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“The Woman in the Window” Review: Hitchcockian Vibes in a Movie That Won’t Make You Forget the Book
Rating : 5/10
Ever since I read A.J. Finn’s debut novel The Woman in the Window , I’ve been obsessed with its film adaptation. The 2018 book is the perfect heir to the throne of previous unputdownable psychological thrillers Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train . Finn — pen name for Daniel Mallory — worked as a book editor, studied Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels at Oxford, and “has a history of imposture, and of duping people with false stories about disease and death,” according to a 2019 New Yorker profile on the author that only makes his work seem more intriguing.
If all this hasn’t piqued your interest yet, let me tell you about The Woman in the Window’s movie version. It was adapted for the screen by Pulitzer Prize-winner and playwright Tracy Letts ( August : Osage County ), who also plays a small role in the movie; directed by frequent book-adapter Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina ); and stars six-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, as well as Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Julianne Moore.
It was supposed to be released in October of 2019 — primed for awards seasons and on the heels of the book’s success — but after test screenings that left early audiences confused , the movie underwent reshoots and the release was postponed until March 2020. Then the pandemic happened, movie theaters closed and The Woman in the Window ended up in a sort of movie limbo until it was sold to Netflix . Now, the streamer is releasing it on May 14, 2021.
Adams plays Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist who never leaves her New York brownstone and has a penchant for spying on her neighbors out of pure boredom. “Curiosity is evidence of a decreased depression pattern,” her therapist, played by Letts, tells her during an in-house session. She’s taking a new medication that doesn’t go well with alcohol. Yet she has a routine consisting of drinking generous amounts of red wine, looking out of the window to snoop on her neighbors, going online to snoop some more and watching film noirs.
Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944), Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage (1947) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) make brief appearances in the movie as part of Anna’s entertainment, as does Rear Window . The Hitchcock film about a photographer (James Stewart) with a broken leg who can’t leave his place and believes he’s witnessed a crime in his neighbor’s apartment was a reference for the book — the home-bound Anna is also convinced she’s witnessed something sinister in the house across the street — and is paid homage in the movie. There are some Hitchcockian shots of Anna pointing the zoom lens of her camera toward her neighbors’ place that will make you want to rewatch Rear Window .
Joe Wright’s Vision for “The Woman in the Window”
When I read The Woman in the Window , I kept imagining Anna’s three-story 19th century Harlem brownstone. I wanted to wander through it. According to the movie’s production notes, the townhouse in the film was constructed on sound stages and “designed so Wright could peel back the walls and create shots which bring the audience into the house itself.” The thing is though, while watching the movie I never had the impression it was a real house. It looks like scenery, like the movie set it actually is.
The fact that for most of the movie we’re inside of Anna’s home only reinforces the theatricality of it. As do the ominous camera movements Wright uses to establish the protagonist’s precarious state of mind.
The film, like the novel, plays with the idea that Anna is an unreliable narrator and none of the other characters in the story are who they first appear to be. Anna, who at some point is described by Oldman’s character as a “drunken, pill-popping cat lady,” is dressed in sleeping gowns, oversized shirt dresses, woolen leggings with thick socks and an array of other home garments that leave her in a very unguarded position every time she’s confronted by someone from the outside world. There’s a particular sequence in which almost all of the cast ends up in Anna’s living room. She’s trying to figure out whether what she believes she’s seen really happened. She’s dressed in a pink kimono not suited to receive company, while the rest are attired in suits, coats and outerwear, prepared to brave the outside public world.
Movie Adaptations vs. Miniseries Adaptations of Mystery Books
Even though I enjoyed David Fincher’s movie version of Gone Girl , I can’t say the same about Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train . Other recent genre adaptations to the screen, like Sharp Objects, Big Little Lies and The Undoing , have proved that miniseries tend to be a more fitting format than films when it comes to complex psychological thriller novels.
The book on which this movie is based has the space to be meticulous about Anna’s mental health but also that of other key characters. The need to abbreviate a 427-page novel into a 100-minute movie calls for the elimination of certain characters and subplots. It also reduces the treatment of the characters’ mental health, making The Woman in the Window one more title in Hollywood’s list of inaccurate or oversimplified depictions of mental illness .
The slow-burn that is the book becomes a movie that at times feels rushed and in need of advancing its plot with every scene. Some reveals come too fast. In the translation from the page to the screen, some things need to be spelled out in dialogues for the audience to understand — like the fact that Anna is agoraphobic or that she’s taking a drug that can have a particular kind of side effect.
If you haven’t read the book on which this movie is based, there are some twists that you won’t see coming. You’ll understand why the novel became such a sensation. If you’ve read the book, the film doesn’t provide anything new other than muted colors, dreamy cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel ( Amélie ) and a mostly underused cast of solid actors. Not even Adams abandoning her good looks and glamour to play the distressed Anna manages to elevate this adaptation.
After waiting almost two years for the release of The Woman in the Window and finally watching it, I realized what I need now is to figure out what’s the next installment in the Gone Girl-The Girl on the Train- The Woman in the Window trail and start reading. I just hope that, when Hollywood decides the next best-seller needs to be adapted, they make a miniseries out of it instead of a movie. It just tends to work better.
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Psychology » New Psychology Books
Browse book recommendations:
- Applied Psychology
- Child Psychology
- Social Psychology
There are lots of interesting new psychology books coming out, as psychologists try and inform the public about the latest findings, whether the topic is happiness and mental health or depression , conflicts with other people or bad habits and time management. They're written in a way that draws on research but is accessible to the general reader. We've selected those that have come to our attention below.
