This is an annotated list of notable books for cognition and learning, often from cogntive scientists, neuroscientists, or outstanding science writers.
Crick, Francis. (1995) The Astonishing Hypothesis: the scientific search for the soul. Nobel-winning microbiologist and neuroscientist Francis Crick was co-discoverer of DNA. In his later years, he explored brain regions and functions, investigating whether there was some kind of "control center" of the brain that directed it's activities. This book is the narrative of that exploration.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi. (2008) Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. Everybody calls him "Mike" (try pronouncing his name). This classic work. originally published closer to 1990, reoriented the field of motivation away from satisfying basic needs and avoiding pain to the power of intrinsic motivation captured in the vigorous pursuit of passionate interests. A foundation of the psychology of "lifetime learning" and interest-driven learning.
Damasio, Antonio. (2011) Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the conscious brain. This is Damasio's more recent book which focuses on consciousness. Actually, I think you would get more out of Decarte's Error (below).
ibid. (2000). That feeling of what happens: Body and emotion in the making of consciousness. A good follow-up to Decarte's Error that focuses on what we experience or feel and how that relates to consciousness. Interesting, but not as useful as Descarte's Error.
ibid. (2005) Decarte's Error: Emotion, reason, and the human brain. Damasio is a highly-respected neuroscientist who identified the role of emotion in thinking. Contrary to past ideas that emotion tended to interfere with "dispassionate" or objective thinking, he posits that emotion's job is actually to set the priorities of the brain. Without emotion, you can't appropriately direct your thinking.
Dehaene, Stanislas. (2011) The Number Sense: How the mind creates mathematics (revised & updated). A classic text for a respected neuroscientist who looks to find the brain-basis for mathematics. This is a must read for anyone interested in the teaching of math or math-rich science or engineering.
ibid. (2010) Reading in the Brain: The new science of how we read.
Eagleman, David. (2011) Incognito: the secret lives of the brain. Engleman is a talented writer who makes recent neuroscience discoveries accessible to the general reader. He presents each topic as a easily readable story. He isn't a researcher, but he's an easy read and pretty much up-to-date.
Edelman. Gerald. (2001) A Universe of Consciousness: How matter becomes imagination. Edelman is top-notch neuroscientist and theorist. His Neuronal Group Theory provides a compelling explanation of how and why each brain is really unique and fundamentally different from others (theory is unproven).
Johnson, Steven. (2004) Mind Wide Open: Your brain and the neuroscience of everyday life. Johnson is another talented writer who makes neuroscience discoveries accessible to the general reader. It's a good read, interesting written.
ibid. (2001) Emergence: the connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software. One of the fundamental ideas that Johnson communicates is that complex behavior emerges from simple structures and processes. This is a really big idea, and I recommend this book to better understand what emergence is and why it is so fundamentally important to all forms of life, but especially to better understand the human brain and mind.
Kandel, Eric. (2006) In Search of Memory: the emergence of a new science of mind. You've heard of DNA's Crick and Watson, Thomas Edison, Isaac Newton, and Galileo. Now meet the Nobel Prize winning scientist who brought discovery after discovery to light about how neurons create memory. Kandel is a giant among scientists, and this book is both his autobiography as well as the best story of how we have come to understand the process of memory.
Kurzweil, Ray. (2012) How to Create a Mind: the secret of human thought revealed. Kurzweil has already developed many inventions that bridge the worlds of the brain and technology, and now he is presenting his vision of the ultimate invention, a human-like mind. His ideas would be laughable, except that he has been personally honored by four U.S. presidents for this amazing scientific and engineering contributions. The book below may be better for the general reader. This one focuses mercilessly on the serious task of how we actually may create a brain in the next 15 years.
ibid. (2006) The Singularity is Near: When humans transcend biology.As Eric Kandel is the top neuroscientist, Ray Kurzweil is the top engineer (called a modern Thomas Edison). Out of all of the authors in this group, his work has the greatest potential to change your life and your ideas of many fundamental issues. If you don't read him for this course, put him at the top of your "must read list."
Nørretranders, Tor. (1991) The User Illusion: Cutting consciousness down to size. This an amazing book that will convince you how much your unconscious mind is in charge. It's not the smoothest read (translation from the Danish), but it's a classic.
Pink, Dan. (2011) Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. This is a quick read by a good writer. He isn't the researcher, but he tells the stories of what the research shows, particularly for the business world. The same lessons apply equally to education. His primary source of inspiration is Csikszentmihalyi.
ibid. (2006) A Whole New Mind: Why right brainers will rule the future. We've all heard about left brain and right brain, but Pink takes the discussion in a different direction. He talks about the VALUE of being able to think logically and exactly compared with the VALUE of being able to think holistically, empathetically, and creatively. It has deep implications in employment, economics, happiness, and education.
Pinker, Steven. (2011) Words and Rules: the ingredients of language. Steven Pinker (MIT, now Harvard professor) is one of the top brain scientists and linguists in the world. This may be his most accessible (and shortest) book in which he discusses how the brain handles language rules and non-rules. You'd never guess that irregular verbs could be so interesting!
ibid. (2009) How the Mind Works. One of Steven Pinker's masterworks. Not a quick read, but deep and thoughtful.
ibid. (2007) The Language Instinct: How the mind creates language. Pinker's masterwork. If you're seriously interested in language acquisition, read this book.
Sacks, Oliver. (2008) Musicophilia: Tales of music and the brain. Really, anything by Sacks is great to gain insight into how the brain and mind work. If you're interested in music, this will fascinate you. He's not a bad writer, either!
ibid. (2011) The Mind's Eye (vintage reprint)