The best positive psychology books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about positive psychology and why they recommend each book.

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The Antidote

By Oliver Burkeman,

Book cover of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

This book is brilliant and really worth a read. Oliver Burkeman is someone who embraces positive thinking, but from a kind of cynical perspective, so the Antidote is happiness for people like me who can't stand positive thinking. It's a really practical and entertaining celebration of negative thinking that helped me embrace insecurity, uncertainty, and failures in life.

Who am I?

So quite a few years ago now, while juggling a hundred and one things – some paid, some voluntary; some work-related, some not – I developed a new obsession in my quest to change the world: productivity. I have now written multiple books on the subject, and I am the founder of Think Productive which helps people and organisations around the world to increase productivity & wellbeing. These are the top 5 books that have shaped the way I look at productivity and the way I work and live my life.

I wrote...

How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do

By Graham Allcott,

Book cover of How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do

What is my book about?

When it comes to overflowing inboxes, ever-expanding to-do lists, and endless meetings, traditional time-management techniques—like those in bestselling books by David Allen or Dominic Wolff— simply don't cut it in the age of information overload

Thankfully there's a better way. Graham Allcott, founder of the global productivity workshop company, Think Productive, presents How to be a Productivity Ninja, his brilliant—and originally self-published—guide to cutting through the procrastination, getting more done, and enjoying your work and your life more as a result. Using techniques including Ruthlessness, Mindfulness, Zen-like Calm, and Stealth and Camouflage, you will get your inbox down to zero, maximize your attention span, and learn to work smarter, not harder.

The Happiness Advantage

By Shawn Achor.,

Book cover of The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life

When you have happiness as a baseline, life is just better. Shawn takes you through the academics of happiness, and all the research. Like Brene, Shawn is Texan, and they are both gifted storytellers. Easy, fun read. By an academic for regular folk, this book is full of useful information and exercises to make your life better.

Who am I?

As a career and life coach, I am always encouraging my clients to take care of themselves so that they can pursue their ambitions. I am equal parts advocate and mother, coach asking you to push yourself and best friend bringing you an ice cream cone. I believe in the duality of self-care and ambition, and that pursuing hard things is part of self care, and solid self care gives you the strength to pursue hard things.

I wrote...

Personal (R)evolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You've Always Wanted to Do

By Allison Fishman Task,

Book cover of Personal (R)evolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You've Always Wanted to Do

What is my book about?

It’s time to take charge of your life—and do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Personal (R)evolution is your very own life coach in your pocket. Best-selling author and coach Allison Task will help you take control of your life and move from where you are now to where you want to be.

Inside this refreshing how-to book filled with humor, inspiration, real-world client examples, and tools, Task will help you: Create a clear vision for what you want out of life, so you know where you’re going and why you’re going there.

The Happiness Hypothesis

By Jonathan Haidt,

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

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. Look at the way real people have become happy through the millennia, and live like they did.

Who am I?

Edward Castronova is a gamer who also has a PhD in Economics and a lifetime of research on games, technology, and society. In this book he applies everything he has learned to the burning questions at the heart of every person’s life: What am I doing here? How am I supposed to live? When Castronova faced those questions himself, the answer was clear: I have been thrown into a game called “Life” and, being a gamer, I should figure out the rules to this game and try to beat it. 

I wrote...

Life Is a Game: What Game Design Says about the Human Condition

By Edward Castronova,

Book cover of Life Is a Game: What Game Design Says about the Human Condition

What is my book about?

Life is a Game is a method book, forcing you to think on the strategic layer that most people ignore. You decide what life is about on the philosophical layer, and you decide what to do today on the tactical layer. The strategic layer lies between. It is where you decide how to win life in the universe that you believe in. This book encourages you to be a gamer, and to use your gaming mindset to make the same excellent choices in life as you do in your games.

The Power Of Concentration

By Theron Q. Dumont,

Book cover of The Power Of Concentration

The Power of Concentration is a practical guide for developing concentration. I liked this book because it helped me through graduate school when stress was high. The book contributes to a discussion of positive psychology. Concentration is placed within the grasp of each person. The author links concentration to the development of desirable habits while overcoming bad habits." Theron Q. Dumont noted, "Concentration is paying attention to a chosen thought." His work is relevant today given distractions from many corners of life. 

Who am I?