We are lucky to live in an age when talking about mental health struggles is no longer taboo, and we've also included books that chronicle personal experiences, such as the book by Horatio Clare, a British travel writer, about his struggle with manic depression: Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing .
Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life
By dacher keltner.
Awe is by Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. It's not the first book suggesting 'awe' as a possible solution to all our problems (see, for example, Awe by Paul Pearsall ), but it's trying to put it on a scientific footing. Early on, Keltner provides a good definition of what awe is: "Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world." This is a highly readable, accessible book and even if awe turns out not to be your cup of tea, it's a really interesting study of/reflection on a seemingly ineffable emotion.
Read expert recommendations
You Are Not Alone: Navigating Mental Illness and the Journey to Recovery
By ken duckworth.
You Are Not Alone is a good book to look at if you or someone you love is struggling with their mental health. It's by American psychiatrist Ken Duckworth, Chief Medical Officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The book aims to be a practical guide, combining the latest evidence or advice from scientific research with examples of what some people are actually going through (starting with Duckworth's own family experience). Mental illness is a big challenge and Duckworth is candid about the limitations of current knowledge. He writes, "We know that mental illnesses are real, and common, but they emerge from a brain with about 100 billion neurons (give or take a few billion) that we do not yet fully understand." Chapters include "Do I Need Help?" or "Helping Your Child, Teen or Young Adult." There's also a section "Experts Answer the Most Frequently Asked Questions."
What Mental Illness Really Is… (and what it isn’t)
By lucy foulkes.
Out in paperback and with a new title, What Mental Illness Really Is (and what it isn't), is by academic psychologist Lucy Foulkes. It's an important look at what we know about mental illness and what we don't, and a call to increase public understanding of mental health so that we're all better equipped to help people.
The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Life
By david robson.
Mind really does have power over matter, and if you didn't believe that before, this book sets out to prove it, reporting on the latest research and experiments.
A Love That Kills: Stories of Forensic Psychology and Female Violence
By anna motz.
A Love That Kills is by Anna Motz, a forensic psychotherapist who has spent the last three decades working in prisons. This book tells the story of 11 women, and how they came to commit violent crimes.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
By oliver burkeman.
***🏆 A Five Books Book of the Year ***
“It’s a book about what we do with our limited time on Earth, how we decide to prioritise and proportion our time. To that extent it’s a book of ethics in the face of inevitable death. It’s a combination of sometimes witty, sometimes terrifying exploration of the human condition, and at the same time an antidote to those time management books that tell you how you can maximise your productivity, taking on more and more tasks and completing them efficiently.” Read more...
The Best Philosophy Books of 2021
Nigel Warburton , Philosopher
7½ Lessons About the Brain
By lisa feldman barrett.
7½ Lessons About the Brain falls into that most wonderful of modern book genres, the 'neuroscience beach read.' Published in the US in 2020, the beautiful UK edition came out in March, 2021. Lisa Feldman Barrett, a leading psychologist and neuroscientist, spoke to us about books about emotions . If you'd like to hear her voice, she narrates the audiobook of 7½ Lessons About the Brain herself.
Being You: A New Science of Consciousness
By anil seth.
***🏆 A Five Books Book of the Year ***
“It’s a book about the nature of consciousness, one of the most intractable problems that human beings have come across. How do we understand how we, as apparently material beings made of flesh and bone—and, in particular, millions of neurones—get to the position of having qualitative experience, through the experience of the world through our senses, reflection and experience? Beautifully written, easy to read, hard to put down. It’s passionate, and it’s not patronising.” Read more...
When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep
By antonio zadra & robert stickgold.
In When Brains Dream Tony Zadra, a professor at the University of Montreal, and Bob Stickgold, a professor at Harvard Medical School, bring us up to date on what the latest scientific research says about dream and dreaming, ending our reliance on popular wisdom based on what Freud wrote more than a century ago. It's written in an (overly?) friendly style—almost as if you had met them at a drinks party and they were telling you all about their research—but it's really informative. If you're interested in sleep in general, the authors also recommend Why We Sleep , the bestselling 2017 book by Professor Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and psychologist at UC Berkeley.
The Sweet Spot
By paul bloom.
The Sweet Spot is by Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works . It's about happiness in the broadest sense (what might be called 'eudaimonia' ) and the part pain and suffering play in it. Bloom is constantly doing experiments and reading about experiments that others are doing on issues of happiness, morality, pleasure, pain etc. and the book is full of these. He then throws in quotes and views from literature— Shakespeare , the Epic of Gilgamesh , Brave New World ), songs, Twitter. Even the acknowledgements are funny: "Daniel Gilbert deserves special mention for nearly persuading me that the whole idea of this book is deeply confused. (He did this once I had finished writing it—thanks, Dan!)"
Conflicted: How Productive Disagreements Lead to Better Outcomes
By ian leslie.
Conflicted by British journalist Ian Leslie is a thought-provoking look at what recent research says about arguments, mostly at a personal level, though public personalities and events are brought in to illustrate some of the main points. Disagreements, it turns out, make for better relationships, more accurate Wikipedia pages, and even helped in the discovery of DNA. The key, then, is to get better at having them. Leslie lays out some practical tips of how to achieve that, including the example of Nelson Mandela , who won over a sworn enemy by inviting him to tea.
Hard to Break: Why Our Brains Make Habits Stick
By russell poldrack.
