Okay, here is my list of book recommendations for understanding the evolutionary behavioral sciences (including sociobiology and evolutionary psychology). None of these books are all that "lightweight", but they don't require a background in biology to understand.
- The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins)
This is a classic for a reason. All the evolutionary sciences are based on genetics and evolutionary biology. You don't need to read genetics textbooks to understand them, but you need to know the basic how-and-why of evolution. This is a very good starting point. If you come out of it wanting more, Dawkins' "The Extended Phenotype" goes into more depth but is a harder read.
- Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Daniel Dennett)
More philosophical and high-concept overview of evolution, whereas The Selfish Gene was more nitty-gritty. But this is also an essential book for anyone wanting to understand the evolutionary principles underlying sociobiology. A really great book.
- The Adapted Mind (Leda Cosmides and John Tooby)
This is a book of academic papers, and not for everyone. However it is THE book which launched evolutionary psychology as a field. It covers the classic stuff - why study the mind from an evolutionary perspective, what it has to say about sex differences, mating behavior, cognition, social strategies, etc.
- Evolutionary Psychology textbook (???)
A textbook is a great place to start for a general overview. I read Buss (1999), but it was kind of dry and is probably rather out of date by now. I'm sure there are better ones but I don't have a specific recommendation.
- Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers (James McBride Dabbs)
This is an excellent book about the link between biology in the form of hormones, and behavior. It focuses overwhelmingly on testosterone, the "male hormone" (but actually covers its impact on men and women). This book is an excellent demonstration of even something so simple as levels of a single hormone has profound impacts on individual behavior, and on society as a whole through its contribution to stereotypical masculinity/femininity.
- Hierarchy in the Forest (Christopher Boehm)
Evolutionary anthropology about hierarchical vs. egalitarian behaviors in pre-industrial human societies. It goes into depth about something few people realize - hunter-gatherers are/were FAR more egalitarian than other human societies. They did it by being actively egalitarian - collectively persecuting anyone who tried to place themselves in a position of authority. Egalitarianism developed in humans as something that had to be actively and collectively enforced, not something that ever magically resulted from just not paying attention to hierarchy. Our primate ancestors were very hierarchical, and we never lost those tendencies, just gained the ability to counteract them with new behavior patterns.
- Religion Explained (Pascal Boyer)
The best book I've ever read, by FAR, on why people believe in religion. Boyer starts by examining what religion is, with a clear anthropological eye. Most scholars of religion implicitly treat it as if religion was all like modern western monotheism - evangelical, moralistic, and pervading all aspects of life. Boyer points out that most religions haven't been like this, what they really share isn't morality backed by divine authority, but simply the tendency to anthropomorphize the universe. Religious, spiritual, and supernatural beliefs treat the nonhuman world as if it had humanlike intelligence behind it, and as if we could have a social relationship with it. He shows how the evolution of the human mind as something very attuned to socialization and taking various cognitive shortcuts, basically guarantees religious beliefs.
- Social Dominance (Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto)
Evolutionary psychology applied to the detailed study of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. Sidanius and Pratto show how people vary in their levels of prejudice, and highly prejudiced people tend to be prejudiced against pretty much everything rather than only one or two especially hated targets. Prejudice is explained as a tactic that applies to the organization of society in a hierarchy of groups of different status. "Social dominance", the general term for this nasty cluster of tendencies, is the tendency to treat society as a competition between groups, where one wants to increase the status of one's own group by collectively competing against the others. The book contains some great practical research on just how pervasive prejudice is around the world and in the US (for example black people can expect to pay about a thousand dollars more for a car).
- The Nurture Assumption (Judith Rich Harris)
This is the book from the woman who singlehandedly revolutionized the study of child development. Harris overturned decades of research purporting to show that parents' behavior was the dominant cause of their childrens' behavior, showing that most parent-child similarities are actually due to similar genes. Childrens' socialization comes more from their peer interactions and the community environment in general, than from their own parents directly. This is a very thorough and eye-opening book on child development, and one that often made me exclaim that something was soooo obvious in retrospect - only to realize that if it's sooo obvious, why have I never heard anyone pointing it out?
- Luxury Fever (Robert Frank)
This book is actually economics from the perspective of modern behavioral science. Frank views much of society as a status competition - we work for economic gain not because more money will directly increase our own welfare, but because conspicuously having more money than other people increases our social status. Frank describes economics in a way econ undergrads have never heard it - as a study of actual behavior rather than mathematically ideal rational consumers - and pretty much overturns some of the most fundamental justifications of laissez-faire capitalism in the process.
- Survival of the Prettiest (Nancy Etcoff)
This is a popularized, rather than academic, investigation of the science (especially evolutionary science) of sex, love, beauty, and mating in humans. It doesn't make any specific point in depth but provides a general, very readable coverage of what elements of human nature there are to the whole mating game.
- The Myth of Monogamy (David Barash and Judith Lipton)
The best place to start studying human mating behavior is, in a way, with birds - the only part of the animal kingdom where you'll find lots of human style long term relationships (our primate relatives don't do long-term mating nor do most animals). This is also a less politically explosive and more rigorous way to introduce yourself to the science of mating behavior. Barash and Lipton show how even when species mate for a very long time, they're not really "monogamous" - they cheat, they leave their mates, and they have a whole host of evolutionary adaptations for cheating and competing in the mating game. Males and females have very different strategies for their mating and cheating. They describe generalities as well as lots of interesting details (human males may have such a large penis, and human sex involve so much repeated thrusting, in order to dislodge the sperm of other males from the female's vagina).
- Why We Get Sick (Randolph Nesse and George Williams)
A short but very good book about what evolution has to say about medicine (oddly enough, medicine hasn't payed much attention to evolutionary biology until lately). Covers the evolution of various kinds of diseases in competition with immune systems, disease symptoms as sometimes being caused by the body's evolved defense mechanisms (so treating the symptoms can help the disease), covers the many health problems caused by our being evolved for a hunter-gatherer life very different from the one we live now, and more.
- Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart & The Adapted Mind (Gerd Gigerenzer et. al.)
These books are mainly of interest to people that have taken cognitive psychology courses. Gigerenzer is an evolutionary cognitive psychologist, and basically shows how traditional cog sci is naively rationalistic, and made a big mistake focusing on how human problem-solving doesn't match logic rather than on how human problem solving is an "adaptive toolbox" of systems, each evolved to solve different problems. We can think better by understanding how the different parts of our brains work, and recognizing that our errors tend to be not so much from being "illogical" as from using the wrong tool for the job.
- Defenders of the Truth (Ullica Segerstrale)
This is a classic sociological study of the "sociobiology controversy" - the extremely rancorous debate in the 70s and 80s between the sociobiologists and evolutionary scientists on the one hand, and Marxist-inspired left wing academics on the other hand. The anti-sociobiologists basically called the sociobiologists dangerous fascists for decades. Despite the evolutionary scientists basically winning a massive victory in terms of scientific results, even thirty years later most left wing humanities types still view the evolutionary sciences as misguided reactionary rubbish (always an extremely grating reaction to the liberal-leaning scientists in the field, especially left-wing types like E.O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins). Segerstrale bends over backwards to be fair, but the anti-sociobiologists come out looking extremely bad.