10,000 Hours of Reading
March 10, 2009 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm fascinated with books that deal with the social psychological conscious like Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers/Blink/Tipping Point or Stephen Dubner/Steven Levitt's Freakonomics. I'd love to read more books in the same vein. Any choice authors or books I should check out?
posted by Christ, what an asshole to Society & Culture (32 answers total) 124 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on which bits of Freakonomics you enjoyed, you might like The Logic of Life by Tim Harford
posted by patricio at 1:10 PM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Try these:

The Drunkard's Walk, Leonard Mlodinow

More Sex Is Safer Sex, Stephen Landsburg

The Long Tail, Chris Anderson

And if you're into baseball, Stephen Jay Gould wrote an amazing book on mathematical analysis of basebal called Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville. It's not so much SABRmetrics...it has essays like why there won't be any more .400 hitters because so many players are nearing physical perfection.
posted by world b free at 1:12 PM on March 10, 2009

You might enjoy The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki.
posted by bjrn at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Though a little more personal than social, Stubling on Happiness triggered a lot of the same interest for me that your books did. It only looks like a self help book.
posted by Ookseer at 1:16 PM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.
posted by songfromme at 1:22 PM on March 10, 2009

I think Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works would be right up your alley.
posted by etc. at 1:29 PM on March 10, 2009

Are you regularly reading Marginal Revolution? One of the contributors wrote Discover Your Inner Economist, which satisfied my inner-wonk. A bit basic economics, but I like that he applies it to things like "where should you go to dinner? What charity should you contribute to?" He also suggests most of my non-fiction. On my to read list that might be something that interests you:

Nudge, Predictably Irrational, and Traffic: Why We Drive and what it says about us.

Also really enjoyed The Wisdom of Whores. While it's about the AIDS epidemic, a lot of it focuses on the social mechanisms behind both the spread of AIDS and the public policy designed to (fairly ineffectually) stop the spread of AIDS.
posted by politikitty at 1:40 PM on March 10, 2009

First off, go get Gang Leader for a Day. It's from the author of the chapter on gangs that appears in Freakonomics.

I also think you'll enjoy the social observations in Geography of Bliss
posted by xotis at 1:42 PM on March 10, 2009

oh, and nthing Stumbling on Happiness. It's a great read, and endorsed, more or less, by Malcom Gladwell.
posted by xotis at 1:44 PM on March 10, 2009

Guns, Germs, and Steel is a book I am reading now, and it seems to me (for want of a better term) a "Gladwellian" approach to the whole of human history. I like it for the same reason that I have liked a lot of Gladwell's articles (although I have yet to read any of his books).
posted by Danf at 1:44 PM on March 10, 2009

I've enjoyed reading James Gleick's books and articles.
posted by carsonb at 1:52 PM on March 10, 2009

Naomi Klein's No Logo.
posted by Windigo at 2:00 PM on March 10, 2009

Talleb's Black Swan seems to be popular among folks who like Gladwell and Levitt.
posted by box at 2:08 PM on March 10, 2009

Jonah Lehrer's How We Decide just came out and it's amazing. Jonah has a gift for storytelling while explaining the neuroscience behind the way we make decisions.
posted by TNOTGILL at 2:11 PM on March 10, 2009

Two classics of this genre from the 1950s:

Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders


Eric Hoffer's The True Believer

They might be a little different in content/style, but are definitely the grandparents of the books you seem to like. You may also be interested in anything by Marshall McLuhan if you've not alread tried him, though don't blame me if you think him preposterous.
posted by Sova at 2:23 PM on March 10, 2009

Well, if Sova's going to recommend McLuhan, I'm going to recommend Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy and Eric Havelock's Preface to Plato. Whereas other recommendations above deal with social impacts of technology or economics or neurosciences, etc, Havelock, Ong and their succedents deal with society and literacy, though I hasten to add that this may be getting a little far afield of where you want to go.
posted by eclectist at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2009

Nassim Taleb (author of Black Swan) has also written Fooled by Randomness, which is also a bit Gladwell/Freakonomics-like.
posted by bjrn at 3:40 PM on March 10, 2009

Schelling: Micromotives and Macrobehavior

Schelling won the nobel prize
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 3:56 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
posted by Nerro at 4:52 PM on March 10, 2009

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales
posted by trinity8-director at 5:52 PM on March 10, 2009

Seconding Predictably Irrational.
posted by starman at 6:24 PM on March 10, 2009

I also recommend both of Taleb's books (Fooled by Randomness slightly more)

If you don't mind dealing with 1850s English, you might enjoy Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds
posted by radicarian at 12:16 AM on March 11, 2009

posted by zennoshinjou at 4:48 AM on March 11, 2009

FREAKCONOMICS IS A GREAT READ! Would recommend that book to everyone
posted by angel29 at 9:35 AM on March 11, 2009

The Numerati, Stephen Baker
Why We Buy & The Call of the Mall, Paco Underhill
Buyology, Martin Lindstrom
posted by djb at 12:17 PM on March 11, 2009

I like these sort of books too! I wonder if there's a term for them.

I recommend Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, about groups that form without necessarily having a set structure.
posted by divabat at 3:34 PM on March 11, 2009

Steven Johnson, particularly Mind Wide Open and Emergence.
posted by AceRock at 5:37 PM on March 11, 2009

William Strauss and Neil Howe have written several fascinating books on a four-stage historical cycle of generational attributes. Start with The Fourth Turning and Generations.
posted by upplepop at 8:23 PM on March 11, 2009

You might like Paco Underhill's "Why we buy: The Science of Shopping"
posted by rongorongo at 3:46 AM on March 12, 2009

I came here to recommend Schelling: Micromotives and Macrobehavior but I was beaten to it. It's a fantastic, elegant book about how people's simple preferences can explain complex societal behavior like segregated neighborhoods, traffic patterns, and the way auditoriums fill up.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:16 PM on March 12, 2009

"Bowling Alone" by Robert D. Putnam, 2000 bestseller about the decline of America's sense of community. Also a 1986 classic, "Objects of Desire: Design and Society from Wedgwood to IBM" by Adrian Forty (EG, Why did Montgomery Ward offer 131 different pocket-knives in their 1895 catalogue? To match the layers of a highly stratified society)
posted by dboorstin at 7:44 PM on March 12, 2009

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