In Hard to Break: Why Our Brains Make Habits Stick , Stanford psychologist Russell Poldrack explains the science that makes us unable to give up bad habits even when we really want to. He also offers some possible solutions.
Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing
By horatio clare.
Memoirist and bestselling travel writer Horatio Clare tells his story of what it was like to go mad, in what looks to be a heartbreaking, funny and invaluable look at what it's like to live with manic depression.
Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life
By john kaag.
William James, one of the founders of pragmatism and empirical psychology, struggled with the question of what made life worth living. In this book, philosopher John Kaag—who spoke to us about the best books of American philosophy —explains how James's ideas can help those of us who struggle with the same question.
Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness
By stephen fleming.
Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness by cognitive neuroscientist Stephen Fleming is a scientific, philosophical, and practical book that sheds lights on 'metacognition'—our thoughts about thoughts and the importance of self-awareness to almost anything we embark on.
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Blog – Posted on Friday, Jan 07
25 best psychology books to read in 2023.
Have you ever found yourself trying to work out what mental processes lead humans to do what we do? Thanks to the internet, even in isolation we have a continual stream of information about what people are doing — and with this uniquely modern view of the world around us, we have more fodder than ever to think: “Hmm, I wonder why we do this or that?”
As a human, it’s natural to want to understand these things — not only about others, but also about yourself. In this post, we’ve put together a list of the 25 best psychology books you’ll definitely want to read to pursue that understanding! Whether you’re a beginner with a newfound interest in psychology or a seasoned psychology expert looking to branch out, we’ve got you covered.
1. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
A professor of social psychology, Jonathan Haidt wrote The Happiness Hypothesis as an accessible vessel for his research into moral foundations theory. In this book, Haidt takes the ancient wisdom, or “Great Ideas”, of historical thinkers — like Buddha, Plato, and even Jesus — and reveals their applications in light of contemporary psychological findings.
Haidt first describes the basic meanings of ancient lessons on happiness, virtue, and personal fulfillment. This leads into what Haidt extracted from these findings to develop his own “10 Great Ideas” about happiness and connect them to modern living. After all, while ancient wisdom is tried-and-tested, it’s essential to update old methods to match modern-day life — Plato, Jesus, and Buddha never spent hours doomscrolling or procrastinating on Instagram, for example.
2. Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion (New and Expanded) by PhD Robert B. Cialdini
Influence, New and Expanded is Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s 2021 republication of his one of his acclaimed bestselling psychology books Influence (first published in 1984) — complete with new research, examples, and insights, especially regarding the age of the internet. Backed up by his 35 years of scientific research, Cialdini describes seven practicable principles of influence you can use in your everyday life (with the newest edition being “Unity”).
Each of the seven principles has a dedicated chapter to describe how it functions, where it’s most applicable, and — most importantly — how you apply it in your own life. If you’re looking for a book on psychology to help you learn more about the art of ethical persuasion in a modern context — and how to see through other people’s deceitful attempts — then this is the book for you.
3. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) Third Edition: Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris
Ever been curious what causes people to deny vaccines, join cults, or engage in extremist behavior? The next entry on this list might clarify some of these seemingly illogical decisions: in Mistakes Were Made, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson discuss the systematic mental patterns which feed into development and radicalization of human beliefs. These include cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and positive feedback loops, among others.
To further explain how people’s attitudes can become so polarized, Tavris and Aronson walk readers through the effects of these mental patterns on people in various real-life cases and controversies. With its many compelling links to real-life events, this book is the perfect read for psychology and politics readers alike.
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4. Upstream: How to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath
Life can feel like we’re constantly sprinting to put out fires as they arise. But of course, endlessly reacting to problems without a second to breathe and prepare for the next is pretty exhausting. Dan Heath’s Upstream is his solution to breaking that cycle of reaction and starting to prevent problems before they start.
This begins with knowing the psychological forces that cause it. For example, one force that Heath attributes as a large factor is “problem blindness” — when a problem becomes so persistent that you start to register it as “normal” and therefore stop “seeing” it (or, naturally, trying to fix it). Heath shows how to step up and bolster your defenses against such problems by using real-life cases of individual thinkers, businesses, and even whole institutions that overcame their own. Thankfully, the uniting factor among these case studies is simple: all they had to do was change their mindset.
5. The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton
Many of us spend over a decade in school and, regardless of academic success, emerge feeling like something is missing. Sure, you can do complex algebra or give me an in-depth analysis of the symbolism of triads in Shakespeare — but can you navigate a workplace? Can you endure failure? Do you understand yourself? Whether you’re about to graduate or have been done with high school for years, you’ve probably found yourself wondering these things.
Aptly titled, The School of Life is Alain de Botton’s answer to questions like these — with the express aim of equipping people with the tools and self-knowledge to thrive in the modern world. From increasing your productivity at work to handling the dilemmas of interpersonal relationships, there’s a chapter for everything you need in The School of Life. This emotional education is sure to help you to develop resilience to life’s dilemmas and become a maven of emotional intelligence.
6. Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein
You may recognize authors Daniel Kahneman and Cass R. Sunstein from their respective bestsellers, Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge (or from a Reedsy Discovery post !). In a similar vein, Noise tackles the topic of variability in judgements and how we’re influenced by external factors. The overarching conclusion in Noise is that the majority of our decisions are unconsciously affected by the noise at different times and places.
