The most recommended books on optimism

Who picked these books? Meet our 19 experts.

19 authors created a book list connected to optimism, and here are their favorite optimism books.
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What type of optimism book?


Book cover of As a Man Thinketh

Stephen McGarvey Author Of Ignite a Shift: Engaging Minds, Guiding Emotions and Driving Behavior

From my list on the power of ideas and positive thinking.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wasn’t always a reader. Diagnosed with a learning disorder in elementary school, I hated reading and school. Eventually, I discovered my passion for psychology, neurolinguistics, and persuasion and influence, and have now become a lifelong reader! Through my boutique consulting firm Solutions In Mind, my colleagues and I have been coaching executive teams to make the changes required to improve sales, organizational behavior, and communication. In my latest book, Ignite a Shift, I equip readers to think about how they and those around them think, feel and do. With greater awareness you’ll be able to better establish and meet your goals and persuade and influence others to do the same. 

Stephen's book list on the power of ideas and positive thinking

Stephen McGarvey Why did Stephen love this book?

Although this book is more than a century old, I find it just as relevant today as it was when it was first published. As a Man Thinketh offers digestible and easily understood tips to transform the way you look at barriers in life and positively embrace them. Each person holds the key to their own happiness and by dealing with thoughts intelligently and patiently, can help reconstruct life for the better. 

By James Allen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked As a Man Thinketh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THIS little volume (the result of meditation and experience) is not intended as an exhaustive treatise on the much-written-upon subject of the power of thought. It is suggestive rather than explanatory, its object being to stimulate men and women to the discovery and perception of the truth that “They themselves are makers of themselves.” …by virtue of the thoughts, which they choose and encourage; that mind is the master-weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstance, and that, as they may have hitherto woven in ignorance and pain they may now weave in enlightenment…

Book cover of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Gregg Easterbrook Author Of It's Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear

From my list on hope for the future.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author, I write both serious nonfiction and literary fiction. As a journalist, I have lifelong associations with The Atlantic and the Washington Monthly. I didn’t plan it, but four of my nonfiction books make an extended argument for the revival of optimism as intellectually respectable. A Moment on the Earth (1995) argued environmental trends other than greenhouse gases actually are positive, The Progress Paradox (2003) asserted material standards will keep rising but that won’t make people any happier, Sonic Boom (2009), published during the despair of the Great Recession, said the global economy would bounce back and It’s Better Than It Looks (2018) found the situation objectivity good on most major issues.

Gregg's book list on hope for the future

Gregg Easterbrook Why did Gregg love this book?

It’s fashionable to think doomsday is coming, so fashionable that young people’s mental health is being harmed by relentless negativism in education, politics, the media, and Hollywood. 

Yet all previously predicted doomsdays did not happen! 

Historically, optimists have proven right far more often than pessimists. In this book Ridley makes the case that a revival of intellectual respectability for optimism would be good for society. Pessimists think there is no hope. Optimists believe reforms will succeed and society can improve.

By Matt Ridley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rational Optimist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction 2011.

Life is on the up.

We are wealthier, healthier, happier, kinder, cleaner, more peaceful, more equal and longer-lived than any previous generation. Thanks to the unique human habits of exchange and specialisation, our species has found innovative solutions to every obstacle it has faced so far.

In 'The Rational Optimist', acclaimed science writer Matt Ridley comprehensively refutes the doom-mongers of our time, and reaches back into the past to give a rational explanation for why we can - and will - overcome the challenges of the future, such as climate…

Book cover of The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain

Adam Bulley Author Of The Invention of Tomorrow: A Natural History of Foresight

From my list on harnessing the power of human foresight.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a cognitive scientist interested in how the human mind evolved and how it works. My research focuses on how people make decisions about the future, and in recent years I have become increasingly intent on understanding how to best harness our abilities for long-term thinking. Humans may be the most farsighted creatures that have ever existed on this planet. That also means we are uniquely equipped to tackle the big challenges ahead of us—to use our powers of foresight to create a future worth looking forward to. The books I have chosen below show us how we might do it. 

Adam's book list on harnessing the power of human foresight

Adam Bulley Why did Adam love this book?

