7 fascinating and free online courses from the California Institute of Tech

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Ranked as the 7th best college in the world in 2021 by US News, The California Institute of Tech is a renowned science and engineering research institution, boasting 32 Nobel prize winners. It also manages several astronomical observatories and research labs, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA.

Like many top colleges, CalTech offers some of its courses for free through e-learning edX and Coursera, joining prestigious universities like MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UPenn, Columbia, and Cornell, among many others.

CalTech’s online offerings span topics from astronomy and machine learning to economics and quantum theory, some of them requiring undergraduate knowledge in math or science.

7 free CalTech online courses:

The Evolving Universe

The universe Caltech online courses

This in-depth, intro astronomy course explores what we know about the universe so far, including planetary systems, stars, galaxies, black holes, quasars, and larger structures.

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The Science of the Solar System

Solar system image

Using undergraduate-level mathematical and science principles, this course aims to explore aspects of the solar system such as the latest Mars news, the outer solar system, and even the potential of extraterrestrial life.

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Learning From Data (Introductory Machine Learning)

Coding on laptop

Ideal for students with some programming experience and knowledge of Basic probability, matrices, and calculus, this course covers the theory, algorithms and applications of machine learning.

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Principles of Economics with Calculus

Math equations

For those with a basic understanding of calculus, this course shows you how to apply quantitative models to economic principles to solve real-world problems, such as predicting changes in market prices or the values of new products.

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Pricing Options with Mathematical Models

Math equations and pink pen

For those with working knowledge of calculus, statistics and probability, this course teaches students how to use mathematical modeling for pricing financial derivatives and managing risk in financial markets.

Pricing Options with Mathematical Models (button)
Getting started in cryo-EM

Free Caltech Learning Image

Best for those with at least college-freshman-level math, physics, and biochemistry knowledge, this course teaches you the basics of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) including the anatomy of electron microscopes and the fundamentals of Fourier transforms and image formation.

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Quantum Cryptography

Notebook and pen with laptop in the back

For students with undergraduate knowledge of linear algebra, probability, statistics, and basic quantum theory, this course covers quantum effects, such as quantum entanglement, to implement security within cryptographic tasks.

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This free Yale psychology course taught me mind-blowing facts about my own mind

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Coursera Buddhism and Modern Psychology review 4x3
  • Introduction to Psychology is a free online course from Yale University, offered through Coursera.
  • The class explores the study of behavior, learning, memory, and emotions.
  • I signed up and it helped me understand my own thoughts and actions better.

Table of Contents: Static

Why do we think and act the way we do? What are we most afraid of, and why? What do our dreams mean? Finding clear answers to some of our most ambiguous questions isn’t easy.

But one online class – and Coursera’s most popular online psychology course – aims to explore these ideas. With over 620,000 enrollments so far, Yale University’s free Introduction to Psychology class breaks down the science behind cognitive, social, and clinical psychology, from how we perceive things to what influences our relationships.

Introduction to Psychology (small)

The course is taught by Paul Bloom, Ph.D., a Yale professor who’s been teaching psychology since 1990. He’s also the author of five books and co-editor of three, including “Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.”

Bloom designed the course to answer many pressing questions we may have about our thoughts and behaviors using research-backed facts to explain everything in a digestible way. Ultimately, Bloom uncovers the hidden factors that shape our actions – knowledge can direct us towards building more fulfilling lives.

As someone who’s always seeking to learn more about my own mind and why we think the way we do, this course really caught my attention as it provides a comprehensive overview of key psychology topics. To see why so many people were drawn to this course, I decided to sign up.

You can take the course for free here. Or, keep reading for an overview of what to expect and a firsthand review of the online course.

What to expect from the course

Each section includes video lectures, readings, and short quizzes to apply your knowledge. It takes six weeks to officially finish the course, but since it’s self-paced, you can complete it in a week or even one sitting.

There are also required readings and quizzes, which really enhance the course, in my opinion. Most of the readings are studies conducted by psychologists, which go above and beyond the course material to show you how these concepts apply to human beings in the real world. I’m not a huge fan of tests in general, but the weekly quizzes really helped me stay on top of the material throughout the weeks. You do have to score higher than 80% to pass, but don’t worry – you get three attempts every eight hours.

3 things I loved about the course

Coursera Yale psychology course screenshot

1. It’s incredibly easy to understand.

Psychology can be very abstract, but Bloom presents the material in a really comprehensible way. His tone is inviting and conversational, making the lectures feel more personal and fun to listen to, almost like he’s speaking directly to you.

Plus, the videos are filled with interactive graphics and key summaries to supplement the lectures, and some even include clips of relevant social experiments so you can see how the concept actually applies to individuals.

2. The information is genuinely fascinating and relatable.

If you’re looking for an enriching alternative to a Netflix binge, this course is for you. One thing that fascinated me was when Bloom examined the research behind smiles and what they can tell you about a person. For example, there’s the Duchenne smile, a genuine smile that people have when they’re happy, and the Pan Am smile, which (as the name suggests) is fake. Learning how to spot the difference even inspired me to open my old high school yearbook and compare my findings based on how I knew my classmates.

3. It helped me understand myself so much better.

Throughout the course, I found plenty of opportunities for self-reflection. One particularly memorable moment was when I learned why people can have such distorted memories – or even memories of things that didn’t actually happen.

According to Bloom, false memories are shaped through exercises where we think back and try to reconstruct what we remember. For instance, I can have a memory of a party I went to that is very similar to my friend’s description of the event. We may have not had the same experiences at the party, but now our personal recounts of the party are similar because of the discussions we’ve had about it.

Coursera Yale psychology course screenshot

You’ll find yourself growing throughout the course as you start to analyze more of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions. When I took the baseline happiness survey at the beginning of the course, I found myself with lower scores in the relationships and meaning categories. The questions posed in the survey helped me identify the sources of dissatisfaction when it came to my relationships and how I was finding meaning in my life.

By the time the six weeks were over, I became more mindful of how I was forming relationships and finding fulfillment in my day-to-day life. My scores in the relationship and meaning categories improved at the end of the course because I started to internalize more of Bloom’s teachings, such as embracing unexpected changes as a gift.

The bottom line

Ultimately, this class doesn’t teach you just about psychology – it shows you tangible steps you can take to improve your mindset, strengthen your relationships, and feel more fulfilled. By the end of the course, you’ll definitely be able to identify the deeper reasoning behind common thoughts and behaviors. Personally, it’s helped me foster greater connections with people and develop a more optimistic mindset, even when things feel gloomy.

Introduction to Psychology (small)

Best of all, the lectures in this course feel like listening to an audiobook and the online format is low-pressure. I enjoyed watching or even just listening to Bloom’s videos at my own pace – often while I was taking a walk in my neighborhood or exercising on the elliptical. He’s very passionate about the subject, and you’ll feel just as enthusiastic listening to this engaging, one-sided conversation.

This course costs nothing upfront but will deliver tons of unexpected benefits in return that’ll make your life more rewarding and exhilarating.

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Over 3 million students enrolled in this free Yale class on how to be happier – here are 4 things I loved about it

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Yale Popular Happiness Course Science of Well Being 4x3

How do we live a meaningful life? For how often it’s asked, that question isn’t easy to answer.

Yale professor Laurie Santos aimed to do just that in 2018 when she launched “Psychology and the Good Life.” The course was designed to bust myths around what we think will make us happy (like the luxury Mercedes-Benz status symbol) while also providing a roadmap of science-backed habits to build a happy life.

The Science of Well-Being (medium)

Naturally, the course quickly became the university’s most popular class in its 319-year history. At one point, one in four Yale students were enrolled in it, and the university even had to pull fellows from its other schools to staff it.

Given its popularity, it was clear that this course could be useful beyond Yale’s campus. So, to increase accessibility, Santos created a free online version: “The Science of Well-Being.” Throughout 2020, a whopping 2.2 million people enrolled in the happiness course online as they stayed home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can take the course for free here, which takes an estimated 10 weeks (19 hours total) to complete. Or, keep reading for an overview of what to expect and a firsthand review of the online course.

What to expect from the class:

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The course intentionally feels warm, casual, and inviting. It was shot in Santos’ home with a handful of students.