The authors combine their scholarly expertise with additional research to deliver this in-depth guide outlining what we already know and their new theories about noise. For those interested in why we make decisions, this is one of the best psychology books to strengthen your understanding of the extraneous factors that can shape or bias decision-making, how to minimize those factors, and improve your thinking.
7. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo
The Lucifer Effect is Professor Philip Zimbardo’s first detailed account of his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment and the conclusions he took from it. The Stanford Prison Experiment was Zimbardo’s 1971 study looking into the effects of different situational factors on conformity by putting college student volunteers into a fake prison environment for -2 weeks. Without giving too much away, the experiment ran into some serious roadblocks that meant it had to be discontinued after only six days. (The controversy was such that there was even a mostly-accurate movie dramatization released in 2015!)
Zimbardo’s thoughts on the experiment are interesting not only because he conducted it, but because he was a part of it, acting as the prison warden — which, needless to say, has serious ethical connotations. The following chapters discuss the study’s effect on the decades of subsequent research into psychological and social variables that cause “average” people to commit immoral acts — making it one of the most influential books on psychology you can pick up today. Most people with an interest in psychology might have an idea of the original experiment, but the research afterwards should definitely not be overlooked!
8. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Put simply, The Psychopath Test takes us through the modern-day mental health system, asking us to think more deeply about whom it labels “psychopathic”. Jon Ronson starts with a man who faked madness to escape a prison sentence, his method being to act charming, glib, and well-presented in contrast to other patients in the psychiatric hospital. Ronson takes these alleged tell-tale signs of psychopathy and applies them to people in other walks of life, making the startling discovery that psychopaths appear everywhere.
This is where the doors to the so-called “industry of madness” are truly flung open. How many of our most influential CEOs, researchers, and world leaders are psychopaths? Can any good come of our newfound access to the best psychology books or theories if they facilitate diagnoses of strangers based on their “maddest” parts? If these questions interest you, pick up The Psychopath Test and see what you think.
9. Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne
We’ve mostly talked about complex mental health issues so far in this post—but maybe you want to know about the psychology behind our most basic social interactions. If so, Eric Berne’s description of functional and dysfunctional social interactions in Games People Play will be right up your alley. Berne claims that we play “social games” all of the time, be that power games against authority, sexual games, marital games, or competitive games within friendships.
Berne divulges the types of mind games that everyone can fall victim to indulging: in status contests, the game becomes a back and forth game of “I know better”, and couples are prone to playing mental games claiming each is holding the other back. Berne doesn’t just name these interactions, but he also exposes the meaning behind them as unconscious ploys and maneuvers that rule our lives. It’s these creatively poised insights that make this book on psychology an influential and striking bestseller.
10. The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk
Described as “the Bible of trauma” for struggling readers, The Body Keeps the Score is the culmination of Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk’s entire career. One of the world’s leading experts on traumatic stress, Van Der Kolk highlights the clear effects that trauma has on literally reshaping the body and brain. Drawing on his status as an active therapist, continually learning from what works for his patients best, Van Der Kolk delivers a wonderfully personal yet analytic approach to trauma recovery. Considering the frustrating physical effects of trauma related by his patients, Van Der Kolk suggests a fresh paradigm for treatment.
The ideological heart of this method is to make it safe for trauma survivors to inhabit their own bodies by moving away from the “standard” combination of talking therapies or drug therapies and instead using a new approach that heals the mind, brain, and body. One size never fits all, but Van Der Kolk suggests that therapeutic interventions like neurofeedback, theater, meditation, play, or yoga may play a larger part than first thought in healing. The Body Keeps the Score provides a unique perspective on trauma and recovery relayed in a compassionate yet truthful voice, making it accessible to readers of all levels.
11. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
Ever just really felt like you needed a hug? The Comfort Book answers that craving: it is a warm and personal hug in the form of a book — something even the best psychology books haven't focused on before. If you’re looking for a guide to self-love, contentment, and emotional strength, then Matt Haig’s reflections on the conflicting feelings that come with being alive are for you.
The essence of this book is that many of our best and clearest revelations are made when at our lowest — but we also shouldn’t have to figure everything out ourselves, especially when we’re suffering. Haig’s reflections are built on what he’s learned in hard times, with the hope that they can get you through similar situations. It’s a great comfort to know that you’re not the only one that’s dealt with something hard, and Haig understands that. Drawing on maxims, meditations, and inspirational lives of others, he aims to nurture your inner strength and deliver advice like a wise, commiserative old friend.
12. The Oracle of Night: The History and Science of Dreams by Sidarta Ribeiro
What really makes a dream, why do we have them, and how do they affect us? Sidarta Ribeiro takes these questions and uses them as a springboard for his completely fresh and enthralling study of dreams, tracing them all the way back to our ancient ancestors. It’s in the earliest cave paintings that Ribeiro finds the first traces of human dreams and begins unlocking revolutionary conclusions about the role of dreams in human evolution.
Some will also know that contemporary neuroscience and psychology have uncovered many findings about dreams, such as their role in healing trauma or in consolidating what we learned in the day prior. The Oracle of Night then explains Ribeiro’s advancements on these topics: the role of dreaming in memory recall and transformation, and, startlingly, their oracular nature as confirmed by new research — making this a great book club book to ignite a conversation! Ribeiro combines his absolute authority on the topic with a clear, compelling writing style to make this book a page-turner from the first page to the last.
