In the summer months of 2012, Americans overwhelmingly preferred to buy vanilla ice cream (27% of all respondents in this poll) versus chocolate (coming in at just 11%). Stomach that statistic a few minutes before turning to this: almost 1-in-4 Americans do not receive any annual paid vacation.

But for those three-quarters of Americans (and others) looking for beach reads for the summer, how to know what pages make the sunscreen-slathered cut and which will stay on bookshelves?

Hippo Reads is here to answer this question, culling our archives for this recommended “smart” beach reads of 2014. We begin with the best of Arts & Literature and Psychology. (Later this week, be on the lookout here for suggestions in the sciences and more.)

Arts and Literature


  • While we may be lying to ourselves about how much “smart” beach reading we can handle this summer, the truth is that self-deception may be a worthy skill (at times). One of the top academic Reads on the subject, “Self-Deception and its Relationship to Success in Competition,” is explored in this curation. Needless to say, Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wins may have been the result of more than just pure muscle.
  • No one wants to think about taxes while reading on the beach, but this Read, curated by Hui-Wen Chan, may convince you as to some compelling reads on the psychology behind charitable giving.
  • Following on the subject of charitable giving, what is it that impels altruism? In the curation “Altruism: Are Humans Inherently Altruistic?” this question is explored in a number of recommended Reads. As the piece notes, “But what mechanisms do gossip and public shaming ultimately offer, and how do these effectively moderate ‘good’ behaviors like altruism? A scientist and an economist worked together in a study on this very subject, the results of which are published in the article ‘The Economics of Altruistic Punishment and the Maintenance of Cooperation.’ The study uses financial gains (actual money) to test altruistic behavior through punishment mechanisms.”

Happy reading!

photo credit: Tim Bartel via flickr