During an intensely productive period as a licensed clinical psychologist, I invented virtual reality immersion therapy described in US Patent 6425764 and authored Virtual Therapy: prevention and treatment of psychiatric conditions by immersion in virtual reality environments. UCSF Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Lawrence Lurie wrote: “Ralph’s vision is of the whole world, the context is history from the beginning of time. The author quotes Emerson, Dante, Chaucer, Jung and many more from before and after the invention of the printing press. The originality, language, and world view make this book interesting reading. The story is well told in verse, pictures, quotations, and more. I enjoyed the vast expansiveness of the story and the details of many people’s lives.”

I wrote...

Emergence In All Seasons

By Ralph Lamson,

Book cover of Emergence In All Seasons

What is my book about?

This book is about the emergence of thinking, belief, and behavior. It answers such questions as: “What is emergence?” “I wonder how to find fulfillment?” “I wonder how others survived loss?” “I wonder if it is possible for me to emerge with mind, emotion, and body into something imagined? “How do I gain insight and inner peace?” 

This book of hope is fuel for imagination and exploration. It presents biographies, colorful visual meditations, emergence successes, warnings about mental health and chemical dependency detours, and creates readiness for healing.

From What Is to What If

By Rob Hopkins,

Book cover of From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want

Most nonfiction books on social issues begin—in fact, some go on for about half the book—on the theme of what’s so bad about the problem being addressed. Most authors want you good and scared before they start talking about the good stuff. This book doesn’t do that. It opens, in fact, with a short story set in The World That Turned Out Okay.

And then it backs it up with real-world examples. Transition Town Totnes. Transition Streets. All sorts of projects, from all around the world. And throughout the books, it asks the same question again and again: why is it so hard to imagine a better future? How can we work on that? And then it answers it. The book is a toolbox of research, ideas, and techniques at both the personal and community level. Narrated first-person by the author, reading it is like chatting with a very clever,…

Who am I?

I come from a reservation town in Wisconsin, and make my livelihood as a horticulturist in the water-strapped state of Colorado. I’m mix-race and LGBT. These influences have shaped what I look for in stories. I write and seek to read about communities in which the person creating medicine and the person growing food is just as important as the fighter, because let me tell you: if you don’t have the means to make food and heal wounds, all the guns in the world won’t save you. I particularly appreciate stories that explore ecology, agriculture, and plant science in innovative ways. These make my little horticulture-geek heart sing.

I wrote...

The Hands We're Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild)

By O.E. Tearmann,

Book cover of The Hands We're Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild)

What is my book about?

It's 2155, and seven corporations call the shots on the land that was the United States of America. Democracy is dead. The Corporations run the City Grids for a profit and own their worker's bodies and souls.

But there are people fighting for a change. There’s a unit in the resistance, nicknamed the Wildcards. Officially Democratic State Force Base 1407, the Wildcards are fighters in the war to bring democracy back. They're everything the Corporations despise: dreamers and fighters, punks and freaks and geeks who won't be told what to be or who to love. They've come up every walk of life to become the best unit the Democratic State Force has and the family every one of them needs. And they are taking the Corps down, one day at a time. Strap in for a series that's been called 'Firefly for the cyberpunk genre'. Hang on tight.

Learned Optimism

By Martin E. P. Seligman,

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

Seligman pioneered work in “learned helplessness”, which provides invaluable insight into we different people respond so differently to similar challenges or experiences. With his interpretations of this work and more, Seligman creates a guide for changing the way we interpret our circumstances, learning how to create a sense of control, and consequently how to not only enjoy our lives more but to determine their course effectively. 

Who am I?

As a coach of elite weightlifters, a lifetime athlete, an outdoorsman, and a passionate advocate for self-reliance, I’m continually searching for quality sources of information that teach, inspire, and drive us to improve our abilities—physical, mental, and emotional—to not just enrich our own lives and bolster our capacity to achieve what’s meaningful to us, but to become better contributors to the world at large and help and inspire others in turn.

I wrote...

Tough: Building True Mental, Physical & Emotional Toughness for Success & Fulfillment

By Greg Everett,

Book cover of Tough: Building True Mental, Physical & Emotional Toughness for Success & Fulfillment

What is my book about?

True toughness is a genuine command over ourselves and an ever-increasing mastery of the elements that define us and determine the course of our lives. It gives us the fortitude, mindset, and tools to not simply survive adversity, but to thrive through it and in its wake; gives us a broad and always expanding array of capabilities that create self-reliance and confidence, and give us access to new opportunities and experiences; ensures we understand who we truly are, and that we ultimately determine that identity and reinforce it daily with our choices and habits, and allows us to remain committed to our chosen path to achieve what we intend no matter what it is or how difficult the process. 


By Tal Ben-Shahar,

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

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.

Who am I?

