Wish there were a gym for your brain? Your muscles need exercise to increase energy, strength, and dexterity -- and so does your brain.
Reading, puzzles, and other mental activities improve memory and learning capacity so you process information more efficiently. Ready to see how much it benefits your performance at work? Find your favorite books below and get started.
Books That Increase Intelligence
- "Tactical Thinking: 50 Brain-Training Puzzles to Change the Way You Think"
- "Train Your Brain"
- "Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain"
- "How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens"
1. "Tactical Thinking: 50 Brain-Training Puzzles to Change the Way You Think"
Work puzzles created to develop and train your intellect. From warm-up exercises to advanced "simulators," your brain will get a real workout.
2. "Train Your Brain"
Terry Horne and Simon Wootton
Practical exercises, puzzles, games, and tests help you develop intelligence and a healthier lifestyle.
Review: "Very thoughtful. It helps you to explore your potential ... no matter your age"
3. "Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain"
Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Learn to think productively, creatively, and rationally. This book offers readers a new way to solve problems -- from minor lifehacks to major global reform.
Review: "I love anything that smacks around my thinking and turns it in new directions -- and this book did exactly that."
4. "How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why it Happens"
Learn how our brains absorb and retain information so you can proactively flex neural muscles and make deep learning possible.
Review: "A very interesting book with so many references to learning better and retaining what we learn for a longer period of time."
Books to Stimulate the Mind
- "The Sherlock Holmes Puzzle Collection"
- "Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long"
- The Power of Habit
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
5. "The Sherlock Holmes Puzzle Collection"
This playful book's riddles, puzzles, and teasers get your mind moving as only Sherlock and Watson can.
Review: "It is a fun book that's intriguing for all -- not just Sherlock Holmes fans."
6. "Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long"
This book explains why our brains feel overloaded at times. And it shares strategies for staying calm, making good decisions, and boosting mental capabilities.
Review: "Rock's work ... is a godsend to those of us who don't have a PhD but want to take advantage of the work pioneers in SCAN are doing."
7. "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business"
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg argues the key to achieving success is understanding how habits work.
Review: "The information in this book is simply life changing."
8. "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking"
Learn that great decision making isn't about time spent deliberating -- it's about knowing which filters matter.
Review: "This book is an excellent resource, explaining the power of thin slicing and the concept that most people call intuition."
Best Books on Memory Techniques
- "Train Your Brain for Success: Read Smarter, Remember More, and Break Your Own Records:
- "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything"
- "Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain"
- "Unlimited Memory: How to Use Advanced Learning Strategies to Learn Faster, Remember More, and Be More Productive"
9. "Train Your Brain for Success: Read Smarter, Remember More, and Break Your Own Records"
This collection of time-tested recipes might seem banal at first glance, but they work effectively -- even if you don't think your memory needs a boost.
Review: "This book has really helped me improve my career and personal life. I'm more deliberate with my day, accomplishing more than I ever expected."
10. "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything"
This book describes the 12 months the author spent trying to understand his memory. Learn about the brain's internal mechanisms, natural protections, hidden potential, and training techniques.
Review: "This book not only captivates but conveys a well-rounded history and impact of memory."
11. "Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain"
Japanese scientist and neuroscience specialist Ryuta shares his 60-day program of simple logic challenges that stimulate "gray cells."
Review: "I definitely feel an improvement in the movement of my thoughts. The exercises keep you current on your sharpness of mind, and you understand that without challenge your power of thought will weaken instead of strengthen."
12. "Unlimited Memory: How to Use Advanced Learning Strategies to Learn Faster, Remember More, and Be More Productive"
Gain tools, strategies, and techniques for improving your memory by learning how to concentrate at will, store and recall useful information, and eliminate wasted time.
Review: "Mr. Horsley gives you clear and detailed methods that will help you improve your memory. The book is very well written, with exercises and examples of different techniques that guide you along the way."