We will need optimism to tackle the big challenges ahead of us. We should therefore understand some of the strengths and pitfalls of this mindset. I read Tali Sharot’s The Optimism Bias while I was working on a research project about self-deception and the book made a big impression. Sharot is one of the world’s leading cognitive neuroscientists and in this book she offers more than a description of a decision-making bias. Instead, she provides a detailed, sweeping account of how optimism works in the brain, operates in cognition, and plays out in diverse areas of human life. One key lesson: optimism about the future should be embraced with an awareness of both its adaptive benefits and its potentially devastating costs.

By Tali Sharot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Optimism Bias as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the British Psychological Society Book Award for Popular Psychology

Psychologists have long been aware that most people tend to maintain an irrationally positive outlook on life. In fact, optimism may be crucial to our existence. Tali Sharot's original cognitive research demonstrates in surprising ways the biological basis for optimism. In this fascinating exploration, she takes an in-depth, clarifying look at how the brain generates hope and what happens when it fails; how the brains of optimists and pessimists differ; why we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy; how anticipation and dread affect us; and how…

Book cover of How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids

Jack Payton Author Of Billy Balloon

From my list on children’s stories you wish you had written.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote Billy Balloon in fourth grade for a writing exercise. I remember the teacher reading it to the whole class. I was filled with pride. Then through the years I’d revisit the story and think about getting it published. Many years later, with the support and encouragement from my family, I finally decided to go through with it. We then went from wanting to publish one book to building a brand similar to Curious George and Thomas the Train. We had such a great experience and fun time we also decided to share the adventure with others. We invite readers to submit ideas for other books in the Billy Balloon series through our website

Jack's book list on children’s stories you wish you had written

Jack Payton Why did Jack love this book?

A co-worker had introduced me to this book when I mentioned my daughter was having trouble in school.

It’s a wonderful book that made a lasting impression. I would reference the book whenever she would get down or needed extra motivation.

My daughter even wrote about the lessons she learned from How Full Is Your Bucket in her college entrance essay.

By Mary Reckmeyer, Tom Rath, Maurie J. Manning (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Every moment matters.
Each of us has an invisible bucket. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it's empty, we feel awful. Yet most children (and many adults) don't realize the importance of having a full bucket throughout the day.
In How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids, Felix begins to see how every interaction in a day either fills or empties his bucket. Felix then realizes that everything he says or does to other people fills or empties their buckets as well.
Follow along with Felix as he learns how easy it can be to fill the…

Book cover of Life is Good: The Book

Alan Stein Jr. Author Of Raise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets from the Best of the Best

From my list on maximizing potential and improving performance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional keynote speaker and author that has studied the pillars of high performance for most of my life. This journey started through basketball, as I was able to work with, work alongside, and observe many of the game’s top players and coaches and witness firsthand the disciplines, rituals, and routines they modeled in pursuit of optimal performance on and off the court. That transitioned into the business world where I not only watched these foundational principles be applied by executives and entrepreneurs… but I applied them to my own life and business as well. 

Alan's book list on maximizing potential and improving performance

Alan Stein Jr. Why did Alan love this book?

This was such an easy and enjoyable read… I knocked it out cover-to-cover in less than 24 hours. It teaches impactful lessons through brilliantly told stories… some of which make you laugh, some of which make you cry, but all of which make you think! The cornerstone belief of this book is on developing and harnessing the power of optimism and gratitude. 

By John Jacobs, Bert Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life is Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Entertaining yet profound, easygoing yet powerful, this engaging book reveals how to tap into the hidden power of optimism. Beginning with their upbringing in working class Boston and following the arc of their lives from postgrad wanderlust to the birth of a small business, Bert and John use their experiences to illuminate the ten superpowers on which optimism is founded - from humor and compassion to gratitude and authenticity. Capturing their buoyant, community-focused outlook and supplementing with top-ten lists and the company's iconic stick-figure illustrations, this book doesn't preach. Instead, it offers lighthearted, practical self-help that will inspire and empower…

Book cover of Pollyanna

Darlene Foster Author Of Amanda in France

From my list on children’s adventures on strong female protagonist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a farm on the Canadian prairies where my only entertainment was books. This was before TV and the internet. Reading about girls who overcame obstacles such as being orphaned, dealing with homelessness or a disability, helped me realize that girls can overcome anything with the right attitude and by being brave. These attitudes of fearlessness, positive thinking, and resourcefulness shaped my life and helped me realize many of my dreams, including being a published author. Books with strong female characters help girls realize their own dreams.