The format:

  • Misconceptions about happiness
  • Why our expectations are so bad
  • How we can overcome our biases
  • Stuff that really makes us happy
  • Putting strategies into practice

Each section includes video lectures, optional readings, and “rewirement” activities to do each day to build happier habits. Research suggests that if you do these rewirements as prescribed, you should experience a boost in your mood and overall well-being. After completing the five weeks above, students should commit to practicing one rewirement exercise for at least a month.

My experience taking the course:

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Weekly “rewirement” activities help build habits that make us scientifically happier: savoring, practicing gratitude, meditating, and acts of kindness among them.

I should disclose that I enjoy online classes. In the character-strengths test that you’re invited to take at the course’s outset, “curiosity” was my most dominant trait out of the 20 possibilities.

But despite being a candidate of least resistance, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed a few weeks in the course. It felt immediately and concretely useful – most of the class legwork is completing daily “rewiring” tasks designed to build those research-backed happiness habits into your life even after the course ends.

Here’s what I liked about the course:

1. You can verify whether you’re actually getting happier.

In the beginning, you’re invited to respond to questionnaires that measure your baseline happiness. By the end of the course, you take them again to see whether your score increased. (Hopefully, your numbers rise!) To me, a before-and-after metric lent concreteness to a typically abstract topic.

Surprisingly, I found the baseline happiness survey helpful for an unexpected reason: I was feeling fatigued, and the questions it posed helped me locate an overlooked source of dissatisfaction – I was continually rating one part of my life much lower than the others. It became clear what was wrong, and within the first lecture, I was able to use the framework to see my life more clearly.

2. The online format is less pressure than an in-person class.

To make the class warm and inviting, the lectures are shot in Santos’ own home, with a handful of Yale students in the audience. It feels intimate – Santos’s tone is friendly and conversational, while still providing a great, in-depth exploration of the topic with an expert (most contemporary research was conceptualized and coined by Santos herself).

Plus, you can easily rewind and rewatch lectures without asking Santos to repeat herself. And there’s no pressure to ask or answer questions!

3. It doesn’t feel like extra work.

Santos’ lectures make for easy watching. Once I sat down to play a lecture, I wanted to continue. I never felt like I was forcing myself to complete a task – I was satisfying my curiosity.

More importantly, since so many of us are so busy (and ironically may benefit the most from this course), there’s absolutely no required reading or grade penalty for a missed assignment deadline – so you don’t need to stress about suggested deadlines if you can’t meet them. All the information you need to know is summarized within the lecture. If you want to dive deeper, Santos provides links to complementary readings.

In other words, this class is about well-being – and it aims to practice what it preaches.

4. The optional homework is actually fun.

While you can take the class at your own pace, you’re encouraged to implement the rewiring techniques on a weekly schedule. Research finds that improving your well-being takes daily, intentional effort over long periods – meaning this 10-week class is a great opportunity!

In a follow-up interview that I conducted with Professor Santos to discuss happiness in quarantine, this point – the importance of building these habits every day – remained paramount.

The Science of Well-Being (medium)

Is it worth it to get a certificate?

Maybe, but most likely not. You’ll have access to all the course materials and forums for this class without paying. But, if you want a certificate of completion or graded homework assignments, you can pay $49. You can also always upgrade any time during the course or afterward, so it’s probably worth it to test it out for free before committing to payment.

If you want but can’t afford the $49 certificate, apply for the course’s financial aid. Click on the “financial aid” link beneath the “enroll” button on the left. You’ll be prompted to complete an application and will be notified if you’re approved; applications take at least 15 days to be reviewed.

More online classes:

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21 horror books to read with the lights on, from Stephen King classics to psychological thrillers

Insider Horror Books Roundup 4x3
  • Horror fiction scares its readers, using anything from psychological thrills to creepy imagery.
  • The horror books in this list range from Stephen King classics to modern murder mysteries.
  • Some of our favorites include “It,” “Bird Box,” “The Exorcist,” “Dracula,” “The Shining,” and more.

Great literature can introduce us to so many amazing things: Passionate romances, unforgettable plot twists, or fantastical beasts that feel vibrantly real within our imaginations. But carefully crafted novels can also keep us up at night, chill us to the bone, and horrify us beyond our nightmares. While some of us may avoid scary stories, other readers live for horror, finding mini-adrenaline rushes and skin-crawling scenes irresistible.

The horror genre began to gain popularity in the 1960s, thanks to a few extremely successful books, and soon morphed into the novels we see now. Horror is marked by unsettling, creepy, or menacing scenes that evoke a psychological reaction in the reader. Whether you’ve already blown through most of Stephen King’s books or just dipping your toe into the genre, the books on this list are sure to have you leaving the lights on until you’re done.

The 21 best horror books:

A Stephen King staple

Horror books It

“It” by Stephen King

This well-known horror book is about seven adults returning to their hometown to face an evil they first discovered as teenagers: An unnamed, shape-shifting terror they call “It.” If you read other Stephen King novels, the town of Derry, Maine appears again and again but it all began with “It.” “It” is also a monster of a book — its many, many pages build to a must-read, terrifying masterpiece.

Fear factor:  A sadistic, killer clown.

A thrill-packed serial killer novel

Horror books Stillhouse Lake

“Stillhouse Lake” by Rachel Caine

Gina was completely normal — an average housewife with a husband and two kids. But when a car accident revealed her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she moved with her children to a home on a lake, far away from her husband’s secrets and the stalkers who think she was part of it all. But when a body appears in the lake and threatening letters start to arrive, Gina — now a prime suspect — must protect herself and her kids from a killer who’s tormenting her family. This is a horror story full of grotesque depictions and racing thrills that’ll have you tearing through the pages.

Fear factor: The rapid twists and cliffhangers.

A highly praised haunted house book

Horror books Hell House

“Hell House” by Richard Matheson

Stephen King called this book “the scariest haunted house novel ever written,” so you know it’s terrifying. Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is about to die, so he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums $100,000 each to find out what happens after death. The three of them travel to the Belasco house — more commonly referred to as the “Hell House” — for one night to learn how it earned its nickname. 

Fear factor: The abandoned house full of horrifying secrets.

A horrifying dystopian world

Horror books Tender is the Flesh

“Tender Is the Flesh” by Agustina Bazterrica

Most accurately described as “skin-crawling,” this book centers on Marcos, who keeps his eyes on his work and away from the pain in his life. He works at the local processing plant, slaughtering humans — though, no one calls them that anymore. Since the government initiated “the Transition” after a sweeping virus made animal meat poisonous to humans, eating human meat — “special meat” — is legal, and having personal contact with the specimens is punishable by death. This book is alarming, a little deranged, and lives up to its horrifying title.

Fear factor:  Legal, widespread cannibalism.

A disturbing, double-timeline tale

Horror books The Sun Down Motel

“The Sun Down Motel” by Simone St. James

If you want to feel the rush of knowing something terrible is coming, this paranormal horror story is for you. In 1982, Carly’s Aunt Viv took a job at the Sun Down Motel, trying to save enough money to move to New York City. Now, Carly’s working the front desk to discover what mysteries could have led to her aunt’s disappearance. The entire book is suspenseful and mysterious but the horror scenes are next-level. I had to rush to finish this one before it got dark. 

Fear factor: The demonic hauntings that lay just out of sight.

A twisted murder story

Horror books The Chestnut Man

“The Chestnut Man” by Soren Sveistrup

This description sounds like a thriller, but the terror in these pages absolutely lands this book into the horror category. The Chestnut Man is a serial killer who leaves a handmade doll made of matchsticks and chestnuts at every crime scene. When a forensic team discovers a bloody fingerprint belonging to a government official’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago, the detectives must follow the murderer’s twisted clues before someone else ends up dead. This book is dark and unnerving, and you will likely find yourself unwilling to turn the next page, fearing what lies ahead. 

Fear factor: An absolutely terrifying killer.

A supernatural, Christmas-themed horror story

Horror novel NOS4A2

“NOS4A2” by Joe Hill

You’ll get chills just from reading the description of this book — and the story itself is even wilder than the summary lets on. Victoria, a young girl with a talent for finding things, stumbles upon a bridge that can take her anywhere. She runs into Charlie Manx, who lures kids into a car that transports them to a horrifying playground called Christmasland. Victoria is the only child to ever escape Christmasland. Years later, Charlie hasn’t forgotten about her — and is ready to take his revenge.

Fear factor: Darkened versions of all your favorite Christmas tropes.

