Top 12 Psychology Books That Are A Must-Read In 2024


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” is a famous quote by Dr. Seuss. Perhaps no key opens more doors than a good book. Books are truly advantageous in many ways. Think back to the last time you read a good book, how did you feel? What do you think you gained? Do you think it has benefited you in the long run? When one opens a book, one opens their mind to new ideas, and concepts, essentially, a whole new world.

An academic bookshelf holds a million perspectives that can take you through the ups and downs of a particular discipline. Seneca, the famous Stoic writer and philosopher, in his letters, has elaborated on the importance of not just good books but good writers. He believed that reading a lot of books can only make someone well-read. However, understanding and being familiar with great authors known to incorporate all perspectives or provide an entirely new idea is important to learning. In this article, we are here to be your helping hand in just this. We have listed below 18 must-read books of psychology that are sure to make your 2024 reading list a bit more refined.

1. The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo

Published in 2007, based on the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971, written by none other than Philip Zimbardo is a thrilling research book that gives a detailed account of all that happened in his famous prison experiment which was known to yield such shocking results that the experiment had to cut to be cut short from its initial planned ending date. This book has truly formed one of the major cornerstone of social psychology.

  • Highly Unethical Experiment. Zimbardo gives a deeply detailed account of his infamously unethical experiment with reports of each day that occurred in the experiment while also tracing the conditions of the participants involved.
  • How Good People Turn Evil. The author takes the reader through various historical moments that have showcased humanity at its worst as a slave to situational demands.
  • Raises Questions About Ethics and Morality. It highlights questions about inherent human goodness that are rather difficult to address since it brings us close to the face of the dark side of humans.
  • Situationism vs Human Will. The book attempts to answer one of psychology’s biggest questions which is how far humans will persist under extreme situational demands. 
2. ⁠Inner World: A Psychoanalytic Study of Childhood and Society of India by Sudhir Kakkar

We were recently encountered with the news of the passing of Sudhir Kakkar, famously known as the Father of Indian Psychoanalysis. Sudhir Kakkar was one of India’s most accomplished psychologists and authors. This highlights the importance of reading Eastern perspectives on Psychology since we often overlook the brilliant minds we have right here in India. ⁠Originally published in 1978, Inner World: A Psychoanalytic Study of Childhood and Society of India is one of the most famous books by Sudhir Kakkar. 

  • A brilliant application of psychoanalytic theories and concepts in Indian tradition and society. 
  • It examines the various mythologies that exist within the Hindu tradition and the impact that has on our psyche.
  • It also analyzes how cultural, societal, and familial factors contribute to the formation of identity.
  • Furthermore, it addresses the taboo surrounding discussions of sexuality and sex that exist within Indian society.

Other notable works of Sudhir Kakkar include ‘The Aesthetic of Desire’, ‘The Colors of Violence’ and ‘Shamans, Mystics and Doctors’.

3. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt.⁠

A relatively recent but impactful book published in 2006, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, takes the reader through the pages of ancient wisdom and quotes in an attempt to find happiness in the fast-paced life of today. Jonathan Haidt is a famous American psychologist and author with specializations in areas of human morality and human emotions. This is an award-winning book that explores ten great ideas that can mark one’s route to happiness. Each chapter in this book begins by elaborating on one of the ideas.

  • Haidt uses popular phrases by applying them in a modern context to live a happier life.
  • Elaborates on the harmful effects of social media (Haidt holds that children below 16 should not be exposed to social media).
  • He traces folklore and tales to help revive the wisdom of ancient times and acquaint people with it in this period to help find happiness.
4. ⁠Civilisation and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

A classic authored by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Written in 1929, and published in 1930, set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and Hitler’s Nazi rule, amidst the tensions of a budding World War 2, this book delves into and elaborates on Freud’s darkest idea of Thanatos, the death instinct. For Freud, who was Jewish himself, this was a deeply troubling time and this book is a testimony to that. Following are some of the major themes identified in this book.

