18 Best Books on Happiness: How to Live a Happy Life Full of Joy
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.
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. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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 Mention 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 - MJ Ryan
Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life - Abbot Christopher Jamision
Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment- Tal Ben-Shahar
A Smarter You in 15 Minutes?
If you enjoy reading about happiness, you may enjoy many other nonficrion self help books. If you do I encourage you to check out the Blinkist app.
Blinkist is an interesting concept…
Blinkist summarized over 2,000 of the bestselling books and put them into condensed 7 to 15 minute reads (or “blinks”). The idea here is to give you the key insights and important lessons — without wasting your time on pointless information.
Blinkist book summaries are perfect for anyone who wants to maximize those random moments when you have to kill time. Like when you want to kill time before an appointment or you’re standing on a long line at Starbucks.
You can use Blinkist to complete a book daily, learn the valuable lessons, and avoid the fluff that often pad longer books.
MORE Self Help and Self Improvement and Happiness Books
(How to never run out of good books to read)
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.
First 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)300 + Self Help Books
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