Improving our critical thinking isn’t just about winning arguments or impressing others with how we reason. Instead it is about getting to the right answer and making decisions based on that answer that benefit you, your family and your workplace.
We take a look at some of the best books on critical thinking to help you hone your own critical thinking skills.
We’ll look at ten books from some of the best authors on the subject and how they present their views to help the reader understand this important skill.
Critical thinking improves your decisions, choices and judgment, and it also helps you to reevaluate the things you believe, in an objective fashion.
It can help you to become an independent thinker and take ownership of your decisions, values and judgments.
We are going to look at ten of the best books on critical thinking, in no particular order to give you an idea of what is available from different authors.
Depending on whether you are dealing with personal or business issues there should be a book here that can help you with your decision making and choices.
1. Critical Thinking: A Beginner’s Guide To Critical Thinking, Better Decision Making, And Problem Solving By Jennifer Wilson
This is a great book for those who want to learn what critical thinking is all about and how to use it in all parts of your life. The insightful tips are not restricted to the world of professional work but are applicable to all spheres of life.
Not only does it allow you to apply the skills you learn through the book but also lets you streamline many of the systems that you may currently have in place.
So it can help you to make better decisions by making better use of your time. Over time the practice will become automatic.
- Great introduction to critical thinking
- Offers insightful tips
- Applicable to many situations
- Improves your decision making
- May be too basic for some people
Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel laureate and noted psychologist and economist. He is best known for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision making.
This book shares his explanation of the two differing systems that drive how we think and make decisions.
The first is emotional, intuitive and fast, the other is more logical, deliberative and slower. By looking at how both systems work in the mind Kahneman lets us see what can influence our judgments and choices.
His work has changed cognitive psychology and given rise to the new fields of happiness studies and behavioral economics. By offering practical insights he lets us see how to avoid many of the things that get us into trouble when making decisions.
- Highly respected author
- Describes two methods of decision making
- Offers practical and enlightening insights
- Useful in personal and business life
- Not an easy read
Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences at Cornell University, as well as Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies.
He worked with NASA on the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager missions and won their medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.
He won the Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to science, education and literature. This book is co-authored with Ann Druyan, his wife and former Creative Director of NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Message Project.
In this book Sagan explains that science is not just studying a body of knowledge but a way of thinking.
He demonstrates how scientific thinking is both disciplined and imaginative. The Los Angeles Times described this book as “a manifesto for clear thought”.
- Written by a respected scientist
- Teaches the tools of scientific skepticism
- Advocates scientific literacy
- Leans heavily on debunking alien abduction stories
Rolf Dobelli is a world class thinker and entrepreneur and has written many books, some of which have been controversial.
He advocates not watching the news as he says it does nothing to help us fundamentally understand the world, instead making us cynical and anxious.
The Art of Thinking Clearly lays out in 99 short chapters the most common thinking errors which range from envy and social distortions to cognitive biases. The book was written in German and Dutch newspapers as a weekly column.
It was later translated into many languages and reached the bestseller lists in several countries including the UK, Ireland, Singapore and South Korea.
- Best selling book in many countries
- Easy to read and understand
- Applicable to everyday life
- Controversial author
5. Think Smarter: Critical Thinking To Improve Problem-Solving And Decision-Making Skills By Michael Kallet
Think Smarter by Michael Kallet is a training manual for your brain. It includes comprehensive training in a pragmatic framework with a logical set of tools.
These techniques for applying critical thinking to everyday business issues are filled with real world examples which show how it works.
The book also contains practical exercises that can be applied to various situations and industries including education, and corporations.
Rather than operating on automatic thinking this set of tools and techniques allows users to put into practice processes that lead to better decision making.
It will help users to ask the right questions, uncover real problems and teach them how to avoid mistakes.
- Filled with real world examples
- Helps the reader to ask the right questions
- Includes practical exercises
- Takes time to digest the concepts
6. Predictably Irrational, Revised And Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions By Dr. Dan Ariely
While we may think we are making rational choices in our lives and on a daily basis that is often not the case. This is a revised and expanded version of Dr. Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational.
In this book he refutes the assumption that people typically act rationally. In actuality in most aspects of life we are prone to overpaying, underestimating and procrastinating.
Additionally, according to Dr. Ariely these behaviors are both systematic and predictable.
It is a readable book which is also an entertaining look at human behavior and foibles, offering practical help with life’s decision making processes.
- New York Times best seller
- Highly readable
- Offers practical help with decision making
- Aimed at American rather than international readership
James E. Ryan is the eleventh dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education and this book is based on his widely popular commencement address, the art of asking (and answering) good questions.
Instead of continually pursuing the right answers in life Ryan believes that we should be focusing more on asking the right questions.
This can be difficult as it means exploring what we don’t know about a person or an issue, and we don’t know what answers to expect.
The book concentrates on five questions in particular; Wait, what?, I wonder…?, Couldn’t we at least…?, How can I help? and What truly matters?
He uses examples from history, politics, social movements and popular culture to demonstrate his ideas.
- Respected author
- Applicable to everyday life
- Very readable
- Lots of anecdotes
8. How To Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking For A New Age By Theodore Schick & Lewis Vaughn
How to Think About Weird Things uses the examination of widely held beliefs in the supernatural, paranormal, and the mysterious to teach good reasoning. It explains what distinguishes opinion from knowledge, hearsay from evidence.
