.

    Dr. Concannon recommends Neuropsychology Assessment "as a valuable reference during psychology students’ education and training, and throughout their professional lives."

  • 3. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin E. P. Seligman

    Seligman's book, which became a national bestseller soon after its publication in 2004, addresses the nature of happiness through the evolutionary science of Positive Psychology. Dispelling the conventional notion of true happiness as the result of luck or good genes, this book advocates using personal strength and virtues to improve all aspects of personal life.

    According to Dr. Concannon, psychology students benefit from the book's focus on Positive Psychology, providing them with a "practical, accessible overview of this versatile intervention and its application."

  • 4. Interpersonal Process in Psychotherapy: An Integrative Model, Seventh Edition by Edward Teyber and Faith Holmes Teyber

    Elizabeth Polinsky, a Virginia-based licensed clinical social worker and military marriage counselor, recommends this text to new clinicians and psychology students for its comprehensive analysis of the "interpersonal process of the relationship between the therapist and the client to create change."

    This classic text integrates clinical concepts and research with practical guidelines for strengthening the therapist-client relationship across all stages, from intake through termination. The authors empower beginning therapists by helping them to confront their countertransference issues and alleviate their concerns about making mistakes.

  • 5. The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irvan Yalom

    Polinsky suggests that prospective and new clinicians will find Irvan Yalom's book an insightful guide to help them address "concerns such as empathy, self-disclosure, the self of the therapist, and how to learn from clients."

    Yalom, a psychiatrist in clinical practice for over 35 years, has written an accessible, amusing, and valuable prescription for getting the most out of therapy. Based on 85 case studies, his book explores ways to improve the outcome of therapy for both counselors and patients.

  • 6. Attachment Theory in Practice: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with Individuals, Couples, and Families by Sue Johnson

    In this text, Sue Johnson, the primary developer of EFT for couples, applies her attachment-based approach to individuals and families, focusing on the healing power of emotional connection. Johnson's research aligns the research and concepts derived from EFT with techniques for treating anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.

    Polinsky, based on her experience as a marriage and couples therapist, recommends that "new clinicians read this book to have a deeper understanding of attachment theory and its relevance to couple and family interactions."

  • 7. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

    Bronson and Merryman present a convincing argument that many contemporary strategies for nurturing children are not effective, primarily because they ignore scientific findings. The authors make the case that common assumptions about children and childrearing are counterintuitive to the latest social science research.

    Robin Neuhaus, a Ph.D. student studying child development at NYU, cites the value of this book for challenging unquestioned assumptions about child development, serving as an "excellent resource for psychology students interested in delving deeper into developmental psychology."

  • 8. The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D.

    Neuhaus recommends The Deepest Well as "an indispensable resource for psychology students to learn about the impact of trauma on neurodevelopment, health outcomes, and educational opportunities."

    In this book, Burke Harris explores the profound impact of adverse childhood experiences like neglect, abuse, parental addiction, mental illness, and divorce. Drawing from patient case studies and her personal story, the author argues that toxic shock from early childhood trauma alters our biological makeup, resulting in long-term pathogenic consequences.

  • 9. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

    Based on research and experience from business and neuroscience, Duckworth challenges the widely held belief that achievement in life derives from talent. She argues instead that success comes from a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance that she calls "grit."

    Dr. Alan Chu, Chair of the Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology Program at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, finds this book valuable because its strong scientific foundations have "many applications in different domains (e.g., sports, business)."

  • 10. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

    Dweck's research traces how the way we think about our talent and abilities influences our opportunities for success in life. People with a fixed mindset may achieve less than those who possess a growth mindset, believing that ability can develop.

    Dr. Chu recommends this book for its crucial insights on "how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by our mindset (growth versus fixed) about our talents and abilities."