Fun, interesting books about psychology and sociology?
July 6, 2010 7:39 AM   Subscribe

What are some interesting pop-psychology or pop-sociology books that I could read this summer?

I'm not sure if I used the right terminology above, but what I'm looking for is something similar to Freakonomics, but which covers something relating to sociology or psychology rather than economics. Another example of the types of book I'm looking for is Queen Bees and Wannabes. Thank you for your help!
posted by kylej to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever read anything by Malcolm Gladwell*? Love him or hate him, he could be considered popsociology. Mostly he just uses convenient sociological phenomena to further his own narrative, but it's interesting sometimes.

*Be careful here . . . MG is considered the antichrist on MeFi for reasons I have not yet determined.
posted by Think_Long at 7:45 AM on July 6, 2010

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness. Here's his TED talk which summarizes its themes. It's a delight to read, and he's not the antichrist like Gladwell.
posted by Beardman at 7:47 AM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch were pretty good reads along those lines.
posted by mireille at 7:50 AM on July 6, 2010

59 Seconds is very good. I found it both entertaining and practical. Daniel Gilbert's book (above) is also excellent.
posted by dowcrag at 8:34 AM on July 6, 2010

Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein - an economist and an attorney (the latter working in the Obama administration), respectively - is an entertaining read. The authors have paid close attention to psychological and other behavioral science research to generate ways to nudge people toward making better decisions in matters that are frequently labeled public policy (like saving for retirement). They're also occasionally funny.

I'd also like to third Daniel Gilbert's book. He's a very good researcher and writer, and is quite funny.
posted by anaphoric at 8:49 AM on July 6, 2010

Flow is really good. It's one of the most frequently cited books.
posted by philosophistry at 9:22 AM on July 6, 2010

The Design of Everyday Things
posted by Zed at 9:43 AM on July 6, 2010

I am partway through The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us and am finding it really enjoyable and accessible to a broad audience. It's basically about how our attention and memory can fail us and the incorrect intuitions that we have about how these things work.

(Full disclosure: One of the authors is a professor in my department. But I wouldn't recommend it if I wasn't truly enjoying it!)
posted by rebel_rebel at 9:48 AM on July 6, 2010

Also, I read "The Design of Everyday Things" last summer and liked it. However, it was written in the 80's, so a lot of the discussion about technology is out of date. But if you can look past that, it's very interesting, and it will make you hyper-aware of badly designed push/pull doors in public buildings.
posted by rebel_rebel at 9:52 AM on July 6, 2010

Anything by Sudhir Venkatesh.

He studied urban poverty in Chicago.

He's referred to by the Freakonomics guys.
posted by bilabial at 10:36 AM on July 6, 2010

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:49 AM on July 6, 2010

Seconding Flow, and adding The How of Happiness.
posted by digitaldraco at 11:00 AM on July 6, 2010

Mindsight by Dan Siegel is pretty popular in the layperson's-psychology-reading world at the moment, plus it's generally thought well of by professionals in the field.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:23 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided

SuperFreakonomics (though I would skip the global warming chapter)
posted by wittgenstein at 4:23 PM on July 6, 2010

Nthing 59 Seconds. Switch and Brain Rules are a couple more that have really caught my interest lately.
posted by Ryogen at 4:51 PM on July 6, 2010

REALLY good--mind-blowing and important--is Norman Doidge's The Brain that Changes Itself, about brain plasticity and the research and discoveries in the last couple decades that have flipped brain science on its head.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:55 PM on July 6, 2010

It's well-written, too, and contains lots of fascinating case studies.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:55 PM on July 6, 2010

I just finished reading Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of WASP Splendor, which is part memoir/dysfunctional family history and part sociocultural study of the decline of America's former ruling class. Well-written, insightful and self-deprecating. (Note: You will be glad that the author included an [abbreviated] family tree, because the number of blended families is numerous, making it difficult at times to figure out how Crazy Uncle X or Black Sheep Stepcousin Y figures into the picture.)
posted by virago at 10:25 AM on July 7, 2010

Oliver Sacks comes to mind! The Man Who Mistake His Wife For a Hat. Or Musicophelia: Tales of Music and the Brain. He's good for learning about the typical functions of the brain by reading really interesting stories about aytpical things that can happen to it.
posted by adty at 8:55 PM on July 7, 2010

Thanks everyone, these all look great! =]
posted by kylej at 11:11 AM on July 14, 2010

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