The terrifying tale of an unraveling world

Horror books Bird Box

“Bird Box” by Josh Malerman

In a world created by Josh Malerman, there’s something out there that, once seen, drives a person to deadly violence. Malorie is one of only a handful of survivors left after the mysterious thing took over the world. She needs to flee with her children, relying on their wit and hearing to stay alive. This is a horror story that will have you closing your curtains and hiding in your house until you get to the end. 

Fear factor: Frightening creatures that feel so close, yet just out of reach.

The first Hannibal Lecter book

Horror books Red Dragon

“Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris

You may be more familiar with the second book in the Hannibal Lecter series “The Silence of the Lambs,” but if you’re looking to read the whole story, you should start here. When a serial killer attacks families, the FBI turns to William Graham, one of the greatest profilers, who retired after the horrors he witnessed in capturing Hannibal Lecter. To solve this case, William finds he must turn to Lector for help. The violent point of view of the antagonist brings on the horror in full force — while demonstrating that the “good guy” isn’t always the hero. 

Fear factor: The prequel to one of the most iconic horror characters.

A mind-bending thrill ride

Horror books Lock Every Door

“Lock Every Door” by Riley Sager

Riley Sager has written four suspenseful novels, each one balanced between thriller, mystery, and horror, but this one leans the most towards “horror” of the bunch. Jules’ new job as an apartment sitter in one of Manhattan’s most private and mysterious buildings comes with three rules: No visitors, no nights away from the apartment, and no disturbing the other residents. But the building is not what it seems to be — a dark history is rising within, summoning a race to find the truth before someone else goes missing. It’s super suspenseful, and I found it best to force myself through the fear to the end so the secrets would stop haunting me.

Fear factor: Severely limited time to solve the mysteries.

A Bigfoot horror story

Horror books Devolution

“Devolution” by Max Brooks

As the dust from Mount Rainier’s eruption settles, Kate Holland’s harrowing journals are found, revealing an account of the unnoticed Greenloop massacre and the legendary beasts behind it. From the author of “World War Z,” this ominous horror story is action-packed, mind-bending, and utterly chaotic.

Fear factor: The horrible beasts beyond our imagination.

A classic, paranormal horror book

Horror books The Exorcist

“The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty

Adapted into one of the scariest films of all time, “The Exorcist” is about a mother and two priests who fight to free the soul of a young girl controlled by an evil and violent spirit. The deeper details of this novel are what make already scary scenes even scarier. Even if you’ve already seen the movie, the story has even more frightening information that heightens the fear.

Fear factor:  The paranormal, unyielding elements.

A famous and highly quotable horror story

Horror books The Shining

“The Shining” by Stephen King

Jack Torrance is looking for a fresh start with his new job at the Overlook Hotel, where he can reconnect with his family and work on his writing in his free time. As winter sets in, Jack’s days at the hotel get stranger and stranger, and the only one who notices is Danny, Jack’s unique five-year-old son. Full of fleshed-out characters, this slower-paced book doesn’t drag — it only builds up the fear to an unforgettable conclusion.

Fear factor: The slow progression to madness.

The original vampire book

Horror books Dracula

“Dracula” by Bram Stoker

We all know the famous “Dracula” persona — the one we mimic every Halloween with plastic fangs and upturned coat collars. But it doesn’t really capture the 1897 classic gothic horror story, which depicts Dracula’s move to England as he attempts to find new blood, spreading his undead curse along the way. The story is far more horrifying and twisted than you might anticipate, and will definitely change how you view the more heroic portrayals of modern-day vampires. 

Fear factor: The relentless bloodlust.

A Southern-set vampire story

Goodreads Southern Book Club 4x3

“The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix

Set in 1990s Charleston, this novel is centered around a book club and the strange happenings around a newcomer who was brought into the club after one of the members was horribly attacked on her way home. This book has all of the southern charm, ’90s nostalgia, and savagery that you might expect from the title alone. 

Fear factor: The realistic setting that makes the horrors hit too close to home.

A twisted, psychological horror

Horror books The Other

“The Other” by Thomas Tryon

This novel is hailed for Tryon’s amazing writing style, one that transcends the horror genre and makes this story worth so much more than its creepy scenes. Holland and Niles are twins, close enough to nearly read each other’s thoughts but entirely different in personality. Their family is gathered for the summer to mourn their father’s passing. With the boys’ mother still locked in her room, Holland’s pranks are growing more and more sinister and Niles isn’t sure how much longer he can make excuses for his brother. 

Fear factor: The irresistible “evil twin” plotline.

A waking nightmare of a story

Horror books Imaginary Friend

“Imaginary Friend” by Stephen Chbosky

Best read with the lights on, “Imaginary Friend” is a haunting story where a young boy named Christopher goes missing in the town to which he and his mother just fled. Six days later, Christopher emerges from the woods with a voice in his head telling him to do one thing: Build a treehouse in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same. 

Fear factor: The poetic writing ramping up the horror.

A multidimensional horror novel

Horror books The Hollow Places

“The Hollow Places” by T. Kingfisher

“The Hollow Places” is initially misleading. It starts off cute and funny, but quickly devolves into a terrifying novel with scenes so vibrantly written, they’ll be sure to haunt readers long after they close the book. Kara finds a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house that leads to a series of alternate realities, riddled with unsettling creatures that feed on fear. The world-building in this book is remarkable — Kingfisher creates something we couldn’t previously fathom and yet something we so easily fear.

Fear factor: The expert world-building that brings all the creepy fantasies to life.

A vengeful, terrifying book

Horror books The Only Good Indians

“The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones

This follows four Indigenous men who are being tracked and haunted by an entity that lingers from a crime committed a decade prior. It’s a horror story of revenge and identity as the men find they can’t outrun the culture they left behind. This eerie story will continually shock you, yet ends so perfectly, you’ll almost forgive the brutal scenes you endured to reach the end. 

Fear factor: The sentimental hope accompanied by chilling revenge.

A 1967 classic paranormal horror story

Horror books Rosemary's Baby

“Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin

In this classic horror story, Rosemary and Guy are a young couple settling into their New York apartment where it seems the neighbors are taking too keen of an interest in them, especially once Rosemary gets pregnant. The suspense in this novel is palpable, a waking nightmare that walks a thin line between unbelievable and yet completely real. This book is unnerving and sinister, one of the original horror novels that helped popularize the genre. 

Fear factor:  The increasingly ominous foreshadowing.

A suspenseful horror story with a slow burn

Horror books The Burning Girls

“The Burning Girls” by C. J. Tudor

Reverend Jack Brooks arrives at Chapel Croft looking for a fresh start, yet is welcomed with an exorcism kit and a warning. Horrible things have happened at the church — protestant martyrs were burned centuries back, two teenage girls disappeared 30 years ago, and just a week prior, the vicar hung himself. This is a deeply woven and haunting ghost story, with strange and deadly mysteries throughout. 

Fear factor: The multiple narratives and shocking twists.

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The 10 best books for learning astrology, according to professional astrologers

Astrology books for beginners 4x3
  • Astrology is about so much more than your Sun sign.
  • Understanding your birth chart, for example, can help you make career or relationship decisions.
  • We rounded up 10 great astrology books recommended by astrologers.

Throughout centuries, astrology has been used to help us understand ourselves better. By looking towards the planets and cosmos, astrologers can gain key insights about a person, including personality traits, interests, and even hardships based on their birth chart (a map of what was happening in the sky when we were born). This knowledge can be extremely validating, and can even help us make big career decisions or know what kinds of relationships fulfill us the most.

For those who are interested in learning more about astrology, the plethora of books and resources out there can be overwhelming. I spoke to several astrologers to find their best recommendations for beginner to advanced books, from introductory guides to deep-dives into transits and birth chart compatibility.

10 great astrology books recommended by astrologers:

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced

Beginner

A practical guide for understanding all things astrology

1 Astrology books The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology

“The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology: Everything from Zodiac Signs to Prediction, Made Easy and Entertaining” by April Elliot Kent

Learning astrology can get complex quickly, but this book approaches the subject in a fun, casual style — as if you’re chatting with a friend. “April delivers exactly what the title promises: the whole kitchen sink of astrology, in a conversational style that makes potentially confounding concepts crystal clear,” says Elisabeth Grace, a consulting astrologer, writer, teacher, and conference speaker.

For example, the book addresses seemingly counterintuitive parts of astrology, like why horoscopes should southern planets above the horizon and northern planets below. “Thanks to April, I can now explain it in a few pithy sentences to a befuddled student,” adds Grace.

