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Best psychology books

Best psychology booksFor the uninitiated, no, this is not a crude attempt to re-invent the Latin script. As most of you would have guessed, this is a graphic representation of the 16 Myers-Briggs Type Indicatory (MBTI) psychological types. The relevance of psychology is evident in anything and everything we do; definitely to our work and team environments as we spend a substantial time at workplace. For this reason, it’s good to check out some of the best psychology books available in the market.

It’s not about Mind Reading Skills or Crystal Ball Gazing

This is not meant to be a post on clairvoyance and the art (and science?) of mind reading. In this post I will share some of the best psychology books; those that I have had the chance to personally use in my life as well as the ones I have seen being used by professionals.

Read on at your own risk, for this may not be for the faint hearted and these books may really prompt you to think deeper. It is also for this reason that I am restricting the list to best 5 instead of best 10 books out there on the topic.

The Best Psychology Books

1.   Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers

First published in 1980, this book remains one of my favorites. A bit theoretical and too involved at times, this is a classic on a topic that has spawned an entire industry and professional practitioners.

Based on the theories put forth by the renowned psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, the MBTI is an extremely powerful tool, especially in settings where you need to work with different team members and need to quickly understand the varying working styles.

It is for this reason that this is a favorite amongst many management consulting companies. After experimenting with various such tools, this remains a personal favorite.

Read more about this book.

2. In the Grip by Naomi L. Quenk

This is a fairly recent work from Quenk, an MBTI expert and trainer and in my opinion an amazingly rich perspective relevant for today’s world. In some ways, this picks up where MBTI stops and explores Jung’s theories further.

A breezy read (if you are familiar with MBTI), the book explains various scenarios of conflicting personality types, its resultant outcomes and potential ways to overcome such situations. I could relate with a lot of it from personal experience while I was going through a tough phase in life.

In my opinion, the true value of MBTI is incomplete without this treatise

Read more about this book.

3.   FIRO: A Three-Dimensional Theory of Interpersonal Behavior by William C. Schutz

FIRO short for ‘Fundamental interpersonal relations orientation’ is the only other psychometric tool I am going to talk about here. The reason this makes it to the list is because it has a lot of parallel with the MBTI tool.

The theory expounded states that when a group comes together, people are looking to fulfill three needs – affection/openness, control and inclusion. The book introduces a ‘FIRO-B’ score through which one can understand group dynamics – the group size can vary from 2 to many.

Unlike a few other tools, the FIRO-B in my opinion is a bit ‘judgmental’ and gives a clear indication of what you lack and what you have excess of. Another reason for choosing this tool, it is often even used in conjunction with the MBTI by many organizations.

Read more about this book.

4. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

No article on psychology can be complete without the mention of this seminal work. I read this book in college and was visibly moved, scandalized, shocked and enlightened – all at the same time. Like the first book on this list, the book can be a bit of a difficult read at times.

But the insights and ideas propounded are exciting to say the least. As per Freud, dreams could give a glimpse on one’s unconscious. This book was also the precursor to the theory of Oedipus complex. An interesting piece of work if self-analysis and introspection is your cup of tea – need to tread with caution however.

Read more about this book.

5.   Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

I was tempted to put one of Jung’s book to close out the list for he is considered the father of analytical psychology. But then I decided to put in a work that is probably more relevant considering the fact that we are trying to become better and more efficient professionals.

Authored by a Nobel prize winning economist, the book talks about the dichotomy of two conflicting thoughts at work – one fast, intuitive and emotional; second more calm, logical and slow. Written in a conversational style, Kahneman explains how to recognize which system is at work and then explains which system to use in what situation – when to go by the intuition and when to take things slow.

There are pretty interesting and relevant examples of how bias for one system over other leads to failure of companies, stock market and our personal lives. A fantastic book that is practical and theoretical at the same time.

Read more about this book.

Some of these books may be out of print. So browse for other books on the same (or similar) topics.

You might also be interested in checking out this Personality test to understand yourself better.

Image source: Wikipedia

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

4 thoughts on “Best psychology books”

  1. Sir,
    I am an undergraduate at Bharati Vidyapeeth’s College Of Engineering, New Delhi affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, and the reason of mentioning full names and affiliation of my institution being my question. I am in my final year now. Is it reasonable for me to aspire to get into HBS or any of the top 5 MBA programs all around the world with the educational qualification I have?

    Secondly, I may be interested to get a counselling session on how should prep myself to aim for top notch MBA program with scholarship.

    • Harshit,

      Your academic credentials matter but are just one of the several factors schools consider in their evaluation. That said, it might be too early to consider this as most good schools expect a solid 4-5 years of work experience before you apply.

  2. Hi,
    I have 2 years of experience work experience as a web developer.I would like to go for GRE but after MS in computer science will there be any chances of getting good job opportunities because right now in US there are less number of job opportunities will there be any fair enough of job opportunities after 2 years atleast can we expect?

    • Samyuktha,

      The job prospects depend on a variety of factors – what program, what career preferences etc. Nothing stops you from doing a lot of due diligence on career prospects after MS from your target programs – do that before you apply


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