The 10 Best Books on Critical Thinking

The amount of information the average human being consumes on a daily basis today is overwhelming. Whether it’s listening to the morning news on your way to work, checking your social media accounts sporadically throughout the day, watching TV before heading to bed, or getting constant updates via Twitter and email, we are constantly exposed to a great deal of information.

But even with all the competing sources on the internet, at least some of the information (if not most) is biased or inaccurate. With all the sources and opinions out there, one thing is for certain- getting accurate information, or at least close to accurate, is essential.

What a person believes in affects their day-to-day activities, such as what they do, where they go, what they buy, who they vote for, and sometimes even how they feel. It may even virtually dictate the way they lead their lives. So how does one know what to believe? How do we sort the wheat from the chaff?

An easy approach to doing so is learning how to think critically. Oftentimes, people get confused with the term and consider it a complex topic but in reality, critical thinking is just as simple as it sounds. It is merely a way of thinking that can get you closer to your answer in the most efficient way.

Before we dive into the list of books that will help you understand critical thinking better, here are two ways critical thinking is vital in our daily lives:

  • For starters, critical thinking helps improve the way one makes decisions and draws conclusions. It also helps examine your beliefs from a factual standpoint (as opposed to beliefs unproven).
  • Critical thinking teaches individuals how to think for themselves and take ownership of their decisions and beliefs.

With that said, here goes the list! I have out a lot of thought into this and have taken hundreds of opinions. Read and be inspired! 

1. Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow

This book revolves around human intuition and when we can, and cannot trust it. The author states that there are two systems that influence the way we think, the first is impulsive, intuitive, and emotional and the second is based on facts and logic.

Daniel Kahneman, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and a well-known psychologist believes that understanding the two systems and learning how to use them can help evolve the way a person lives their life.
This includes changes in the way they strategize and predict consequences and avoid perceptive biases, or even simpler aspects like changing the colors of your walls.

This book is for people looking to become mentally stronger and, in effect, improve upon their logic-based decisions. Note that Kahneman does not lay down the rules to curb the instincts of intuition, but provides a vocabulary to spot biases easier and help criticize your decisions.

2. Karl Albrecht’s Brain Power

Learn to Improve Your Thinking Skills. Karl Albrecht provides a solution for all readers in the form of six functional thinking abilities that help them become innovative and adaptive thinkers. These abilities include:

  • Becoming mentally stronger
  • Make your thinking more logic-based and creative
  • Improving memory power
  • Problem-solving capabilities
  • Effective decision-making capabilities

Readers can therefore develop the ability to think swiftly, isolate, analyze, and arrange facts based on logic, and dodge rational pitfalls by using creative problem-solving strategies that are not limited to private life.

Many people have used these functional abilities in their work lives as well and have reverted back with positive outcomes. While Brain Power is an easy read, it is also very interactive and interesting with its many games and puzzles, the captivating illustrations, and practical exercises.

3. Dr. Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational

The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Dr. Ariely brilliantly captures the attention of the reader by asking them simple, yet intriguing questions about decisions made on a daily basis and the thought processes behind them. For instance, why one-cent aspirins aren’t good enough to beat our headaches but a fifty-cent aspirin does the job. Or how we splurge on lavish meals with our mates but also cut out newspaper coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup.

​This book is an amalgamation of questions that start with “How”- it questions the irrational behavior of our choices, the reason behind impulsive decisions, and the false optimism we so often use to fool ourselves, even if for a short period of time.

By challenging one’s thought process, Ariely does a tremendous job of presenting multiple psychological traps and flawed inclinations to which humans fall prey. He wishes to help prepare readers to make fact-based choices and decisions over subjective opinions.

4. Daniel J. Levitin’s The Organized Mind

Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. The author makes readers think about the overwhelming amount of information they have access to today, and how organization is a pertinent trait that is required in every individual because of this.

​Some readers claim that The Organized Mind is an updated version of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, but for the information age.

The facts are laid out in a simpler manner; the author argues that critical thinking cannot be created in a disorderly mind. He takes the example of preparing a lovely gourmet meal in a messy and dysfunctional kitchen.

The amount of information we are being exposed to is inundating, but the author claims that with all the extra sources of information we have today, our brain involuntarily stores a lot of junk, adding to the clutter.

