I thought I’d do something a bit different for my blog this month. While I have a small library of academic text books, I do enjoy a good mainstream psychology book, too. Given that the summer is coming and lots of us like taking a new book on holiday, I thought I’d share some of my favourite popular psychology books that I’ve read recently. Please note, these are not traditional 'beach reads', nor are they all strictly speaking psychology books, but there is lots to enjoy and plenty of food for thought in this list.
The Reset by Elizabeth Uviebinené (Hodder Studio, 2021)
The global pandemic caused most of us to re-evaluate the way we both work and live. It was the catalyst for many of us to prioritise our health, reflect on our careers, and change the way we engage with our surroundings. In The Reset, Elizabeth Uviebinené succinctly captures many of these personal and societal shifts. It’s not a psychology book specifically, but this slim volume is full of big and wide-reaching ideas about work, society and community in a post-pandemic landscape.
Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Dr Julie Smith (Michael Joseph, 2022)
Dr Julie Smith has become something of a social media sensation over the last two years, with millions of followers tuning in for her short and engaging videos outlining psychological tools and strategies. Now she shares her expertise as a psychotherapist in more depth in this new book which adopts an easy-to-access style similar to her videos. With chapters devoted to mood, self-doubt, and fear among other topics, it’s an informative read filled with practical tips and prompts to help readers become more self-aware and confident in dealing with their feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
Happy Inside by Michelle Ogundehin (Ebury Press, 2020)
As I said, not all of the books in this list are psychology texts! But if, like me, you were obsessed with BBC One’s Interior Design Masters, you will probably love lead judge Michelle Ogundehin’s book. Unlike most interiors books, there are far more words than images; rather than a glossy coffee table tome, Happy Inside is more a collection of thoughtful essays on how home can make us feel, and how we can change our homes to enhance our wellbeing.
10 Keys to Happier Living by Vanessa King (Headline, 2016)
This has to be one of the most comprehensively researched popular psychology books I’ve ever read. And because of that, it’s not a quick read, but it is packed with evidence-based techniques to enhance happiness and wellbeing that cover the '10 keys to happiness' such as giving, relating, resilience and acceptance. Author Vanessa King is a board member of the non-profit Action for Happiness, and her expertise for and passion about the subject sings from the page. There is much to learn from here, and I have come back to the book and its references many times when developing my own ideas for lecturing and research.
The Supermum Myth by Anya Hayes and Dr Rachel Andrew (White Ladder, 2017)
Anyone who is a parent – and specifically a mother – will recognise so many of the themes discussed in this book. It explores the pressure for mums to 'have it all', exploding the myth of the supermum and instead providing reassuring and practical guidance for coping with modern motherhood, from anxiety and guilt to loneliness and perfectionism. A great companion to parenting that can be dipped into again and again.
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (my version was published by Random House, 2002)
OK, I’d be lying if I said I’d read this recently, but Flow is a classic of the popular psychology genre that continues to give me fresh insight and inspiration every time I pick it up. Csikszentmihalyi famously defined flow as a state of being in complete engagement or immersion in an activity, which has several benefits for our wellbeing. The book describes flow in detail and explains how you can achieve flow in a variety of contexts to increase experiences of joy in everyday life.
Happy by Derren Brown (Corgi Books, 2016)
Although he’s best known for his sensationalist TV and stage shows, anyone who has followed Derren Brown’s career will know he has a keen interest in psychology. This dense (and at times overly verbose) book rejects many modern psychology tropes like goal setting and positive thinking, and instead espouses the virtues of Stoicism and Epicureanism. I didn’t always agree with Brown’s arguments, but it’s a fascinating read and provides some useful perspective on the extent to which we can really control what happens in our lives.
Do you have any reading recommendations for me? If so, I'd love to hear them - get in touch!