Feel good books 2017

Table of Contents

A lot of us are affected by the lack of sunshine in the northern hemisphere during winter. This is the time of year that we desperately need some happy reading. There’s nothing more comforting than a good book after a hard day, with a fire in place, cuddled next to your dog or cat, or both. The fact that our lives feel more and more unstable, it’s comforting to know that we can turn to literature to see how others have handled their stress and found peace. Isn’t that why a lot of us turn to books in the first place? Here are 29 books that make you happy that I’m recommending for solace and cheer this winter.

1. Eleanore Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

2. Beartown: A Novel by Fredrik Backman

3. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

“This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.”

4. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

An inspirational and emotional story of a family that has been defined by war, even if they don’t know it. “Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be and they find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life.”

5. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

“Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone—but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.”

6. No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal

Families keep us sane, and also insane, but there’s always love. “In a suburb outside Cleveland, a community of Indian Americans has settled into lives that straddle the divide between Eastern and Western cultures. Harit, a lonely Indian immigrant in his mid forties, lives with his mother who can no longer function after the death of Harit’s sister, Swati. In a misguided attempt to keep both himself and his mother sane, Harit has taken to dressing up in a sari every night to pass himself off as his sister. Meanwhile, Ranjana, also an Indian immigrant in her mid forties, has just seen her only child, Prashant, off to college. Worried that her husband has begun an affair, she seeks solace by writing paranormal romances in secret. When Harit and Ranjana’s paths cross, they begin a strange yet necessary friendship that brings to light their own passions and fears.” Funny and loving. What more can you ask for?

7. The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang

Charles Wang, a brash, lovable businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, has just lost everything in the financial crisis. So he rounds up two of his children from schools that he can no longer afford and packs them into the only car that wasn’t repossessed. Together with their wealth-addicted stepmother, Barbra, they head on a cross-country journey from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the Upstate New York retreat of the eldest Wang daughter, Saina.

8. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” One sees clearly with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye. This classic reminds us what is important in life. It’s a children’s book but its lessons are valid for adults too. We often need to be reminded what really matters. After all, all adults were once children.

9. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

“A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.”

10. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

“Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she’s worked for so hard and so long: a new dream job, a fiancé she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment. How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best—a masterpiece of a novel that is both hopeful and hilarious; truthful and wise; tender and brave.”

11. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

“In the rolling dales of Yorkshire, a simple, rural region of northern England, a young veterinarian from Sunderland joins a new practice. A stranger in a strange land, he must quickly learn the odd dialect and humorous ways of the locals, master outdated equipment, and do his best to mend, treat, and heal pets and livestock alike.”

12. The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama XIV

“If you ask him if he’s happy, even though he’s suffered the loss of his country, the Dalai Lama will give you an unconditional yes. What’s more, he’ll tell you that happiness is the purpose of life, and that the very motion of our life is toward happiness.”

13. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and thereby exposes herself to the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel’s seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness.

14. Halsey Street by Naima Coster

“An engrossing debut, Halsey Street shifts between the perspectives of these two captivating, troubled women. Mirella has one last chance to win back the heart of the daughter she’d lost long before leaving New York, and for Penelope, it’s time to break free of the hold of the past and start navigating her own life. A modern-day story of family, loss, and renewal, Halsey Street captures the deeply human need to belong—not only to a place but to one another.”

15. Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

“Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father—an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist—who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.”

16. Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester

“The first time Isabel meets her father-in-law, Omar, he’s already dead—an apparition appearing uninvited on her wedding day. Her husband, Martin, still unforgiving for having been abandoned by his father years ago, confesses that he never knew the old man had died. So Omar asks Isabel for the impossible: persuade Omar’s family—especially his wife, Elda—to let him redeem himself.” A story about family and forgiveness and hope.

17. Not a Self Help Book: Misadventures of Marty Wu by Yi Shun Lai

“Mining the comedic potential of the 1.5-generation American experience, NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK is an insightful and witty portrait of a young woman scrambling to balance familial expectations and her own creative dreams.” Creative heroine, family expectations this book has it all for a cozy weekend in.

18. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems by Joy Harjo

“In these poems, the joys and struggles of the everyday are played against the grinding politics of being human. Beginning in a hotel room in the dark of a distant city, we travel through history and follow the memory of the Trail of Tears from the bend in the Tallapoosa River to a place near the Arkansas River. Stomp dance songs, blues, and jazz ballads echo throughout. Lost ancestors are recalled. Resilient songs are born, even as they grieve the loss of their country.” It’s probably a little strange that this can bring happiness, but allowing grief and truth to see the light, we can find peace and move forward. While in the darkness, there is happiness.

19. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This memoir is a little “old” but having read through this, I have been moved and changed. I am placing this on the list because it gives us hope. Hope for the future if we embrace reciprocity with nature. Happiness in learning from nature. Kimmerer is an Indigenous writer and botanist who brings art to science.

20. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

“Written as a series of autobiographical essays, A Field Guide to Getting Lost draws on emblematic moments and relationships in Rebecca Solnit’s life to explore issues of uncertainty, trust, loss, memory, desire, and place. Solnit is interested in the stories we use to navigate our way through the world, and the places we traverse, from wilderness to cities, in finding ourselves, or losing ourselves. While deeply personal, her own stories link up to larger stories, from captivity narratives of early Americans to the use of the color blue in Renaissance painting, not to mention encounters with tortoises, monks, punk rockers, mountains, deserts, and the movie Vertigo. The result is a distinctive, stimulating voyage of discovery.”

21. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

“The Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu is among the wisest books ever written and one of the greatest gifts ever given to humankind. In the handful of pages that make up the Tao te Ching, there is an answer to each of life’s questions, a solution to every predicament, a balm for any wound. It is less a book than a living, breathing angel.”

22. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver

“Throughout her celebrated career, Mary Oliver has touched countless readers with her brilliantly crafted verse, expounding on her love for the physical world and the powerful bonds between all living things.Carefully curated, these 200 plus poems feature Oliver’s work from her very first book of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems, published in 1963 at the age of 28, through her most recent collection, Felicity, published in 2015. “

23. Women Were Birds: Fifty Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

A memoir about mothers. A memoir about women. For those who find themselves in grief, in hope, and in search for happiness. “In fifty-four chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams creates a lyrical and caring meditation of the mystery of her mother’s journals. When Women Were Birds is a kaleidoscope that keeps turning around the question ‘What does it mean to have a voice?’”

24. The Essential Rumi by Jalal al-Din Rumi

“Through his lyrical translations, Coleman Barks has been instrumental in bringing this exquisite literature to a remarkably wide range of readers, making the ecstatic, spiritual poetry of thirteenth-century Sufi Mystic Rumi more widely accepted than ever.

25. The Little Book of Love by Kahlil Gibran

“Kahlil Gibran’s aphorisms, stories, and poetry on a theme remain among some of those best known to Western readers. His views, however, extend to a wide realm of human emotions and relationships–passion, desire, idealized love, justice, friendship, and the challenges of dealing with strangers, neighbors, and enemies. This little book captures love and life in all of their complexities and nuance”

26. The Solace Of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

“Poet and filmmaker Gretel Ehrlich went to Wyoming in 1975 to make the first in a series of documentaries when her partner died. Ehrlich stayed on and found she couldn’t leave. The Solace of Open Spaces is a chronicle of her first years on ‘the planet of Wyoming,’ a personal journey into a place, a feeling, and a way of life.”

27. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

“With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, Cheryl Strayed would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone after the death of her mother. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.”

And for a little bit of Holiday Cheer:

28. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

As a book that has never been out of print, this story will uplift up and help you through this holiday season by helping you see the true meaning of life. Perhaps it will help you keep the spirit of Christmas “in your heart all year long” that spirit is one of charity, hope, and brotherly love.

29. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

We’re all familiar with the story of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. However, if you’re not, this lovely coming of age book about the March sisters during their father’s deployment as a Civil War Chaplain in the Union Army will certainly be what you need. Resilience, Grief, Happiness and Love. This book is perfect for winter reading.

What are your favorite books that make you happy?

Sign up to receive Check Your Shelf, the Librarian’s One-Stop Shop For News, Book Lists, And More. By signing up you agree to our Terms of ServiceThere is a wealth of material out there about happiness.

Perhaps your ‘taste-buds’ have been tempted by reading about happiness – either on this website, in your practice, or forming research. You would have found that there are some fantastic books on what is a very broad topic. But it can be hard to decide which to read.

The purpose of this article is to provide a summary of fifteen of the most popular and best happiness books that have been written on this topic. Hopefully, by knowing more about what each of these books are about, and (in some cases) by reading a few short reviews of the books, you can decide which ones may take your fancy.

The books have been written from authors including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to renowned professors of psychology, and even an economist. They explore topics from a wide variety of perspectives, some you may enjoy learning about. It is hoped that you can use this article as a resource to guide your decision as to which happiness book to read. I hope it is helpful!

1. The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

This book was actually written by a psychiatrist, Dr. Cutler, based on interviews conducted over a period of one week with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is renowned for his personal sense of peace and in this book, readers can learn what they can do to discover this same serenity.

In ‘The Art of Happiness’, Howard C. Cutler puts forward a “western” (i.e. science-based) view of the Dalai Lama’s (a Buddhist monk, also known as Tenzin Gyatso) teachings. It provides an overview of Tibetan Buddhism and the messages from its’ leader the Dalia Lama.

A key feature of the book is the direct quotations from the Dalai Lama. So, what are the Dalai Lama’s teachings about happiness?

Happiness is, according to this book, the purpose of life. Once a person’s basic needs are met, happiness is more the result of the mind rather than events, external conditions, and circumstances.

This book explains that we each hold the key to our own happiness. It argues that, by training our hearts and minds, and by actively working on our attitudes and outlook, we can all achieve happiness.

How does the Dalai Lama suggest we find happiness? Well, he advises readers to pay attention to the things that make us happy and to eliminate the things that make us suffer. Further, by achieving peace of mind in this way, the Dalai Lama says this means we can move away from material goods and to seek contentment and an inner sense of worth.

According to the teachings, all people have the potential to do this. It also presents the idea that compassion is a state of mind whereby a person is not violent, harming, or aggressive. The Dalai Lama says we should show compassion to everybody, and that universal compassion towards the right of other people to be free some suffering is important. He explains that showing empathy can help to generate and foster compassion.

Whilst this book clearly explores spiritual teachings, the Dalai Lama contends that all religions should be accepted and that spirituality is about benefitting oneself through a sense of being calm and feeling happy.

Furthermore, ‘The Art of Happiness’ suggests that happiness can be achieved by ‘systematical training of our hearts and minds’.

Available from Amazon as a hardcover book, audiobook or for Kindle.

2. Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman

‘Authentic Happiness’ was published in 2004, written by Martin Seligman.

Seligman, a psychologist and best-selling author puts forward the idea that happiness is not due to ‘having the right genes’ or ‘being lucky’. Rather, according to Seligman, true, enduring happiness (i.e. ‘authentic happiness’) is the result of paying attention to one’s personal strengths rather than focusing on perceived weaknesses.

Seligman, who has been described as the father of positive psychology, applies psychological research that has been developing over a long period of time. He shares what he proposes to be the 24 strengths and virtues that make up our psyche. He then explains how to look into the strengths and virtues that each person has. He calls these ‘signature strengths’.

Seligman’s book suggests that authentic happiness is achieved when an individual is able to use their personal strengths in order to improve every area of their life. Seligman has developed resources, including a series of practical exercises, short tests, and a dynamic website program.

Taking these resources, Seligman – an esteemed author – demonstrates to readers how to become aware of their highest virtues and act in accordance with them in a new way.

This book describes how by using their ‘signature strengths’, a person can create a buffering effect against ill fate and negative emotions. However, as well, using one’s signature strengths enables individuals to also make the world around them a better place.

According to ‘Authentic Happiness’, discovering authentic happiness can lead to new, sustainable joy, meaning, and contentment in aspects of life such as work, relationships, and parenting. This book, described as groundbreaking, heart-lifting and extremely useful, explains that happiness can be learned, or, in other words ‘cultivated’.

Amazon has declared that ‘Authentic Happiness’ is the most powerful work of popular psychology in years. Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence) calls ‘Authentic Happiness’ “a practical map for a flourishing life”.

‘Authentic Happiness‘ can be purchased from Amazon.

3. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

This book, written by Professor Daniel Gilbert, was the winner of the Royal Society of Science Prize in 2007. It has been described as very interesting, and funny. Gilbert demonstrates that most of us don’t know how to make ourselves happy, and he explains why this is the case. All of us wish to be happy, but how do we do so?

According to Professor Gilbert, people don’t know how to predict what will please our future selves. ‘Stumbling on Happiness’ sees Gilbert explain how our brains predict the future and explore whether the brain is able to imagine what it will enjoy.

Prof. Gilbert draws upon the fields of psychology, neuroscience, economics, and philosophy. Gilbert, who is a pre-eminent psychologist, explores another area in this book – human motivation.

Within ‘Stumbling on Happiness’, the author reveals the so-called secrets of motivation. He explores some interesting questions, including: why people order different meals when eating with others, rather than instead selecting what they want; why shoppers who can’t get refunds are happier; and, why even though couples claim their children are a source of joy, they are less satisfied after having their children.

Professor Daniel Gilbert (born in 1957) is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He has previously won a number of awards for teaching and research.

Get this great read from Amazon.

4. The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Russ Harris

Dr. Russ Harris is a medical practitioner with particular expertise in stress management and he trains coaches, psychologists, doctors and other health professionals in the use of mindfulness. This is an easy-to-read self-help book that was published in 2013.

‘The Happiness Trap’, which has been described as empowering and practical, introduces ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). ACT is a relatively recent approach to psychotherapy that has been developed out of leading research in behavioral psychology.

ACT is centered on a mindfulness-based program designed to decrease stress, conquer fears and find fulfillment. Harris’ book is an international best-seller that has been published in more than 30 countries and in 22 different languages.

In it, Harris explains the myths about happiness and popular ideas about it and suggests that these myths are misleading and inaccurate, and even that in part they cause the widespread experiences of stress, anxiety, and depression. He says that many current psychology programs are, in fact, making things worse.

