Critical Thinking Books

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

- Aristotle

Thinking, Fast and Slow - 10/10

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking - 10/10

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out - 9.5/10

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder - 9/10

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness - 9/10

Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction - 9/10

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - 9/10

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything - 9/10

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions - 8.5/10

How Doctors Think - 8.5/10

Your Medical Mind - How to Decide What is Right for You - 8.5/10

Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Suprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong - 8.5/10

Outliers: The Story of Success - 8/10

Chaos: Making a New Science - 8/10


by Daniel Kahnema

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"The essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead usually without noticing the substitution."

"Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed."

"The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little.

"We pay more attention to the content of messages than to the information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than the data justify."

"The world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality; our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed."

Why this book?

This is the most influential book I have ever read. It completely changed the trajectory of my career. It opened a new world of understanding how patients and providers think and how they respond to the information they receive on a daily basis. This book provides a comprehensive overview of heuristics and biases. If I can recommend a single book to you, it is this one. It is thick and will take time. I recommend setting aside time and marking up the book. Then go back and review your notes. It is the most common book I refer to in my commonplace books.


by Jordan Ellenburg

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"Nonlinear thinking means which way you should go depends on where you already are."

"Standard methods of assessing results, the way we draw on our thresholds between a real phenomenon and random static, come under pressure in this era of massive data sets, effortlessly obtained."

"Human beings are quick to perceive patterns where they don't exist and to overestimate their strength where they do."

"We tend to like simpler theories better than more complicated ones, theories that rest on analogies to things we already know about better than theories that posit a totally novel phenomenon."

"Believe whatever you believe by day, but at night, argue against the propositions you hold most dear."

Why this book?

If I used a 100 point scale, Thinking, Fast and Slow would by a 100 and How Not to be Wrong would be a 98. I love Ellenburg's style of blending the art of writing and telling a perspective with the science of mathematics and behavioral psychology. Ellenburg makes statistics and mathematics approachable to the lay individual and causes the clinician to challenges their assumptions. I view research and statistics in a new light since reading this book.


by Richard Feynman

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"The prize is the pleasure of finding things out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it."

"It is our capacity to doubt that will determine the future of civilization."

"One of the important reasons to increase the contact of scientists with the rest of society is to explain and to kind of wake them up to the permanent attribution of the cleverness of the mind that comes from not having information always in a for which is interesting."

"We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt."

"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of uncertainty/certainty - some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."

Why this book?

The only reason it did not receive a 10/10 is some sections were very technical (physics lectures) and did not provide value. Otherwise, this book is incredible. The theme of doubt and scientific curiosity provides value to anyone in any profession. Questioning everything does not mean we lack commitment; the aim is not to be a perfectionist. Frequently expressing doubt and maintaining a high level of scientific curiosity is the single most important quality for any professional aiming to constantly improve. We will never have all the answers, but we can keep refining and layers on new concepts, new perspectives, and new information.


by Nassim Taleb

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"Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty."

"Anything that has more upside than downside from random events, is anti-fragile; the reverse is fragile."

"Do not mistake the unknown for the nonexistent."

"If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud."

"Wisdom in decision making is vastly more important - not just practically but philosophically - than knowledge."

Why this book?

This is easily the most frustrating book I have ever read. On the one hand, Taleb provides a  raw and authentic viewpoint regarding the challenges with forecasting and preparing for future events. On the other hand, he can be a real jackass. Granted, he acknowledges it in his book and is unapologetic about it (he didn't call himself a jackass but understands he can be off-putting). You have to respect that. There are several views Taleb holds that I disagree with, but that isn't a bad thing. You can't agree with everything you read. This book will challenge your mindset around preparing for the future and how you develop yourself personally and professionally.

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The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness

by Todd Rose

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"According to t ergodic theory, you are allowed to use a group of average to make predictions about individuals if two conditions are true: 1) every member of the group will remain the same, and 2) every member of the group will remain the same in the future."

"The ergodic switch is an intellectual "bait and switch" where the lure of averagarianism dupes people into believing that they are learning something meaningful about an individual by comparing her to an average, when they are really ignoring everything important about her."

"When it comes to predicting the behavior of individuals - as opposed to predicting the average behavior of a group of people - traits actually do a poor job."

"Character is no different than any human behavior; it is meaningless to talk about it in the absence of context."

"When you take individuality seriously - when you set up a business designed to embrace that individuality - innovation occurs everywhere, all the time, at every link of the network, because every employee is transformed into an independent agent tasked with figuring out the best way of doing her job and contributing to the company."

Why this book?