Darlene's book list on children’s adventures on strong female protagonist

Darlene Foster Why did Darlene love this book?

The orphan girl Pollyanna moves in with her strict aunt in New England. Despite a difficult start, Pollyanna's exuberance and positivity affect everyone who meets her, and she spreads joy and love wherever she goes. I loved Pollyanna when I read it as a young girl and patterned my life after her positive thinking. Pollyanna, like myself, often finds her optimistic attitude tested, but she always learns to find happiness in every situation.

By Eleanor H. Porter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Pollyanna as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Brought to you by Puffin.

As soon as Pollyanna arrives in Beldingsville to live with her strict and dutiful maiden aunt, she begins to brighten up everybody's life. The 'glad game' she plays, of finding a silver lining in every cloud, transforms the sick, the lonely and the plain miserable - until one day something so terrible happens that even Pollyanna doesn't know how to feel glad about it.

(c) Eleanor Porter 1994 (P) Penguin Audio 2020

Book cover of Climate Optimism: Celebrating Systemic Change Around the World

Carrie Firestone Author Of The First Rule of Climate Club

From my list on non-fiction to inspire community conversations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm co-founder of a grassroots social justice, civic engagement, and service organization called ForwardCT, which I started with my friend and current state representative Eleni Kavros DeGraw with the intention of mobilizing community-centered action. Our work centers on these four pillars: Connect, Inform, Serve, and Lead. Those pillars guide my work as chair of my town’s Clean Energy Commission, as teacher and facilitator of workshops and events, and as an author of books for young people. I'm drawn to the powerful use of storytelling as a tool for starting conversations, stirring up “good trouble,” and inspiring activism. Read a book, approach your library or town to host a community conversation, leave with actionable takeaways, repeat!

Carrie's book list on non-fiction to inspire community conversations

Carrie Firestone Why did Carrie love this book?

Youth climate activist Zahra Biabani has tapped into something many climate activists have yet to learn. Doom doesn’t work. It causes people to retreat into their vices (or under their covers) and, in many cases, it paralyzes entire fledgling movements.

My own work at the community level reflects what Biabani has shared in her well-organized book of carefully-curated hope bombs – hopeful stories inspire positive bursts of brain chemicals, which motivate action. She provides clear examples of climate-centered successes from around the world, and ends with “what you can do.”

This would be a fantastic discussion book for climate clubs of all ages, municipal or non-profit environmental groups, and larger climate-centered conferences.

By Zahra Biabani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Climate Optimism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Guide on Climate Optimism and Environmental Sustainability

Zahra Biabani, a climate activist focused on hope and action, wrote this book to help readers learn why we need to and how we can stay optimistic in the face of the climate crisis. People are doing good things for our planet all over the world.... it's time we highlight it!

Change the way you think about the future. The fate of humanity can be daunting, but we don't need to live in that space. First, we need to change our attitude in order to implement nature based solutions that help mitigate…

Book cover of The Fortune Recipe: Essential Ingredients for Creating Your Best Life

Mark B. Murphy Author Of The Ultimate Investment: A Roadmap to Grow Your Business and Build Multigenerational Wealth

From my list on investing in yourself.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the Chief Executive Officer of Northeast Private Client Group, a national financial planning and wealth management firm, Mark B. Murphy is a highly sought-after key business strategist and critical thinker. He is passionate about empowering entrepreneurs to achieve multigenerational wealth by providing personalized strategies that focus on emotional fitness, wealth accumulation, and a plan that can work under all circumstances. Mark's expertise in strategic planning and financial engineering has benefited a diverse range of clients, including closely held businesses, mid-size companies, celebrities, athletes, hedge fund managers, doctors, dentists, and other high-net-worth individuals. His unwavering commitment to delivering a "wow" experience has earned him a reputation as a trusted expert in the industry.

Mark's book list on investing in yourself

Mark B. Murphy Why did Mark love this book?

This book is a powerful guide to creating a fulfilling and satisfying life.

Stoltz draws on his years of experience as a coach and mentor to provide readers with practical tools and strategies for achieving their goals and realizing their full potential. His insights into the power of positive thinking, the importance of setting goals, and the value of taking risks have inspired me to pursue my dreams with greater confidence and determination.