A beginner, hands-on astrology workbook to help you practice

2 astrology books Astrology for Real Life Beginners

“Astrology for Real Life: A Workbook for Beginners (A No B.S. Guide for the Astro-Curious)” by Theresa Reed

This book breaks down astrology into an easily understandable format, with questions at the end of each section to apply what you’ve learned. It can be helpful to have a journal or notebook handy or jot down notes directly into the book.

This book comes recommended as a “thoroughly entertaining and fascinating guide to the language of astrology” by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber, astrologers, creators of The Enchanted World, and co-authors of the bestselling astrology books “Astrology for Wellness” and “Mindful Astrology: Finding Peace of Mind According to Your Sun, Moon, and Rising Sign.”

An astrology book that will help you finally understand Sun/Moon combinations

3 astrology books Heaven Knows What

“Heaven Knows What” by Grant Lewi

Weekly or monthly horoscopes often broadly focus on a person’s Sun sign, but astrology is much more layered than that. This book focuses on all the possible 144 combinations of Sun and Moon signs, helping you understand how they work together.

The ability to synthesize the horoscope — to see all the parts as an integrated whole — is what skilled astrologers do that computer-generated reports simply can’t,” says Grace. Plus, if you’ve ever struggled to relate to your Sun sign description, this book will have a lot of answers.

A beginner book for reading and interpreting birth charts

4 astrology books Chart Interpretation Handbook

“Chart Interpretation Handbook: Guidelines for Understanding the Essentials of the Birth Chart” by Steven Arroyo

Once you have a grasp on astrology, you’ll eventually want to be able to put all the pieces together and interpret your own birth chart (or the birth charts of your best friends/family/potential romantic partners).

Zerner and Farber recommend this handy, concise guide if “you already have some understanding of how real astrology works, and want to go deeper into the step-by-step process of reading a natal chart.”

Intermediate

An astrology book designed to help you find your destiny and life path

5 astrology books How to Co Create Using the Secret Language of the Unvierse

“How to Co-Create using the Secret Language of the Universe: Using Astrology for Your Empowerment” by Pam Gregory

For anyone pondering their purpose in life, this book can provide some insight by looking at the rulers of your Midheaven and north node in your birth chart — two specific points in your birth chart.

“[North nodes] refer to past lives and soul growth in this lifetime; [the ruler of your Midheaven] refers to your ideal career,” says Grace. “What I love about this book is that it is a brilliant and concise reminder of how the world works, with specific guidance on how we can access our personal creative power,” she adds.

A book dedicated to transits and planetary placements, such as Mercury Retrograde

6 astrology books Planets in Transit

“Planets in Transit” by Robert Hand

Transits are an important part of astrology — they refer to the current movements and placements of the planets and how they interact with your natal planets (aka, the locations of the planets in your birth chart).

“Whenever I see a pattern in a horoscope and I’m feeling stuck on how to relate its potential to my client’s life experience, I’ll reach for Hand’s candid insights, which suggest potential rewards and challenges,” says Grace. 

An in-depth guide on the astrological houses and house systems

7 astrology books The Houses Temples of the Sky

“Houses: Temples of the Sky” by Deborah Houlding

Astrologers each have their own way of reading charts. One key component of their unique style and interpretation is based on the house system they choose and use (it can stir up a lot of debate within the astrology community).

“I learned so much about how the meaning of the houses has evolved through history,” says Grace. “Astrology has been around for thousands of years, and like all languages, evolves with the consciousness of the humans who use it.” Grace recommends that astrology students familiarize themselves with all the house systems and then choose the system they prefer to use. 

A book about the oft-misunderstood Mercury Retrograde

8 astrology books A New Look at Mercury Retrograde

“A New Look at Mercury Retrograde” by Robert Wilkinson

Mercury Retrograde may get a bad rap, but this book explains everything about this misrepresented astrological event and how it correlates to your chart based on the sign and house it’s in.

“There’s no reason to freak out when Mercury — or any planet — is retrograde,” says Grace. “There are plenty of productive things that can be done during these natural periods of rest and review. For instance, Grace uses coping strategies like meditations for each Sun sign and Ascendant sign, which this book can help you figure out.

Advanced

A guide to understanding relationship compatibility using astrology

9 astrology books Planets in Composite

“Planets in Composite” by Robert Hand

Whether you’re already dating and want to check your compatibility or simply curious about the most astrologically aligned potential partners for you, this book can provide valuable insight. It combines specific parts of each person’s birth chart to generate a third chart focused on the relationship, “as if the relationship was a person with its own needs and purpose,” says Grace.

“The composite chart offers insights on how a relationship actually functions, regardless of the attraction between the parties involved,” she adds. 

A thorough book on figuring out your career goals

10 astrology books Vocations

“Vocations: the New Midheaven Extension Process” by Noel Tyl

Astrologers can gain a lot of information from looking at someone’s birth chart, including the ideal jobs or career paths for someone’s personality type. This book is a useful guide for helping people get on track with their goals and find a career that is actually fulfilling.

“When I prepare a horoscope for consultation, I rarely know what my new client does for a living,” says Grace. “I use the techniques in this book to jot down the kind of career the horoscope suggests they need to pursue in order to be happy.”

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The 12 most popular UC Berkeley courses you can take for free online, including how to be happier at your job

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  • The University of California, Berkeley is one of the top 5 schools in the world.
  • It offers free online courses in everything from Bitcoin to the science of happiness.
  • Below are 12 of the most popular free online UC Berkeley courses you can take through edX.

Boasting alumni like Joan Didion and John Cho, the University of California, Berkeley is currently ranked the 4th best school in the world. Of course, its prestige also makes it exclusive – last year, the average (middle 50%) incoming Berkeley freshman had a 3.86 unweighted GPA and between a 29-35 on the ACT or 1330-1530 on the SAT.

But you don’t have to cram for the SAT, relocate to California, or pony up almost $70,000 for out-of-state tuition to enroll in a great UC Berkeley course. Just like many other top colleges – including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UPenn, Columbia, and Cornell – UC Berkeley offers more than 40 massive open online courses (MOOCs) completely for free through e-learning platforms such as edX and Coursera. You can take courses in positive psychology, Bitcoin, or pretty much any other topic.

12 popular UC Berkeley courses you can take online for free:

The Science of Happiness

The Science of Happiness by ozgurcankaya/Getty Images

The Science of Happiness (button)

Length: 11 weeks

This positive psychology course uses scientific principles and practices for experiencing a happy, meaningful life. It particularly focuses on how happiness is linked to strong social connections and contributing to the greater good.

Academic and Business Writing

writing

Academic and Business Writing (button)

Length: 6 weeks

This is an introductory course to business and academic writing for English-language learners. Students focus on grammar, vocabulary, structure, editing, and publication.

How to Write an Essay

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How to Write an Essay (button)

Length: 5 weeks

Also intended for English language learners, this introductory course focuses on how to write an essay, focusing on basic grammar and effective sentences, paragraphs, introductions, and conclusions.

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies

edX Bitcoin by Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies (button)

Length: 6 weeks

Begin learning the fundamentals of Bitcoin in this course from UC Berkeley’s Computer Science department. You’ll learn about the basic properties of Bitcoin, the mechanics behind it, its practical applications, and even how to destroy Bitcoins You’ll also take a quick look at Ethereum and learn about Bitcoin’s roots in the Cypherpunk movement and Libertarianism. 

Data Science: Computational Thinking with Python

edX Data Science by Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images

Data Science: Computational Thinking with Python (button)

Length: 5 weeks

Learn basic programming skills for manipulating data using Python (no prior Python or data analysis experience required). You’ll also cover tools widely used by industry and academic data scientists. 

This course is also part of the professional certificate program in Foundations of Data Science.

The Foundations of Happiness at Work

edX Foundation of Happiness at Work by Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

The Foundations of Happiness at Work (button)

Length: 4 weeks

What does happiness at work look like? Why does it matter? And how do you cultivate it in a practical way? Explore answers to these questions — and common challenges to workplace happiness — using empirical research with professors from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.  

This course is part of the professional certificate program in The Science of Happiness at Work.

Advanced Topics and Techniques in Agile Software Development

edX Agile Software Development by Chalirmpoj Pimpisarn / EyeEm/Getty Images

Advanced Topics and Techniques in Agile Software Development (button)

Length: 4 weeks

This course introduces students to ideas and techniques for designing, developing, and modifying large software systems using Agile techniques, as well as other common tools such as GitHub, Pivotal Tracker, Travis CI, Heroku, and more. 

