For part two of our AP® Psych summer book reviews, we check out two books that are great additions to any AP®  Psychology classroom.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in A Specialized World

Epstein, D. (2019). Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. New York, NY: Riverhead books.

Range book cover

Book Description

We often hear that we need to specialize in one area to find success. Professors, lawyers, doctors, and others find their niche and capitalize off their expertise. Others may start the expertise journey early but find that they lose interest in activities they used to love. Students select a college major only to find out this is not the path they should follow. Epstein argues that we should not encourage them to continue with a specialty they do not love, be it sports, academics, career choices, or other endeavors. Epstein instead believes that those who are most successful have a variety of interests and skills and this diversity helps them to be more creative and productive. He also cites numerous instances in which we focus on those who are skilled in one specific area rather than looking at those with a range of skills.


Epstein points to Tiger Woods, who seemed to be a child prodigy at golf, as an example of early and focused practice. Many parents use this example to apply to their own children, but they overlook other athletes such as Tom Brady, who participated in football, baseball, basketball, and karate as a child and then had to choose between playing college football or basketball. Epstein argues that the “sampling period” in which one explores many different interests will serve people well in future unknown situations and allows for more creativity later in their work.


Nearly 75% of today’s college students will go into a career unrelated to what they studied in college. Epstein’s argument takes on more importance as those with a wide array of experiences should allow them to be better equipped to adapt and adjust to novel problems and situations. Epstein refutes the adage of “winners never quit." He believes that if something is not interesting or if one is not passionate about a particular area, they should pursue something new. The “late bloomers” may prove to be the most well-suited for the area they finally land on, and their earlier experiences may give them a leg up even on those whose sole focus has been single-mindedly on one area of study.

Read more on Books for Psychology Class blog.

Using This Book in the Classroom

Instructors can present students with problems that can be solved by thinking “outside of the box.” Epstein argues that those with more diverse academic backgrounds will ultimately be able to come up with more creative solutions because they can look at a problem from multiple perspectives.



Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Kolker, R. (2020.) Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

hidden valley road book cover

Book Description

We have long known that schizophrenia has a genetic link, but researchers are interested in finding out more about what specific components of genetics makes this disorder more likely to be passed from one generation to the next. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family is the tragic story of the large Galvin family in which six of the ten boys developed schizophrenia.


Don Galvin Sr., a professor at the Air Force Academy, experienced in his early military career “a case of the nerves” and was hospitalized at Walter Reed but went on to have a successful career. Perhaps this was a sign of what was to come with his children.


By his sophomore year in college, eldest son Don Jr. was experiencing full-blown psychotic episodes, believing in one case that he had murdered a professor and in another fantasizing about murdering someone at a football game. He also killed a cat that had lived with him for a few days after it scratched him. He was given Thorazine, but it never eliminated his delusions of having superior powers or being controlled by God.


One by one five more brothers developed varying degrees and symptoms of schizophrenia, straining the family as they tried to find ways to manage this illness in a system that had few answers. With so many cases of schizophrenia in a single family it is likely that there was some genetic factor driving the illness.


In addition to profiling the Galvin family, the book traces the history of research into schizophrenia and the search for the genetic link and explores environmental factors that can “activate” the illness. Many of the Galvin brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews donated their DNA to be analyzed for clues to the genetic components of the illness.

Read more on Books for Psychology Class blog. 

Using This Book in the Classroom

Schizophrenia is a disorder that is partially related to genetics. This is an interesting opportunity to explore the heritability of schizophrenia by looking at rates of schizophrenia in the general population, in families, and with identical twins.


Books for Psychology Class is written by Laura Brandt, Nancy Fenton, and Jessica Flitter, and is designed for teachers and students who love reading books about the wide range of specialties within the field of psychology. The intention of the blog is to provide teachers and students with book summaries and classroom activities that are engaging and promote the love of learning about human and animal thought and behavior. Each post includes a book summary; an original classroom activity; a list of key psychological figures/concepts addressed in the book; and resources including videos, podcasts, articles, and additional activities related to the book. Many of the activities can be used for a variety of different types of content areas. We have featured some of our favorite books for psychology since the launch of the blog in January 2014. To date, the blog has reviewed over 100 books and continues to add new reviews every few weeks. All contributors to the blog are long-time high school psychology instructors who want to share their passion for reading and for the discipline of psychology with both teachers and students of psychology.


Laura Brandt currently teaches AP® Psychology at Libertyville High School in the Chicago suburbs and online at the Center for Talent Development through Northwestern University. She has taught AP® Psychology since 1997 and has served as a reader, table leader, and question leader for the AP® Psychology Exam. She also serves as an examiner for the IB Psychology. Laura was awarded the Excellence in Teaching award from the American Psychological Association and recognized with the Margaret Moffett Teaching Award from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. She was also a finalist for the Illinois Teacher of the Year. Laura earned her master’s degree in U.S. History at Northern Illinois University, a master’s degree in Psychology from DePaul University in Chicago, and her administrative certificate form Concordia University. She is currently working on her Ed.D in Curriculum and Instruction.