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to improve their outlook on life and create a better future for themselves.

By Bernie Stoltz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fortune Recipe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is there really a recipe for success and happiness?

Bernie Stoltz has been leading companies and advising top business executives for more than four decades. The Fortune Recipe draws on the full wealth of that experience, giving you all the tools you need to create a rich, fulfilling life.

No matter what goals you're pursuing, both personally and professionally, there is a proven formula to get there. The Fortune Recipe will help you make your own unique life the best it can be, laying out the essential life lessons, strategies, and effective behaviors that have proven effective in one life…

Book cover of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Randy Ross Author Of Fireproof Happiness: Extinguishing Anxiety & Igniting Hope

From my list on the best way to find happiness.

Why am I passionate about this?

My entire career has revolved around helping people find more meaning and fulfillment in their life and work. It’s a fact that happy people are healthier, have better relationships, are more satisfied with life, and are more productive. But, happiness for most folks is elusive. Through my research, personal experience, and coaching and consulting practice, I have found that there is a distinct connection between hope and happiness. Fireproof Happiness is my attempt to show this connection and offer practical wisdom and sound advice to craft a brighter tomorrow, no matter what you may be facing today.

Randy's book list on the best way to find happiness

Randy Ross Why did Randy love this book?

Known as the father of the new science of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman shows how optimism enhances quality of life. He refutes the idea that some people are simply born more optimistic and shares how anyone can adopt a more positive outlook on life. This book is filled with simple techniques to break depression, boost your immune system and make you happier.

Learned Optimism offers simple, straightforward solutions to help anyone embrace a healthier mindset as they face and embrace challenging times. Applying the content of this book, anyone can learn to view life through a different lens, changing their perspective and navigating life’s difficulties more effectively.

By Martin E. P. Seligman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Learned Optimism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The father of positive psychology draws on more than twenty years of clinical research to show you how to overcome depression, boost your immune system, and make yourself happier.

"Vaulted me out of my funk.... So, fellow moderate pessimists, go buy this book." —The New York Times Book Review

Offering many simple techniques anyone can practice, Dr. Seligman explains how to break an “I–give–up” habit, develop a more constructive explanatory style for interpreting your behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue.

With generous additional advice on how to encourage optimistic behavior at school,…

Book cover of A Year of Positive Thinking for Teens: Daily Motivation to Beat Stress, Inspire Happiness, and Achieve Your Goals

Joanne Foster Author Of Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate

From my list on procrastination, motivation, and kids.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about supporting and encouraging children’s and teens’ intelligence, creativity, productivity, and well-being. I’m an educational consultant with over 35 years of experience working with parents, teachers, and students within diverse communities, and I’m the award-winning author of seven books. I focus a lot on gifted education and procrastination. Within my books, articles, and presentations, there are tons of strategies and resources to help motivate kids—and empower their learning. My books include Being Smart about Gifted Learning and Beyond Intelligence (both co-authored with Dona Matthews), ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids, Bust Your BUTS, and Not Now, Maybe Later.

Joanne's book list on procrastination, motivation, and kids

Joanne Foster Why did Joanne love this book?

Katie Hurley is a highly respected child and adolescent psychotherapist who really knows how kids think and feel. She wrote this book during the pandemic, and she offers reassurance and lots of practical motivational strategies to empower kids when they feel stressed, overwhelmed, or stuck. The book is beautifully organized—day by day over the course of a full year—and it includes many resources as well. A Year of Positive Thinking is a book that kids can refer to often, including whenever they need a boost to increase their confidence, embrace uncertainty, confront change, or maximize their potential.

By Katie Hurley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Year of Positive Thinking for Teens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Transform your thoughts and find the confidence to navigate your teen years with positive thinking

Being a teen can be an emotional roller coaster. When you’re overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations from your friends, family, social media feed, teachers, and even yourself, it’s normal to have thoughts and feelings like This is too hard or I'll never measure up. With A Year of Positive Thinking for Teens, you'll discover how to overcome these anxious thought patterns, and build a happier, more positive mindset to achieve your goals.

Let go of stress with relatable prompts and reflections―all grounded in positive thinking and…