10 brain books you should read in 2019


What’s on your “to-read” list this year?

Here are a few books that I’ve read (or plan to in 2019) chosen based on research rigour, chosen, publication date (the last year or two) and practical application. In other words: these books synthesise the most compelling brain science and smart ideas emerging from the research lab and make it relevant for our everyday lives.

Have fun exploring big topics like how our emotions are created, the importance of gut health, the latest on habit formation, understanding the teenage brain, epigenetics, mindfulness, depression and anxiety and the female brain. Happy reading!

1. Brain Changer by Professor Felice Jacka

How is our brain and mental health affected by what we eat? Australian scientist, Felice Jacka uncovers the link between obesity and depression, how gut health impacts brain health and how a Mediterranean diet can keep our brains healthy as we age.

2. The Neuroscience of Mindfulness by Dr Stan Rodski

Where is the proof that mindfulness works? Discover the neuroscience behind mindfulness as Dr Rodski explains how being in the moment can lower stress, increase energy levels, build resilience and protect us from a range of life-threatening illnesses.

3. Mind-Brain-Gene by Dr John Arden

In this groundbreaking book, Arden explores the fascinating world of epigenetics, the immune system and mental health. He takes us on a fascinating journey into the mind-brain-body feedback loops, showing how they influence mental and physical health.

4. Inventing Ourselves by Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Blakemore, often credited with pioneering adolescent neurosciences, takes us on a tour through the groundbreaking science behind the enigmatic, but crucial, brain developments of adolescence and how those translate into teenage behaviour. Blakemore demystifies this period of development, outlining what makes the teenage brain unique and why mental illness can develop in these years.

5. Lost Connections by Johann Hari

In his bold and inspiring book, Hari goes on a quest to explore nine different causes of depression and anxiety including disconnection from meaningful work, other people, the natural world and hope. He challenges what we have believed to be true about depression and anxiety and their unexpected solution – reconnection.

6. Atomic Habits by James Clear

How do we create habits that stick? In his book, Clear explores the neuroscience of habit formation, along with proven principles in biology and psychology to offer an effective system for change. According to Clear, it’s the small changes made consistently which compound into life-changing results.

7. How Emotions Are Made by Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett

Barrett shakes up what we have previously thought true about how emotions are created. She challenges the idea that emotions are automatic and hard-wired in certain parts of the brain, using the latest in emotion science to show how emotion is actually created from a complex interplay between our brain, body and culture.

8. From the Laboratory to the Classroom by editors Jared Cooney Horvath, Jason M. Lodge and John Hattie

Are we applying what we know about the neuroscience of learning in the classroom? Horvath’s book combines theory and practice exceptionally well, offering useful strategies based on the science of learning, motivation, attention and memory.

9. Every Note Ever Played by Dr Lisa Genova

From neuroscientist and author of Still Alice, Genova’s latest novel is compelling and thought-provoking. She explores what it means to be truly alive, looking at the way neurological conditions impact identity and relationships. Genova is gifted at bringing to life the struggles experienced by those living with a neurological condition and those who love and care for them.

10. The Women’s Brain Book by Dr Sarah McKay

Of course, how could I not include my own book on this list for must-reads of 2019! My book takes you on a journey through the female lifespan (from womb to tomb) and explores how how brains are shaped by the lives we live, and in turn how how lives are shaped by our neurobiology.


Any books I missed or you think should be added to the list?  Leave me a comment below. 

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  1. Pat Janes on March 29, 2019 at 3:11 am

    I find myself saying this a lot, but I love my local library!

    I found all but one of these books available, so my “For Later” shelf has grown considerably.

  2. ViaBestBuys on April 4, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Thanks for this list

  3. Nuha on April 10, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks alot Dr.sarah🙏

  4. Melissa Cosby on April 11, 2019 at 4:32 am

    Hi Sarah, I think you could add “Your Body Is Your Brain: Leverage Your Somatic Intelligence to Find Purpose, Build Resilience, Deepen Relationships and Lead More Powerfully” by Amanda Blake

    Thanks for the rest of the titles!

  5. Nicola Rankin on April 11, 2019 at 4:34 am

    Thanks for this list!
    I’d add “Habits of a Happy Brain – retrain your brain to boost your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, & endorphin levels” – love to know what you think of this book 🙂

  6. Carlos on April 11, 2019 at 4:45 am

    by Srini Pillay

    Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind

    A combination of self-help and theoretical science that suggests learning to “ the mind, may be the key to living a more productive life.

  7. Lucy on April 11, 2019 at 6:10 am

    Will definitely get through these!

  8. Morag Foster on April 11, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Bruce Lipton. The Biology of Belief

  9. Donna Volpitta, Ed.D on April 11, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Thank you for this list.

    My goal in this space is to make the brain science of resilience and emotional health easy for people to understand and apply. Therefore, I created I very simple model, which is explained in Neuroscience: A Guide for Teaching The Brain Science of Resilience, which is available on Blurb.

    It is a great book for parents and educators of young children who are interested in understanding how the brain responds to challenge and how to use challenges as opportunities to build resilience.

    For more information and a link to purchase, please see http://www.centerforresilientleadership.com

  10. Megan Callus on April 11, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Two of my favorite brain books are: The Brain the Changes Itself by Norman Doidge and Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr. Joe Dispenza

  11. Charlotte Baker on April 11, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Excellent thanks so much

  12. Brij on April 11, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    Think & Grow Rich….!! is forgotten

    • Sarah McKay on April 30, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Not really a new neuroscience book – a classic business book though!

  13. Cynthia Lara on May 10, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Ban Der Kolk, M.D. (audible, because great for long drives, and tiny print too tedious for me)

  14. L Wakefield on October 25, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    the dream child hypothesis

    on amazon




    and Einstein

    on the self.

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