The title (The Happiness Trap) encapsulates the main argument of the book – that the more people try and achieve happiness, the more they actually suffer in the long-term. Therefore, ACT is suggested as a way to escape ‘The Happiness Trap’. ACT is an innovative new method based on mindfulness.

According to this book, by making one’s values clear and practicing being mindful (in other words, focus on living fully in the present moment), ACT can enable readers to leave the happiness trap behind and discover meaning and satisfaction in their lives.

Mindfulness skills can be learned easily, and are quick ways proven to decrease stress, improve performance, effectively deal with emotions, enhance health, improve vitality and – overall – really improve quality of life!

Harris’ book employs scientifically proven techniques for developing a meaningful, fulfilling life, and can be purchased from Amazon.

5. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The author, Shawn Achor, is a lecturer at Harvard University and he co-designed Harvard’s ‘Happiness’ course. He presents over 150 lectures each year on the science of happiness and human potential. He conducted the largest ever study on happiness and human potential, surveying more than 1600 students.

Based on this study, Achor reveals the 7 core principles of positive psychology that every person can practice to enhance our performance, improve our careers and achieve success at work.

Most people are hoping to be more successful and everyone wants to be happy. Generally, it is believed that, if you work hard, this will lead to being more successful and that becoming more successful will lead to being happy. Achor dispels the myth that we will feel happy if, and when, we become successful.

Positive Psychology suggests that the proposition that we will feel happy if, and when, we become successful is not true. In fact, as Achor explains in ‘The Happiness Advantage’, happiness actually drives performance and success.

When you stop and think about it, this makes sense! I am sure that if we reflect on a time when we felt happy, we will notice that when we are more positive, we are also more engaged, more creative, more able to cope with stress, and more productive.

‘The Happiness Advantage’ is a useful book for those seeking practical advice on the ways to become happier, and also more successful.

To attain that success, visit Amazon for this excellent book.

6. Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life by Sylvia Boorstein

Sylvia Boorstein, Ph.D., is a practicing psychotherapist and co-founding teacher at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. She frequently presents at psychology conferences and training seminars, and has written bestselling books – including ‘Pay Attention, for Goodness’ Sake’, ‘It’s Easier Than You think’, ‘Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There’, and ‘That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist’.

Boorstein considered the following questions when starting to write ‘Happiness Is an Inside Job’:

  • How is it possible to remain engaged with life day after day?
  • How can we keep our minds in a happy mood, and continue loving, when life itself is complicated, challenging and frequently disappointing?

In this inspiring book, Boorstein details advice that offers warmth and wisdom. She explores how, in spite of the odds being against us, that we can still feel a sense of happiness. From her work over three decades, Boorstein has noticed that the ‘secret’ to happiness is to develop and connect with kindness.

She suggests that happiness is found by being kind – not only to our friends, family, and colleagues, but also towards ourselves, others who we don’t know well, and even people we don’t really like!

Boorstein introduces some key lessons from Buddhism – Wise Effort, Wise Mindfulness, and Wise Concentration. She reveals how engaging with these teachings can move us from feeling angry, anxious, or confused and rather find a state of calmness, clarity, and enjoying living in the present moment.

By developing these qualities, according to Boorstein, we are able to deal with all that we encounter with a sense of balance and intelligence. This, according to the author, helps us have a grounded sense of true contentment.

Boorstein shares her knowledge as a psychotherapist, a spiritual teacher, and her role as a grandmother, to deliver a book that has been described as beautiful and comforting. Her engaging stories will draw in the reader’s hearts and minds. The book also features straightforward activities that can be done whilst the book is being read.

The take-home message from ‘Happiness is an Inside Job’ is that, in reality, we all share this journey – life – that, deep down we all seek to console and love one another and, finally, that the best way to live is to live happily.

Available for Kindle or as an affordable hardcover on Amazon.

7. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

More than one million of Rubin’s book have been sold! This book was written by best-selling author Gretchen Rubin. Rubin has a weekly podcast called “Happier with Gretchen Rubin”.

She has written on a broad range of topics, including biographies of Sir Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy. Rubin is a graduate of Yale Law School.

‘The Happiness Project’ details Gretchen Rubin’s year-long investigation into what truly leads to a state of contentment. Fellow author, Sonja Lyubomirsky, who is an expert in the topic of happiness, described The Happiness Project as “a cross between the Dalai Lama’s ‘The Art of Happiness’ and Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love”.

This book ties in up-to-the-minute science along with classical philosophy and real-world applicability. Rubin’s book has been described as a compelling, completely related tale of transformation.

The structure of this book is interesting. The book is divided into one chapter per month, and each month Rubin chooses to focus on a different topic. Then, in exploring each month’s topic (for example, February: Improve marriage), she sets a few goals to work on – ‘monthly resolutions’.

‘The Happiness Project’ has been described as relatable and funny, and that it provides motivation to focus on, and work on, goals. It shares a very personal and honest story.

Visit Amazon to purchase this very popular book.

8. The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt (+ Summary)

Jonathan Haidt is a psychology teacher at the University of Virginia. This book is his first for a general audience.

Society relies on so-called truths derived from folk wisdom that has been passed down for generations. This unique book draws from inspiration coming from both science and philosophy. Psychologist, Haidt, exposes the messages that have arrived as being ‘common sense’ because our grandparents and THEIR grandparents have handed them down…

Think of messages such as “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “do unto others as you would have done unto you” and “happiness comes from within”.

Whilst we rarely question these truisms, most of us hold onto the idea that we will feel truly happy when we earn more money, or find love, or discover success. ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ examines traditional wisdom by looking to modern science.

Haidt exposes somewhat provocative ideas such as that virtue in and of itself is not actually rewarding, that extroverts are indeed happier than their introverted counterparts, and that conscious thought is nowhere near as important as we may believe.

‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ has been described as remarkable and original – “ancient wisdom in our time”.

You can purchase ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ on Amazon.

9. The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha

Susan Cain, the author of QUIET, described this book as “a two-hour ticket to changing your life”. Pasricha is a New York Times best-selling author of a series called ‘Book of Awesome’. He was awarded an MBA from Harvard, is eminently popular as a TED presenter, and he also founded the Institute for Global Happiness.

‘The Happiness Equation’ reveals the nine secrets of happiness, and shows readers that to ‘have everything’ one should want nothing and do anything! Described as counterintuitive, this book is also somewhat controversial.

In exploring the secrets to happiness, Pasricha turns a common ideal upside down and presents the ideal in a whole new light. The author then gives step-by-step guidelines and even handwritten notes that detail how to put each secret into place in order to find a happier life.

Pasricha demonstrates some apparently contradictory teachings, such as why success isn’t the path to happiness and how to make more money than a Harvard MBA.

Furthermore, he dispels multi-tasking as a myth and describes how we actually find more choice is we eliminate options. The author acknowledges that even successful people have negative thoughts and that it is not wrong to have such thoughts.

This book combines humor with wise, practical advice. It introduces the concept that a ‘Culture of Enough’ will lead to more happiness than a ‘Culture of More’. It emphasizes that the choices/decisions we make every day contribute to our happiness and that we should prioritize our happiness.

It includes some interesting quotes from esteemed authors, such as:

‘If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are the only one who becomes unhappy. All you have done is hurt yourself. If you want to stop hurting yourself, you must get rid of your anger and become loving instead’.

‘The Happiness Equation’ argues that external rewards are actually demotivating in the long run, and suggests that happiness can be derived by random acts of kindness, regular walks, and owning and accepting who you are as a person.

For hours of happy reading, purchase this inspiring book on Amazon.

10. Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life by Paul Dolan

Happiness expert, Daniel Kahneman, described ‘Happiness by Design’, which is a Sunday Times bestseller, as ‘bold and original’. This is Paul Dolan’s debut book.

He is a Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics. He looks at how to influence behavior in order to improve well-being.

This book answers the question of how we can make it easier to be happy. Dolan argues, by applying recent, significant research that well-being is a result of what we do rather than how we think.

The title refers to ‘re-designing’ our lives in order to maximize happiness. How? Well, according to Dolan, it is about our decisions. He argues that by making informed, deliberate choices without thinking too hard about maximizing happiness, we can discover a life that is characterized by meaning and pleasure.

Jenni Russell (from the Sunday Times) is quoted as saying that ‘few books change one’s life; in 48 hours this has improved mine.’

This book is available on Amazon as a book or Audio CD.

11. The Happiness Factor: How to Be Happy No Matter What! by Kirk Wilkinson

This book, said to be practical and rooted in the real world, was published in 2008. On p. 33, Wilkinson says: “change the way you look at things…and the things you look at change”.

‘The Happiness Factor’ provides a perspective on how to cope with adversity and overcome it in order to discover true, lasting happiness. It explains that we are not defined by our circumstances or our problems.

Wilkinson suggests that every person has the capacity to overcome the set of issues that they are dealing with and to be happy.

Wilkinson uses the acronym P-E-A-S-E-F-U-L to describe an approach to discovering happiness using an unforgettable group of principles that are applicable universally. This approach ameliorates the deleterious effects of stress and other such barriers to happiness.

Therefore, it is proposed that the key to lifelong happiness is overall well-being, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Purchase this practical book on Amazon.

12. The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

Lyubomirsky, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. A research psychologist, a feature of this book is that it is solidly grounded in scientific research. It is comprehensive but easy-to-follow.

The book provides a guide for us to find happiness in our lives in the short and long term.

‘The How of Happiness’ reveals what happiness is (and isn’t!), and what we can do to approach the happy life we imagine for ourselves. It explains the notion of the ‘Happiness Set Point’ – i.e. the biological determinants that explain 50% of our happiness.

Further, Lyubomirsky explains that 10% of our happiness can be determined by life circumstances/situations SO, actually, 40% of our happiness is within our own ability to change.

Lyubomirsky reveals more than a dozen “happiness strategies” that are mindful, intentional activities to engage in that can result in a happier life – including exercises in behaving and thinking optimistically when imagining the future, a guide of how to savor the pleasures of life in the moment, and an explanation of remaining active in order to be happy.

‘The How of Happiness’ provides an overview of the multiple barriers to happiness, and how to utilize one’s own unique strengths to overcome such obstacles.

The book includes a quiz that helps readers to identify the actions that will be most helpful to them. Almost all of the factual statements include a citation, and the book also incorporates an evaluation designed to be used to check in with in order to determine whether the happiness strategies. It has been said by some readers that the book is slightly repetitive.

The 12 ‘hows’ to being happy are:

  1. Expressing gratitude
  2. Cultivating optimism
  3. Avoiding overthinking and social comparison
  4. Practicing acts of kindness
  5. Nurturing social relationships
  6. Developing strategies for coping
  7. Forgive
  8. Increasing flow experiences
  9. Savoring life’s joys
  10. Committing to your goals
  11. Practicing religion and spirituality
  12. Taking care of your body

According to Lyubomirsky, by following these twelve strategies, we can find happiness. To read more about it, you can get this book from Amazon.

13. Happiness Beyond Thought: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Gary Weber

Weber has lived a full, successful ‘worldly’ life; however, he has also sought to fully understand life and achieve a sense of enlightenment. Incorporating Zen Buddhist teachings with current brain research, Weber provides a set of yoga practices that are designed for practitioners looking for a path to enlightenment.

The practices (asana, pranayama, chanting, and meditation) are designed to provide readers with a practical path to awakening. They are simple and easy to follow, developed from Weber’s pursuit of knowledge with Ramana Maharshi – his primary teacher.

Weber shares his ongoing pursuit of Zen meditation practice and the things he has learned about bettering one’s life from the laboratory… which is actually his yoga mat!

To access these enlightening practices, visit Amazon.

14. Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard and Baron Layard

Richard Layard is a leading economist. He believes that the income of a society does not determine happiness. His research into happiness is drawn from the disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, economics, sociology, and philosophy. His best-known studies have looked at unemployment and inequality.

‘Happiness: Lessons from a New Science’ is noted to be the key book in ‘happiness studies’. It puts forward Layard’s argument – that, despite people wanting more money that, paradoxically, income does not lead to happiness.

As society has developed, people have not become happier despite the fact that, on average, incomes have more than doubled over the last fifty years.

Scientific research has shown this paradox in Britain, the US, Continental Europe, and Japan. In fact, compared to fifty years ago, the First World has seen increases in depression, crime, and alcoholism. Layard actually published the second edition of this book in 2011 to adequately reflect the developments since the first publication.

‘Happiness: Lessons from a New Science’ explores the reasons that determine how we make decisions. Rather than the pursuit of happiness, many personal decisions are reflected as economics, on the level of society. This book promotes re-considering our reasons for making decisions by refocusing on goals.

Make the right decision and purchase this book from Amazon.

15. Happiness for Dummies

This book is promoted as “Your hands-on guide to reducing stress, being happier, and living a more fulfilling life”. It was written by W. Doyle Gentry, Ph.D., who is a clinical psychologist, a Distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and he was the founding editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

‘Happiness for Dummies’ claims to provide the way to live a life that is meaningful, healthy and productive regardless of life circumstances. It incorporates strategies to alter one’s behavior in order to develop good habits and act in accordance with one’s surroundings.

Doyle Gentry’s book also describes how to determine one’s current capacity for happiness, to live one’s desired life, to overcome barriers to happiness, and look into one’s unique strengths and virtues.

It aims to outline the meaning of happiness at each stage of self-actualization and provide readers with an understanding of why cultivating positive emotions can lead to better health and well-being.

The author aims to dispel the common misunderstanding in the construal of happiness in terms of modern valued outcomes such as wealth, power and success.

This book also promises to its’ audience that by pursuing what they truly wish to, seizing the day, and finding the ‘silver lining’ in everyday challenges, they can improve their spiritual and emotional life and discover meaningful social relationships, as well as learning to appreciate being alone.

‘Happiness for Dummies’ also provides lists of 10 tips of how to raise a happy child, a discussion of common barriers to happiness, and a guide as to which personal habits help to develop happiness.

‘Happiness for Dummies‘ can be bought from Amazon.

A Take Home Message

With such a vast array of self-help and psychology books about happiness on the market, it can be a challenge to try and work out which ones to invest time in. Hopefully, this summary of ‘happiness books’ can act as a guide to the content of these books to help you make a (slightly!) more informed decision!

The books have a variety of foci, from spiritual studies to positive psychology, and even economics. I hope you have found this article to be helpful in summarising the main happiness books out there.

