What makes people happy?
This essential question has occupied the imaginations of philosophers, religious leaders, and ordinary people for thousands of years. While we usually think of happiness as a transitory experience, it is also associated with satisfaction and meaning in life.
Though the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, scientists have only recently informed us that pursuing happiness can make us less happy.
The idea of living a happy life is both alluring and elusive. These books will help you understand the science, the business, the philosophy, and even the negative effects, of happiness.
Of these, many are international bestsellers, while others are important books from some great, credible authors.
50 Best Books On Happiness And Positivity
Here is a list of the ten best books on happiness and positivity. You will not find most of these on any other “happiness book” lists. The links in the titles are Amazon affiliate links.
- Check out the summary of the book, The How of Happiness.
1. Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth — Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener
Happiness presents cutting-edge research on the science of happiness, including their own work on the Values in Action Scale, a universal measure of subjective well-being. They explain how happiness may be pursued scientifically, and they construct a well-being economic model that takes into consideration the factors that support both happiness and well-being.
Happiness discusses how to build one’s psychological richness. It is a well-organized book that covers the causes and effects of happiness and redefines our perceptions of happiness.
2. Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization — Scott Barry Kaufman
What does it mean to live a full and meaningful life?
For many years, Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” has been used to understand this question. Now, in Transcend, cognitive scientist, author, podcaster, and popular science writer Scott Barry Kaufman builds on this classic work and distills the best available research on self-actualization.
Filled with compelling narratives, easy-to-follow exercises, and recent research, Transcend (2020) expands on Maslow’s famous ideas about human needs and presents them in a new light that takes us on a path toward self-actualization.
It explains the ways in which love, connection, creativity, and purpose can be part of our lives, and also how they can be lost and regained.
- Read our review/summary of the book: A Book To Set Sail For The Extraordinary: TRANSCEND
3. Neurodharma: New Science, Ancient Wisdom, and Seven Practices of the Highest Happiness — Rick Hanson
In “Neurodharma”, the New York Times bestselling author Rick Hanson, Ph.D., not only explores the new neuroscience of awakening but also proposes a bold plan for reverse-engineering peak experiences and even enlightenment.
In this book, Rick Hanson sweeps aside the brain myths and old ways of thinking about happiness and replaces them with research-validated tools for cultivating happiness.
The author shows how this new knowledge of what works can be applied to our everyday lives, increasing our ability to have regular peak experiences and even to replicate aspects of enlightenment.
4. Activating Happiness: A Jump-Start Guide to Overcoming Low Motivation, Depression, or Just Feeling Stuck — Rachel Hershenberg
Rachel Hershenberg has been living with depression for decades. She knows what it’s like to be stuck, to have days that drag on, and to have trouble getting out of bed.
But she also knows how to transform bad moods into good ones. Hershenberg offers a collection of mindfulness and behavior change techniques that can help you feel better. Her advice is based on her own experience, as well as her work as a psychologist and her research into the latest findings in psychology.
Activating Happiness shows you how to stop suppressing your negative emotions — and how to use them to achieve your goals.
5. Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control our Lives — Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz
In Manufacturing Happy Citizens, Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz present a compelling critique of “positive psychology,” the scientific study of happiness.
Using the latest studies in the human sciences, Cabanas and Illouz show how positive psychology is built on a false ideology of individualism and is used to influence individuals and produce consumerist subjects.
Cabanas and Illouz establish a link between “happiness,” as defined by positive psychologists, and neoliberal individualism. This is a must-read for anyone looking for a grassroots critique of the positive psychology movement.
6. Stoicism And The Art of Happiness: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Life — Donald Robertson
Many people wonder, “Are Stoics happy?”
The book “Stoicism And The Art of Happiness” explains the Stoic notion of happiness well, while also proposing a revolutionary technique to boost our well-being by following the prescriptions for living a happy life outlined by the ancient Stoic thinkers.Stoics believe that the only good way to live in this world is to practice virtue, and that all external possessions, such as riches, are unimportant to our happiness. Click To Tweet
The author Donald Robertson offers a practical approach to understanding and applying Stoicism’s ancient philosophy to current life. This book contains a thorough examination of the ancient Stoics’ principles, as well as an easy-to-follow approach to putting them into practice.
- Learn more about Stoicism in just 500 words: Stoicism In A Nutshell: A Short Summary.
7. Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion — Elisha Goldstein
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., teaches you how to use the healing power of mindfulness and self-compassion during one of life’s most difficult events in this myth-busting book. Goldstein teaches you how to transform your biology to become more resilient, optimistic, and cheerful, based on his years of clinical practice and study.
