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Best Summer Reads for Psychology Majors

If you can often be found analyzing each scene of the latest psychological thriller or seem to have an insatiable thirst for understanding the inner workings of the mind, pursuing a degree in psychology might be something worth considering. 

Whether you’re already enrolled in a program or are considering applying to one, you may want to add some psychology books to your summer reading list. They can supplement your studies or simply provide you with something to pass the time while evening out your summer tan.  

If you’re wondering what the best books for psychology students are, consider this an opportunity to browse a bookshelf that’s been tailored to your interests. Below, we’ll review our selections for the ten psychology books to read this summer. 

#1 The Little Book of Psychology

If you want to get a broad overview of psychology, The Little Book of Psychology by Emily Ralls and Caroline Riggs is a worthwhile read. In just 128 pages, it provides a simple, concise overview of the psychology field. 

In this book, you can broaden your knowledge of:

  • Leading psychological theories
  • Famous psychologists
  • Classic psychological studies
  • Psychological ethics 
  • New developments in evolutionary psychology and cyber psychology

After completing this short introduction to psychology, you’ll likely have more clarity on whether or not it's the right field for you. You can also get a kickstart on learning about the key themes you’ll discover down the road in your studies. 

#2 The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

Have you ever wondered why good people do bad things? Philip Zimbardo, a famous social psychologist, explores this question in The Lucifer Effect. This book serves as the basis for the film, The Stanford Prison Experiment. It analyzes how good people can behave in evil ways under the right circumstances. 

Zimbardo originally rose to fame within the psychology field for his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment.1 In this experiment, volunteers played out the roles of prisoners and prison guards in a mock prison environment. Very quickly, both groups started embodying their roles to shocking degrees, with many prisoners undergoing psychological abuse at the hands of their guards. 

By analyzing this experiment, Zimbardo provides insight into the power of group identity over individuals’ behavior, especially in regards to their capacity for cruelty. In doing so, he exposes chilling truths about human nature, making for a thrilling summer read. 

#3 Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain

If neuroscience piques your interest, you may want to pick up Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole by Dr. Allan H. Ropper and Brian David Burrell this summer. As you read this book, you’ll quickly discover that the mind and body are interconnected in fascinating ways. 

In this book, these authors discuss how the brain works and how it impacts the rest of the body when it breaks down. They also offer an intimate glimpse into the struggles that people with brain disease experience when trying to heal their bodies. 

Dr. Robber describes many absurd occurrences he has with patients in an engaging story format. Some of these patients’ situations may be hard to swallow, but their stories shed light on many captivating neurological principles. 

#4 Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You

If you want to gain insight into what career opportunities may be available to you after furthering your studies in psychology, Robert J. Sternberg’s Career Paths in Psychology is worth the read.

This bestselling book contains a comprehensive overview of the potential career paths that exist within the field of psychology. He describes 30 different graduate-level careers and their:

  • Day-to-day activities
  • Estimated compensation
  • Pros and cons 
  • Job market outlook
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Educational requirements

Learning about these professions can help you gain clarity on your desired career path so you can direct your psychological education accordingly. You’ll also discover how vast and varied the career options can be when you have a psychology degree, whether you’re drawn to counseling or academia. 

#5 The Happiness Hypothesis

Do you ever wonder how you can lead a happier life? In the Happiness Hypothesis, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the nature and pursuit of happiness. He pulls from ancient wisdom, science, and philosophy to construct a hypothesis for living a more meaningful life.

This book is organized into ten chapters, each of which analyzes a “Great Idea.” It touches on a variety of subjects, including:

  • Consciousness
  • Beliefs
  • Religion
  • Morality
  • Psychology

By making time for this book this summer, you can learn how to live a happier life based on the latest in psychological studies and scientific research. 

#6 Thinking, Fast and Slow

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman discusses the psychology behind why we often ignore rationality when making decisions. He explains that people can either make decisions quickly, using their intuition and emotion, or slowly, using their rationale and logic. 

