Contact usCareers

Psychoanalysing Psychology: Book Recommendations for Psychology Students

Whether you are an aspiring psychologist or just want to expand your knowledge outside of your A-Level studies, reading about Psychology can introduce you to both classical and contemporary areas of the subject for further learning, as well as present self-help guidance and advice for your own personal fulfilment and success.

What’s Included in an Oxford Summer Course?

Our tailored summer courses for ages 9-24 include all teaching and academic content, accommodation, meals (including Friday night formal dinners), a prize-giving ceremony, all-day trips and activities, airport transfers, access to Oxford Summer Courses Foundations, travel and medical insurance, and a welcome pack. Apply now to secure your spot in one of our comprehensive summer courses.

10 Books Psychology Students Should be Reading

Ready to delve further into the study of psychology? Psychology books can offer great insight into the work of professional clinicians, opening your eyes into the world of psychologists - preparing you for the future. 

Take a look at our list of 10 of the top psychology books for students to read and prepare to be inspired. 

1. Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole, by Dr Allan H. Ropper & Brian David Burrell

reaching down the rabbit hole (1).jpg

Photo credit: sciencebookaday.com

"To become a good clinical neurologist, you have to be intensely interested by what the brain does, how it works, how it breaks down.”

What would it be like to try and heal a body when the mind is under attack? The phrase “tell the doctor where it hurts” seems simple enough, but "Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole" accurately describes what happens when the very organ that produces awareness is damaged. 

This Psychology book recounts patient stories from a clinician’s perspective (Dr Ropper) as he tries to help his patients understand and heal themselves. Very much a distorted play on the Alice in Wonderland world which the title refers to, the book examines the lives of those who find themselves trapped in their own minds. 

2. The Happiness Hypothesis, by Johnathan Haidt

“The final moment of success is often no more thrilling than taking off a heavy backpack at the end of a long hike. If you went on the hike only to feel that pleasure, you are a fool. Yet people sometimes do just this. They work hard at a task and expect some special euphoria at the end. 

But when they achieve success and find only moderate and short-lived pleasure, they ask is that all there is? They devalue their accomplishments as a striving after wind. We can call this the progress principle: Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them.”

Written by the award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt, "The Happiness Hypothesis" looks at the ancient ideals that people believed were necessary for living a meaningful, happy life - but testing them under the lens of modern science and the pressures of 21st century living.

Blending philosophy with psychology, Haidt explores beliefs in religion, morality and consciousness, as well as our own behavioural biases. He then compares these against psychological studies and scientific data to dissect and understand their potential or limitations for us to live a happy life today. 

3. The Little Book of Psychology, by Emily Ralls and Caroline Riggs

“A hundred billion neurons are taking care of you, while simultaneously being you.”

New to the study of Psychology? The Little Book of Psychology offers a comprehensive overview of the subject, teaching students about the key theories and ideas. With precise 128 pages, it is a great place to start if you are just starting your Psychology A-Level or undergraduate degree.

If you need to know your Maslow from your Milgram, then fear not, as this little book will cover all the highlights of the subject that you need to know. You will cover chapters on some of the most famous psychologists, theories and psychological studies, as well as some of the key themes which tend to arise in your first year of studies about ethics and cyber psychology. 

4. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks

“If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.”

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, explores the real-life patient cases of neurosurgeon, Dr Oliver Sacks. Cases vary from the mildly amusing, such as those who no longer recognise common objects or have uncanny artistic and mathematical abilities, to the traumatic - including those who have lost some of their greatest memories and recollection of loved ones. Sacks writes in an incredibly sympathetic way, exploring the deeply human study of life and its effects from medical trauma. 

Students with an interest in high-level, clinical psychology will enjoy learning about the relationship between the psychological and physical; giving you insightful topics to talk about and dissect with your tutors or, in a university interview, should you be asked to attend prior to receiving a university offer.

5. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment, by Martin E. P. Seligman

“While the theory that happiness cannot be lastingly increased is one obstacle to scientific research on the subject, there is another, more profound obstacle: the belief that happiness (an even more generally, any positive human motivation) is inauthentic. I call this pervasive view about human nature, which recurs across many cultures, the rotten-to-the-core dogma. If there is any doctrine this book seeks to overthrow, it is this one.”

What would you say if someone told you that happiness could be learned? Seligman's ground-breaking book, which soon became a bestseller after its publication in 2004, addresses the very nature of happiness through the evolution of Positive Psychology. 

For aspiring psychologists - especially aspiring cognitive behavioural therapists - Seligman’s psychology book who is hugely beneficial, providing you with a practical, accessible overview of this versatile intervention and its application to help individuals lead happier, more fulfilled lives.