8. Positivity: Discover The Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life — Barbara Fredrickson
In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson—a world-renowned researcher and leading expert in the field of positive psychology—shares a groundbreaking way of cultivating positivity for a successful, meaningful life.
This book will help you to create that upward spiral by giving you a host of strategies for becoming more positive, compassionate, resilient, and joyful. Dr. Fredrickson shows how to generate positive emotions, build a more positive culture, and use our social connections to create more positive humanity.
9. Ten Steps To Finding Happy: A Guide to Permanent Satisfaction — Selene Castrovilla and Lindsay S Weisner
Ten Steps to Finding Happy is a book that will help you understand the nature of happiness and why it’s important, and it will help you make that positive choice.
Selene Castrovilla, MD, and Dr. Lindsay S. Weisner help you navigate the world of happiness not just for one day but for life. In Ten Steps to Finding Happy, they take you on a clear path to happiness, merging medical, professional, artistic, philosophical, and spiritual perspectives into simple steps you can handle.
10. Positive Psychology in Practice: Simple Tools to Pursue Happiness and Live Authentically — Gina Delucca and Jamie Goldstein
Positive Psychology in Practice teaches you how to prioritize yourself and live a more meaningful life. With more than 75 straightforward explanations of key positive psychology concepts (such as eudaimonia, flow, and signature strengths and virtues) and tried-and-true strategies for aligning your own life with your values, you’ll learn simple, in-the-moment techniques for living better and finding deeper, more meaningful, and sustainable happiness.
More Best Books On Happiness
Hereafter, this is a “quick list” — a bare-bones list of the best happiness books to read. This pattern will help you keep this post a quick-reference resource page.
11. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World — Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams
12. The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning — Scott Galloway
13. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living — Meik Wiking
15. NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success – Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning
16. The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success – Emma Seppala
17. The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era — Amy Blankson
18. Thrive: Self-Coaching for Happiness & Success (Positive Psychology & The Keys to Sustainable Happiness) — Laura Delizonna and Ted Anstedt
19. Can We Be Happier?: Evidence and Ethics — Richard Layard
20. The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happy — Helen Russell
21. The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being – William Davies
22. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life – Susan David
23. Happy Ever After: A Radical New Approach to Living Well — Paul Dolan
24. Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work – Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
25. Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World — Matthieu Ricard
26. StrengthsFinder 2.0: Discover Your Clifton Strengths — From Gallup and Tom Rath
27. The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy And What We Can Do to Get Happier — Stefan Klein
28. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom — Jonathan Haidt
29. Happiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good Fast — Robert Holden
30. Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier – Robert Emmons
31. Capitalism of Happiness: Introducing a New Economic World Order that Puts Happiness at Its Core — Axel Bouchon
32. A Practical Guide to Happiness: Think Deeply and Flourish — Will Buckingham
33. 10 Keys To Happier Living: A Practical Handbook For Happiness — Vanessa King
34. Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment — Tal Ben-Shahar
35. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT — Russ Harris and Steven Hayes
36. The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, But Does — Sonja Lyubomirsky
37. Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and Why – Dean Burnett
38. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence — Rick Hanson
39. The Happiness Advantage: How A Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life — Shawn Achor
40. The Power of Negative Emotion: How Anger, Guilt, and Self Doubt are Essential to Success and Fulfillment – Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener
41. Happiness for Dummies — W. Doyle Gentry
42. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
43. The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in A World Obsessed with Happiness — Emily Esfahani Smith
44. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment — Martin Seligman
45. Real Happiness: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation – Sharon Salzberg
46. Positive Psychology: A Toolkit for Happiness, Purpose and Well-being – Bridget Grenville-Cleave
47. Oxford Handbook of Happiness — Susan David, Ilona Boniwell, Amanda Conley Ayers
48. The Human Quest for Meaning: Theories, Research, and Applications — Paul T. P. Wong (Editor)
49. The Psychology of Happiness — Michael Argyle
50. Stumbling On Happiness — Daniel Gilbert
We took time to find out and include many of the most recent books on happiness and wellbeing. The links that appear here go to the relevant paperback/hardcover page on the Amazon store.
• • •
Success doesn’t come with a promise of happiness – many suuceesful people are unhappy.
When your reason to be happy is tied to success, you never find the happiness you seek.
Why does it happen? And how to fix it?
• • •
Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and chief editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
• We are Happiness Project.
√ If you enjoyed this, please share it on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.