This book can offer you valuable insight into why people respond to situations the way they do. It exposes the cognitive biases and shortcomings of fast thinking, whether it’s regarding your assumptions of what will make you happy in the future or your decisions to invest in the stock market.

Add this to your summer reading list and you may pick up some practical tips as an aspiring psychology student or learn how to make more rational decisions in all areas of your life.

#7 Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

Everyone wants to be happy, yet the path to true happiness can often seem elusive. In Authentic Happiness, Martin E. P. Seligman addresses the nature of happiness and how to attain it. 

He uses Positive Psychology to dispel the myth that happiness all comes down to genetics, good luck, or chance. Instead, he suggests that people can take specific steps to improve their lives and cultivate more genuine, long-lasting happiness. He outlines 24 specific strengths and virtues that can serve as buffers against negative emotions and help you cultivate greater happiness in your daily life. 

This book is a fantastic option if you’re interested in cognitive behavioral therapy. You can also apply its life-changing lessons to your own life and put them to the test. 

#8 The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

From Ted Bundy to John Gacy, psychopaths have always captivated people’s attention for their disturbing ability to act inhumanely.2 They can be one of the most interesting groups to study from a psychological perspective. 

If you want to learn more about them, Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test is a riveting read. In this book, Ronson uses his interviews with psychologists, psychiatrists, and suspected psychopaths to see how you can spot a psychopath using verbal and nonverbal clues.

This book is easy to read and hard to put down, making it an awesome pick for a summer vacation. 

#9 The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat

In The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Dr. Oliver Sacks discusses bizarre cases of neurological disorders after brain trauma. If you can't seem to learn enough about clinical psychology, this is a must-read summer book. 

In this book, Dr. Sacks shares stories of people who have lost their memories of loved ones, can no longer recognize people or objects, experience involuntary tics, or develop odd talents. Some of these cases are amusing, while others are quite tragic. In either case, they shed light on how the neurologically impaired experience their adversities. 

This book can get you thinking about the brain and its far-reaching effects in new ways. It can also put you in the right mindset for an education in clinical psychology.

#10 Getting In: A Step-By-Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology

So far, many of these book suggestions revolve around psychology, but they don’t necessarily paint a clear picture of how you can earn your degree.  If you want to pull something off the bookshelf that can help you prepare for graduate education in psychology, Getting In is the book for you. 

This book was put together by the American Psychological Association. In it, you will find: 

  • The steps involved in the admissions process
  • Ways to increase your chances of getting accepted
  • Potential challenges you may encounter along the way
  • Helpful timetables you can use to track your progress
  • Detailed worksheets to help you select the right psychology program
  • Information regarding the cost of graduate education
  • Financial aid options 

When you understand the criteria that admissions officers use to evaluate you, you can put your best foot forward. You may also find it to be a helpful practice in defining your professional goals and communicating your unique strengths. All in all, this book is an outstanding preparatory resource for motivated psychology majors. 

Pursue a Degree in Psychology at Alliant International University

Now that you know a few of the best psychology books for students, you can kickstart your studies with some summer reading. The books outlined on this list are designed to inform, entertain, and help you prepare for the next chapter. 

If, after reading these books, you find yourself with an appetite for more, you may decide that earning a psychology degree is the right path for you. In this case, you can explore the educational opportunities at Alliant International University. We offer several graduate programs in psychology, including:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Counseling
  • Clinical Psychopharmacology
  • Marital and Family Therapy
  • Organizational Psychology

Many of our master’s programs can be taken online or in-person at our California School of Professional Psychology. Most of our programs are APA and COAMFTE accredited. They also feature small class sizes so you can get the most out of your resources and professors. Take your first step towards a rewarding career in psychology by exploring our programs today.


  1. Mcleod, Saul. “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” Stanford Prison Experiment | Simply Psychology, 2020. Accessed February 2, 2022. 
  2. “What We Get Wrong about Psychopaths | Psychology Today,” February 7, 2019.…. Accessed February 1, 2022.

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