This course is also the second of the professional certificate program in Mastering Agile Development of Software as a Service.

Blockchain Technology

edX Blockchain by Jonathan Kitchen/Getty Images

Blockchain Technology (button)

Length: 6 weeks

This course covers a range of important blockchain topics — from distributed systems and alternative consensus mechanisms to proof-of-stake — as well as fundamental applications of Bitcoin and blockchain technology, challenges and solutions around scaling up, and government regulation. 

This course is also one of the courses included in the professional certificate program in Blockchain Fundamentals

English for Journalists, Part 1

journalism

English for Journalists, Part 1 (button)

Length: 5 weeks

English language learners who are working journalists (or interested in studying journalism) learn about key journalism topics in this course, including job responsibilities, ethics, inclusivity, and the differences between local and global journalism.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work

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Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work (button)

Length: 4 weeks

Personal happiness greatly depends upon our relationships with others, and organizations that can foster satisfying and trusting relationships are more likely to be successful. In this introductory course, students learn about the science of social and emotional skills as well as practical strategies for building positive relationships at work.

This course is part of the professional certificate program in The Science of Happiness at Work

Mindfulness and Resilience to Stress at Work

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Mindfulness and Resilience to Stress at Work (button)

Length: 4 weeks

Learn research-backed, mindfulness strategies for building resilience at your job. Students explore the biological and psychological impacts of stress, learn how to differentiate between good and bad stress at work, and are given practical coping strategies. 

This course is also part of the professional certificate program in The Science of Happiness at Work

Data Science: Machine Learning and Predictions

photo by Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images

Data Science: Machine Learning and Making Predictions (button)

Length: 6 weeks

Learn how to use machine learning — in particular, regression and classification — to automatically identify patterns in data and make accurate predictions.

This course is also part of the professional certificate program in Foundations of Data Science.

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11 free online courses you can take from UC San Diego, including a popular psychology class that nearly 3 million people have enrolled in

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To expand accessibility, the University of California, San Diego offers a plethora of its courses online through e-learning platforms edX and Coursera. It also joins many top colleges – including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UPenn, Columbia, and Cornell – in making many of these online courses completely free.

Many of these courses offer optional, paid certificates of completion to add to your resume or LinkedIn. Additionally, UC San Diego also has several longer paid programs you can take online, from Coursera’s Big Data Specialization ($49 per month) and Object-Oriented Java Programming Specialization ($49 per month) to edX’s MicroMaster programs in Data Science ($1,260) and Algorithms and Data Structures ($1,080).

Whether you’re interested in pursuing some of these programs (and want to test-run a course first) or just wish to take a class for fun, we outlined some of the most popular courses you can take for free.

11 free online UC San Diego courses:

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

Coursera Buddhism and Modern Psychology review 4x3

More than 2.8 million students have enrolled in Learning How to Learn, making it one of the most popular courses on Coursera. A collaboration between UC San Diego and McMaster University, the course covers the psychology of how we learn and memorize new information before sharing tools and tricks to help you conquer even the densest subjects.

“Learning How to Learn” (button)
Python for Data Science

Affordable online classes to learn Python 4x3

Part of the edX Data Science MicroMasters program, this course teaches students how to use Python as well as tools like Pandas, Git, and Matplotlib to analyze, manipulate, and visualize complex data sets.

Python for Data Science (button)
Introduction to Big Data

Data, Models and Decisions in Business Analytics

Part of the Big Data Specialization, this course provides an overview of the Big Data landscape, introduces a five-step data analysis process, and teaches students how to install and run a program using Hadoop. You can audit this course for free by clicking “enroll” and then “audit this course” at the bottom.

Introduction to Big Data (button)
Object Oriented Programming in Java

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Part of the Object-Oriented Java Programming Specialization and Object Oriented Java Programming: Data Structures and Beyond Specialization, this intermediate course is great for those who already have some software development or computer science experience. You can audit this course for free by clicking “enroll” and then “audit this course” at the bottom.

Object Oriented Programming in Java (button)
Human-Centered Design: An Introduction

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As part of the Interaction Design Specialization, this course teaches you how to use design thinking to create products that customers and stakeholders actually love using fieldwork and effective mock-ups. You can audit this course for free by clicking “enroll” and then “audit this course” at the bottom.

Human-Centered Design: An Introduction (button)
Biology Meets Programming: Bioinformatics for Beginners

biotechnology genetic research concept

If you’ve ever been interested in using programming skills in a scientific setting, this introductory course is for you. It shows you how to apply Python algorithms to solve different biological problems, such as finding hidden messages within DNA. For further learning, students can sign up for the Bioinformatics Specialization.

Biology Meets Programming: Bioinformatics for Beginners (button)
Probability and Statistics in Data Science using Python

work from home finance statistics

Part of the edX Data Science MicroMasters program, this course covers the fundamentals of probability, statistics, and machine learning, as well as teaches you how to use Python skills to gain insights from data.

Probability and Statistics in Data Science using Python (button)
Computer Graphics

3D graphics

Part of edX’s Professional Certificate in Virtual Reality (VR) App Development, this course breaks down the fundamentals of 3D graphics, teaches you how to write and develop programs to create 3D scenes, and covers the basics of graphics programming with OpenGL and GLSL.

Computer Graphics (button)
Machine Learning Fundamentals

FORMAT (32)

Part of the edX Data Science MicroMasters program, this course explores the role machine learning plays in data analysis and decision-making, showing students how to create systems that learn from experience and build predictive models using data sets.

Machine Learning Fundamentals (button)
Algorithmic Design and Techniques

equations math

The first course in the edX Algorithms and Data Structures MicroMaster program, this class shows students how to design algorithms using basic techniques and solve different computational problems through hands-on practice.

Algorithmic Design and Techniques (button)
The Science of Parenting

A baby and parent play with a drum.
A baby and parent play with a drum.

This course is intended to debunk myths and opinions about best parenting practices, using science to help parents make informed decisions on factors like diet, sleep, discipline, learning, screen time, and even vaccination.

The Science of Parenting (button)

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3 mind-blowing facts about humans that I learned from reading ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’

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  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” is a bestseller praised by Barack Obama and Bill Gates.
  • The nonfiction book explores the history and evolution of humans and the modern world.
  • Here’s a summary of 3 facts I learned and how they helped expand my understanding of humanity.

As an avid reader, my understanding of the world has greatly expanded through novels. I’m accustomed to looking at people through the emotional and psychological lens of relationships and community, always exploring how different social factors and personal histories make us so unique.

And while I’ve mostly preferred learning through fictional stories and characters, the non-fiction bestseller “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind not only amplified my understanding of the human condition but also deepened my understanding of humans. The book, a biological, intellectual, and economic account of humankind, explained the biological “why” behind everything I’ve ever known about people, including myself.

A Brief History of Humankind” (small)

Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, an internationally recognized historian and philosopher, introduced me to concepts that explore the very foundation of how humans evolved from nomadic apes to philosophical beings who ponder the meaning of life. I’ve been spouting quotes and information from this book ever since I finished reading it, so here are the three most fascinating concepts I learned from “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.”

3 amazing facts I learned from “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”:

Self-preservation is a biological instinct that greatly impacted the course of humankind – and explains some of our problems today.

The early developments of Homo sapiens were entirely biological, centered around sustaining and creating life. Yet some of our evolution’s disadvantages heavily outweighed the advantages.

For instance, in the development of the agricultural revolution, humans found that wheat was incredibly difficult to farm, not economically secure, and not even that nutritious. So why did we invest time and energy into farming anyway? According to Harari, farming fulfilled our biological needs by helping communities settle down, give birth to more babies in a shorter amount of time, and feed a larger number of people on a smaller space of land.

To put it into today’s terms, the pursuit of an easier life often generates greater hardships. It’s called the luxury trap: As Harari puts it, “luxuries tend to become necessities and spawn new obligations.” For example, we used to mails letter when we had something to say. Now, we send and receive dozens of emails every day, many of us considering it a necessity to have email access on our phones for even quicker responses. Immediate email correspondence was a luxury that has become a 21st-century necessity, spawning new obligations to be attached to our phones.