I am very interested in your thoughts… have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? Would you recommend any to someone with a bit of time on their hands? Please comment below!

5 Best Books on Happiness (And Why You Should Read Them)

Happiness matters.

For yourself. The people around you. And the world as a whole.

For yourself, because it’s the key to better health, greater resilience, thriving social relationships, higher productivity, and reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

For the people around you, because happiness is contagious. If you’re happy, you literally lift up the world around you, helping family, friends, and co-workers feel better and perform at a higher level.

For the world as a whole, because happiness is the path to living in peace and harmony. Like my favorite long-bearded guru, Osho, used to say: “You can’t drag a happy person to war. Happiness is constructive; misery is destructive.”

So, how do you become happier?

It’s easier than you might think. Simply read the books below, do what they say, and voilà: greater happiness with all its benefits.

To say these books have changed my outlook on life would be an understatement. Knowing exactly how happiness works and how to create it for oneself gives a sense of real power and control over one’s life. I hope these books serve you as much as they serve me.

(NOTE: I’m only including books I have personally read. Surely there are other great ones, but I can’t recommend them without having read them – duh!)

1. The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

This is easily the most complete book on the science of happiness I’ve ever read.

If you want a complete overview of the subject, this is your pick.

The book does essentially three things: 1) It explains why happiness matters. 2) It explains how happiness works. 3) It explains how to create happiness for oneself.

Here are three specific things you’ll discover:

  • The pie-chart theory of happiness. This theory explains in detail what determines human happiness. It’s a need-to-know for anyone interested in the subject.
  • Happiness takes effort. In her own words: “becoming lastingly happier demands making some permanent changes that require effort and commitment every day of your life. Pursuing happiness takes work, but consider that this ‘happiness work’ may be the most rewarding work you’ll ever do.”
  • Exercise is the most effective instant happiness booster, period. Exercise is a must if we’re interested in reaching our happiness potential. Not only are the effects instant, they are also lasting. In fact, exercise has been shown to be more effective at beating depression than anti-depressant drugs.

This was one of the first science-based books on happiness written. It’s authored by Martin Seligman, the father of the Positive Psychology movement.

The book does a great job at explaining the difference between pleasure and happiness.

By pleasures we mean the fleeting bursts of positive emotions we get from playing video games, watching Game of Thrones, eating cookies, or having sex. The pleasures are easy to have, don’t take much effort, and don’t lead to true happiness.

True happiness is what we get from living a life of meaning, from being in a state of flow a lot of the time, or from using our signature character strengths. True happiness, as opposed to pleasure, it hard to create for ourselves. It takes effort, but it’s also a lot more fulfilling.

Three specific lessons you’ll learn:

  • Why shortcuts won’t make you happy. Generating artificial positive emotions through shortcuts (gambling, video games, comfort foods, etc.) will leave you addicted and unfulfilled. There’s a better way…
  • The key to happiness is virtue. Ancient philosophies and modern science agree: the long-term solution to greater happiness is virtuous living.
  • Using your signature strengths makes you happy. Your signature strengths are the character strengths that make you who you are as a person. The more you use the best aspects of your personality, the happier you’ll be.

3. Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson

Fredrickson writes that she doesn’t use the term happiness for various reasons and prefers to use the term positivity. That said, I don’t see a difference between the two and this is basically a book about the science of happiness.

The book does two things: 1) It explains how positivity/happiness optimizes our bodies and brains to perform at the highest levels possible. 2) It shows scientifically proven ways to raise our level of positivity/happiness.

Here are three specific lessons you’ll learn:

  • The broaden-and-build framework of positive emotions. This is about the fact that positive emotions broaden our minds and build our skills, while negative emotions do the opposite.
  • Why positivity is a key to resilience (resilience = the ability to bounce back from setbacks). Fredrickson explains studies showing that happiness is perhaps the greatest asset for recovering from heartaches, failures, and other setbacks.
  • The positivity ratio. This is incredibly important as it shows that we need to reach a certain ratio of positive emotions versus negative emotions to create upward spirals in our lives.

4. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

This is the shortest, easiest, and perhaps most enjoyable in this list so far.

The premise of the book is simple: Happiness creates success much more than success creates happiness.

If you think happiness can wait until you’re a success, this book is a must-read.

Here are three specific lessons you’ll learn:

  • Why chasing success and neglecting happiness is a losing strategy. The winning strategy is creating happiness now and leveraging its performance-enhancing effects to create more success.
  • A short primer on neuroplasticity. This is all about the fact that our brains are able to change throughout life. We’re not stuck with unhappy thought patterns or negative emotions, but rather can change them at any point in our lives.
  • The detrimental effects of watching the news. In his own words: “Studies have shown that the less negative TV we watch, specifically violent media, the happier we are.”

5. The Happy Life Formula by Nils Salzgeber

As you may know, I’ve published my own little book on the science of happiness.

It’s by far the shortest and simplest read on this list.

It essentially does three things: 1) It explains the basics of happiness. Why does it matter? How does it work? And what else do you need to know about it? 2) It gives 26 proven happiness-boosting strategies. This is the main part of the book, where I outline all scientifically proven ways to raise one’s level of happiness. 3) It shows you how to build a happy life. This is all about moving from theory to practice. It’s a step-by-stem system to incorporate happiness into the very structure of our lives.

Here are three specific things you’ll learn:

  • Why happiness deserves priority. This is all about the science-backed benefits of happiness – including better health, stronger relationships, greater financial success, higher productivity, and so on.
  • Why happiness takes effort. In this section, I talk about the evolutionary history of human beings and how our genes and brains get in the way of being happy.
  • A simple two-step approach to creating a happy life. This explains how to take all the theory about happiness and use it to create a happier, healthier, and more successful life for yourself.

Other “Happiness” Books

The first five books are purely on the science of happiness.

If you want to learn more about that topic – what determines happiness and how to generate it – that’s your list.

Here, I want to give you a short list of books I’ve read that sound like they are about happiness, but they really aren’t.

  • The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. This is a great, great book! Highly recommend it. But it’s not really about happiness, it’s about mindfulness. Specifically, it’s about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – a type of therapy largely focused on the use of mindfulness.
  • Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson. This is basically a book on neuroplasticity and how to use its findings to change the brain for the better. Through specific techniques, you can hardwire your brain for greater happiness, kindness, compassion, confidence, or whatever you like.
  • The Happiness Track by Emma Seppälä. This great little book is similar to The Happiness Advantage. It’s all about using positive mind-states (and other counter-intuitive strategies) to become more productive and successful. I see it more as a productivity than a happiness book.
  • 10% Happier by Dan Harris. This is a book about meditation, in which the author recounts his personal story of discovering meditation and how it made him 10% happier.

Other Positive Psychology Books

The books I want to present in this section cover certain aspects of happiness, but they’re not exclusively about happiness.

Gratitude, for example, has been shown to contribute greatly to happiness. That said, a book solely on gratitude may not be what you’re looking for.

Here are some great Positive Psychology books to dive deeper into specific topics:

  • Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. Optimism turns out to be an incredibly healthy way of looking at the world. The book is all about the benefits of optimism and how to become more optimistic. (Yes, it’s possible to become more optimistic, even if you’re currently a pessimist!)
  • Making Hope Happen by Shane Lopez. As the title suggests, this one’s all about the science of hope. Just like optimism, hope is highly beneficial, making people happier, healthier, and more productive. The book offers strategies for becoming more hopeful about the future.
  • Thanks! by Robert Emmons. This is about the science of gratitude. Turns out that gratitude is not only the best researched but perhaps also the most beneficial of all human emotions. For more on the benefits of gratitude and how to become more grateful, check out the book.
  • Gratitude Works! by Robert Emmons. This is like a shorter and more practical version of Thanks! If you’re interested in gratitude, this is a great start.
  • Love 2.0 by Barbara Fredrickson. This little book is all about the science of micro-connections. If you want to learn about the benefits of social interactions and how to create more of them and get better at them, this one’s for you.
  • Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. I’m a huge fan of self-compassion and this book is a must-read. Self-compassion trumps self-criticism in every area of life. Highly recommend this one.
  • Grit by Angela Duckworth. Grit is a character trait defined as the combination of perseverance and intense passion. This book is all about the science of grit, its vast benefits, and how to become a more gritty person.
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck. Not sure if this is really a Positive Psychology book, but it’s definitely a must-read. If you’ve never heard of growth versus fixed mindset, head over to Google and read up on it.
  • Flourish by Martin Seligman. This is Seligman’s latest book, and it’s all about human well-being and flourishing. It’s not technically a self-help book, so there’s too much fluff for my perspective.

Your Turn

I’m curious to know… what are your favorite happiness books?

Please let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading.

Books to Lift Your Spirits

  • Why Not Me?

    Mindy Kaling

    The always funny Mindy Kaling is at it again with her latest read, Why Not Me?. Mindy has a knack for adding a dose of humor to everyday life, making for stories that resonate with all of us. From trying to make new friends, as well as love, to stumbling through her career (yes, even Mindy stumbles!), her ability to get a laugh out of the most frustrating situations will be sure to put a smile on your face.

  • One More Thing

    B. J. Novak

    Ranging from one sentence to 20 pages, this is the perfect book for a quick pick-me-up. Read as many as you need to make your day a little more cheerful and then put it back on the shelf for the next sour mood you find yourself in. Not only are these stories funny, they’re smart, too. A collection of quick-witted stories that find humor in both the ordinary and the extreme, they also quietly comment on the sadness of life in a way that leaves you thinking…and laughing.

  • Help, Thanks, Wow

    Anne Lamott

    Anne Lamott’s answer to both the good and the bad day? Three simple prayers: Help. Thanks. Wow. The idea being that if you ask for help, remember to be thankful for the life you do have, and stand in awe of what’s around you, you can get through hard times. Another slim but powerful book, you’ll want to keep this on hand for a dose of therapy whenever you’re feeling down.

  • Wonder Movie Tie-In Edition

    R. J. Palacio

    Born with a facial deformity, we meet 10-year-old Auggie as he’s transitioning from home schooling to private school. Auggie’s strength in spirit will make you realize that if he can rise above the pain in his life, you can overcome your struggles, too.

  • All There Is

    Dave Isay

    Love. As they say, it makes the world go ‘round. And this collection of stories, based on the oral history project and NPR podcast, “StoryCorps,” will make you believe that is, in fact, true. At once heartbreaking, beautiful, life-affirming, and honest, these stories show how enduring love—and the people who love—really is.

  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

    Alan Bradley

    Flavia de Luce is an aspiring 11-year-old chemist living in the English countryside in 1950. And like many younger siblings, she’s trying to come up with a devious plan to get revenge on her older sisters. But her plans are derailed when a series of mysterious events begin to occur. When her father is arrested for murder, she takes it upon herself to prove his innocence. Flavia’s tenacious spirit and crafty detective work will make you smile and distract you from whatever drudgery your day brings.

  • Better Than Before

    Gretchen Rubin

    In a slump? Looking for a change? In her second book, Gretchen’s answer to that is habits. She presents practical, usable, and inspiring advice to help you change your habits for good. Through friends, family, and even herself, Gretchen explains exactly what you need to do to create new habits and help someone else change theirs.

  • The More of Less

    Joshua Becker

    Minimalism is the new consumerism, with everyone purging their closets and taking notes from Marie Kondo. But if you’re not ready to throw all your stuff away, Joshua is here to help. The More of Less will help you recognize how living a life with less will ultimately make you get more out of life. Have a highlighter ready and be prepared to feel lighter after following Joshua’s steps to finding beauty in minimalism.

  • Me Before You

    Jojo Moyes

    Lou is quirky, Will is serious. Lou has no life plan, Will had it all mapped out. That is, until an accident paralyzes him from the neck down. Sent to be Will’s aide, Lou brings a light into Will’s life that no one ever expected…but even that can’t keep him from doing what he thinks is best. While not uplifting per se, Louisa and Will’s love story reminds us that life, no matter what curveballs it throws at us, is still worth living, that there are surprises around every turn. The movie version comes out June 3, so if you cried at the book, get ready to have your heart broken all over again. It’s good for you, I promise. A nice big cry can be very therapeutic.

  • How Did You Get This Number

    Sloane Crosley

    Sloane’s first collection of personal essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, followed her around New York City and the absurdity of being a 20-something just trying to find your way. Her latest essays take her out of NYC and into more exotic locales like Paris and Portugal. With the same humor and humility, Sloane tells tales of wearing “bear bells” as a bridesmaid and her encounter with a grizzly club. Hilarious yet smart, these stories will have you laughing, shaking your head, and wishing you could accompany Sloane on one of her many adventures.

6 Inspiring Books That Will Lift Your Mood

Losing yourself in the pages of a riveting novel or memoir is a legitimate form of therapy. Even better is coming away from the characters and the story with a renewed purpose and sense of hope.

John Green, one of my favorite authors, said “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” I think that’s true especially for people who struggle with depression and anxiety or some other chronic illness that is stigmatized in our culture. Between the covers of a book, we find a new world that shines some light on our reality.

Here are a few inspiring books that will “help you understand and help you feel understood.”

  1. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

On his 83rdbirthday, Eddie dies in an accident at a seaside amusement park while trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He wakes up in heaven, which is not the lush destination that he expected. Instead, it’s a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people, some strangers and some people you know.

They teach Eddie about the interconnection of all lives — how our stories overlap — and that small sacrifices and acts of kindness impact people more than we know, that the meaning of life is found in our small gestures of love each day.

  1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Hailed as a modern classic, this book tells the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who embarks on a journey in search of a worldly treasure and to realize his “personal legend.” What I appreciated most about the story was the way Santiago’s setbacks and disappointments made sense in the end — they were all part of a beautiful tapestry that you couldn’t see until the journey was over.

In a blog for the Huffington Post, Thai Nguyen lists 10 Powerful Life Lessons from The Alchemist. Among them are:

  • Fear is a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself
  • What is “true” will always endure
  • Embrace the present
  • Be unrealistic (ignore the impossible)
  • Keep getting back up
  • Focus on your journey
  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Like The Kite Runner, this book is not an easy read. Parts of it are heartbreaking and haunting. However, all the acts of self-sacrifice and love between Mariam and Laila, two women brought together by war and loss, to preserve their family are profoundly moving.