6. The Lucifer Effect, by Philip G. Zimbardo

“If you put good apples into a bad situation, you’ll get bad apples.”

Many students have heard or been recommended "The Lucifer Effect" before, especially as it formed the basis of the award-winning movie, "The Stanford Prison Experiment." Written by the widely-renowned psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo, it explores the blurring of the faint line between ‘good’ and ‘evil’; how seemingly ‘good’ people can be misled to behave in an evil manner.

Although the experiment has been heavily criticised, the book offers excellent insight into the power of identity and roles, and how humans can separate themselves from their ‘personal’ ethics and the ethics that their ‘job’ demands of them - a fundamental module you will be studying in either your A-Level or undergraduate degree in Psychology. 

7. Neuropsychological Assessment, by Muriel Deutsch Lezak, Diane B. Howieson, Erin D. Bigler & Daniel Tranel

“[Clinical psychology] owes its primordial - and often fanciful - concepts to those who, since earliest historic times, puzzled about what made people do what they did and how. These were the philosophers, physicians, scientists, artists, tinkerers, and dreams who first called attention to what seemed to be linkages between body - not necessarily brain - structures and people’s common responses to common situations.”

Often referred to as “the Bible” for study of clinical neuropsychology, this book offers an in-depth overview of the central neuro-behavioural disorders, which are typically associated with brain injury and dysfunction. 

Recently updated with the most updated coverage of current research, clinical practice, including assessment techniques and treatment, it’s an invaluable reference book for students during your training and beyond into your professional career.

8. Pioneers of Psychology, by Raymond E Fancher & Alexandra Rutherford

“After 1905 psycho-analysis became a movement that attracted both supporters and influential dissidents. As psycho-analysis became increasingly well known and popular; academic psychologists, after initially treating it with contempt, gradually began to test some of its concepts in laboratory situations. This outcome helped lay the groundwork for a new subdiscipline of personality psychology.” 

Ever thought about how Psychology established itself as a subject? Fancher and Rutherford offer an engaging look at the history of psychology and those who shaped it, from its philosophical origins to the modern day. 

Exploring over 400 years of history, you will learn about what positive contributions psychology has made to the medical field, but also the major controversies in the subject’s history though carefully written stories of real people and their personal journeys. You will learn about some of the greatest thinkers to have influenced psychology, including Descartes, Locke, Darwin, Freud, and Skinner.  

9. How to Think Straight About Psychology, by Keith E. Stanovich

“Stop 100 people on the street and ask them to name a psychologist, either living or dead. Record their responses. Of course, Dr. Phil Wayne Dyer, and other “media psychologists” would certainly be named. If we leave out the media and pop psychologists, however, and consider only those who have made a recognised contribution to psychological knowledge, there would be no question about the outcome of this informal survey. Sigmund Freud would be the winner hands down.” 

For students at the beginning of their Psychology studies, Stanovich’s How to Think Straight About Psychology is a great companion, providing in-depth detail on research methods and how to conduct a ‘fair test.’

The book is highly-acclaimed and covers everything you need to know about conducting experiments, including control, correlational and experimental study methods. You will learn how to think critically and objectively about your results, as well as how to identify pseudoscience. 

10. Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You, by Robert J. Sternberg

“Few fields of study offer more career opportunities than does psychology. This book is about those career opportunities and how you can take advantage of them. The opportunities are diverse, challenging, and intriguing.”

Thinking about where your Psychology degree could take you in the future? Psychology is a broad and diverse subject, with so many different career paths available to choose from - many of which you probably do not even know about yet!

There are over 30 different career paths discussed in the book, over three different areas: academia, clinical and counselling psychology, as well as using psychology in specialised settings such as within the military, schools or businesses. You will learn about the typical daily activities involved, including some of the advantages and disadvantages to the job roles. 

Ready to Join Oxford Summer Courses?

After submitting your application, we'll be in touch very soon to inform you of the outcome. Apply now to begin your journey with Oxford Summer Courses!

Share this article


Discover the best psychology books for students. From clinical insights to happiness studies, these books offer valuable knowledge and inspiration for aspiring psychologists and anyone interested in understanding human behaviour.

Get Our Newsletter

We deliver helpful tips, tutorials and thought-provoking articles to inform and inspire your professional development.

Our privacy policy states Oxford Summer Courses will use this information to contact you.

Oxford Summer Courses LTD

18 Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2NA, United Kingdom

+44 01865 818403

B Corp Logo

Juniors 9-12

Apply Now
Sign up to our newsletter

Oxford Summer Courses is an organisation which contracts with the colleges of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London for the use of facilities, but which has no formal connection with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London.
Oxford Summer Courses © 2024
Oxford Summer Courses is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 08011543