13. Everyday Vitality: Turning Stress into Strength by Samantha Boardman
Psychiatrist Samantha Boardman believes that an essential factor in healthy aging and overall well-being is a sense of vitality. Which is to say: knowing that you’re up to a task both physically and mentally. This belief is the jumping-off point for Everyday Vitality, a book full of strategies for cultivating vitality by focusing on improving a little every day, instead of reacting to fix what’s wrong as it arises.
While vitality wellness is often associated with managing aging, Boardman posits that vitality can help all of us no matter our age. Whether you’re eighteen or eighty, you may recall times you’ve felt mentally exhausted from the constant barrage of media every day, or physically drained after a long day at a desk. Boardman explains three routes to better vitality for everyone: meaningfully connecting with others, taking on experiences that push your limits, and contributing to something beyond just you. If you want to cultivate your own wellness, why not pick up this book and discuss it with someone you love?
14. Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
Humanity’s success as a species has developed in leaps and bounds during our relatively short time on Earth. Many people have hypothesized what might be the cause of these advancements: is it our strength, intellect, curiosity, or something else completely? Authors — and husband-and-wife duo — Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods believe in the latter, making the case in this book that humanity’s progression is actually because of our “friendliness”.
Combining their respective expertise in cognitive neuroscience, research science, and journalism, Hare and Wood have come up with a theory about this evolutionary friendliness. The theory is elegantly termed “self-domestication” — a remarkable propensity to coordinate and communicate with others. Instead of coveting our individual successes, we often share them with others to help advance and protect each other. This capability, Hare and Wood argue, has allowed us to achieve the impressive cultural and technical marvels that we’ve culminated today. However, this friendliness may come at a cost: when threats to those we love become a target for our worst instincts, our evolutionary propensity for bond-making may be a double-edged sword.
15. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
In Blink, critically acclaimed author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell hopes to revolutionize your understanding of how you (and others) think. Why, for example, are some people exceptionally fast decision-makers, when others choke under pressure? Why does “following your gut” work perfectly for some, while others fall short? And do situational variables like our immediate surroundings affect our abilities to make these decisions?
Gladwell posits that a key factor towards people’s ability to make better decisions is “thin-slicing”: the unconscious ability to analyze patterns in scenarios based on brief flashes of experience, and come to a conclusion based on that knowledge. Gladwell draws on real-life examples to illustrate these ideas: from a psychologist who could predict whether a marriage would last from just a brief interaction with the couple, to antiquities experts who only need to glance at an object to tell it’s a fake. Put simply, Blink proves that the main difference between a good and a bad decision-maker is their mastery of “thin-slicing.” Can you learn to do it, too?
16. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
Have you ever walked into a clothing store and found yourself overwhelmed by choices among different shirts, skirts, or jeans, all of which look eerily similar? Not to mention the stress of weaving through other shoppers, worrying about prices, and working out your size. Barry Schwartz believes that this abundance of choices to make “no longer liberates, but debilitates” shoppers with consumer anxiety. The solution? Eliminating consumer choices (within reason).
Of course, Schwartz acknowledges that autonomy and freedom of choice are still critical to our well-being. It’s just that, while modern Americans may technically have more choice than ever before, they are no longer benefiting from it psychologically. The Paradox of Choice neatly establishes the psychology behind why choice overload makes us suffer — constant comparison, opportunity hunting, and buyer’s remorse, for example — and how to avoid consumer anxiety in the first place.
17. Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships by Camilla Pang
Explaining Humans is an intriguing in-depth exploration of the complexities of human behavior, as explained by hard science. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at an early age, author and scientist Dr Camilla Pang struggled to untangle the mess of the world around her — even asking her mother if she could find an instruction manual for humans. When she found that not even the best psychology books of the time provided such a manual, the only solution was to write her own.
Backed up with copious amounts of scientific research and her own hard-won expertise, this book on psychology examines obscure social customs, what it means to be human in different cultures, and where proteins and molecular chemistry fit into all of this. What does it mean to understand someone? How do we recognize people’s motivations or expressions, and what dictates them to begin with? Whether this all feels foreign or far too familiar to you, Pang is sure to deliver some surprises.
18. Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker
The goal of Rationality is to make you more rational and help you understand why there is so much irrationality in the world. You may think that sounds pretty lofty, but try reading author and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker’s analysis before making concrete judgements!
Pinker rejects the cliché idea that humans are an irrational species — how could any species discover and achieve so much without being inherently rational? Despite this, we live in a dichotic age of rationality vs. intense irrationality. Pinker’s explanation is that humans tend to think within the context of the low-tech settings in which we spend the majority of our lives. As a result, we don’t take advantage of the tools that our best thinkers discovered previously: critical thinking, logic, probability, correlation vs. causation, and ways to update our beliefs individually are not a part of our education. Fortunately, you can find these tools (and analyses of the crippling effects of irrationality) presented clearly and with good humor in Rationality !
19. Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People by Emily and Laurence Alison
We’ve all had to interact with difficult people before, whether that’s an annoying customer, a high-maintenance friend, or even a demanding stranger on the train. But imagine you had to deal with some of the most difficult people possible, managing extremely high-stress interactions: criminal interrogations. These interactions are a specialty of forensic psychologists Emily and Laurence Alison: they advise and train police, security companies, and even secret services on how to maneuver interviews with dangerous suspects.