Hosseini is a masterful storyteller who communicates a theme of hope on each page, even in the midst of dire and unforgiving circumstances. The story is full of teachable moments about how to endure difficulty with gentleness, suffering with grace, and how even the worst tragedies can have redemptive endings.

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The title of this book is inspired by Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, in which the nobleman Cassius says to Brutus: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” It is narrated by Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl with thyroid cancer who is staying alive thanks to an experimental drug. Her parents insist she attends a support group, where she meets 18-year-old Augustus Waters, a former basketball play whose Osteosarcoma caused him to lose his right leg.

**Spoiler alert** They fall in love. Augustus takes Hazel to Amsterdam to meet her favorite author, who is a major disappointment. Then Augustus dies. Not your typical love story. Augustus’ final message to Hazel is that getting hurt in this world is inevitable, but we get to choose who we allow to hurt us, and that he is happy with his choice.

For anyone whose days are consumed with illness and how to cope, this book provides a refreshing message that love and hope can be found in the least expected places, and that there is much beauty in the present moment.

  1. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I read this short, little book in French class when I was a junior in high school and it made a tremendous impact on me. A literary classic, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language and one of the most loved stories in all languages. Its universal message transcends all cultures, presenting a simple wisdom every human being can relate to.

Published more the 75 years ago, this spiritual parable or moral allegory about a small boy who leaves his planet to visit Earth contains many powerful lines, such as:

  • “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
  • “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”
  • “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
  • “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
  • “It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.”
  1. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

A fable about a seagull learning to fly, this novella is packed full of life lessons and insights that can apply to a variety of difficulties and challenges: about perfectionism and the tendency to lose ourselves in obsessions and goals; about conflict and forgiveness; and about the freedom that is found in being yourself. The pages take you on a journey of self-inquiry and self-awareness, guiding you toward some critical truths.

The wise seagull Chiang tells Jonathan that the secret to move instantaneously and to go anywhere in the universe is to “begin by knowing that you already have arrived.” It’s cognitive behavioral therapy and spiritual direction in literary form.

6 Inspiring Books That Will Lift Your Mood

19 Best Books on Finding Happiness & Life Satisfaction

Last Updated on December 4, 2019

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We all want to be happy.

When we are kids it is easy. We laugh. We play. We live and we are happy.

As adults it becomes a little bit more difficult. We have responsibilities. We are expected to act like adults. We delay gratification to achieve future success and happiness.

But this is the slippery slope that many unhappy people slide down. You can delay gratification for so long that you forget how to actually be happy.

That is where these books on happiness come into play. They remind of of the things we knew without thinking when we were kids: how to be happy. The happiness books you find here will work to return the joy to your life.

Happiness does not need to be difficult, but the older and more entrenched you become in your ways the harder it is to make any real change to your happiness. So before you become like old man Scrooge before his Christmas revelation, take some time out to read these books on happiness and try to bring some joy back into your life.

(Side note: ​If you’re looking for something great to read related to your career or business, then join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley. This newsletter is a 5-minute read that’s informative, witty and FREE!)

1. The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky

The How of Happiness uses a scientific approach to guide readers into a life of happiness. It discusses the various elements of happiness in a practical and empowering way that is easy for readers to follow. This book addresses strategies for finding happiness, new methods of thinking, and quizzes for readers to take to help them realize their potential for happiness, and how to sustain it.

Lyubomirsky uses this book to give suggestions to help acquire and maintain happiness quickly and without spending a lot of money. While she does not push a particular faith on the reader, she does explain the roles of religion and spirituality in finding happiness.

This book also refers to mindfulness and living in the moment. The author urges the reader to overcome pain through gratitude and joy. The book inspires readers to take part in mindful meditation to promote happiness and decrease stress.

While many of the author’s suggestions seem to be common sense, it is encouraging to remember that the author is involved in scientific happiness research, lending her more credibility.

Lyubomirsky ultimately leaves it up to the readers to choose their own specific activities and areas of life to work on. This may be the right book on happiness for you if you are willing to implement scientific evidence about human potential into your own life. For many years this has been on of the top books on happiness, being on the bestseller list for quite a few weeks.

2. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin E. P. Seligman

Written by psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman, this book focuses on raising the bar for happiness. It addresses feelings of optimism, motivation, and the character that is needed to get the most out of life.

This book addresses how happiness alone is not able to give meaning to one’s life. In order to flourish, people also need to be able to cultivate their talents, build deep and lasting relationships, feel pleasure, and make meaningful contributions to the world. The author describes happiness as being only one of the five parts of flourishing in life, along with engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.

This book is rather factual, which some people may not find easy to read through. It is a recap of the recent history of positive psychology and the various fields it is moving into. While there are some good ideas in the book, it is not an organized guide on how to find happiness.

This is a good book for people who are having problems finding motivation or optimism in their lives. It discusses how all of these different factors come together to create a fulfilling life. This is one of the best books on finding happiness within yourself.

3. Happier Human: 53 Science-Backed Habits to Increase Your Happiness by S.J. Scott and Amit A

This book asks and answers a simple question:

When asked what they want from life, many people will list happiness as one of their main desires. (if not the main desire)

Since this is true, why are so many people constantly chasing after things like money, fame and job advancement as path to “happiness” when these things do almost nothing to increase happiness?

This book references the studies of many of the other researchers and scientists on this page (such Sonia Lubermersy and Martin Seligman) to come up with a complete answer on the above question as well as giving many science-backed methods to achieve greater happiness.

If you are looking for a compendium with all the up to date information on how to achieve happiness, along with many links to the original sources for more information and guidance, then this is the book for you. If you want to be happier… read Happier Human for some clear and practical steps for taking the theory of happiness and putting it into action.

4. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story by Dan Harris

After experiencing a panic attack on the air, “Nightline” anchor Dan Harris wrote this self-help book to help people achieve the happiness they are looking for. Often funny and sometimes bizarre, this book takes the reader on a journey through the author’s life and pivotal moment leading up to his passion for mindfulness meditation.

This is an easy read in the sense that the author openly shares his own struggles with anxiety to help the reader connect to the book. The author’s stories pull the reader in and make this book a page-turner. Everyone who reads this book can find a way to identify with at least one of the many facets that emerge throughout Harris’s writing.

This is not a “how-to” book for meditation or a scientific dialogue about neurobiology. Rather, it works to challenge people who are interested in meditation about their current habits. The lessons can be used by both beginners and seasoned meditators who are looking for a new resource or source of inspiration.

For those who are already convinced of the value of meditation and are looking for a complete guide, this may not be the book. However, the author does suggest some more-detailed books that helped him through his journey.

5. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams

This book recounts Archbishop Tutu’s visit to the Dalai Lama’s home in India to create what they believed would be an offering to other people. The two reflected on their lives to try to determine how they found joy in their lives, despite life’s moments of inevitable suffering.

This book offers the accounts of two global heroes to help reveal how to live a happy life like they were able to do. It highlights how the reader can bring greater joy and purpose into their own life, and reveals the nature of the connection between painful emotions and true happiness.

One unexpected bonus of this book is reading about the frequency of the humor and playfulness between these two men. Even when they are recounting a deep discussion, they continue to us wit and joy in order to make each other and the reader laugh out loud.

This may be the right book on happiness for you if you want to find joy in the most difficult of times. Because both of these men have first-hand experiences with hardships and adversity, they are able to give meaningful advice to overcoming life’s difficulties.

This book provides a useful guide to understanding wisdom, which may seem to be simple, but is not so easy when trying to apply in practice and cultivate peace of mind.

6. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin E. P. Seligman

While a large majority of self-help books and popular psychology books discuss the things that are wrong with our lives and what should be done to improve them, this book focuses on what is good. It teaches the reader how to turn good into great, which makes this a book that focuses on mental wellness instead of mental illness.

This book urges the reader to focus on their personal strengths to uncover their happiness. It is a very practical book using exercises, tests, and a website program to show readers how to pinpoint their strengths and use them in new ways to bring more joy and satisfaction to life.

This is a very helpful book to provide a new perspective on depression and how it can be relieved by altering your frame of mind. This might be the right book for you if you are trying to figure out how to see your life in a better light. While it may not be a cure for depression, it is a helpful starting point and a well-thought-out book that is likely to make a difference.

This is a very non-technical book that aims to help the reader understand the role of emotions, and how to effectively manage emotional signals to lead to a more positive life.

7. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson

The Slight Edge explores a new way of thinking that lets you make everyday choices that will bring you happiness. It teaches the difference between people who are able to make their dreams come true and those who are not.

This edition of this book reveals how the original concept continues to change lives, and how a certain way of thinking can impact your daily choices and improve your life. For example, people do not set out to be broke at the age of 35, so what daily choices lead to that situation? Alternatively, people do not decide one day that they will be fat. It takes years of built-up decisions to lead to obesity.

While this simple concept that people’s actions compound to eventually lead to good or bad is not new, this book does a great job of simplifying it and making it something that the reader can think about often.

This is a great book on how to be happy for people who tend to procrastinate. Because it focuses so much on what the reader should be doing in the here and now, it works as a great motivator for people who have a hard time just getting started. This book can be applied to both life and business, and its real concepts are a must-read for everyone.

This is one of the most versatile happiness books due to the fact it can be used for so many applications (business and life). It is not JUST about finding personal happiness in our crazy world.

8. The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does by Sonja Lyubomirsky

In this book, the author focuses on life’s biggest moments to give the reader a clear vision of how to build a healthy and satisfying life. While many people grow up believing that once they “have it all” (such as a spouse, children, and a house) they will be happy, this two-dimensional vision of happiness limits our potential for growth.

Practical lessons are shared in this book to create a corrective course on happiness in the mind of the reader. The author argues that people are more adaptable than they perceive themselves to be. It is an empowering read that allows the reader to see scientific evidence that proves our mindset has a huge impact on our outcomes.

The organization and writing in this book are both very well executed and easy to follow. It would be nice if there were a few more case samples to help learn more about the lives of other people for comparative reasons, but it is overall a very helpful read.

The overall message that can be taken away from this book is that humans have a tremendous capacity to be adaptable through tough times.

9. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

This book looks at the scientific research in psychology, behavioral economics, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophy to show what scientists have found about our ability to imagine the future and predict how happy we will be when we get there.

The author presents his material in a lighthearted and funny way, which keeps the reader engaged. It presents original ideas rather than rehashing tried-and-true lessons that are published in many other books on happiness.

This is a great read for people who are interested in human behavior. It addresses why people have such a hard time at predicting what will make them happy in the future. Some of the conclusions that the author makes are a bit questionable, but the information leading up to his thoughts is very interesting and definitely worth the read.

For people who have a background in psychology, this book will not present a lot of new information.

10. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson

This book addresses the issue of people naturally learning very quickly from bad experiences, yet slowly from good ones. People tend to absorb all of the negative things around them, and their negative feelings, while pushing any good feelings to the side. In Hardwiring Happiness, Hanson presents a method to make this change.

This might be the right book for you if you find that you are extremely stressed or anxious on an everyday basis, yet really have no reason to be. It reflects on how our ancestors always had to have a nervous response to possible predators, and how people still have that response to this day, even though there are no predators around.

The one small criticism for this book also happens to be one of its greatest strengths. Its scope is small, as it focuses on only a handful of messages. While this may seem repetitive, it is also a huge plus. With so many books trying to cover so much ground, sometimes it is difficult to remember anything that you read afterwards. That is not likely to happen with this book.

This book works to heal that way of thinking by urging the reader to focus on the positive things that happen in their life rather than only the negative.

11. Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being by Linda Graham MFT

In this book, Graham guides the reader on a path to create resilience. With this ability to face life’s hardships, people are able to rebuild their well-being and keep themselves from being too affected by the challenges that they face. This a well-researched and very technical book that even offers huge benefits just in the quotes and chapter summations.

This book is very clearly written and engages the reader in the author’s concern for humanity’s well-being. The author brings together the wisdom of mindfulness, neuroscience, and psychotherapy into an innovative way to build strategies to cope with the upsets and traumas that have the potential to throw your life off track.

The title of this book is a bit misleading, as people who are already resilient can still find a lot of great information in this book. It is more focused on the interworkings of Buddhism, psychology, and the reader, and how people can use information from different subjects to help create happiness in life.

12. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

This light-hearted and easy read makes some great points and teaches positive lessons. While the author’s thinking process is analytical, it is easy to follow and identify with. The author is open and honest about herself and her life, so the reader is able to feel comfortable and connected to the narrator.

While this book isn’t too different from others that preach to concentrate on the important things in life, it is refreshing to hear from an author that is very aware of her own shortcomings and willing to address them. There is great research presented in this book alongside personal anecdotes that make it even more interesting to read.

Some people may find it to be difficult to relate to the author, as she has a seemingly lucky life with a healthy family and financial stability. However, it is important to remember that the principles that she presents are universal. It is just up to the reader to apply them to their own life.

13. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

This book details research and ideas about how to be happy, but it doesn’t fall short when coming to being humorous and fun to read. The positive psychology addressed in this book urges people to not procrastinate, and motivates the reader to be more productive.

The Happiness Advantage offers the reader tangible advice on how to change bad habits and behavior to lead a happier life. It then shows you how this advice can be applied to your everyday life, and how it will specifically impact your life both personally and professionally.

This great thing about this book is that it is entertaining while still having a great deal of substance. There are a lot of positive lessons that can be taken away from the research presented.

14. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT by Russ Harris

In this book, Harris presents the idea of “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.” He explains how most people become miserable on their quest for happiness, which can be changed by using this new psychotherapy that is based on new research. Learning ACT helps the reader clarify their values and learn how to live in the present moment, leading to satisfaction in life.

This may be a good book for you if you have a lot of feelings of self-doubt and stress. It teaches the reader how to effectively handle negative feelings and emotions, and move forward in a healthy way. It also teaches how to overcome habits that may be self-destructive.

This book presents ACT in an understandable and accessible way, so the reader is able to follow along and apply the concepts to their own life. This book lays out the groundwork for the reader to ultimately make changes to their own thought processes that will result in a happier life.

15. Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life by Barbara Fredrickson

Frederickson teaches the power of positivity in this book to urge her readers to change their outlook on things to create sustainable happiness. She presents her own research as well as the research of others to show how positive thinking can change your life.