The End of Average showcases the importance of individual approaches to treating, teaching, managing, and training. The book highlights the flaws of apply averages and mean values from statistics to individual people. If you design a "one size fits all" approach then you design an approach that fits no one. This is applicable to clinicians, managers, researchers, and educators. We learn at different paces and the context of a situation impacts our emotions and actions. Our individual characteristics differ but when lumped into an average outcome may be the same. This book provides strategies to avoid the fallacies of ignoring context and individuality. It uses research and case studies to demonstrate that complex characteristics, such as intelligence and personality, cannot be measured by single values or terms. It has reshaped my thinking about how I design treatment plans and lectures. It is a must-read for any clinician.


by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner

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"Without revision, there can be no improvement."

The rate of the development of science is not the rate at which you make observations alone but, much more importantly, the rate at which you create new things to test."

"Scientists must be able to answer the question "What would convince me I am wrong?" If they can't, it's a sign they have grown too attached to their beliefs."

"Superforcasters pursue point-counterpoint discussions routinely, and they keep at them long past the point where most people would succumb to migraines."

"Implement the cycle of try, fail, analyze, adjust, try again, and possess the grit to keep at it and keep improving."

Why this book?

This book is the antithesis of Antifragile in many ways. Superforcasting does not propose one cannot be antifragile per se, but it does embrace the notion we can improve our forecasting abilities. Rather than abandoning forecasting, as Taleb suggests, Tetlock and Gardner outline various strategies to improve forecasting skills. For clinicians, these skills are valuable for the development of a plan of care. For all professionals, they can help with the planning fallacy that often accompanies projects. You can be both antifragile and use the strategies of a superforecaster.


by Malcolm Gladwell

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“Successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.”


“If we can control the environment in which rapid cognition takes place, then we can control rapid cognition.”


“Taking our powers of rapid cognition seriously means we have to acknowledge the subtle influences that can alter or undermine or bias the products of our unconscious.:


“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding.”


“Once we know how about how the mind works- and about the strengths and weaknesses of human judgment - it is our responsibility to act.”

Why this book?

Blink explains the power and limitations of intuition. How do we decide when to trust our gut reaction? When do we need to slow down and critically think? When is critical thinking more costly than helpful? Experience and training are necessary to build trustworthy intuition. This allows us to make accurate rapid decisions. Throughout life, rapid decisions are necessary and excessive information becomes a distraction. Gladwell breaks down the research of fast and frugal decision making to help us understand how and why we make rapid decisions. He provides strategies for improving our decision making that can be applied to any career. This book is a great compliment to Thinking, Fast and Slow.


by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

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"Information is a beacon, a cudgel, an olive branch, a deterrent - all depending on who wields it and how. Information is so powerful that the assumption of information, even if the information does not actually exist, can have a sobering effect."

"The gulf between the information we publically proclaim and the information we know to be true Is often vast."

"Just because a question has never been asked does not make it good."

"An expert typically "plants his flag" because if their argument reeks of restraint or nuance it often doesn't receive much attention."

"We associate truth with convenience, with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid the awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem."

Why this book?

Freakonomics causes you to think critically about cause and effects. Levitt's research draws fascinating conclusions that make you question your depth of analysis of work problems. The book will not give you the knowledge to memorize and immediately apply, with no business or development strategies. Instead, it makes you wonder about hidden variables that influence everyday outcomes. I recommend having a basic understanding of statistics before reading the book so that you can appreciate the conclusions he draws (including the issues with observational studies and correlation data).

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Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

by Dan Ariely

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"People are willing to work for free, and they are willing to work for a reasonable wage but offer them just a small payment and they will walk away."

"When a social norm collides with a market norm, the social norm goes away for a long time. Social relationships are not easy to reestablish."

"To make informed decisions we need to somehow experience and understand the emotional state we will be in at the other side of the experience."

"The likelihood of agreement about "the facts" becomes smaller and smaller as a personal investment in the problem grows."

"When we are removed from any benchmarks of ethical thought, we tend to stray into dishonesty. But if we are reminded of morality at the moment we are tempted, then we are much more likely, to be honest."

Why this book?

This book uses research the author, Dan Ariely, completed in his career to showcase how frequently we are irrational in our decision making. Whether it be the circumstances in which we will cheat, the value we place on a given job, or our ordering decisions at a restaurant, our actions do not align with rationality. But these irrationalities are commonplace. Research can give reasons for why we fail to act rationally and when we are susceptible to irrational thinking. Understanding these irrationalities, like our biases influencing snap decisions, can help us recognize their use in a future decisions.

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How Doctors Think

by Jerome Groopman

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"Expertise is largely acquired not only by sustained practice but by receiving feedback that helps you understand your technical errors and misguided decisions."

"The majority of errors are due to flaws in physician thinking, not technical mistakes."

"We face a paradox: feeling prevents us from being blind to a patient's soul but risks blinding us to what is wrong with them."