It’s nearly impossible to break the luxury trap cycle: It’s spawned by our biological desire to make life easier so we can conserve time, energy, or money. But humankind’s instinct to cater to ourselves also has some positives. It’s helped us evolve from farming wheat to generating significant technological advances and boosting our cognitive capacity for empathy, to name a few things.

Because we create societal values, we can determine which values hold the most meaning.

When humans began to trade nomadic life for settlements, we created values to help govern societies. Our societal agreements are based on inter-subjective beliefs – the foundations of society are agreed-upon concepts of law, money, religion, and nations that link billions of humans to an imagined order that does not exist outside of our consciousness. Even the idea of “rights” is not something that exists in biology: It’s an imagined order that controls the population because enough people believe in it.

The idea that we fabricated the social concepts that tie us to our political views and institutions might spur an existential crisis, but learning this was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. While fully abandoning the greatest societal contracts would create planet-wide chaos, it can be helpful to remember individual (and often invisible) pressures that we feel to be constantly achieving or fitting into a particular mold don’t have as much control over us as we think. If we question some of these imagined constructs, we might find ourselves closer to intellectual freedom.

Happiness is a relatively recent focus for humankind.

As Harari points out, happiness is an incalculable abstraction. The closest measurable figure is pleasure, a chemical sensation that keeps humans alive by rewarding us when we eat or reproduce – not exactly what most of us think when we imagine self-fulfillment.

Yet, as the cognitive revolution carried humankind through advances that would shape all of planet Earth, the importance of happiness emerged. Happiness is subjective, the scale of which has dramatically changed from the Middle Ages to now. But it is also the unit many of us use to determine if our lives feel worthwhile.

In much of the history of humankind, we ignored the idea that happiness drove any kind of evolution. But as we grew through rapid technological evolutions, our motivation has focused more on our subjective well-being. Humankind’s search for a meaningful life is how we’ve managed to survive a history’s worth of hardships, such as defending a country’s values in a war or exploring new hobbies during a pandemic.

The biological rules that dictated the survival of Homo sapiens for hundreds of thousands of years have changed in only the past few decades. With our advances in medicine, agriculture, and technology, humans have been able to shift our focus from survival and reproduction to happiness and meaning. With this realization that humanity’s sole purpose is no longer to survive but thrive, we can prioritize self-actualization.

The bottom line

A Brief History of Humankind” (small)

I learned so many profound theories from this book, and it broadened my understanding of humanity. While we evolved through our survivalist need for self-preservation, the cognitive revolution spawned societies founded on rules and values, some of which now create new barriers to our happiness and wellbeing.

More importantly, learning about our evolutionary history deepened my empathy for humankind and even towards myself. Thanks to this book, my view of my place in the world has shifted, as I remember that I wouldn’t be here, typing this, if not for the billions of decisions my ancestors made. It’s a borderline magical (and ok, a little overwhelming) realization. It makes me want to pursue a more meaningful life, and extend grace towards others and myself whenever I can. Gaining this perspective is one of the best takeaways a book could possibly give.

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31 highly suspenseful thriller books with plot twists that will throw you for a loop

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  • Thriller books are naturally enticing, fast-paced fiction reads with notorious plot twists.
  • The best thrillers offer plenty of suspense and mystery throughout the novel.
  • This list has a wide variety of popular books, including crime and psychological thrillers.

Known for their shocking twists and turns, thrillers have taken the book industry by storm over the last several years for, what I believe, is one clear reason: They make reading really fun. Thrillers stand out as gripping stories in a world where so many things compete for our attention. They build up fast and grip us tightly as we navigate shadowy hallways and unsolved murders, eliciting an adrenaline rush just from turning the page.

Almost half the books in my personal library are thrillers. I love the “can’t-put-it-down” feeling of a tense plotline and a twist that makes me want to throw a book at a wall (that’s a good thing – I swear!). I’ve read the vast majority of the books on this list and added the rest based on the rave reviews from other thriller book nerds. Whether it’s a deeply psychological thriller narrative, a fast-paced YA mystery novel, or a crime thriller too scary to read at night, there’s a book on this list for every thriller lover.

The 31 best thriller books:

Best psychological thrillers

Best crime thrillers

Best mystery and suspense thrillers

Best YA thrillers

Best horror thrillers

Psychological thrillers

A psychological thriller with an electrifying twist

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

“Before She Knew Him” by Peter Swanson

Speaking of throwing books against a wall, this was the first book I ever chucked when the plot twist was revealed — one that I didn’t even know was a possibility until I reached the climax. Henrietta has finally found some stability between her bipolar medication and her new home with her husband. When they go to the neighbor’s house for dinner, Henrietta notices a unique trophy that definitely belonged to someone who was killed two years ago. Torn between the comfort of her new life and her weakness to find the answer to this unsolved case, Henrietta quickly unravels far more than she bargained for.  

Thrill factor: A plot twist that will have you rethinking the entire book.

A thriller with multiple truths

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

“The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

There are four stories here: The one the jury decided, his, hers, and — completely separate — the truth. I love books with “solved” murders that push us to read on to uncover the real truth. One night, Alicia’s husband returns home late from his job. She shoots him five times in the face and never speaks again. Confined to a psychiatric ward, Theo — a criminal psychotherapist — is determined to get Alicia to talk and uncover why she murdered her husband. Digging into Alicia’s past reveals that there are many things that can drive us to do the unthinkable.

Thrill factor: Being sure of the truth just before new information is revealed.

A thriller around a kidnapping

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

“Then She Was Gone” by Lisa Jewell

This one was particularly enticing and dark, the secrets running far deeper and with more complexity than I expected. It’s been 10 years since Laurel’s then-15-year-old daughter, Ellie, disappeared — and Laurel has never given up hope of finding her. Laurel is swept up in a romance with her new boyfriend and finds herself meeting his nine-year-old daughter, who looks exactly like Ellie did at that age. This is a tightly wound ball of thriller chaos that is so much fun to unravel as you read. 

Thrill factor: A plot that catches you completely off guard.

A deeply psychological thriller

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

“Behind Her Eyes” by Sarah Pinborough

On Monday morning, Louise discovers her (very married) boss is the same man with whom she shared an amazing kiss at a bar just days ago. Though assuring her it will never happen again, David can’t keep his eyes off Louise. What ensues is a complex yet comprehensible web of manipulation and a twist that had me nearly yelling “WHAT?!” by the end.

Thrill factor: A baffling realization hiding in the final pages.

A chilling thriller all about the little details

The Push by Ashely Audrian

“The Push” by Ashely Audrian

Blythe is fully committed to being the warm, nurturing mother she never had, but she’s convinced that something is wrong with her new baby — she doesn’t behave like other children do. As her husband dismisses her fears, she begins to question her sanity. When her second child is born, the familial connections are undeniable…until a devastating event has Blythe (and the reader) questioning everything. Best described as a tour de force, this is an extremely fast-paced thriller that’s easy to devour in a day. 

Thrill factor: A whiplash-y plot that launches you straight into the story.

An unsettling marital thriller

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

“Behind Closed Doors” by B. A. Paris

Jack and Grace are the epitome of true love, radiating elegance, wealth, and charm, all while never being apart…ever. It’s hard to get to know the mysterious Grace because she can’t meet for coffee, she never answers her phone, and one of the bedroom windows seems to have bars on it. This is one that masterfully incites panic into a reader, worrying about the characters and desperately needing to know what happens. 

Thrill factor: The graphic descriptions in the already chilling scenes.

A psychological book with family intrigue

The Next Wife by Kiara Rouda

“The Next Wife” by Kaira Rouda

This is a guilty pleasure of a thriller: fast, dramatic, and satisfying. Kate had a picture-perfect life with her husband and daughter — until her husband left for a woman half his age. Tish is gorgeous, luxurious, and only a little suspicious of her new husband’s previous infidelity. She plans a romantic getaway to fend Kate off, but love and revenge are powerful weapons that tear plans apart. 

Thrill factor: The dark humor that ramps up the intensity.

A psychological thriller that will leave you speechless

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

“Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeney

With an unreliable narrator and more lies than you can count, this thriller is perfectly constructed and the plot is a baffling rollercoaster. When Amber wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember what happened, but she suspects her husband has something to do with it. This book alternates between the present, the week before her accident, and Amber’s childhood diaries to help us piece together a brilliant psychological twist. 

Thrill factor: The subtle inflections the narrator assigns to each character.