Although this book feels a bit more like a “self-help” book than others, it is still really engaging to read and very accessible for anyone who is open to believing this concept. This is a great book for people who often have a negative attitude or are not able to look at the bright side of things.

One of the biggest takeaways from this book is that a 3:1 ratio of positive thoughts to negative thoughts is the breaking point for flourishing. If you have fewer than three positive thoughts for every negative though, there is not a lot of progression.

This is an overall serious and interesting book that offers specific exercises for the readers to do to help increase positivity and follow their passions.

16. Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection by Barbara Fredrickson

This book looks at the important relationship between love and health. Filled with scientific information that is rather accessible, this book also includes stories that bring the science that is talked about to life. It also offers practical ways to grow micro-moments of love in your life, which will result in happiness.

Love 2.0 also talks about positive interactions in general, and why they are so imperative to human happiness. The reader is urged to change their attitude in order to make positive interactions with everyone they come into contact with, from neighbors to check-out clerks.

It presents a good lesson on why people should be more trusting of the world and of their surroundings in order to appreciate the sincerity and kindness in other people. This book essentially teaches its readers that intentionally generating compassion and kindness for other people will lead to positive resonance and happiness.

17. Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh

Written by a Zen master, this book presents simple and easily adaptable exercises for breathing, resting, thinking, and other everyday activities. Doing certain exercises during mundane daily activities can help people deal with irritation, anger, and stress.

This guide to thinking is both concise and intelligent, with a lot of detail provided for the reader. It shows some small changes that can be made each day to result in a larger benefit of gaining happiness.

The reader does not need to be familiar with Buddhism to learn valuable lessons from this book. It is easy to relate to no matter what your spiritual background, and is a great reference to come back to in the future.

18. The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living by the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama uses this book to convey to the reader how he has lived such a happy life, and how people can do so themselves as well. Through stories, personal conversations, and meditations, the Dalai Lama demonstrates how to overcome anxiety, anger, insecurity, and discouragement.

This book explores many areas and obstacles of life, including relationships, how to be happy alone, financial security, and loss. Through his narrative, the Dalai Lama’s personality can really be sensed. His recommendations and analyses of current problems in the world, as well as solutions, are invaluable.

This great read is helpful both psychologically and spiritually. It is a mixture of Buddhist meditations and common knowledge, which helps readers with difficulties that everyone experiences.

19. Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology by Christopher Peterson

This is a great book for anyone who is interested in positive psychology. Peterson’s passion for the topic comes through in this witty and humorous reflection book.

While the format might not suit every reader, as the majority of the stories are independent of each other, it provides a refreshing change of pace because you can skip around in the book. Each of Peterson’s 100 short pieces come across as having a personal chat with him, so the reader is able to feel connected to the author.

This is an easy and thought-provoking read. It is a great book to be able to pick up and put down on short notice.

Honorable Mentions: Books About Happiness

This list of books on happiness continues to grow. Here are some more great books that you may also want to consider.

The Happiness Makeover: Teach Yourself to Enjoy Every Day by MJ Ryan

Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life by Abbot Christopher Jamision

MORE Self Help and Self Improvement and Happiness Books

I hope you enjoyed the choices on this list of the 16 best books about happiness. If you enjoyed this list, why not check out a few more excellent self help books.

We have the main “page” of OVER 250 self help/personal development books. This main page has links to many smaller book lists (just like this one).

(​Finally, If you’d like to start your morning on the “right foot” then join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley. This newsletter is a 5-minute read that’s informative, witty and FREE!)

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Need A Lift? Here Are 50 Books That Can Make You Happy

Need A Lift? Here Are 50 Books That Make You Happy

by TeachThought Staff

Need some positive thinking? How about some books that make you happy?

While the idea of a book ‘making you happy’ is obviously a stretch, peace of mind is often a product of a simple cognitive pattern: you see what you think about, and you think about what you see.

Happy in, happy out.

This is difficult when wisdom, empathy, love, and happiness are drowned out by a news cycle bent on spectacle. These days the news is hard to escape — between social media, television, radio, and well-meaning friends and colleagues, we are inundated with what’s going on in the outside world.

And unfortunately, it seems like it’s seldom good news, partially due to the fact that sensationalism sells but also because there’s a lot going on right now.

But do we need to know all of it?

While a working knowledge of current events is important, all too often we’re immersed in the 24-hour news cycle and when negativity abounds, our mental health and sense of well-being begin to erode.

Short of going all Henry Thoreau and retreating to the woods for awhile, what can we do to lift our spirits, find an escape, and change the things we think about? The first and most obvious step is to abstain from social media, but that’s not entirely effective — or even possible, in many cases. A second possibility is to fill our brains with good stuff; to seek out positivity and nourish our souls with that instead.

The following list contains both fiction and non-fiction ‘happy books’–everything from self-help to humor but what these books share in common is their ability to inspire happiness.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines who you will be when you can’t help it.”

Maybe reading can make you happy.

See also 30 of the Best Books to Teach Children Empathy

So, be happy. Everyone deserves more of that. Here are some happy books.

Ed note: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. These are links that could result in us receiving compensation (payment) when you traverse the link. If you want to make sure that the retailer sees 100% of the profit, you can visit your preferred search engine or retailer directly without using the given links.

Need A Lift? Here Are 50 Books That Make You Happy

1. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord: Hector travels from Paris to China to Africa to the United States, and along the way he keeps a list of observations about the people he meets. Combining the winsome appeal of The Little Prince with the inspiring philosophy of The Alchemist, Hector’s journey around the world and into the human soul is entertaining, empowering, and smile-inducing—as winning in its optimism as it is wise in its simplicity.

2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project describes one person’s year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment. Drawing at once on cutting-edge science, classical philosophy, and real-world applicability, Rubin has written an engaging, eminently relatable chronicle of transformation.

3. The One Life We’re Given by Mark Nepo: Exploring the craft of awakening, The One Life We’re Given affirms our purpose: we are here not just to stay alive but to stay in our aliveness. “The wisdom presented in the shining pages of this holy book is another luminous gift from a gallant, grateful, and imaginative spiritual master” (Spirituality & Practice).

4. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where “never enough” dominates and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt. But when we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena.

5. This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes: The ability of A.M. Homes to explore how extraordinary the ordinary can be is at the heart of her touching and funny new novel, her first in six years. This Book Will Save Your Life is a vivid, uplifting, and revealing story about compassion, transformation, and what can happen if you are willing to lose yourself and open up to the world around you.

6. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

7. I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova: Twenty years ago, faced with a life-threatening illness, Dawna Markova began a journey of rediscovery. This book follows her path to finding deeper meaning in life. As she points out, people can continue to feel powerless and live habitual lives – or they can make the choice to follow their passion.

8. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

9. Mules of Love by Ellen Bass: Balancing heart-intelligent intimacy and surprising humor, the poems in Ellen Bass’s Mules of Love illuminate the essential dynamics of our lives: family, community, sexual love, joy, loss, religion and death. The poems also explore the darker aspects of humanity—personal, cultural, historical and environmental violence—all of which are handled with compassion and grace.

10. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer: Whether this is your first exploration of inner space, or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you. You’ll discover what you can do to put an end to the habitual thoughts and emotions that limit your consciousness. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.

11. The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes: This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.

12. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and set out to explore three different aspects of her nature, against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

13. The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu & Douglas Abrams: In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? This book offers us a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecendented week together, from the first embrace to the final good-bye.

14. Advice from my 80-Year-Old Self by Susan O’Malley & Christina Amini: What advice would your 80-year-old self give you? That is the question artist Susan O’Malley, who was herself to die far too young, asked more than a hundred ordinary people of every age, from every walk of life. She then transformed their responses into vibrant text-based images. From a prompt to do things that matter to your heart, to a reminder that it’s okay to have sugar in your tea, these are calls to action and words to live by—heartfelt, sometimes humorous, and always fiercely compassionate.

15. Quitter by Jon Acuff: From figuring out what your dream is to quitting in a way that exponentially increases your chance of success, Quitter is full of inspiring stories and actionable advice. This book is based on 12 years of cubicle living and Acuff’s true story of cultivating a dream job that changed his life and the world in the process. It’s time to close the gap between your day job and your dream job.

16. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: In The Four Agreements, bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.

17. Love Does by Thomas Nelson: When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don’t want to miss. Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob’s life and attitude just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.

18. Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly: Are you happy? It may be the wrong question. Most of us think we are relatively happy, while at the same time knowing that we could be happier — maybe even a lot happier. Ordinary people and the finest philosophers have been exploring the question of happiness for thousands of years, and theories abound. But this is not a book of theory. Resisting Happiness is a deeply personal, disarmingly transparent look at why we sabotage our own happiness and what to do about it.

19. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg: Sandberg is chief operating officer of Facebook and coauthor of Option B with Adam Grant. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TED talk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which has been viewed more than six million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto. Lean In continues that conversation, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

20. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope–a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

21. The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky: You see here a different kind of happiness book. The How of Happiness is a comprehensive guide to understanding the elemetns of happiness based on years of groundbreaking scientific research. It is also a practical, empowering, and easy-to-follow workbook, incorporating happiness strategies, excercises in new ways of thinking, and quizzes for understanding our individuality, all in an effort to help us realize our innate potential for joy and ways to sustain it in our lives.

22. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schawlbe: During her treatment for cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will spent many hours sitting in waiting rooms together. To pass the time, they would talk about the books they were reading. Once, by chance, they read the same book at the same time—and an informal book club of two was born. Through their wide-ranging reading, Will and Mary Anne—and we, their fellow readers—are reminded how books can be comforting, astonishing, and illuminating, changing the way that we feel about and interact with the world around us.

23. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.

24. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman: Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins.

25. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over–and see everything anew.

26. News of the World by Paulette Jiles: In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

27. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer: Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn’t alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.

28. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper: This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper’s most accomplished work to date, and a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind-whether we like it or not.

29. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: The how of Pooh? The Tao of who? The Tao of Pooh!?! In which it is revealed that one of the world’s great Taoist masters isn’t Chinese–or a venerable philosopher–but is in fact none other than that effortlessly calm, still, reflective bear. A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh! While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is.

30. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig: An unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest, undertaken by a father and his young son. A story of love and fear — of growth, discovery, and acceptance — that becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life’s fundamental questions, this uniquely exhilarating modern classic is both touching and transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence . . . and the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward.

31. On Agate Hill by Lee Smith: A dusty box discovered in the wreckage of a once prosperous plantation on Agate Hill in North Carolina contains the remnants of an extraordinary life: diaries, letters, poems, songs, newspaper clippings, court records, marbles, rocks, dolls, and bones. It’s through these treasured mementos that we meet Molly Petree. Raised in those ruins and orphaned by the Civil War, Molly is a refugee who has no interest in self-pity. When a mysterious benefactor appears out her father’s past to rescue her, she never looks back.

32. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein: Shel Silverstein’s masterful collection of poems and drawings stretches the bounds of imagination and will be cherished by readers of all ages. This is a collection that belongs on everyone’s bookshelf. Makes a great gift for special occasions such as holidays, birthdays, and graduation.

31. Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen: Ever since Jack can remember, his mom has been unpredictable, sometimes loving and fun, other times caught in a whirlwind of energy and “spinning” wildly until it’s over. But Jack never thought his mom would take off during the night and leave him at a campground in Acadia National Park, with no way to reach her and barely enough money for food. Any other kid would report his mom gone, but Jack knows by now that he needs to figure things out for himself – starting with how to get from the backwoods of Maine to his home in Boston before DSS catches on. With nothing but a small toy elephant to keep him company, Jack begins the long journey south, a journey that will test his wits and his loyalties – and his trust that he may be part of a larger herd after all.

32. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate: Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated book is told from the point of view of Ivan himself. Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

33. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl: Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

34. Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss: From soaring to high heights and seeing great sights to being left in a Lurch on a prickle-ly perch, Dr. Seuss addresses life’s ups and downs with his trademark humorous verse and illustrations, while encouraging readers to find the success that lies within.

35. Keep Going by Joseph M. Marshall III: When a young man’s father dies, he turns to his sagacious grandfather for comfort. Together they sit underneath the family’s cottonwood tree, and the grandfather shares his perspective on life, the perseverance it requires, and the pleasure and pain of the journey.

36. The Noticer by Andy Andrews: Like all humans on the planet, the good folks of Orange Beach have their share of problems. Fortunately, when things look the darkest, a mysterious man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” he explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. “Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely,” he says. “Don’t squander your words or your thoughts. Consider even the simplest action you take, for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever.”

37. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is an allegory in which each character, representing a different phase of life, teaches the Little Prince from Asteroid 325 about love, trust, forgiveness and what is really important in life.

38. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson: A humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest. “I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”

39. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris: Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, David considers using the water in a vase of flowers and his chain of associations takes him from the French countryside to a hilariously uncomfortable memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina. In essay after essay, Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life-having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger on a plane or armoring the windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds-to the most deeply resonant human truths.

40. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

41. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh: Touching, absurd, and darkly comic, Allie Brosh’s highly anticipated book Hyperbole and a Half showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.

42. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne: Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) relates the hair-raising journey made as a wager by the Victorian gentleman Phileas Fogg, who succeeds – but only just! – in circling the globe within eighty days. The dour Fogg’s obsession with his timetable is complemented by the dynamism and versatility of his French manservant, Passepartout, whose talent for getting into scrapes brings colour and suspense to the race against time.

43. The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne: When Christopher Robin asks Pooh what he likes doing best in the world, Pooh says, after much thought, “What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘What about a little something?’ and Me saying, ‘Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet,’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.” Happy readers for over 70 years couldn’t agree more. Pooh’s status as a “Bear of Very Little Brain” belies his profoundly eternal wisdom in the ways of the world.

44. Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams: At first a brand-new toy, now a threadbare and discarded nursery relic, the velveteen rabbit is saved from peril by a magic fairy who whisks him away to the idyllic world of Rabbitland. There, he becomes “Real,” a cherished childhood companion who will be loved for eternity. Treasured for generations, here is a timeless tale about the magic of boundless love.

45. Find the Good by Heather Lende: As the obituary writer in a spectacularly beautiful but often dangerous spit of land in Alaska, Heather Lende knows something about last words and lives well lived. Now she’s distilled what she’s learned about how to live a more exhilarating and meaningful life into three words: find the good. It’s that simple–and that hard.

