Below is a curated and annotated list of books and articles I recommend about how the brain works.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

by Daniel Kahneman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011

This book isn’t about self-discipline although it takes a lot of discipline to stick with it. Instead, it is a book that describes the research around how the brain works in decision-making. What is it about our brain that makes us jump and make a quick decision? When does our brain need to slow down and why? Fascinating reading.

How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life

by Caroline Webb

Crown Business, 2016

This book takes all of my favorite research from the past several years and puts the theories into relatable stories. One of her bits of advice is to take small steps to reach big goals. I think this theory applies very nicely to my concept of scheduling personal professional development days.

Tolerance of Ambiguity in Creativity,

by Mark A. Runco, 2014.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

by Charles Duhigg

Random House, 2012

“Identifies the neurological processes behind behaviors, explains how self-control and success are largely driven by habits, and shares scientifically-based guidelines for achieving personal goals and overall well-being by adjusting specific habits.” 

-Synopsis provided by Jeffco Public Library

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus and Working Smarter All Day Long

by David Rock

Harper Business, 2009

Thanks to Amber Cox for recommending this book. I enjoy reading pop psychology about decision-making and how the brain works. This is an accessible read with helpful examples about leveraging how various parts of the brain function to improve effectiveness at work. He uses an extended metaphor using the stage, actors and audience to make his point.  I admit that despite dabbling in theater in high school, it still took my brain awhile to warm up to this metaphor.

I don’t want to turn this book back in to the library. I’ve marked it with sticky notes all over the place. I learned from the image he used of mental brakes wearing out just like the brakes of a car. Each time you pump the brake, the lining wears out just a little. Mental brakes need relining too. He has done an excellent job of gathering a lot of the recent brain research and making it understandable and applicable. There are also many helpful suggestions for improving higher level thinking. An excellent resource.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

by Carol Dweck

Ballantine Books, 2016

I keep this book in my nightstand. Some of the operating system updates I’ve mentioned above are mindset shifts. This is an oft-cited classic based on solid research and world-class expertise.

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking

by Malcolm Gladwell

Little, Brown and Company, 2005

Similar ideas to Thinking Fast and Slow but a shorter read with lots of stories. Gladwell is always entertaining and often enlightening.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst

by Robert M. Sapolsky

Penguin Press, 2017

My oft-recommended and favorite book about the brain. It’s a toughie but I promise it’s worth every minute. I’ve recommended this book before. It’s an instant classic for students of the biology of human behavior.

Sugar and the Brain

by Scott Edwards

Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute

This article gives the brief basics on how glucose affects a human’s ability to think.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Classic theory of the psychology of the importance of getting basic human needs met.

Q&A: Why a Rested Brain is More Creative

by Ferris Jabr

Scientific American, 2016

Accessible article with nice examples from the author.

How to Change your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

by Michael Pollan

Penguin Press, 2018

This is a fascinating book about the brain. I’m not recommending anyone start taking magic mushrooms.