As I was writing The Coincidence Makers I found out I am not writing about coincidences, at all. I found out I was writing about fate and free will, about the way we make choices, and how these choices affect us, define us and change us. Choices and the way they build our happiness is the theme of this list, which is made out of books that I read before or during the writing process of my own (fiction) book, and probably influenced it, one way or another.

I wrote...

The Coincidence Makers: A Novel

By Yoav Blum,

Book cover of The Coincidence Makers: A Novel

What is my book about?

Guy, Emily, and Eric are three seemingly ordinary people who work for a secret organization devoted to creating and carrying out coincidences. What the rest of the world sees as random occurrences, are, in fact, carefully orchestrated events designed to spark significant changes in the lives of their targets—scientists on the brink of breakthroughs, struggling artists starved for inspiration, loves to be, or just plain people like you and me…

But a secret mission, a killer who can't hurt a fly, and memories from previous lives are going to change all that and teach them about the true nature of fate, free will, and the real meaning of love.

Who am I?

Resilience - helping people recover their capacities to deal with any adversity, stress, loss or trauma – is the heart of my work as a licensed psychotherapist (25 years) and an international trainer of mental health professionals (more than a decade). Bouncing Back is the book I wanted to be able to hand my clients to help them learn to use the capacities of resilience innate in their brains to develop more effective patterns of response to life crises and catastrophes. No such book was available at the time, so I wrote my own. It has become a tremendous resource for people to learn to how to be more resilient, and to learn that they can learn.

I wrote...

Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being

By Linda Graham,

Book cover of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being

What is my book about?

The award-winning Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being is a groundbreaking integration of practical tools and techniques. The book is informed by Eastern contemplative practices, Western relational psychology, and the emerging neuroscience of resilience, to help people learn how to rewire their patterns of coping with the disappointments, difficulties, and even disasters inevitable in a human life, and to learn that they can.


By Rick Hanson, Forrest Hanson,

Book cover of Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness

Resilient is a book to savor slowly. In recovery from addiction, sometimes one’s foundation is shaky and unstable. Resilient provides a beautiful way to build a new solid foundation based on compassion, confidence, and courage. Rick Hanson is a popular psychologist and has lots of great books (along with a terrific podcast with his son) but I keep returning to this one. As a psychologist myself, I think Resilient hits all the themes that are important for a mind well-cared-for and a life well-lived.  

Who am I?

I’m a psychologist, an award-winning author, and a yoga and meditation devotee. Growing up in the Bronx, New York I saw firsthand the devastating impact addiction can have on individuals and families. That is why I have dedicated my professional life to understanding and supporting people recovering from addiction, mental illness, and life's challenges. I’m also the co-author of The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction, which offers lots of strategies to manage daily stressors. I wholeheartedly believe there is a path back to wellness. It takes a foundation of self-compassion and daily focus on your healing. You deserve to be healthy and happy.

I wrote...

The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress, and Anger That Trigger Addictive Behaviors, 2nd Edition

By Rebecca E. Williams, Julie S. Kraft,

Book cover of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress, and Anger That Trigger Addictive Behaviors, 2nd Edition

What is my book about?

If you struggle with addiction, know that you are not alone. Addictive behaviors are often the result of a significant loss. If you’re like many others, you may have turned to drugs, alcohol, or other troubling behaviors to avoid the pain of loss. But this only delays your healing, and can lead to a destructive cycle that leaves you feeling trapped. So, how can you break free?

This second edition of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction will help you identify the root of your addictive behaviors while providing coping strategies to deal with the strong emotions that come from experiencing a loss. With these powerful mindfulness exercises and lifestyle tips, you will be able to replace addictive behaviors with healthy behaviors to begin healing.

A Year of Positive Thinking for Teens

By Katie Hurley,

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

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.

Who am I?

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.

I wrote...

Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate

By Joanne Foster,

Book cover of Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate

What is my book about?

Bust Your BUTS helps people 10+ understand, prevent, manage, and eliminate procrastination. In this follow-up to my parenting book, Not Now, Maybe Later, I describe 28 BUTS (different reasons why kids procrastinate). I don’t judge—rather I offer concise, relatable explanations, and I share hundreds of practical tips for busting those BUTS. There’s information on motivation, and on how to confront various challenges, become organized, use time wisely, set attainable goals, and become more productive.

Bust Your BUTS received a Benjamin Franklin Award™ from the Independent Book Publishers’ Association. This is the book procrastinators need now. Plus, it’s a timely resource for parents, teachers, or anyone who wants to learn more about effort, responsibility, and fulfillment. A quick and motivating read—no BUTS about it!

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