46. The Princess Bride by William Goldman: Here William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers finally receives a beautiful illustrated treatment. A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts—The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic.

47. Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakagawa: Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe will set you free on a visual journey of self-discovery. Set against a surreal backdrop of intricate ink illustrations, you will find nine metaphysical lessons with dreamlike instructions that require you to open your heart to unexplored inner landscapes. From setting fire to your anxieties to sharing a cup of tea with your inner demons, you will learn how to let go and truly connect with the world around you.

48. Hug Me by Simona Ciraola: Ever feel like you need a hug, a really big hug from someone? That’s how Felipe the young cactus feels, but his family just isn’t the touchy-feely kind. Cactuses can be quite prickly sometimes you know . . . and so can Felipe. But he’ll be darned if this one pointy issue will hold him back, so one day Felipe sets off on his own to find a friend and just maybe, that long awaited hug.

49. Life of Pi by Yann Martel: The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea.

50. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

What books have lifted your spirits, warmed your heart, or made you smile? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Positive Thinking: 50 Happy, Heartwarming, Helpful Books

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9 Books That Can Make You Happy & Help You Achieve Your Goals

The first time I was introduced to the Law of Attraction, I was twelve years old. My dad sat me down on the couch, popped in The Secret DVD, and said, “I wish I knew this stuff when I was your age.” The Secret essentially suggests that rewiring your brain for happiness (whether you do so by reading books that make you happy, or by other means) is the most efficient and rewarding way to finally reach your goals.

The problem is, however, that most people have no idea how to be happy. That’s why I enlisted the help of Sara Oliveri, a life coach and a Master of Applied Positive Psychology. She was more than willing to give me tons of invaluable insight into what happiness is, why it’s important to have it, and even a few helpful books that can make you happier, too. Having these guided books on being happier actually does help, as I’ve often found that the things you think about become your reality. (Think about the last time you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and everything after that seemed to go horribly wrong, one thing after the other, like a line of life-ruining dominos.)

Positive thoughts always find their way to positive situations and positive people. Here are some of Oliveri’s best, as well as a few books about being happier to help you out, if you don’t know where to begin.

Start With How Happiness Works

The How Of Happiness, $12, Amazon

Before someone tries to find happiness, it’s imperative to first find out how it works. The How Of Happiness is a book by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a psychology professor (directly recommended by expert Sara Olivieri), that explains exactly what positive psychology is, how it works, and how someone can learn to utilize it. This book is filled with insights from years of scientific research, and author Lyubormirsky offers tons of techniques for altering the 40 percent of happiness that is within our control.

Oliveri said, “Where classical psychology studies human dysfunction and how to help people feel fully functional, positive psychology posits that people desire to be more than merely functional.” Oliveri explained that positive psychology studies the second half of the equation — “things like meaningfulness, fulfillment, close relationships, and enjoyment,” and which types of environments, thought processes, and behaviors create those things.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Hold Onto The Good Stuff; Let The Bad Stuff Go

Learned Optimism, $11, Amazon

When I asked Oliveri which habits bring about the biggest change in attitude, she told me, “Optimism is a thinking tool that I teach to all of my clients and that I find one of the most valuable cognitive frameworks available to us.” Learned Optimism was one of her direct recommendations. It’s written by Martin Seligman, a renowned psychologist and clinical researcher who’s been deemed “the father of positive psychology.” This book ties in more than 20 years of research that proves how drastically optimism can improve the quality of one’s life, as well as the steps anyone can take in order to make it a habit.

“Essentially,” Oliveri said, ” involves remembering to see good things as personal, long lasting, and able to have a widespread effect on our lives, while we see bad things that happen the other way around — impersonal, temporary, and not going to ruin everything.” Reviewers have said that it’s a life-changing book, and because it’s insightful, yet practical and logical, it’s ideal for people who often find themselves thinking their way to into a web pessimism, and need a way out.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Your Intellect Might Be In The Way Of Your Happiness

If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?, $17, Amazon

Next on Oliveri’s to-read list is If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? This very recent release by Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., that suggests the very intellect and motivation that drives you might be at the root of your unhappiness. This fits hand in hand with Oliveri’s own insights, as she says, “Something I have found that poses a barrier to happiness is being too goal-oriented and outcome-driven.” While people often think that external goals (like wealth, success, and relationships) will make them happy, what they’re actually looking for is happiness itself, as that’s the reason they want those things in the first place. When our lives become all about chasing those things down, we lose track of our initial motive. Raghunathan creates an original and engaging book filled with clear, easy-to-follow exercises, and the reviewers so far have been very impressed.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Put Extra Effort Into Your Relationship

Wired for Love, $12, Amazon

“Science shows that we need to be even more positive in our relationships than we have to be within ourselves,” Oliveri said. Wired for Love uses scientific studies to show how pattern-oriented the human brain is, especially when it comes to relationships. The book teaches readers how to stay connected through daily rituals, learning to fight productively, and becoming an expert on exactly what your partner needs to feel loved. It helps you pinpoint autopilot responses that cause relationship problems in the first place, so you can instead focus on all the positive emotions you need to feel in order to keep the relationship strong, happy, and healthy.

Happiness in relationships is important because “the ratio of positive to negative emotions necessary for individual thriving has found to be about 3:1,” Oliveri says. “Whereas in our relationships, when we are not engaged in an argument, that number needs to be closer to 20:1, in order for the relationship to thrive!” How do people find that amount of happiness with their partners? “Greeting one another kindly, celebrating each other’s successes, praising one another, and creating a widespread positive sentiment in the relationship,” she says.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Ditch Those Toxic People In Your Life

Letting Go Of Friends , $12, Amazon

I ask Oliveri how the newly-popularized theme of toxicity plays into this, and she says, “It’s one of the most difficult things to overcome because we can’t control other people. However, I think we can keep away from toxic environments to the best of our ability. I am a big fan of trimming down your friend group, if needed.” Letting Go Of Friends is a book specifically geared toward identifying and fixing (or ditching) bad relationships. To quote Mean Girls, “girl-on-girl crime” is a pretty common occurrence, and author Debra Barton teaches women how to recognize a bad friendship, understand what kind of toxic person you’re up against, and either remedy the situation or learn to let it go. It’s an incredible read for those who often find themselves feeling hurt and betrayed in their friendships, rather than supported and loved — which is how they should feel — and reviewers really appreciated the extensive research, intellectual tone, and universal truths.

Look For Joy In The Moment Instead Of The Future

The Moment, $13, Amazon

Oliveri has some helpful insights on living in the moment: “We live in a culture that is all about results: lose weight, find a mate, get a promotion, make money.” However, these things often don’t bring happiness (even though we think they will), so what’s the solution? The Moment is an incredible read by Achim Nowak that teaches exactly that — how to live in the moment. It outlines a clear four-step process that allows people to return to their senses in any moment to feel gratitude for the world as it is.

Oliveri’s advice for living in the moment? “Slowing down and taking care of ourselves so that we have the bandwidth to enjoy the happiness opportunities that are already available in our lives: a sunny day, a kind stranger, an opportunity to help a friend.” As you return to a child-like view of the circumstances around you, where everything is fine as it is, you’ll see your professional life, personal relationships, and overall sense of happiness start to improve. This book has been called a “truly wonderful read,” and if you’re someone who feels as if happiness is always one step away, it’s definitely worth your time.

Apply Positive Psychology To Your Work Life

The Happiness Advantage, $13, Amazon

“ is also very much relevant to interpreting workplace successes and failures,” Oliveri says. The Happiness Advantage is a book by Shawn Achor that utilizes positive psychology through a professional work lens. It teaches readers that success at work won’t create your happiness; rather, being happy makes you better at your job because your brain becomes more engaged, creative, and resilient. While this book is written from a business perspective, it can be applied to any area of life, as these seven tried-and-true principles are meant to set you up for success, no matter what. Achor’s writing is built on years of prior research, and reviewers say his voice is original, fresh, hilarious, and perceptive.

(Psst! This title is also available on Audible with a free 30-day trial.)

Follow Your Life’s Purpose For Satisfying And Enjoyable Work

The Essential Self, $17, AmazonAnother recommendation from Oliveri, The Essential Self is an insightful book by Dr. Elliott Rosenbaum that teaches people how to access their inner “music,” which connects you to your life goals and true purpose. By listening, you’re able to create an existence that’s both deeply satisfying and entirely enjoyable. Reviewers say that the message is deceptively simple, but upon taking a closer look, Rosenbaum’s narrative is especially profound, and has the ability to be life-changing.

When I asked Oliveri how one might find happiness at work, she said, “Ideally, you would choose work that you find intrinsically rewarding, so that you are not just working to make money. I believe this can be done with almost any job — even if you are not in love with the primary focus, you can find ways to uplift the people around you, and allow that to be the intrinsic benefit you reap from your job.”

Create A Ritualistic Practice, Like Meditation

Buddha in Blue Jeans, $4, Amazon

Another small thing that works miracles: “We can create rituals for ourselves that allow us to ‘snap out’ of this toxicity and return to our true selves; this is one of the benefits of having a life coach, some of us have a yoga practice, a meditation, a poem, or a prayer practice that may have a similar effect,” Oliveri told me. Perhaps the most accessible and modern book on meditation, Buddha in Blue Jeans takes the practice and outlines it in simple, straightforward, and easy-to-comprehend language. It’s written to engage anyone from any religion, race, gender, background, or faith, as it includes universal topics that everyone can practice and benefit from: Sit Quietly, Care For Your Body, Accept Your Feelings, Give Thoughts Room, Listen to Others, Live Gratefully, and so on. Tai Sheridan offers everything you need to know about meditation in a short, precise book, and it’s one of the most popular and well-reviewed on the subject.

Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle’s editorial and sales departments.

Images: Fotolia (1); Amazon (9)

The best books on Happiness for Children

Your recent book for children draws closely on and is directly linked with the work you have done as lead psychologist for Action for Happiness. Before we get into your book choices, can you tell me a bit more about that charity?

It was initiated by eminent economist Professor Lord Richard Layard of the London School of Economics, a long-time advocate of the need to change how we measure progress as a society. The primary measure used has traditionally been GDP per capita. Richard’s argument – which he wrote about in his 2005 book, Happiness: Lessons From A New Science – is that the measure of GDP is necessary but it’s not sufficient. If you look at trends in GDP per capita since the 1950s or 1970s (in the U.S. or Europe, depending on the dataset) the trend is upwards. On average we are getting richer, we have a lot more in a material sense, but if we look at evaluations of life satisfaction over a similar period, a key measure of happiness used by economists, that hasn’t increased and mental ill-health has increased. So, we’ve got richer but we haven’t got any happier. So people started to ask Richard, “What do we need to do to close this gap?”.

At the same time Richard was arguing this, the field of psychology was going through something of a revolution. An equally eminent figure, Dr Martin Seligman, who’d spent the majority of his career studying depression, realised that the majority of psychological research up to that point had primarily focused on illness and dysfunction – why things go wrong and how to treat or cure those – which of course is important, but there had been very little research into why things go right and how to spread that, in other words, what enables people to live happier, more flourishing lives. We get this from a physical health point of view, that not being ill is not the same as being at peak physical fitness, so what is the equivalent for psychological health? So at the turn of the millennium the need for a greater emphasis on the psychology of optimal functioning, wellbeing or “positive psychology” as it is known, was established. In the last 20 years, research in the field has grown exponentially and has been influential in neuroscience and other health research too.

“We’ve got richer but we haven’t got any happier”

Recognising that this new branch of psychology could help address the gap left by a singular focus on material growth, Richard, along with leading educationalist Sir Anthony Seldon and social innovator Geoff Mulgan, founded Action for Happiness as a social movement. Our mission is to inspire and support people to take action to proactively increase happiness and wellbeing for themselves, and in their communities, work places and schools. I’ve been involved since before we launched. My role in that is translating the latest psychological research into practical ideas for action that people can apply in their own lives and in the world around them.

I suppose, and I mean this without cynicism, that happier people are more productive? Do you think that including happiness skills in the way we bring up our children will have a positive effect on society as whole? Hence it being a subject of interest for economists?

There is a growing body of evidence to show that happiness is one input into a wide range of positive outcomes in life, not just an output from things going well. For example happier people tend to be physically healthier, they are less likely to catch colds or experience heart attacks and they are more emotionally resilient. There is also evidence that they can live longer. From a productivity point of view, happier people are more likely to be productive than unhappy people. For instance, doctors who are happy make faster and more accurate diagnoses; companies who pay attention to these ideas out-perform companies who don’t on the stock market. Happier people are also more likely to contribute to society in other ways. They are more likely to help others, they are less likely to engage in risky behaviours – for example on the road – and they are more likely to be financially responsible and vote. The list goes on. So it seems that feeling happy is not just a cherry on the cake of modern living, it has real personal and societal benefits. These findings make very compelling arguments for improving life satisfaction. It’s also about the sort of society we want to live in, and moreover with a growing and ageing population like the one we have, taking happiness or psychological wellbeing more seriously is increasingly important because it’s about prevention, not just cure.

Do you think that happiness, or mental ill-health, is more of a problem for current generations than it was in the past? Or is it more that people are more open about their emotional health than previous generations were able to be?

It’s a bit of both. We now have more diagnostic labels and language for mental ill-health conditions than we had in the past and we are increasingly able to talk about experiencing anxiety and depression. Because we are more aware of these things, more people will be presenting with the conditions.

“Happier people tend to be more physically and emotionally resilient – there is also evidence that they can live longer”

However society has also changed quite rapidly. Along with the focus we’ve had on material success, many of us don’t live near extended family groups anymore or feel connected to our communities. Life has sped up. We are bombarded by advertising offering its view of what makes a happier life, leading us to think “I’ll be happier when I have those shoes or that gadget”. Whilst those sorts of things can make a short term difference, they aren’t enough. Our wonderful technological advances give us access to information and ideas, but on the downside we are also much more aware of what other people seemingly have compared with ourselves (and it’s often inaccurate!) and this exerts pressure: “Am I the only one who doesn’t have three parties to go to this weekend?” These technological advances and tools are great for the democratisation of knowledge, but we haven’t learned how to use them sustainably. Our brains evolved to help survive as hunter-gatherers and they’ve not caught up for using smartphones or being online 24/7 – which we’ve only had for around 10 years – so it’s not surprising this can contribute to unhappiness. In the last five or so decades many of us have striven for one thing after another to get material success. I think the younger generation is kicking back a little against this idea.