After experiences over the past thirty years that the “average” person could only imagine, the author duo have developed a revolutionary model for interpersonal communication. According to them, every interaction follows one of four types: Control (the lion), Capitulate (the mouse), Confront (the Tyrannosaur) and Co-operate (the monkey). It might sound abstract now, but once you’ve been taken through these types in Rapport, you’ll understand why they’re so praised. Learn to understand and apply them to your own goals and you can shape any conversation at will.
20. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment by Martin E. P. Seligman
You may have heard of this entry after its launch in 2004 caused international debate over the nature of real happiness. Authentic Happiness was the starting point for the science of Positive Psychology and the discussion of happiness in a scientific way.
According to Martin Seligman, happiness has less to do with factors such as genes or luck, and more to do with focusing on your internal strengths rather than weaknesses. This isn’t to say that situational factors based on your genes wouldn’t impact you, or that being lucky enough to win the lottery wouldn’t change your life. Seligman’s point is that maintaining a positive mindset and building on one’s strengths is the most dependable route to long-lived happiness. To that end, Seligman supplies exercises, brief tests, and interesting programs that will help you identify your virtues and use them most efficiently.
21. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
It’s no secret that a high IQ doesn’t automatically make a person smart or good (not to mention the long-standing debate over the reliability and biases of IQ tests). That said, what actually makes a person smart or good? Daniel Goleman’s innovative analyses in Emotional Intelligence certainly brings us closer to understanding. This book breaks down human processes into “two minds”, the rational and the emotional, to detail how they together shape the ways that we move through the world.
Goleman draws on contemporary cognitive and behavioral research to show the factors that make higher IQ flounder where those with average IQ excel. The factors that go into this disparity are: self-awareness, self-discipline, and empathy, and their presence adds up to a completely different manner of intelligence. Luckily, this kind of emotional intelligence can be developed and strengthened at every age to ultimately benefit our health, work, and relationships.
22. The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease by Steven Taylor
Published in October 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Steven Taylor’s book about the importance of psychology in curbing the spread of deadly pandemics — stating that, at the time, the next pandemic could be soon — turned out to be frighteningly prophetic. Taylor posits that, while vaccinations and behavioral methods are crucial for stemming infection rates, psychological elements are equally important.
The Psychology of Pandemics explains psychology’s role in nonadherence to vaccination and hygiene programs and in mental health as people cope with the threat and loss of life. Taylor talks through every reason why understanding psychology is essential to managing societal problems that go hand-in-hand with pandemics. You need only consult a few history books to see that the same problems recurr every time we face a pandemic. These problems range from excessive fear to maladaptive behaviours to the xenophobia that occurs when people feel threatened by infection. Sound familiar? If you want to understand why the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in the way it did, this is definitely on the list of the best psychology books to try.
23. Human Givens : A New Approach to Emotional Health and Clear Thinking by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell
Feeling like something a little more laidback? Human Givens is a guide to emotional and physical health, as well as education, using the “human givens” approach. Authors Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell chronicle what some call the best psychological insight of this age — that we are all born with innate knowledge patterns known as “human givens”. These givens are experienced as physical and emotional needs, and only when those needs are met can one reach their full mental and physical potential.
Griffin and Tyrrell suggest that how your innate needs connect with the world can shape not just your own health and happiness, but that of your family and friends. Human Givens takes this idea and looks at what every person needs to flourish, as well as how to actively pursue those things. Of course, this isn’t all just speculation: Griffin and Tyrell back up their approach with new scientific findings and ideas about how the mind works — as well as how to use those ideas to overcome the anxieties of the modern world.
24. Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View by Stanley Milgram
The next book on our list is what some might call a psychology classic. Psychologist Stanley Milgram performed a series of famous experiments in the 1960s with the view to better understanding obedience to authority, after numerous war criminals on trial had claimed they were “just following orders”.
The experiments were controversial at the time, because they involved volunteer subjects being instructed to administer what they thought were progressively more painful shocks to another human being — the aim of this was to see how far people would obey orders even when they knew them to be morally gray. Though Milgram’s experiment was criticized for being immoral itself, it has since been vindicated as a breakthrough in understanding both obedience and psychology as a whole. Obedience to Authority has long been thought of as one of the best psychology books, offering Milgram’s personal insight into his groundbreaking methods, theories, and post-experiment conclusions.
25. Consciousness and the Social Brain by Michael S. A. Graziano
The final entry on our list delves into one of the great mysteries of the human race: the brain. How are we conscious, what is consciousness, and how does the brain create it? Why do some people have more of a constant running internal monologue than others? These are the big questions that Michael S. A. Graziano aims to tackle in Consciousness and the Social Brain.
The human brain has evolved a vastly complicated circuitry which allows it to be socially intelligent — one function of which is to be aware of others socially, to understand when someone other than oneself is thinking or feeling. Graziano’s theory is that the brain’s internal machinery that allows it to be aware of others also allows self awareness. The crux is that human awareness is layers upon layers of information that the brain has gathered, processed, and rendered — a wholly physical phenomena in the same way that generating heat or electricity might be. This is, of course, a hotly debated topic, with many people believing that to reduce the brain to only physicality would be reductive. Regardless of what you believe, Graziano’s scientific journey is a thrill to the last page!
Seeking more answers about human interaction? Check out our lists of the 60 Best Nonfiction Books of the 21st Century or the 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time !
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The Top 21 Psychology Books of 2022
Human beings are curious creatures. We’re capable of altruism, love, and reason, but we’re also prone to selfishness, ignorance, and downright irrational behavior. This apparent paradox lies at the heart of what makes psychology such a fascinating subject.
