The best books on happiness

14 authors have picked their favorite books about happiness and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Stumbling on Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert,

Why this book?

Knowing what we want can be tricky. In order to do that, we need to imagine our future selves and guess what they will be satisfied with. Surprisingly, knowing what you want might be much trickier than you think. Gilbert's book is full of insights and scientific discoveries about human nature that are fascinating, witty, and many times insightful. Happiness is a state of mind, and the mind is full of surprises.

From the list:

The best non-fiction books about happiness and the choices we try to make in order to get it

Book cover of The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn't Working Today

The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn't Working Today

By Jennifer Michael Hecht,

Why this book?

We live with so many toxic myths about happiness, and many of these myths come from books about happiness! The Happiness Myth steps up to defend happiness from all the nonsense. It’s a rollicking and often-hilarious tour through the history of human happiness, full of surprises and strange-but-true ideas to ponder. 

Historian and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht challenges our current certainties in this irreverent and well-researched exploration of what our ancestors (and we!) need to live happy lives. She’s a wonderful and witty person to spend time with, and she’ll help you become more intelligent about the true and everlasting…

From the list:

The best books to help you develop emotional badassery

Book cover of Where Happiness Begins

Where Happiness Begins

By Eva Eland,

Why this book?

Where Happiness Begins is a clever picture book that depicts happiness as a character that can take any shape and form. Sometimes it is hard to find. And sometimes it is right there with us. The illustrations are bright and beautiful. To me, we should read it frequently as a gentle reminder that happiness always begins within ourselves.

From the list:

The best children's books to discuss loneliness and depression

Book cover of Choosing Joy: Alzheimer's: A Book of Hope

Choosing Joy: Alzheimer's: A Book of Hope

By Helene Berger,

Why this book?

This is the #1 caregiving book of hope I’d want my family to read, should I ever be diagnosed with dementia. Helene Berger’s memoir shares her experiences caring for her husband after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I learned the many ways she discovered to make life more meaningful for her husband, especially through art (much of his artwork through the years is included). It reiterated to me that the attitude of a caregiver can make all the difference. With kindness and patience, Helene teaches how to be a loving caregiver. 

From the list:

The best Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving books

Book cover of The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

By Russ Harris,

Why this book?

This might seem an odd book for enhancing your relationship with creativity, but if you struggle with doubts, creative fears (such as a fear of rejection or criticism), the imposter syndrome, anxiety about not being good enough to create what you feel called to create, or other limiting beliefs, the Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) techniques that this book focuses on are just what the doctor ordered. 

Essentially, ACT borrows insights and teachings from older nondual philosophies such as Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism, and puts them in a more conventional, research-based package. Personally, I think ACT doesn’t go nearly far enough…

From the list:

The best books for a more fulfilling, successful, and enjoyable creative life

Book cover of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

By Jonathan Haidt,

Why this book?

If you thought that the keys to true happiness were magically uncovered in 1968, just take a look at our society to see how completely wrong you are. Haidt shows that every step we have taken away from ancient wisdom has been a step into sadness, anxiety, and rage. This book validated my commitment to the wisdom in Catholic teaching. Anything that has survived 2,000 years despite its many corruptions and hypocrisies must be on to something, and Haidt tells you what that something is. Haidt is so common-sense about it. Don’t live according to theories and fads, he says.…

From the list:

The best tough and practical books for living well

Book cover of Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment

By Tal Ben-Shahar,

Why this book?

As we all want to be happy, there are different ways we can get there. Ironically, chasing happiness, trying to perfect our lives, and making sure everything is "good" and "positive" might be the worse way to do it. The chase after happiness is not the way to get it. Ben Shachar—an expert when it comes to positive thinking and happiness—teaches us how to stop the race, in order to get the peace of mind and happiness that we seek.

From the list:

The best non-fiction books about happiness and the choices we try to make in order to get it

Book cover of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill

By Matthieu Ricard,

Why this book?

This book describes that all human beings strive to achieve perfect authentic happiness directly or indirectly. True happiness must be cultivated by the transformation of oneself. True joy is what we need and not passing excitement. The book speaks to us about creating a contemplative and introspective mind conducive to our wellbeing and inner peace. If our mind can manage its thoughts, perceptions, and emotions, then it can change our moods and transform us forever. Strong Belief in the reality of the ego leads to human pain. Ignorance and mental toxins are the causes of unhappiness that must be eliminated…

From the list:

The best books about well-being and self-knowledge

Book cover of Presence, Volume 1: The Art of Peace and Happiness

Presence, Volume 1: The Art of Peace and Happiness

By Rupert Spira,

Why this book?

This book describes in detail with extreme clarity that knowing our true being is peace, happiness, and love. Our true self is always present consciousness which knows the mind, body, and the world. The belief in the existence of a separate inner self and an external world obscures our true nature. With the veiling of our true nature, an imaginary self that is limited and situated in the mind-body is seemingly created and the search for happiness in the outside world begins. Suffering is the veiling of one's true nature or happiness, not the lack of happiness. After the dissolution…

From the list:

The best books about well-being and self-knowledge

Book cover of The Happy Brain: The Science of Where Happiness Comes From, and Why

The Happy Brain: The Science of Where Happiness Comes From, and Why

By Dean Burnett,

Why this book?

In this book, Burnett takes the readers on his own journey of discovery, trying to find out what it is that makes us happy. Along the way, he explores topics from love to work to relationships and discovers that happiness isn’t as simple as it might seem. Written in Burnett’s signature witty style, with personal anecdotes and laugh-out-loud moments, this book is easy to read, but packed with neuroscience. It will leave you thinking differently about what it really is we need in order to be happy.
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The best books about the amazing human brain

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