Happiness Books and Resources

There are many wonderful books that share lots of methods for increasing your own happiness and positivity. Each one has a specific focus — so you will find a good place to start on your own happiness work of whether science, spirituality, anecdotes or personal experiences most appeal to you. While over 80% of the ideas and methods overlap among the books, it is very helpful to read the descriptions below and pick the one that most resonates with you.

If you love science and want hard data to back up the happiness recommendations:

  • Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson, is the best positive psychology book I’ve read. The book summarizes a lot of wonderful science on positive emotions in a way that is very accessible to the non-scientist and VERY COMPELLING! It also provides some wonderful methods for increasing your positivity.
  • The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubormirsky, is another great positive psychology book. It has many specific suggestions on ways to increase your happiness and helps you determine which is most likely to help you.
  • If you are interested in more wonderful work from the scientific perspective I would also recommend the following authors: Martin Seligman, Tal Ben-Shahar, Jonathan Haidt, Daniel Gilbert, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Jim Loehr, Tony Schwartz and Rick Hanson.

If you love anecdotes and happiness conclusions drawn from interviews with hundreds of the happiest people in the world then read:

  • How We Choose to Be Happy by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks is the book that started me on the happiness path a number of years ago. It was first published in 1999 and lays out the 9 choices that extremely happy people make in their lives. It is a powerful read with lots of stories from the people they interviewed. They also have a book that was published in 2009 called Happiness & Health which explains the 9 choices and includes summaries of a lot of the science that has since confirmed the value of the their recommendations.

If grounding your happiness activities in a spiritual perspective is important then I’d recommend these books:

  • If Buddhist psychology appeals to you, start with Awakening Joy by James Baraz. It summarizes the Awakening Joy course that Baraz has been teaching for almost a decade. It is accessible to people on any spiritual path, but also serves as an introduction to many Buddhist principles on happiness and joy. It is full of rich anecdotes from his past students. I’d also recommend the course, which is offered on video or mp3 download for whatever donation you can afford to pay. There is one class per month that includes lecture by Baraz and a different relevant guest speaker every month. You can find out more at If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can attend the classes live each month in Berkeley.
  • If the Law of Attraction is part of your spiritual path then pick up a copy of Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff. She was one of the featured speakers in the Secret and has been a leader in the self-esteem movement for decades. She has put together a good book of recommended ways to increase your happiness. Published in 2008, Shimoff summarizes key parts of the positive psychology research, but brings an important spiritual perspective to it.
  • Other spiritually-oriented authors that approach happiness and life fulfillment that I recommend are: Matthieu Ricard, Sylvia Boorstein, Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Leo Buscaglia and Don Miguel Ruiz.

If stories from one woman’s quest to test out the best happiness ideas from ancient wisdom, modern science and popular culture appeals to you:

  • Get a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin which chronicles her year-long test-drive of all the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy. She posted her progress during the year on her blog and continues to very actively contribute there.

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