So here at the Next Big Idea Club, we crunched the numbers to identify the psychology books that were loved most by our tens of thousands of app users this year. (Our curators Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Daniel Pink, and Adam Grant only pick each season’s two official selections.) So if you’re ready for a journey into the human mind, check out the 21 books below.
Learn something new every day with “Book Bites,” 15-minute audio summaries of the latest and greatest nonfiction. Get started by downloading the Next Big Idea App today!
21. Future Tense: Why Anxiety Is Good for You (Even Though It Feels Bad)
By Tracy Dennis-Tiwary
A psychologist confronts our pervasive misunderstanding of anxiety, and presents a powerful new framework for reimagining and reclaiming the confounding emotion as the advantage it evolved to be. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, in the Next Big Idea App
20. A More Just Future: Psychological Tools for Reckoning with Our Past and Driving Social Change
By Dolly Chugh
From an NYU social psychologist comes a revolutionary, evidence-based guide for developing resilience and grit to confront our whitewashed history and build a better future. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Dolly Chugh, in the Next Big Idea App
19. Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends
By Marisa G. Franco
A psychologist and University of Maryland professor provides a clear and actionable blueprint for forging strong, lasting connections with others—and for becoming our happiest, most fulfilled selves in the process. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Marisa Franco, in the Next Big Idea App
18. Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides
By Geoffrey Cohen
A Stanford University psychologist applies his and others’ groundbreaking research to the myriad problems of communal existence and offers concrete solutions for improving daily life at work, in school, in our homes, and in our communities. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Geoffrey Cohen, in the Next Big Idea App
17. How the Mind Changed: A Human History of Our Evolving Brain
By Joseph Jebelli
From genetic accidents and environmental forces to historical and cultural advances, a renowned neuroscientist takes the reader on a seven-million-year journey to explore how our brain’s evolution turned us into Homo sapiens and beyond. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Joseph Jebelli, in the Next Big Idea App
16. Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away
By Annie Duke
Drawing on stories from leading athletes, entrepreneurs, and entertainers, a former pro poker player explains why quitting is integral to success, sharing strategies for determining when to hold ’em or fold ’em that will save you time, energy, and money. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Annie Duke, in the Next Big Idea App
15. Thinking 101: How to Reason Better to Live Better
By Woo-kyoung Ahn
Thinking 101 is a book that goes far beyond other books on thinking, showing how we can tackle real-world problems and improve our daily lives—and the lives of everyone around us—through better awareness of our cognitive biases. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Woo-kyoung Ahn, in the Next Big Idea App
14. Between Us: How Cultures Create Emotions
By Batja Mesquita
Brilliantly synthesizing original psychological studies and stories from peoples across time and geography, Between Us skillfully argues that acknowledging differences in emotions allows us to find common ground, humanizing and humbling us all for the better. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Batja Mesquita, in the Next Big Idea App
13. Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey
By Florence Williams
A remarkable merging of science and self-discovery that will change the way we think about loneliness, health, and what it means to fall in and out of love. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Florence Williams, in the Next Big Idea App
12. Toxic Positivity: Keeping It Real in a World Obsessed with Being Happy
By Whitney Goodman
A powerful guide to owning our emotions—even the difficult ones—in order to show up authentically in the world, from the popular therapist behind the Instagram account @sitwithwhit. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Whitney Goodman, in the Next Big Idea App
11. Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking
By Leonard Mlodinow
We’ve all been told that thinking rationally is the key to success. But at the cutting edge of science, researchers are discovering that feeling is every bit as important as thinking. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Leonard Mlodinow, in the Next Big Idea App
10. The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss
By Mary-Frances O’Connor
A renowned grief expert and neuroscientist shares surprising discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Mary-Frances O’Connor, in the Next Big Idea App
9. The Anatomy of Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming the Body’s Fear Response
By Ellen Vora
From an acclaimed psychiatrist comes a groundbreaking understanding of how anxiety manifests in the body and mind—and what we can do to overcome it. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Ellen Vora, in the Next Big Idea App
8. Choose Your Story, Change Your Life: Silence Your Inner Critic and Rewrite Your Life from the Inside Out
By Kindra Hall
This eye-opening journey will transform you from a passive listener of limiting, unconscious thoughts into the definitive author of who you are and everything you want to be. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Kindra Hall, in the Next Big Idea App
7. Hidden Games: The Surprising Power of Game Theory to Explain Irrational Human Behavior
By Moshe Hoffman and Erez Yoeli
Two MIT economists use game theory to explain our most puzzling behavior, from the mechanics of Stockholm syndrome and internalized misogyny to why we help strangers and have a sense of fairness. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by co-authors Moshe Hoffman and Erez Yoeli, in the Next Big Idea App
6. Speaking in Thumbs: A Psychiatrist Decodes Your Relationship Texts So You Don’t Have To
By Mimi Winsberg
From a Harvard- and Stanford-trained psychiatrist comes an essential look at the love language of texts, helping you decipher the personalities of online daters, the subtle signals from your romantic partner, and the red flags hiding in plain sight. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Mimi Winsberg, in the Next Big Idea App
5. The Secret Life of Secrets: How Our Inner Worlds Shape Well-Being, Relationships, and Who We Are
By Michael Slepian
Drawing on over a decade of original research, The Secret Life of Secrets reveals the surprising ways that secrets pervade our lives, and offers science-based strategies that make them easier to live with. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Michael Slepian, in the Next Big Idea App
4. How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion
By David McRaney
A brain-bending investigation of why some people never change their minds—and others do in an instant—by the bestselling author of You Are Not So Smart . Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author David McRaney, in the Next Big Idea App
3. Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness
By Steve Magness
Drawing from mindfulness, military case studies, sports psychology, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, a beloved performance coach provides a roadmap for navigating life’s challenges and achieving high performance that makes us happier, more successful, and, ultimately, better people. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Steve Magness, in the Next Big Idea App
2. The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World
By David Robson
Melding neuroscience with narrative, a science journalist takes readers on a deep dive into the many life zones the “expectation effect” permeates—like how associating aging with wisdom can add seven plus years to your life. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author David Robson, in the Next Big Idea App
1. The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward
By Daniel Pink
Drawing on research in social psychology, neuroscience, and biology, a world-renowned thinker debunks the myth of the “no regrets” philosophy of life. In fact, regrets offer compelling insights into how we live—and how we can find a better path forward. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Daniel Pink, in the Next Big Idea App
The Key Ideas in 15 Minutes
“If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books,” Roald Dahl once famously said. The only trouble is, reading even one book from cover to cover takes hours—and you may not have many hours to spare.