"Taking uncertainty into account can enhance a physician's therapeutic effectiveness because it demonstrates his honesty, his willingness to be more engaged with his patients, his commitment to the reality of the situation rather than resorting to evasion, half-truths, and lies. It makes it easier to change course if the first strategy fails."

"A mark of a caring physician is one who, despite his expertise, knows his limits, wants to do what is best for his patients and refers to another physician if they will be better served."

Why this book?

How Doctors Think discusses the common cognitive fallacies that impact physician decision making. It covers several heuristics that can both help and hinder assessment and treatment decisions. Groopman uses clinical stories, primarily from physicians he interviewed, to highlight key concepts. He then uses the interviews to provide a reflection on the mistakes physicians make. He uses some research to support the errors in thinking and what should be used.  He is focused on empowering the patient to ask the right questions. A valuable read for both clinicians (not exclusively doctors) and non-clinicians.

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Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You

by Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband

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"When trying to unravel a complex medical diagnosis, you should listen carefully to the patient because he is telling you the answer."

"Availability bias is perhaps the most powerful force shaping how patients initially assess their options."

"Judgement based medicine: considering available evidence and then assess how it applies to the individual patient."

"We regularly underestimate our ability to adapt."

"True autonomy means that the patient can decide the limits of his or her autonomy. Further, part of autonomy is defining one's personal way of coping."

Why this book?

Your Medical Mind highlights the challenges patients face when making medical decisions. It covers many cognitive biases that influence patient decisions. It conveys the importance of understanding a patient’s values and circumstances. These patient variables are the primary drivers of a treatment decision, not necessarily what the research states. Often, as healthcare providers, we are taught to use the research base rates and layer in patient preferences to make a decision. This book challenges this approach and suggests that in some situations the reverse should occur.

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Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong

by Eric Barker

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"What defines success for you is up to you."

"Success is the result of chasing the good and writing our own future. Less fate, more destiny."

"Change from "I can't do this" to "I just need to learn the ropes."

"Instead of behaviors following our beliefs, often our beliefs come from our behaviors."

"The #1 regret of dying: not having had the courage to live the life you wanted and instead lived the life others prescribed."

Why this book?

Eric Barket designed his book the way any debate should be designed; he provided both sides of the argument. Charlie Munger once said, “I never allow myself to hold an opinion on anything that I don't know the other side's argument better than they do.”Barker went through this exercise for every chapter in his quest to uncover what the research informs us about success. From "nice guys finish last" to work-life balance, Barker provides the evidence supporting and refuting each side of the debate, allowing the reader to decide what they believe is the secret to success.


Outliers: The Story of Success

by Malcolm Gladwell

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"Appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are."

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you are good. It's the thing that makes you good."

"Autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward are the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying."

"Cultures more reliant on rules and plans are most likely to stick to procedure regardless of circumstances (uncertainty bias)

"Intelligence, decisions, and effort are not enough; need opportunity for success."

Why this book?

Gladwell is an outstanding storyteller. Like Levitt did in Freakonomics, Gladwell explores hidden influencers of success. He does not accept the simple answers of talent, hard work, and intellect as the sole reasons for success. He makes the argument that opportunity is one of the primary factors for success. I agree, but I think he takes it too far. The reason I only gave this book an 8 is Gladwell discredits people for taking the opportunities. Some opportunities are created by our efforts while others are gifted, either way, we have to make the leap. Additionally, he misunderstands the deliberate practice research and popularized the 10,000-hour rule which is not a magic threshold for mastering a craft. The book is still well worth the read for the stories and the viewpoint. Also, like any viewpoint, you may disagree with my assessment.


Chaos: Making a New Science

by Malcolm Gladwell

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"In science as in life, it is well known that a chain of events can have a point of crisis that could magnify small changes. But chaos meant that such points were everywhere."

"Professional scientists, given a brief, uncertain glimpses of nature's workings, are no less vulnerable to anguish and confusion when they come face to face with incongruity. And incongruity, when it changes the way a scientist sees, makes possible the most important advances."

"Often a revolution has an interdisciplinary character - its central discoveries often come from people straying outside the normal bounds of their specialty."

"To accept the future, one must renounce much of the past."

"Shallow ideas can be assimilated; ideas that require people to reorganize their picture of the world provoke hostility."

Why this book?

This book is dense and at times highly technical. I do not have the background in mathematics to calculate fractals and follow along with much of the hard science. Yet, this book was an outstanding foray into the development of a new field of science. It highlights the importance of studying and pursuing education outside your specific field or profession. It showcases the challenges we face when presenting an idea that flies in the face of the established norm. The scientists who pioneered chaos theory were met with incredulity and told to stick with the established sciences. Doubt and uncertainty are uncomfortable mindsets and high levels of intelligence and expertise can make them more challenging mindsets to grapple. This book is a great lesson in the power of uncertainty and the benefits of exploring uncharted territories, even when the rest of the world implores you to "stay in your lane."

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