  • Elaborates on how society is made by humans but everyone is deeply sad and hurts themselves within it since society imposes restrictions on human desires.
  • Two conflicting forces that exist within us: the Eros, life instinct and Thanatos, the death instinct. Eros is our growing creativity and Thanatos is our innate aggression and desire for destruction.
  • The inability to act on instinctual drives for the sake of civilization leads to frustration and unhappiness.

Read More: Sigmund Freud’s 5 Most Important Contributions to Psychology

5. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Dr. Robert Cialdini is a renowned professor of psychology and marketing. This book, published in 1984, elaborates on various psychological tools that can be used in attempts of persuasion. He identifies six principles that make us comply with the pressures of society. All these six principles have been identified by Cialdini through various experiments. Following are the six principles by name:

  • Reciprocity: We are likely to comply with someone’s demands if we believe they have done something for us.
  • Commitment and Consistency: People tend to want to be consistent with their beliefs, emotions, commitments and actions.
  • Social Proof: In confusing situations, people tend to go by what others believe, or what the majority is doing.
  • Authority: We are more likely to comply with demands if we think it is coming from someone with authority.
  • Liking: We tend to comply with requests made by people we like or feel we are similar to.
  • Scarcity: We desire or want resources if we believe that they are limited or running out.

This book was very influential for marketing strategies since it elaborated on various ways ads can target consumer thinking and behaviour.

6. Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness by Jonathan Haidt

The rising concerns in teen mental health truly require our immediate attention. Researchers have suggested a surge in certain mental illnesses such as anxiety, eating disorders and so on with the younger generation. This brilliant book by American psychologist and New York Times best-selling author, Jonathan Haidt, was published recently in March 2024 and has made our must-read list. The book traces the changes in childhood of the youth and how that has set them up for a lifetime of mental illnesses.

  • Haidt has highlighted that factors such as increased screen time, less outdoor play, and changes in parenting styles are notable.
  • He has then elaborated on all these components and analyzed how they have resulted in the current mental health situation.
  • Moreover, he has then provided recommendations on parenting styles and how much in general should be the screen time for children.
  • It also addresses how there have been cultural changes in patterns in thinking about autonomy, faith and independence.
7. The Quest for the Inner Man by Joseph Vrinte.

Transpersonal psychology is an underrated but interesting field. It essentially rests on the bridge between spirituality and psychology. This is a book that can be a brilliant start for anyone wanting to begin with this field. The Quest for the Inner Man by Joseph Vrinte, a retired Dutch psychologist who has been in connection with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, is a renowned book that has received many praises for being a staple of this field of psychology. 

  • The book deeply stresses the importance of finding and knowing one’s inner self.
  • Discusses various spiritual explorations that may help oneself dig deeper.
  • Emphasizes the techniques of introspection and reflection as a path to one’s inner world.
  • Moreover, it talks about the human potential to grow and become whatever they may choose to. 
  • It provides an entire detailed rundown of transpersonal psychology and connects it to its practical applications.
8.⁠ The birth and death of meaning by Ernest Becker

Originally published in 1962, The Birth and Death of Meaning has been authored by Pulitzer-prize winner, Ernest Becker. This happens to be an existentialist work that focuses on where we can find meaning as it traces human lives to their simplest form. He also emphasizes the importance of being aware and embracing our mortality as humans. 

  • To become aware of death, one immediately begins looking for the meaning in their life. When we accept our mortality, we begin examining our lives while we are still living.
  • He also works on terror management theory which essentially talks about how human behavior is primarily driven by the fear of death. This points out that finding meaning must also be driven by the knowing of death.
  • Highlights how meaning is embedded in our cultural roots and background. Thus, we must understand our place in our culture and its impact on our inner selves. 
  • Moreover, the book draws upon various psychologists and philosophers such as Freud and Kierkegaard as an attempt to integrate the psychoanalyst and existentialist perspectives.
9. ⁠The Red Book by Carl Jung

Known by its name for its original red biding, written by perhaps the most famous drifter from Freud, the Swiss neoanalyst, Carl Jung, The Red Book was published in 2009 but written between 1914 to 1930. The book delves into various archetypes given in Jungian theory and their struggle for freedom. This book was Jung’s way of noting the influence of myths and folklore on our psyche.