By being able to think straight, The Organized Mind wishes to help sort out your thoughts and organize them in an orderly fashion with the help of four components:

  • Mind-wandering mode
  • Central-executive mode
  • Attentional switch
  • Attentional filter

5. Rolf Dobelli’s The Art of Thinking Clearly

In the 1960s, psychologists began to examine the way people think, make decisions, and take actions from a scientific standpoint. Rolf Dobelli expands on those results and explains the theory or irrationality, which states that thinking is not pure and very much prone to error.

​This held true for all kinds of people, ranging from the moderately intelligent to highly intelligent. This result further helped prove that everyone is prone to falling into the same cognitive errors, despite their mental capabilities.

Dobelli takes a shot at explaining human psychology and reasoning, and shines light on how humans make decisions, evaluate and make certain choices, and develop their cognitive biases.

The Art of Thinking Clearly further helps one spot and recognize flaws in their thought processes and provides them with solutions on how to go about making better choices.

6. Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question

This book is an insightful examination of the role “inquiry” plays in our daily lives. Berger makes a strong suggestion about how questions have become more significant than answers in today’s dynamic and complex world.

​To help people formulate and ask better questions, he provides an interesting framework to the readers. He states that knowing how to ask the right questions is vital in determining one’s success in life. The right question can help you in many day-to-day situations, such as:

  • Help influence other people
  • Getting out of certain tricky situations
  • Overcoming irrational fears and mistakes from the past
  • Re-examining your objective beliefs

But that’s not all! Berger further digs deeper and discusses topics such as design thinking, the education system in place today, the age of adaptation, and the reason people stay away from fundamental questioning.

He gives captivating examples of how certain people are successful because they know how to formulate and ask questions without having any preconceived notions about their answers.

As an added bonus, Berger challenges the readers to apply these changes to their daily lives and notice how a lot could change.

7. Anthony Weston’s A Rulebook for Arguments

Packed with practical advice and a lot of interesting tips from a logical vantage point, A Rulebook for Arguments is definitely an impressive read. Anthony Weston does a good job at quoting examples that are realistic and useful, examples that readers can relate to.

​One might say that the book has served its purpose perfectly. The basic rules of arguments are laid down in a very concise manner that anyone can use as a handy reminder in real life.

The best part is that even if you’ve never read anything else on critical thinking, this book should be a good place to start. It is recommended to all types of readers because it’s easy to follow.

More extensive literature about critical thinking can be read after using this book as a pre-requisite. Many people who’ve read this book keep it on-hand to combat day-to-day issues that they encounter.

8. James E. Ryan’s Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions

Everyone spends too much time and energy on finding the right answer. No one ever stops to think about the question. In reality, questions are just as important as the answers. For instance, if you ask the wrong question, you’re certain to get the wrong answer.

However, a good question not only invites a good answer, but also inspires deeper connections and understanding between people. Asking a good question goes beyond our limited knowledge and explores the difficult and unknown in a sense (and oftentimes, the unpleasant).

Ryan makes observations from daily life and explains how important it is to ask questions, become curious, push yourself to your limits, and stay focused on the aspects of life that really matter.

The 5 critical questions he puts forth are:

  • Wait, what?
  • I Wonder…?
  • Couldn’t we at least…?
  • How can I help?
  • What truly matters?

Ryan believes that wisdom can be attained through careful observation, learning, practice, and of course, asking the right question.

9. Mikael Korgerus’ The Decision Book

The Decision Book helps readers understand that there is a strategy for everything a human being does. Whether it’s as simple as brushing your teeth or as complicated as making a judgement call for the job offer you take, there is a strategy behind it.

​The authors argue that the only practical way to go about it is to improve upon the way you develop your strategies. Intervene, do not leave it to convenience or habit.

The Decision Book aims at improving one’s critical thinking abilities and therefore, makes life easier. This book is an interactive read and makes readers look back into their lives and think about certain strategies they used that resulted in unpleasant consequences.

By providing a decision-making matrix, the authors wish to help readers address different issues (be it personal or professional life) from a more practical perspective. It is used as a reference book by many, and some claim that it is a great way to help them steer clear of complicated and messy situations.

10. D.Q. McInerny’s Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking

This book is an exceptional introduction to logic and logical thinking as a primal human pursuit. What’s more interesting is how the author defines logic as an activity- something people practice and improve upon through application and experience.

When you wish to study the field of logic on a deeper level and improve upon your critical thinking capabilities, A Guide to Good Thinking might be exactly what you’re looking for. Laid out in a concise and clear fashion, this book provides the building blocks of critical and logical thinking for first-time readers. Quoted by many as an “inspirational read”, this book can be kept handy to read from time to time as a handbook.

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