Importantly, we aren’t educated to think about what really matters and we’re not taught skills that help us feel happier. If you ask most people what they ultimately want from life, or what they want for their children, most people will say they want to be happy, or want their children to have happy lives. But we don’t spend much time thinking about what that really means and what does it take in terms of our daily actions and behaviours.

What is happiness, exactly?

Good question! We often use the word liberally but as I said earlier we rarely think about what it really means and takes. We often think of happiness as a fleeting, emotional state. When I do workshops and ask people what they think happiness is, at first they say things like ‘chocolate’. But very quickly they come up with other, perhaps deeper things, such as being with family and friends, feeling fulfilled, content, feeling that they are making a difference, being creative and learning.

“We need some moments of pleasure to keep us moving forward towards our goals”

Ancient Greeks talk about two different sorts of happiness. Hedonia which is fleeting pleasure – it’s where the word hedonism comes from. Whilst you can have too much of a good thing, having some pleasure has been shown to be important. They also talked about Eudemonia, which translates roughly as a sense of fulfilment, of living a good life. In practice I believe we need a balance of both. When we are working hard to achieve things, that will ultimately contribute to living a good life – passing an exam, working hard in our jobs, bring up children or a project in our community – it doesn’t necessarily feel good at the time. We need some moments of pleasure to help keep us moving forward towards our goals. A happier life is a dynamic balance between pleasure, working towards a sense of eudemonic satisfaction, and being able to deal with the downs as well as the ups of life.

And this is one of the areas you deal with in your own book for children, written with co-authors Val Payne and Peter Harper, called, 50 Ways to Feel Happy: Fun Ideas and Activities to Build Your Happiness Skills.

In the book we explore what happiness is, why it’s important, and what we can do to help us to feel and stay happy. It’s packed full of fun activities to try and is peppered with happy facts from the science. It is aimed at children aged 7-11 years. The book is structured around the 10 Keys to Happier Living that I developed for Action for Happiness and they are also the focus of my first book for adults. The 10 Keys are important areas in which evidence shows we can take action to feel and be happier, and research is also showing lots of activities that make a difference. They are a menu, not a prescription, as we are all different and need different things at different times. The acronym for the 10 Keys is GREAT DREAM which many people seem to love and I hope will capture children’s imaginations.

The 10 Keys are a toolkit for ‘psychological sustainability’ for want of a better expression. Of course they aren’t a substitute for clinical help if we are really struggling, but science shows that these small activities can add up to making a real difference in our lives and help in sustaining our wellbeing.

“We human beings can be very good at disturbing ourselves”

Psychologically speaking, having a sense of control over our lives is really important. It doesn’t mean control over everything but knowing that there is something we can do or try makes a difference. If I have the tools to understand my feelings, maintain my wellbeing and, if I’m feeling down or having difficulties, know I am able to take steps to help myself feel happier, then I will not only cope better but enjoy life more. The keys to a happier life are also the keys to resilience. An important aspect of resilience is known as ‘active coping’ – so having a toolkit of ideas for what you can try really helps.

We human beings can be very good at disturbing ourselves. If we can recognise early on when we are ruminating, catastrophising or unhelpfully comparing ourselves to others, we are less likely to end up depressed or anxious. These tools and ideas help us help ourselves; there is something you can do. Importantly happiness is not just an individual pursuit. It’s a shared responsibility and caring about other people’s happiness can also boost our own. We explore this a lot in the book.

You are keen to see techniques for building happiness embedded in our schools and i family life. Can you tell me more about how you envisage this?

I believe we need to apply these ideas in both what and how we teach and apply them in a ‘whole-school’ approach. We can teach specific happiness and wellbeing skills as in classes currently teaching PSHE (Personal, social, health and economic). We can embed these ideas in other curricula. In literature classes, for example, you can highlight the strengths, values or type of emotional responses characters have. There is an application of it in our approach to learning, for instance, Carol Dweck’s work on “fixed and growth mindsets” is gaining traction in schools. Teacher and parent wellbeing is also a vital and often overlooked element. Our wellbeing is contagious and how happy teachers feel impacts their ability to teach well and affects the whole school community. Parent wellbeing of course has a knock-on impact on their children.

These ideas are important for everyone. Why wait until someone is depressed and anxious to teach them some of these ideas, why not teach them as life skills? Where better to start than in schools with the very young?

This leads quite nicely onto your first book choice, Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom: A Practical Guide to Teaching Happiness by Adrian Bethune – due for release in September 2018.

Adrian is a primary school teacher and active member of Action for Happiness. He has taken the 10 Keys to Happier Living and other ideas from positive psychology and applied them with great success in his classroom. This book shares that experience as a guide for other teachers.

Can you tell me more about Adrian’s specific approach and what makes this book stand out for you?

Adrian was an early adopter of Action for Happiness ideas. He felt that these could make a big difference in the school he worked in and has put them into practice in his own classrooms. For example, Anti-Bullying Week is something that a lot of schools participate in. But it highlights the negative behaviours rather than constructive ones. Instead Adrian introduced It’s Cool to Be Kind Week choosing to promote positive good, social evidence-based behaviours. The kids learned why kindness was important for everyone’s happiness and explored doing kind tasks over the week. For example they produced a newspaper of happy headlines and stories to hand out at the local train station which made commuters smile. The kids were tasked with doing kind things for people in their community, and several people wrote to the school with notes of thanks. It showed kids that they can have an influence and make a difference. This approach achieved everything Anti-Bullying Week could have and much, much more.

“They chose to promote positive good, social evidence-based behaviours instead of negative ones”

Adrian’s well-structured book shows teachers how to teach a range of concepts and skills and integrate them into the classroom and school culture. It’s one of the first books of its kind that makes it easy for teachers to understand why this matters and what they can do in a practical sense in their classrooms.

Your second choice, The Strength Switch by Dr. Lea Waters, is aimed at parents, isn’t it?

This is a really useful book for parents. Most parents want to help their children to be happy and grow into the best person they can be, but don’t get much clear guidance. This is one of the first books that shares ideas on how to embed “positive psychology” into parenting.

Dr. Waters talks about “negativity bias”. Could you tell me a bit more about this, where it comes from and perhaps why we should be aware of it?

In wanting to help their children make the best of themselves many parents, no matter how well-meaning, often end up being critical to their child and focusing on what they are doing wrong, rather than developing their child’s strengths and noticing what the child is doing right. This isn’t unique to parents, it’s an effect of the natural human tendency called the “negativity bias”. In parenting it can have a damaging effect if we aren’t aware of it and know how to navigate around it.

“As a result of our evolution our brains are attuned to notice what is wrong. We also tend to overlook what is right”

Our brain evolved when we were hunter-gatherers as I mentioned earlier, and so is hard-wired to notice signs of danger. Out there on the savannah hunting for food, we had to be finely tuned to potential risk in our environment, as these could be life-threatening. Even though life today is much, much safer for the most part, as a result of our evolution, our brains are still attuned to notice what is wrong. We experience bad emotions like fear more strongly and we hang on to unpleasant emotions for longer. We also tend to overlook what is right. Psychologists recognise that when it comes to our experience of emotions, ‘bad is stronger than good’. But it turns out that when we train our brains to notice what is right, as well as what is wrong, it has psychosocial and developmental benefits that impact how much we learn, the options we see, our relationships, resilience and wellbeing.

This book helps parents look at this potent tendency and gives tools to notice and nurture our child’s strengths. It’s not about ignoring weaker areas but about a more constructive, informed approach. So this clear, structured and practical book helps well-intentioned parents do their best better. And as we can also apply this negativity bias to ourselves and other aspects of our lives, this book can have benefits for parents themselves too!

Your third choice is fiction for children aged eight to twelve, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.

I include this because it is an emotional story of love, resilience and meaning. It’s important that when we talk about happiness we don’t make the mistake of expecting life to always be perfect. All of us will experience difficulties, losses and challenges and the uncomfortable emotions that come with those are part of life. The science of wellbeing and building our happiness skills necessarily helps to build our ability to deal with tough times and bounce back too.

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This is also a favourite book of my eldest nephew, Alex. We went to see the play together and I bought him an illustrated version one Christmas which he took to a Show-and-Tell lesson when he was at primary school. The teacher liked it so she read it to the whole class during story time, and it was lovely to see his pride when he told me this! Introducing my nephews to new ideas, experiences and new worlds is something I personally find highly meaningful.

I find Michael Morpurgo a fascinating author for children. He is never afraid to tackle real depth of emotion in his work. I’ve noticed that my daughter (eight years old) craves his books – I have wondered if she needs them to allow, or help, her to explore some of her more complicated or melancholy emotions. This appears to be as important to her as expressing laughter.

I don’t want to give the impression that we should focus on happiness to the exclusion of other experiences. However, the psychology of wellbeing can help us recognise and get through the tough times.

“Reading can teach you how to think around a situation, it can teach courage and humour”

War Horse is a pretty hard-hitting story which puts its readers in touch with a breadth and depth of emotions. Life has ups and downs and it is normal and appropriate to feel anger, sadness and fear in response. That is important for children to realise. Research shows it’s helpful to have words for a wide range of emotions. The richer a child’s lexicon of emotions, the easier it is for them to understand specifically what they are experiencing, communicate it effectively and it seems to help them manage their emotion better too.

Reading about other people (and animals) experiencing difficulties also helps us feel and develop empathy and compassion, which are so vitally important in terms of societal and our own wellbeing. If we go through difficulties, there is reassurance in knowing others have experienced similar times too, that it’s not just us, which can lead to feeling isolated and alone.

Your fourth choice is another work of fiction for readers aged eight to ten: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

I loved this and the other Pippi books as a child. They were a favourite from my trips to the local library every Saturday morning. Pippi is simply joyful. She is curious and courageous, creative and kind. She doesn’t worry about the small things like matching stockings or tidy hair. She doesn’t blindly follow convention but is very much her own person. She makes mistakes but finds her way through them. Looking back she was perhaps an early female role model for me! She taught me early on that I don’t need to follow conventional paths. That’s the power of fiction.

Do you think that fiction is a good way to access meaningful lessons regarding happiness and resilience?

One of the ways we learn new ideas and build confidence in what we can do is through vicarious experience, and fiction is a great source of this. Reading can teach you how to think around a situation, see different approaches and it can give us courage to try them ourselves. Great lessons. In fact there’s a whole new academic field emerging from positive psychology, called ‘positive humanities’ which looks at the role of humanities in developing wellbeing.

Your last book choice is a lovely book to end our conversation on, Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy: Acts of Kindness for Kids by Bernadette Russell. I found it such fun and very much enjoyed the mischievous quality in its Robin Hood-esque approach to kindness.

The first Key to Happier Living in the framework I developed for Action for Happiness is Giving – doing kind things for other people. It’s also the focus of the first chapter in 50 Ways to Feel Happy. Caring about and feeling connected to other people is an important ingredient in happiness.

I think kindness has evolved as a social glue, an important ingredient in creating a happier society. We know that in communities where there is a greater sense of trust and support there is also greater wellbeing. As well as contributing to another person’s happiness, being kind activates the reward centre in our own brains – it actually helps us to feel happy ourselves. We also know that happier people tend to help others more, so it’s a kind of virtuous circle if you like. This makes sense as we are a social species.

There are many different ways that we can help others and be kind. There are big things like charity runs but the small things can be hugely significant too. Something as simple as giving our attention or smiling at another person, or noticing when someone needs a helping hand. We are acutely sensitive to one another as human being especially to feelings of being cut off or excluded, so something as simple as these actions can have powerful impact. Knowing that helping can boost the giver’s wellbeing can also make it easier to ask for help. And we all need help from time to time! Being kind and helping others is also a great way of feeling that we are contributing to something beyond ourselves. Bernadette’s book is great for children who want to explore even more ideas around this.

Interview by Zoe Greaves

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Most parents want their kids to be successful in life—and so we teach them attitudes that we believe will help them achieve their goals. But as I learned while researching my book The Happiness Track, many widely-held theories about what it takes to be successful are proving to be counterproductive.

Sure, they may produce results in the short term. But eventually, they lead to burnout and—get this—less success. Here are a few of the most damaging things many of us are currently teaching our children about success, and what to teach them instead.

What we tell our kids: Focus on the future. Keep your eyes on the prize.

What we should be telling them: Live (or work) in the moment.

It’s hard to stay tightly focused. Research shows our minds tend to wander 50% of the time we’re awake. And when our minds wander, we often start to brood over the past or worry about the future—thereby leading to negative emotions like anger, regret, and stress.

A mind that is constantly trying to focus upon the future—from getting good grades to applying to colleges—will be prone to greater anxiety and fear. While a little bit of stress can serve as a motivator, long-term chronic stress impairs our health as well as our intellectual faculties, such as attention and memory. As a consequence, focusing too hard on the future can actually impair our performance.

Children do better, and feel happier, if they are learn how to stay in the present moment. And when people feel happy, they’re able to learn faster, think more creatively, and problem-solve more easily. Studies even suggest that happiness makes you 12% more productive. Positive emotions also make you more resilient to stress—helping you to overcome challenges and setbacks more quickly so you can get back on track.

It’s certainly good for children to have goals they’re working toward. But instead of always encouraging them to focus on what’s next on their to-do list, help them stay focused on the task or conversation at hand.

What we tell our kids: Stress is inevitable—keep pushing yourself.

What we should be telling them instead: Learn to chill out.

Children are feeling anxious at younger and younger ages, worrying about grades and feeling pressure to do better at school. Most distressingly, we’re even seeing stress-induced suicides in children—especially in high-achieving areas like Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.

The way we conduct our lives as adults often communicates to children that stress is an unavoidable part of leading a successful life. We down caffeine and over-schedule ourselves during the day, living in a constant state of overdrive and burning ourselves out—and at night, we’re so wired that we use alcohol, sleep medication, or Xanax to calm down.

All in all, this is not a good lifestyle to model for children. It’s no surprise that research shows that children whose parents are dealing with burnout at work are more likely than their peers to experience burnout at school.

