Top 42 Books For PhD Students (All You Might Need + Some Fun)

From writing papers, to giving presentations, to grad school humor. These are the top 42 books for PhD and graduate students. If you want to survive in graduate school, you must read these books for Phd students.

It is normal to feel lost in the vastness of a PhD project. Graduate school is a though place. You need to learn how to write, how to give presentations, how to do research, and how not to surrender.  And you have to learn fast.

Are you a graduate student that wants to know what (today’s) scientists had to do in order to finish at grad school? What they did to become good researchers? How come they didn’t go nuts in the process?

I expect this 42 books for PhD students to help in their quest for a career in science. Some of these books I have read myself or are in my to-read list. The remaining books have been recommended by very wise people that have survived and endured a PhD.

You will find all your answers in these books. If there is some missing gem, please let us know.

Academic Writing Books

Academic writing is a big problem for PhD students. Many PhD students want to create the habit of writing.

Others want to keep sanity while writing their PhD thesis. And since the mother language of most PhD students is not English, well, they want to get better at academic writing as non-native English speakers.

It’s time to get your writing juices flowing!

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations

How to Write a Better Thesis

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis

The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success

Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Dissertations And Theses from Start to Finish: Psychology And Related Fields

Academic Writing for Graduate Students, Second Edition: Essential Tasks and Skills

How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction


Presentation Skills Books

Oh boy, presentation skills for PhD students, here? Really?

Let me tell you something.

Eleven years ago I had to present my BSc thesis. I had been rehearsing it for weeks. I could reliably deliver the presentation in 14 minutes and 30 seconds. Like a Swiss watch.

Thirty minutes before going in front of the 4 professors that made the jury I was not feeling well.

I was sweating and my heart pounding in my chest. I had to rush to the toilet with a sudden attack of diarrhoea. I almost puked.

The last 10 minutes before presenting I had to lay flat on a bench.

Fast forward to the present… I delivered a talk in front of an audience of 150 with one day’s notice. I enjoyed it. No sweat. No heart beating fast.

What changed was practice and the willingness to get better at presenting.

Do not underestimate the power of good presentation skills.

If you present well, people will adopt your ideas and discoveries. You will seem more trustworthy. They will regard you as an expert.

You might even land a postdoc. Or  you will show to industry that even being a PhD nerd you have social skills.

Let these books for PhD students help you get better at presenting.

The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid

A Handbook of Public Speaking for Scientists and Engineers

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience

Even a Geek Can Speak

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery

In The SpotLight, Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

Confessions of a Public Speaker

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences


Graduate School Motivation And General Advice Books

Some other common issues with PhD students are productivity, keeping motivation up and dealing with your PhD supervisor.

In these books you will find great mis of advice covering those topics.

The Craft of Research, Third Edition

The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research

Mastering Your PhD: Survival and Success in the Doctoral Years and Beyond

A PhD Is Not Enough!: A Guide to Survival in Science

Advice for New Faculty Members

What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career

Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D.

Advice for a Young Investigator

Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School

Playing the Game: The Streetsmart Guide to Graduate School

Academics Handbook 2nd Ed

From Student to Scholar: A Candid Guide to Becoming a Professor

How to Survive Your PhD: The Insider’s Guide

The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.: 200 Secrets From 100 Graduates

Read This Before Our Next Meeting


PhD Fun

Just because it is hard and it sucks and it is depressing at times, it doesn’t mean you cannot laugh about your PhD.

Enjoy these smile-creating books.

Piled Higher and Deeper: A Graduate Student Comic Strip Collection

Life is tough and then you graduate: The second Piled Higher and Deeper Comic Strip Collection

Scooped! The Third Piled Higher and Deeper Comic Strip Collection

Academic Stimulus Package (Piled Higher & Deeper)

xkcd: volume 0

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides)

I hope some of these books are useful for you. If you think other good books for PhD students should be included in this list, please let me know.


About Julio Peironcely

Julio Peironcely, PhD is the founder of Next Scientist and a PhD by Leiden University. He helps PhD students to stay motivated, be more productive and finish their PhDs. Follow him on Twitter (@peyron) or read more from him on


  1. Nice list Julio! In total, it makes an incredibly long reading list to digest ;). Before I go broke, what do you recommend to begin with?

  2. Spaceflower2011 says:

    did u read all of these?


  1. […] I came to realize there was something deeper that needed to be changed, something within me. But all those time management books were talking about externalities that after hard experimentation were far from my control. This was when the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People came my way. This book goes further than time management. It is about defining who you are and who you want to be. It presents the tools you need to define the rules you want your life to be based on. Although it is not aimed at PhD students and academics, it should be included in the Top 42 Books For PhD and Graduate Students. […]