  • Jung goes on an exploration of his mind as he notes archetypes and fantasies that exist in his subconscious.
  • As a neoanalyst, he delved into his assumptions and theories about the unconscious mind. 
  • Jung elaborates on mental representations in the form of psychic images of various mythical creatures, archetypes and fantasy idols.
  • Moreover, he explores opposing forces and how they must attempt to foster peace and balance harmony within the psyche. Some combinations of such forces are good and evil, light and dark, masculine and feminine and so on.
10. ⁠Man and His Dreams by Carl Jung

A very famous belief of psychoanalysis is that our dreams are essentially a presentation of our desires in the form of psychic symbols and mental images. Man and his dreams, published in 1964 after the death of its author, contain the Jungian perspective on the fundamental dream theory known in psychoanalysis. This book explores the side of psychology that views dreams as a window into the unconsciousness of the human mind. 

  • Jung talks about symbolism relating to the unconscious and subconscious in the context of dreams. 
  • Discusses the concept of collective unconscious which refers to the similarities of psychic images and archetypal figures and myths that exist.
  • Jung discusses how uncovering and understanding symbolism in dreams can facilitate psychic integration and self-exploration.
  • Moreover, Jung emphasizes on how understanding our dream symbolism can help in transcendence and spiritual awakening as well. 
11. Psychiatric Hegemony by Cohenn

Psychiatric Hegemony: A Marxist Theory of Mental Illness is a revolutionary book by Dr. Bruce M. Z. Cohen, a Sociologist interested in exploring how various perspectives influence the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses. In this book, he does the very same by critiquing the popularity and dominance held by psychiatry and medical diagnosis when it comes to mental illnesses. Furthermore, it provides recommendations to revolutionize the mental health industry.

  • Brings to light the hierarchies that exist within treatments of mental illnesses and how power dynamics shape how mental illnesses play out at the bigger level.
  • Challenges the predominant view of mental illnesses and raises concerns about how we distinguish normal and abnormal indicating this to be by those in power.
  • Talks about the isolation mental patients feel due to the extreme medicalisation of certain human experiences. 
  • Also raises issues about consent, autonomy, free will and coercion in the power dynamics which are at work in the psychiatric industry.
12. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) Third Edition: Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Published in 2007 by the social psychologists Carol Tarvis and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) is a brilliant book that forces the reader to introspect and look at how they act when they make a mistake. It draws upon anecdotal and historical examples of how many of us benefit from keeping quiet about our mistakes rather than confessing to them. Moreover, it highlights how we justify our actions and how that influences our future course of action and frames our beliefs.

  • Talks about the concept of cognitive dissonance which essentially means that we experience discomfort if our thoughts and actions do not align with each other.
  • Discusses selective memory and how we tend to recall or store memory that corresponds to our inherent beliefs about the world and ourselves.
  • Analyses the concepts of blame and responsibility and how that affects our self-image and self-efficacy.
Take away

Books are our way to places we have previously believed to be unattainable. The books described above are masters in the field within which they have been written. All authors discussed above are remarkably lauded with achievements and qualifications. This list can be a sure-fire way to start for someone who wants to begin with the field of psychology or for someone who is already in the field and simply wishes to further their knowledge. Our must-read list is sure to decorate your bookshelf with bells of knowledge and intellect!

References +
  • Tma. (2022, June 7). The Birth and Death of Meaning (Ernest Becker) — the mortal atheist. The Mortal Atheist.
  • Street, F. (2024, January 29). The best summary of influence: the Psychology of Persuasion. Farnam Street.
  • Wikipedia contributors. (2024e, May 12). Robert Cialdini. Wikipedia.
  • The Anxious Generation: How the great rewiring of child. . . (n.d.). Goodreads.
  • (n.d.).
  • The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancie. . . (n.d.). Goodreads.
  • The happiness hypothesis. (2024, March 8). Hachette Book Group.
  • Fordham, F., & Fordham, M. S. (2024, March 18). Carl Jung | Biography, Archetypes, Books, collective Unconscious, & Theory. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • Cohen, B. M. Z. (2016). Psychiatric hegemony. In Palgrave Macmillan UK eBooks.
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