But imagine for a moment: What if you could read a groundbreaking new book every day? Or even better, what if you could invite a world-renowned thinker into your earbuds, where they personally describe the 5 key takeaways from their work in just 15 minutes?
With the Next Big Idea App, we’ve turned this fantasy into a reality. We partnered with hundreds of acclaimed authors to create “Book Bites,” short audio summaries of the latest nonfiction that are prepared and read aloud by the authors themselves. Discover cutting-edge leadership skills, productivity hacks, the science of happiness and well-being, and much more—all in the time it takes to drive to work or walk the dog.
“I love this app! The Book Bites are brilliant, perfect to have in airports, waiting rooms, anywhere I need to not doomscroll… You guys are the best!” – Missy G.
Go Deeper with a Next Big Idea Club Membership
The Next Big Idea App is free for anyone to try—and if you love it, we invite you to become an official member of the Next Big Idea Club. Membership grants you unlimited access to Book Bites and unlocks early-release, ad-free episodes of our LinkedIn-partnered podcast. You also gain entry to our private online discussion group, where you can talk big ideas with fellow club members and join exclusive live Q&A sessions with featured authors.
For a more focused learning experience, we recommend a Hardcover or eBook Membership. Every few months, legendary authors and club curators Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink select two new nonfiction books as the must-reads of the season. We then send hardcover copies straight to your doorstep, or eBook versions to your favorite digital device. We also collaborate with the authors of selected books to produce original reading guides and premium video e-courses, 50-minute master classes that take you step by step through their most life-changing ideas. And yes, it’s all available through the Next Big Idea App.
“My biggest Thank You is for the quality of book selections so far. I look on my shelf and see these great titles, and I find myself taking down one or two each month to reread an underlined passage. Full marks to all involved!” – Tim K.
Learn Faster, from the World’s Leading Thinkers
Whether you prefer to read, listen, or watch, the Next Big Idea is here to help you work smarter and live better. Wake up with an always-fresh Idea of the Day, the perfect shot of inspiration to go with your morning coffee. Then dive into one of our Challenges, hand-picked collections of Book Bites that form crash courses in subjects like communication, motivation, and career acceleration. Later, watch the playback of an interview with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Stanford psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt, or philosopher John Kaag. And be sure to check the “Events” tab in the app, so that you can join an upcoming live Q&A and personally chat with the next featured thought leader.
If you’re hoping to grow as a person or as a professional, we hope you’ll join us and tens of thousands of others who enjoy the Next Big Idea. Get started by downloading the app today!
To enjoy Book Bites from anywhere, download the Next Big Idea app today:
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Interviews with psychologists and scholars of psychology about their new books.
Advancing Psychotherapy for the Next Generation
Humanizing mental health policy and practice, linda l. michaels, tom wooldridge, nancy burke, and janice r. muhr, how media, politics, and identity drive our appetite for misinformation, dannagal goldthwaite young, the power of placebos, unlocking their potential to improve health care, jeremy howick, how our love of dogs creates social conflict, james k. beggan, who understands comics, questioning the universality of visual language comprehension, project unlonely, healing our crisis of disconnection, jeremy nobel, the future of paying attention, a discussion with carolyn dicey jennings, carolyn dicey jennings, undoing suicidism, a trans, queer, crip approach to rethinking (assisted) suicide, alexandre baril, intoxication, an ethnography of effervescent revelry, sébastien tutenges, it's not me, it's you, how narcissists get what they want and how to stop them, karyne e. messina, here i'm alive, the spirit of music in psychoanalysis, adam blum, peter goldberg, and michal levin, working the difference, science, spirit, and the spread of motivational interviewing, e. summerson carr, parenting and climate change, a discussion with jenni silverstein and elizabeth bechard, jenni silverstein and elizabeth bechard, resentment: the complexity of an emotion and its effect on politics, a discussion with rob schneider, rob schneider, anxious eaters, why we fall for fad diets, janet chrzan and kima cargill, comics, trauma, and the new art of war, harriet e. h. earle, violence and mental illness, rethinking risk factors and enhancing public safety, eric b. elbogen and nico verykoukis, neuroethics, agency in the age of brain science, the philosophy behind the question, philippe huneman.
February 2023 New Releases: Psychology
All books on this list £ 164.92 £ 140.17