This helps the reader to develop the skills to help them tell the difference between what’s false and what’s true, what is reason and what is unreasonable.
The book gives a step-by-step guide to sort through reasons, evaluate evidence and how to tell when a claim is true or false. It’s not a debunking book but rather explains the principles of critical thinking.
- Step-by-step guide to critical thinking
- Unique approach by using beliefs in the paranormal
- Entertaining and informative
- Confusing number of editions of this book
Daniel J. Levitin is a neuroscientist and author. In this book he focuses on the deluge of information that our brains are subjected to every moment of the day and how this affects our decision making.
Despite the constant stream of data our brains have to sift through we are simultaneously expected to make more and faster decisions. While some people manage the information flow, others can feel overwhelmed.
The book looks at how people manage so much information and how we can all use the same techniques to retake control over how we organize our homes and workplaces.
- Relevant to the world of today
- Author is a neuroscientist
- Integrates neuroscience, philosophy and common sense
- Often fails to get to the point
Being Logical is written by Notre Dame professor D.Q. McInerny and is a highly readable book, eminently suited for the layperson to get to grips with the subject of logic.
As logic is synonymous with reason, wisdom, judgment and sense being logical allows us to create reasoned and concise arguments. We do this with arguments built from given premises, using evidence and finally, forming a genuine conclusion.
Understanding logic also requires us to get to grips with illogical thinking. This allows us to sharpen our own logic weapons but also to guard against incoherent or deliberately misleading reasoning.
This is an indispensable guide to using logic to our advantage.
- Written for lay people
- Breaks down logic into manageable parts
- Guides the use of logic in everyday life
- Poor quality paperback edition
So how do you decide which of these books to read in order to help you with your critical thinking skills?
Other than recommendations for your particular needs you can look at three different criteria, the author, how readable the book is and how it can be applied to your life.
First of all you need to look at who is writing the book and take time to research their background, education, qualifications, and even their motives for writing a book on critical thinking.
The authors that we have featured include a Nobel laureate, Harvard dean, a Notre Dame professor and a neuroscientist.
Many of them have written more than one book on the subject of critical thinking, so this is also a good way to check if their pedigree stands up to scrutiny.
As well as researching their educational background read the reviews of their previous works and see how they have been received especially by their peers.
Writers of critical thinking books can come from various disciplines as we have seen. Their background may be economics, philosophy, education, space exploration or perhaps, more relevant, neuroscience.
Each has their own background and launching point for their treatise on critical thinking and how it affects us on a daily basis.
Your own educational background or interest may influence your choice if they align with the field of a particular critical thinking author.
For example if you have a degree in economics you may be more drawn to Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Those with an interest in the paranormal may be intrigued by How to Think About Weird Things by Theodore Schick & Lewis Vaughn.
So research the author before you decide which critical thinking book to purchase.
As a lot of the writers of critical thinking books are highly educated people, some may have writing styles that are more suited to academia rather than mainstream publishing.
This can be a little off putting but shouldn’t be the reason for not reading the book.
Some really great thinkers are not fantastic at organizing their thoughts so again read some of the reviews of the book you’re considering before making your decision.
Other authors like James E. Ryan, the dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, uses practical ways to get their point across.
Ryan uses a series of questions to hone critical thinking skills in his book Wait, What?: And Life’s Other Essential Questions.
This book is actually based on a commencement speech called the art of asking and answering good questions. It is a very readable book for a layperson and the questions can be applied to any personal, business or relationship decision or choice.
The point is that it is readable for non-academics and accessible for anyone who wants to apply critical thinking to their situation.
Another point to consider is that if you are coming from a particular discipline whether that is neuroscience, economics or philosophy then some of the underlying principles and ideas may be relevant in your choice of critical thinking books.
If you are already familiar with the terminology of the discipline then the actual techniques and exercises for employing critical reasoning may come more easily to you.
Finally, when deciding which critical thinking book to buy you need to consider how the practice will be applicable in your life or particular set of circumstances.
While many of the books claim to be helpful in relation to everyday life, not everyone’s life is the same.
All human beings have the gift of free will but when it comes to exercising it the decisions can vary widely. Deciding whether a promotion at work is a good idea may mean weighing up the cons of longer hours with the pros of a higher salary.
Someone else may need to weigh up the pros and cons of taking on a second job to make ends meet. Everyone’s circumstances are unique, and their priorities will differ accordingly.
Those who are studying will most definitely benefit from critical thinking but so too will a young family trying to balance a budget.
Finding the best book on critical reasoning to suit your own individual needs will help you to get the most out of it in the long run.
Read reviews of the books and narrow down the titles that are most relevant to you and your situation.
Then look at the techniques for using critical thinking in the different books and choose the one that you find the most practical and useful for your own situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Books Improve Critical Thinking?
Good books by reputable and qualified authors can help you to look at how you currently make decisions or judgements. This can help you to improve the processes or techniques that you use and allow you to make better choices or decisions.
What Are The Seven Thoughts Of Critical Thinking?
The seven thoughts of critical thinking are analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving.
Is Critical Thinking A Hard Skill?
Critical thinking is not a hard skill, but it is an important soft skill that is not only applicable in the workplace but also in your everyday life.