Crime thrillers

A dark yet elegant crime thriller

Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins

“Behind the Red Door” by Megan Collins

Megan Collins became well-known for her debut thriller “The Winter Sister,” but I’m here to proclaim that “Behind the Red Door” is the one that should really be in the spotlight. I have never read a thriller that featured characters with such complexity or one where I said “oh NO” out loud so many times. When Fern hears the news that a woman named Astrid has gone missing, she’s sure she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure that it must be from Astrid ‘s infamous kidnapping 20 years prior, which happened just outside Fern’s childhood town but of which she has no memory. When Astrid starts appearing in Fern’s nightmares, Fern grapples to understand if it’s a dream or a memory with the help of her psychologist father.

Thrill factor: The main character’s unreliable memory.

A chilling stalker thriller

You by Caroline Kepnes

“You” by Caroline Kepnes

If you have yet to be pulled into the Netflix adaptation, resist and pick up the book first! This is the creepiest yet most believable stalker thriller, packed with so many insane developments that you think it can’t get any wilder…until it does. Told from Joe’s perspective, the book depicts his rapidly growing obsession over a woman he meets in a bookstore, one that morphs and twists as Joe stops at nothing to make himself the center of her world. Joe is the most messed up fictional character I’ve ever encountered, making this book a fabulously creepy thriller to grab. 

Thrill factor: The chilling main character.

A terrifying serial killer story

The Whisper Man by Alex North

“The Whisper Man” by Alex North

This thriller gripped me so much that I read the second-half all in one shot and finished at 3:30 a.m. It’s about a serial killer and abductor who whispers to children to lure them away from safety. The Whisper Man has been locked away for 20 years, but the patterns of his crimes are emerging once again. The book also threw in a couple mini-twists at the end that made reading until the very last page exciting. 

Thrill factor: Wanting so badly to protect the characters.

An alluring marital thriller

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

“My Lovely Wife” by Samantha Downing

In this creepy thriller where we never learn the narrator’s name, a married couple does everything married couples are “supposed” to do: Settle down, buy a house, have a kid, and grow horribly bored with their lives. With the thrills building up in nearly every scene, the secret ingredient that keeps their marriage alive is getting away with murder.

Thrill factor: The layers upon layers of secrets behind every character.

A thriller for the true-crime lovers

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

“The Night Swim” by Megan Goldin

Rachel’s true-crime podcast gained notoriety after it helped set an innocent man free. When a note begging for help is left on Rachel’s windshield, it launches an investigation into the past and present, exploring a town disrupted by a rape trial and a drowning accident from 25 years ago. This is an especially perfect thriller for true crime lovers — it swirls you quickly into the center of this plot and keeps you strapped in for the ride. 

Thrill factor: The two separate (yet intertwined) mysteries 

A multi-POV thriller

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

“Every Last Fear” by Alex Finlay

This heartbreaking story about familial tragedy is as deep as it is twisty. Matt returns home after a night of partying to be informed that nearly his entire family was killed by a gas leak in their hotel in Mexico. Though it seems like an accident, one FBI agent believes otherwise, but won’t disclose why. The deaths make national headlines because this isn’t the first time Matt’s family has been thrust into the spotlight: his brother is currently in prison for the muder of his high school girlfriend — a murder the public believes he didn’t commit. When Matt returns home to bury his family, the connections between his brother’s case and his family’s accident begin to emerge. 

Thrill factor: That “look over your shoulder” feeling.

A domestic legal thriller

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

“A Good Marriage” by Kimberly McCreight

This domestic thriller is just as emotional and insightful as it is surprising and exhilarating. Lizzie spends long hours working at her law firm after her marriage slowly crumbled apart. When she gets a call from Zach, her old friend who’s currently being held on suspicion of killing his wife, Lizzie knows she has to drop everything and help him. As she begins to piece together what happened to Zach’s wife, she finds that maybe their idyllic marriage wasn’t so great after all. 

Thrill Factor: The marital drama and endless secrets.

Mystery and suspense thrillers

A staple in the genre

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

An indisputable thriller staple, this is a great one to pick up if you’re just getting into the genre because it will introduce you to some of the nuances of thrillers on which many others are based. In this book, Amy goes missing on her and Nick’s fifth wedding anniversary. Dealing with the town breathing down his neck and haunting diary entries from his wife, Nick begins to spin a web of lies around his wife’s disappearance. 

Thrill factor: Carefully sculpted plot twists.

A full-throttle, high suspenseful mystery thriller

No Exit by Taylor Adams

“No Exit” by Taylor Adams

I ignored my family during the holidays because of this book, and I’m not sorry about it! While driving home through Colorado, Darby is caught in a blizzard and forced to wait the storm out at a highway rest stop, stranded with four strangers. When she goes to her car to try and get a signal, she notices a child locked in a cage in the back of a van. Far from police help, Darby must figure out which person is the kidnapper and get the child and herself to safety. This was the most tense I have ever felt reading a book.

Thrill factor: The high-speed action scenes.

A thriller of multiple marriages (and multiple truths)

Too Good To Be True by Carola Lovering

“Too Good To Be True” by Carola Lovering

With three points of view (and none of them entirely reliable), “Too Good To Be True” is a thriller about two marriages and the secrets that can uproot well-laid plans. Skye is overjoyed to be engaged to Burke, her seemingly perfect boyfriend who, in a series of letters to his therapist, reveals that he’s married and deviously manipulating Skye. The third perspective is of Heather, Burke’s ex from 30 years ago. It’s a twist-filled read that will leave you wondering how well you know those closest to you. 

Thrill factor: The feeling of an emotional car crash waiting to happen.

A book with a jaw-dropping reveal

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

“The Wife Between Us” by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

This is a thriller that thrives on your assumptions. It lets you assume that you’re reading the story of a jealous woman, obsessed with her ex-husband’s new wife, just to turn everything on its head halfway through this impeccably constructed book. Even when you know something is coming, the twists in this tangled love triangle are utterly shocking. 

Thrill factor: Questioning our own assumptions.

A thriller almost too wild to believe

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

“When No One Is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

Sydney is tired of the gentrification of her Brooklyn neighborhood, the homes changing and her neighbors moving faster than she can keep up. She decides to start a deep-dive into the neighborhood’s history with her neighbor Theo, but what they uncover instills paranoia and fear as what they once thought were conspiracies are slowly revealed to hold hidden truths. This one is a wild ride with a pile of twists that happen all at once. 

Thrill factor: The conspiracy theories that might actually be true.

A binge-worthy book

Verity by Colleen Hoover

“Verity” by Colleen Hoover

When you open this book, make sure you have no plans for the rest of the day — the first 20 pages or so ease you into the story and the rest of the book is a dead sprint to the end. Little-known writer Lowen has been hired to finish Verity’s well-loved book series after a car accident left her in a waking coma. While looking for outlines or notes in Verity’s office, Lowen discovers a horrifying autobiographical manuscript that depicts Verity’s darkest secrets, kept from her husband and children. This thriller is one gripping scene of action after another, barrelling towards an ending that will have you shoving this book into your friends’ hands so they can experience the wild ride for themselves. 

Thrill factor: The inability to choose which lie to believe.

The story of a murderous fashionista

#FashionVictim by Amina Akhtar

“#FashionVictim” by Amina Akhtar

This book is unassumingly murderous, exciting, and fun. Anya is a fashion editor with an envious wardrobe, a flawless social media presence, a soaring career, and a stack of bodies of those who almost got in her way. When Anya’s desire to be friends with Sarah, her coworker, turns into an obsession, the intrigue may turn fatal. There is an unreasonably large amount of murder in this story, which is exactly what kept me interested. 

Thrill factor: Anya’s conniving ability to get away with murder.

A suspenseful mystery of a missing woman

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

“I Am Watching You” by Teresa Driscoll

Ella nearly intervenes when she sees two recently released convicts flirting with two young women, Anna and Sarah. After Ella decides to mind her business, Anna goes missing — and Ella is still riddled with guilt one year later. But now someone is sending Ella threatening letters, and the gaps in Sarah’s account of that night grow wider as Ella realizes someone knows where Anna might be. This is one where the intense plot twist threw so many readers for a loop and settled with a satisfying resolution.

Thrill factor: The psychological distress of the protagonist.