Books to Expand Your Knowledge
- "The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self"
- "Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on it"
- "Thinking, Fast and Slow"
13. "The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self"
Dr. Alex Lickerman
Dr. Lickerman explains how to rebuild your mind, face problems, and see challenges as a source of strength.
Review: "The book ... has expanded my perception and understanding on how we experience difficulties in life."
14. "Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It"
Everyone is born curious. This book explores why only some of us retain habits of exploring, learning, and discovering as we age.
Review: "This is a thought-provoking read. It invited me to look at how I seek information."
15. "Thinking, Fast and Slow"
Nobel prize-winning economist Kahneman explains the mind and its two systems that drive the way we think. Learn how to tap into the benefits of slow thinking, and find out when you can and cannot trust your intuition.
Review: "This book is easy to read and strikes an impressive balance; It preserves much of the evidence and logic found in his academic works, but presents the information in an approachable narrative."
Best Books for Calming the Mind
- "Calm Your Mind: Break the Cycle of Anxiety, Stress, Unhappiness, Exhaustion, and Find Peace in a Rushed World"
- "It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work"
- "Calm the Chaos Journal: A Daily Practice for a More Peaceful Life"
16. "Calm Your Mind: Break the Cycle of Anxiety, Stress, Unhappiness, Exhaustions, and Find Peace in a Rushed World"
This book calls for choosing to focus on mindfulness to reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus and productivity. It shares mindfulness best practices and key principles, and encourages readers to focus on conscious living rather than unconscious worrying.
Review: "I love that Steven's books are so easy to follow. He gives real-life everyday examples on how to apply his techniques. I also appreciate the fact that he always puts a challenge out there for his readers! This book in particular helped me to understand various new techniques of mindfulness, which can be used to overcome any stress or anxiety issues. It is helping me in developing more focus on work without worrying much. Steve has put enough research work into this book and the reference material is in itself a treasure."
17. "It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work"
Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson
This book, written by two of Basecamp's co-founders, offers a new path for working more effectively to build what they refer to as "the calm company."
Their radical approach subverts the modern signals of success -- the hustle, long hours, and a lack of sleep -- in favor of a company culture and leadership that support calm, mindfulness, and self-care in order to reduce chaos and anxiety amongst themselves and their employees.
Review: "[F]or those in positions of power, this book shows it does not have to be a trade off between accomplishing something great and having a life outside work. I get that this is an uphill battle as popular culture celebrates the grinders, hustlers ... the blood sweat and tears that people wear as a badge of honor. As the book title suggest, there's a calmer way. This book shows it can be yes and, not either/or. Yes you can be effective at work, become rich, leave a dent in this universe and have a life outside it. Your legacy can be you left a trail of happy, healthy humans who genuinely thought of you as a good boss or manager. You're happier. They're happier. You can see your family, friends, and so can they. That seems pretty good to me, even if you don't accomplish your mission of saving the whales."
18. "Calm the Chaos Journal: A Daily Practice for a More Peaceful Life"
Nicole Ries Taggart
This one isn't technically a book -- it's a journal. But this journal, specifically designed to help people with chaotic daily lives feel more calm, contains prompts and suggestions to encourage calm, foster self-care, and let the little things go.
This could be a good addition to your early morning or evening routine to get you into the right headspace at the beginning or end of a busy workday, and it gives you a chance to reflect instead of react in the moment.
Review: "I've been using this journal every night since I received it. It's been helping me to prioritize how I spend my time and how to manage my feelings of wanting to "do it all" with something more balanced. I especially appreciate the section about planning the next day: waking up with an intention and plan to handle anticipated issues in a calm, thought-out manner has helped me to ease those frantic feelings of everything moving too fast. Plus, the beautiful design is wonderful to work with!"
Give your brain the workout it craves, and see tangible improvements in your everyday performance. What do you have to lose?
Want more? Read our list of some of the best sales books for beginners.