I recommend that parents consider teaching their children the skills they will need to be more resilient in the face of stressful events. While we can’t change the work and life demands that we face at work and at school, we can use techniques such as meditation, yoga and breathing to better deal with the pressures we face. These tools help children learn to tap into their parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system (as opposed to the “fight or flight” stress response).

What we tell our kids: Stay busy.

What we should be telling them: Have fun doing nothing.

Even in our leisure time, people in Western societies tend to value high-intensity positive emotions like excitement, as opposed to low-intensity emotions like calm. (The opposite is true in East Asian countries.) This means that our kids’ schedules are often packed to the brim with extracurricular activities and family outings, leaving little downtime.

There’s nothing wrong with excitement, fun, and seeking out new experiences. But excitement, like stress, exhausts our physiology by tapping into our “fight or flight” system—and so we can unwittingly prompt our children to burn through their energy after school or on weekends, leaving them with fewer resources for the times when they need it most.

Moreover, research shows that our brains are more likely to come up with brilliant ideas when we are not focusing (thus the proverbial a-ha moment in the shower). So instead of over-scheduling kids, we should be blocking out time when they can be left to their own devices. Children can turn any situation—whether they are sitting in a waiting room or walking to school—into an opportunity for play. They may also choose calming activities like reading a book, taking the dog for a walk, or simply lying under a tree and staring up at the clouds—all of which will allow them to approach the rest of their lives from a more centered, peaceful place. Giving your kids downtime will help them to be more creative and innovative. And just as importantly, it will help them learn to relax.

What we tell our kids: Play to your strengths.

What we should be telling them: Make mistakes and learn to fail.

Parents tend to identify their children by their strengths and the activities that come naturally to them. They say their child is a “ a math person,” a “people person,” or “an artist.” But research by Stanford University’s Carol Dweck shows that this mindset actually boxes your child into a persona, and makes them less likely to want to try new things that they may not be good at. When a kid receives praise primarily for being athletic, for example, they’re less likely to want to leave their comfort zone and try out for drama club. This can make them more anxious and depressed when faced with failure or challenges. Why? Because they believe that, if they encounter obstacles in a given area, that make them “not good at” the activity.

But our brains are wired to learn new things. And it can only be a good thing to learn from our mistakes while we’re young. So instead identifying your child’s strengths, teach them that they actually can learn anything—as long as they try. Research by Dweck, author of best-selling book Mindset, shows children will then be more optimistic and even enthusiastic in the face of challenges, knowing that they just need to give it another go to improve. And they will be less likely to feel down about themselves and their talents.

What we tell our kids: Know your weaknesses, and don’t be soft.

What we should be telling them: Treat yourself well.

We also tend to think that criticism is important for self-improvement. But while self-awareness is of course important, parents often inadvertently teach their children to be too self-critical. If a parent tells a child that she should try to be more outgoing, for example, the child may internalize that as a criticism of her naturally introverted personality.

But research on self-criticism shows that it is basically self-sabotage. It keeps you focused on what’s wrong with you, thereby decreasing your confidence. It makes you afraid of failure, which hurts your performance, makes you give up more easily, and leads to poor decision-making. And self-criticism makes you more likely to be anxious and depressed when faced with a challenge.

Instead, parents should encourage children to develop attitudes of self-compassion—which means treating yourself as you would a friend in times of failure or pain. This doesn’t mean that your children should be self-indulgent or let themselves off the hook when they mess up. It simply means that they learn not to beat themselves up. A shy child with self-compassion, for example, will tell herself that it’s okay to feel shy sometimes and that her personality simply isn’t as outgoing as others —and that she can set small, manageable goals to come out of her shell. This mindset will allow her to excel in the face of challenge, develop new social skills, and learn from mistakes.

What we tell our kids: It’s a dog-eat-dog world—so look out for number one.

What we should be telling them: Show compassion to others.

Research shows that, from childhood onward, our social connections are the most important predictor of health, happiness, and even longevity. Having positive relationships with other people is essential for our well-being, which in turn influences our intellectual abilities and ultimate success.

Moreover, likability is one of the strongest predictors of success—regardless of actual skills. Wharton professor Adam Grant’s book Give & Take shows that you express compassion to those around you and create supportive relationships instead of remaining focused on yourself, you will actually be more successful in the long term—as long as you don’t let yourself be taken advantage of.

Children are naturally compassionate and kind. But as psychologist Jean Twenge has written about in her book Generation Me, young people are also becoming increasingly self-involved. So it’s important to encourage children’s natural instincts to care about other people’s feelings and learn to put themselves in other people’s shoes.

It’s true that it’s a tough world out there. But it would be a lot less tough if we all emphasized cutthroat competition less, and put a higher premium on learning to get along.

20 Books Guaranteed to Cheer You Up

With summer on its way, the weather is getting warmer, the hours of daylight are lasting longer and everyone’s spirits are starting to lift after the long, cold winter months and the dreary springtime rain.

This is a guest article contributed by Kayla Matthews from Productivity Theory.

However, sometimes it takes more than some sunshine and freshly mown grass to get me in the summer mood, and a well-timed positive read can be just what the doctor ordered. Here’s a list of books that always help lift my spirits and get me ready to face the day.

1. Confederacy of Dunces, by Kenneth Toole

Follow the ridiculous journey of Ignatius Reilly, a would-be scholar from the Dark Ages, as he confronts New Orleans — in all its zany glory. From selling hot dogs on the street corner to disrupting a ladies’ art gallery with his apocalyptic pronouncements, Reilly is a character equal parts unforgettable and hilarious. Bolstered by an ensemble cast of side characters and intertwining events, Confederacy of Dunces is a masterpiece of comedy.

2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson

As the father of gonzo journalism, Hunter Thompson lived a strange, absurd and erratic life up until his death in 2008. Fear and Loathing, Thompson’s breakout non-journalistic work, revolves around a road trip he and his attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta took to Las Vegas in 1971. While disturbing in parts, and wholly swept with a hurricane of hallucinogenic substances, the book is a wild ride through the mind of one of America’s greatest writers, and sure to distract its readers from normal life.

3. A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson

While walking the Appalachian Trail is usually seen as a daunting and serious task, Bryson’s gift for describing the bizarre characters and his own misfortunes along the way never fails to draw a laugh. For those who love the outdoors, or who have ever thought about hiking the Appalachian Trail, this book should be next on the list.

4. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, by Peter Hedges

This 1991 novel follows Gilbert, a disillusioned grocery clerk living with his dysfunctional family in a tiny Midwestern town. For its part, the story seesaws between depressing and hilarious, and ends with one of the most heartfelt and oddly uplifting scenes in modern American literature. Gilbert Grape is an emotional rollercoaster and one that will hold any reader’s attention from start to finish. Also catch the film adaptation, which includes Leonardo DiCaprio’s first main role.

5. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

Oddly enough, this graphic novel — which covers depression as its central theme — is also heartwarming and extremely uplifting throughout. With wonderfully creative art and a talent for making the most serious subjects simultaneously approachable and hilarious, Hyperbole captures the hearts of its readers and helps keep the blues in perspective for anyone feeling down. Read either the graphic novel or its webcomic predecessor.

6. Illusions, by Richard Bach

Bach is known for his tales of limitless possibility and spiritual discovery, and he doesn’t disappoint with this short novel that features the adventures of a nomadic pilot, flying from one small Midwestern farm town to the next, paying for his food and gas by offering five-dollar rides to the townspeople. This book — at once lighthearted and deeply philosophical — will have any reader questioning his or her own reality and the amazing possibilities of life, reality and friendship.

7. I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak

A taxi driver, Ed Kennedy, receives an ace of diamonds and a list of addresses. In time, he comes to understand each address corresponds to an individual in need of some help or guidance, and that he is the messenger of goodwill to them all. One by one, Ed continues thanklessly helping strangers, resorting to strange and offbeat tactics — and often sacrificing his own happiness — to complete each task. Expect tears of happiness by the end.

8. Clear: A Transparent Novel, by Nicola Barker

The crowds are watching as David Blaine suspends himself high above London in a transparent box. And even as they watch, Blaine, the protagonist of this novel, is watching them. This book treats readers to a truly insightful critique of a modern culture that feels partly dramatic, partly comedic and wholly genuine, all framed against the backdrop of Blaine’s reality-defying starvation stunt. Expect some of the most original and memorable scenes in modern writing.

9. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloane

When Clay Jannon loses his Silicon Valley job, it’s the beginning of an adventure far larger than he could ever imagine. Soon he’s cracking ancient mysteries and unraveling secrets behind a bibliophilic cult with a combination of modern technology and old-school methods. An exciting, effortlessly fun novel about bridging the gap between the present and the past, an undying love for texts and words and a feel-good cast of characters young and old.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

This classic novel is a timeless tale of childhood and adult role models, and of the struggle for fairness and dignity among everyone within a racist and traditionalistic culture. Protagonist Atticus Finch teaches us what it means to live a deeply moral and loving life, even as he struggles with getting questioned and scorned by his own community. Jean-Louise, his daughter and the narrator of the story, begins to understand the impact and importance of her father’s actions in what might be the best father-daughter relationship in all of American literature.

11. The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy

Readers ought to prepare themselves for a wild ride with James Kennedy’s high-octane romp through the fantastic and bizarre world of Eldritch City. Be prepared for moray eel mobsters, an assassin in a Sonic the Hedgehog outfit and a retired Russian colonel with a prophetic digestive system. Add to it one of the strangest and most frightening villains of recent memory, a healthy dose of friendship and the makings for an epic confrontation, and you have the recipe for a book that will always drive the blues from your mind.

12. A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold

Leopold’s 1949 nonfiction masterpiece is a must-read for any budding conservationists, casual nature lovers and anyone in between. Within its pages, Leopold takes the readers on a tour of his land, the local creatures and plant life, and the impact it all has on his own life and the lives of those around. He sharply criticizes progress that destroys nature and disrupts the natural cycle, even as he rejoices in the amazing and wonderful ability of nature to endure and evolve. It’s best to indulge in this read from a hammock or under the shade of a fine oak.

13. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Part spiritual journey, part coming-of-age epic, The Alchemist evokes the timeless themes of growing up and seeking greatness with humility and mercy, creating a truly classic novel all wound into the great allegory of alchemy — transforming lead to gold. A young shepherd finds himself compelled to visit the pyramids of Egypt, where riches are waiting for him, and sets out on a perilous journey across the desert. Readers find their own hearts yearning for the adventure, their minds at ease following the conclusion.

14. The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

An expansive look at past and present life in the Dominican Republic, as told in the distinctive and compelling voice of Junot Diaz, this staple of modern literature follows the trials and tribulations of the young Dominican nerd Oscar, his mother, his sister and his college roommate. Brutally open at times, and revealing of a culture many know little about, this novel is a breath of fresh air and a fine departure from the normal heroes of literature.

This novel probes the depths of human possibility, from a thuggish regime to a single young man who loves to write, and will leave readers crying and laughing at the same time.

15. The Giver, by Lois Lowry

The Giver has become a staple in high schools around the U.S., as well it should be. This story begins in a world robbed of its zest, where society functions as one great efficient cycle, and anything that might cause true human suffering has been excised. In the midst of it all lives the Giver, the only one allowed to experience dreams of the past, who stores memories of all the harm and pain that were once part of human life. Those searching for the meaning of life’s pain will find a compelling argument in these pages.

16. Kiss of the Spider Woman, by Manuel Puig

It’s hard to label this one uplifting, but then again, this dialogue-driven novel defies all labels. Puig’s 1976 piece reads more like a play without stage directions and brings to life the daily interactions of two prisoners — a young revolutionary and a middle-aged gay man — locked in an Argentine prison. In the darkness of the cell, the prisoner Molina conjures the stories of movies he once saw, weaving his vivid descriptions in beside the unfolding stories of their lives. Readers experience the power of human love battling a hopeless situation.

17. The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson

When art clashes with family, the results aren’t always pretty. Involved as pseudo-props in their parents’ bizarre performance art since their youth, Buster and Annie have started their own lives and left the performances far behind — or so they had thought. When life brings them back under their parents’ roof, a strange and delightful journey follows. Sad at times, this novel nonetheless questions the place of free will, parenting and art. Plus, the performances are pure chaotic fun and will bring a smile to the hardest reader’s face.

18. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & Other Stories, by Etgar Keret

Centered in modern-day Israel, this book of short stories uses a lighthearted and often absurd worldview to touch on much deeper topics. From a man running late for his date to another man that designs crazy metal tubes to roll marbles down, we are treated to a series of wonderful and wacky stories, some of which are grounded in reality, and many of which venture into the allegorical or metaphorical. This is a wonderful book for remembering how fun and weird the world can be.

19. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

An old Cuban fisherman hooks the largest marlin he has ever seen and sets out on a multi-day odyssey as the fish takes his small boat far out to sea. A novella of human suffering and determination, and the struggle of man against a cruel and unyielding nature, Hemingway’s story almost entirely avoids dialogue and focuses instead in the character of the man and his adversary. This story is both beautiful and haunting, and one that stays with a reader forever.

20. Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie

Reservation Blues is Sherman Alexie’s debut novel, and it solidified a multi-decade career for one of America’s most renowned Native American writers. Strange magic inhabits a punk-rock-blues band trying to get their start out of the poverty and depression of Spokane Indian reservation in Washington. Even as anger and greed tears at the band’s heart, the love of music and a poignant, dark humor keep the novel afloat. Readers should prepare for enchanting, strange writing that never quite leaves them.

It’s important to point out that these are not all “happy” books. While all the books appearing on this list will help readers understand life and put their own suffering or sadness into perspective, many of these books accomplish that by delving into the same suffering and emerging on the other side.

Some of these stories are best to enjoy as a blissful escape from the troubles of life, and others exist to help understand and value the trials life presents to us all.

It’s also worth noting that these books are all extremely well-written and compelling stories, ones that will keep any reader turning the pages until they hit the back cover.

These are stories that touch us, move us and make us truly value the aspects of this strange — and sometimes sad — life. And that’s really the point of reading, isn’t it?

About the Author:
Kayla Matthews is a productivity blogger who has written for online publications such as Houzz, Inc.com, Asian Efficiency, Lifehacker and more. To read more by Kayla, visit her productivity and lifestyle blog, Productivity Theory.

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