YA thrillers

A heartbreaking YA thriller novel

See All The Stars by Kit Frick 

See All The Stars by Kit Frick

I was not in the least surprised to learn that Kit Frick is also a poet. This book is teenage heartbreak mixed in a swirl of emotional prose and confounding thrills. Told between then and now, Ellory returns to her senior year of high school riddled with guilt, anxiety, and loss. As you read, you’ll sort through the lies to find the truth to Ellory’s pain. The whole book leads up to discovering the event that tore apart the main character’s world, so you always have the feeling that something is coming… but you never know what might be around the corner. 

Thrill factor: A potentially unreliable narrator.

A compulsively readable YA thriller

Lies You Never Told Me

“Lies You Never Told Me” by Jennifer Donaldson

This is another book that I finished in one sitting, the two seemingly unrelated storylines leading to a climax so shocking, I’m not sure I even blinked until I finished the book. It follows Gabe and Elyse, complete strangers with similar secrets. They each fall for the wrong person and make one bad choice that spins their lives out of control. When you have no clue what you’re looking for, a thriller’s twist can hit you like a brick wall (in a good way!) and that’s exactly what this book did to me. 

Thrill factor: Two different tales with unsettling similarities.

A twisted teenage tale

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

“The Cheerleaders” by Kara Thomas

Fans of “Riverdale” and high school thriller will undoubtedly devour this YA novel. The cheer squad at Sunnybrook High was disbanded after the death of five cheerleaders, all unrelated but close together. Five years after the deaths, the community is finally ready to move forward — except for Monica, who just discovered letters and an old cell phone in her step-dad’s desk. I accidentally read most of it in one sitting just because the story flows so smoothly.

Thrill factor: The flashback snippets providing little clues.

An investigative YA thriller

A Good Girl's Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson

“A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder” by Holly Jackson

In this YA thriller favorite, the case is already closed. Sal Singh murdered Andie Bell five years ago. Everyone knows he did it — except Pippa, who chooses to investigate the murder for her senior year project. As she begins to uncover long-buried secrets, there might be some who need the truth to stay buried lurking in the shadows. If you love true crime, murder mysteries, and unstoppable young women, this is the perfect easy-read thriller to grab. 

Thrill factor: The feeling of investigating alongside the protagonist.

A thriller version of “The Breakfast Club”

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

“One of Us is Lying” by Karen M. McManus

This YA thriller uses spectacular character development and dramatic, unreliable rumors to create a who-dunnit thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. On Monday’s detention, five students walk in and one never walks out. Simon, now dead, planned to post high-profile secrets about the others the next day, making the other four students murder suspects in the ensuing investigation. There’s a lot of depth to this book besides the thrill ride, which makes it even more satisfying to read.   

Thrill factor: The equal probability of every suspect’s guilt.

Horror thrillers

A paranormal thriller novel

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

“Home Before Dark” by Riley Sager

Riley Sager has published four great thrillers so far but this one’s my favorite. In this spooky and paranormal haunted house thriller, Maggie returns to restore the recently inherited home that made her family famous. Her father wrote a non-fiction bestseller based on their family’s three-week stay in the home before they were forced to flee in the night. Not only was Maggie too young to remember what happened; she doesn’t believe any of it is true. I genuinely had a great time reading this thriller — it was so much fun to feel the fear and expose the truths of this house alongside Maggie.

Thrill factor: Skepticism and doubt mixed with a foggy memory.

A haunted “smart” house

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

“The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware is another notorious thriller writer and this is my favorite of her books so far — and was actually too scary to read alone at night. It takes place in a technologically-advanced home in the Scottish Highlands, where Rowan is hired as a live-in nanny and earns an outrageous salary. Told in the form of a letter from Rowan to her lawyer, she recounts the events from her arrival at the home to the death of one of the children. This story is so immersive and scary that I had to remind myself more than once that it’s just a book.

Thrill factor: Technology’s role in generating unease.

The tale of a spooky motel

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

“The Sun Down Motel” by Simone St. James

This book is filled with so many vivid and borderline violent scenes that build the tension throughout the story. Viv works at a 1982 roadside motel to pay for her move to New York City. As the secrets of the motel and its guests begin to reveal themselves, the nights seem to grow darker and darker. Once I finished this book, I felt like I could exhale for the first time in days — I was so satisfied with the resolution. 

Thrill factor: Realizing that the deeper the shadows, the more secrets that can hide within.

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For $399 a year, Coursera Plus gets you unlimited access to thousands of online courses. Here’s why it can be a great option for professional certificates.

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  • Coursera Plus is a $399 annual subscription for access to over 90% of the platform’s online courses.
  • Members can earn unlimed professional certificates to add to their resumes or LinkedIn profiles.
  • Below is everything you need to know Coursera Plus, including how payments and refunds work.

Coursera, a popular e-learning platform with thousands of online courses from top universities, offers an annual subscription called Coursera Plus.

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Members pay an upfront annual fee of $399 to get unlimited access to 90% of Coursera classes. For anyone looking to learn a new skill, take multiple classes per year, or earn a certificate they can add to their LinkedIn profile, Coursera Plus could be a good investment (and a cheaper alternative to grad school, depending on your interests).

Below is everything you need to know about how to sign up, which classes are included, and how to get a refund if it’s not for you.

What is Coursera Plus, and what’s included with the subscription?

Coursera Plus is Coursera’s unlimited annual subscription. It’s $399 for the year and gives members unlimited access to over 90% of the platform’s course catalog. You can access more than 3,000 classes taught by top instructors of prestigious universities (like Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, or UPenn) and companies (Google Cloud, Goldman Sachs, and VMware, to name a few). Specializations and professional certificates are also included for everything from data science and business to health and personal development.

Once you’re a member, a Coursera Plus badge appears on all the classes included in the subscription. You can browse a few of Coursera’s most popular courses here, or skim the list of classes included with membership.

Coursera Plus does not include degrees or MasterTrack certificates, and some professional certificates are excluded, such as those offered by Amazon Web Services and IBM.

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How many certificates can you earn with Coursera Plus?

According to the company, you earn a certificate for every course, specialization, or professional certificate you complete. You can then share your certificate on your LinkedIn profile, with your employer, and on your CV and resume.

Does Coursera Plus save you money?

It depends. Without a membership, you can audit Coursera courses either completely for free or only during their seven-day trial, but you won’t get access to all of a class’s features, such as graded homework and verified certificates of completion. To get full access, you almost always need to pay either a one-time or monthly fee, depending on the course.

So if you plan on paying for full access to multiple courses, Coursera Plus may save you money depending on what they are and how much each individual course costs. But, if you only take one or two paid courses per year, you may be better off without it.

If you’re enrolling in a Specialization, which is essentially a bundle of related courses designed to help you master a specific topic, Coursera Plus may save you money – especially if you take longer to complete your specialization than its estimated time frame (which is three months on average) or plan to enroll in multiple specializations and/or other classes in the same year.

Most Coursera Specializations charge a monthly fee for access to all the courses within the Specialization until you’ve completed every one or you’ve canceled the subscription. When you pay for a Specialization and finish it, you get a certificate as well as course certificates for each course you completed within it.

Comparative price breakdown: Coursera Plus subscription vs. Specialization subscriptions

A Coursera Plus subscription is $399 for the year, which breaks down to $33.25 a month. On average, a Specialization ranges from $49-$79 a month and takes about three months to complete, according to Coursera. The average cost is $147-$237 for a Specialization without Coursera Plus; you’d pay $99.75 over the same three-month time frame with Plus.

If you don’t plan on taking other courses and can complete Specialization in three months, you may save money by doing it à la carte. But if you want to take your time completing a course, enroll in multiple courses throughout the year, or choose a Specialization subscription with a longer time frame (some can take up to a year to complete), you’re probably a good candidate for Coursera Plus.

What happens to any Specialization subscriptions you’re already enrolled in when you subscribe to Coursera Plus?

You need to cancel those subscriptions so you aren’t charged twice; they won’t be automatically canceled. Find step-by-step instructions for canceling an existing subscription here.

According to the company, none of your progress will be impacted by canceling previous subscriptions.

Can you get a refund?

You can receive a full refund within 14 days of your payment, but if you earned a certificate using Plus during those 14 days, it would be revoked.

To get a refund, visit your My Purchases page within 14 days of purchase and submit a refund request. The company says your refund will be processed immediately and without questions.

Can you ask your employer to reimburse your Coursera Plus fee?

If your employer offers educational reimbursements that include online-learning programs, you should be able to. You’ll receive an email receipt that you can submit to your employer for reimbursement. But you should check with your employer before purchasing to be sure.

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