This page contains a list of the best books on happiness. Just to be clear, there is no single best book on happiness. The best book for you will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time that you want to spend reading about happiness. An 800-page scholarly overview is unlikely to be best for someone looking for a short beginner-friendly introduction, for example. This list aims to take this ambiguity into account by featuring books that will appeal to a variety of learning styles.
Secondly, this is not a list of personal recommendations. It was created by compiling recommendations from a variety of online sources including bibliographies, course syllabi, and community recommendations. You can find out more about this process here. Links to the sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a wider range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on happiness in no particular order.
Happiness: A Very Short Introduction – Daniel M. Haybron
Publisher description: Happiness is an everyday term in our lives, and most of us strive to be happy. But defining happiness can be difficult.
In this Very Short Introduction, Dan Haybron considers the true nature of happiness. By examining what it is, assessing its subjective values, its importance in our lives, and how we can (and should) pursue it, he considers the current thinking on happiness, from psychology to philosophy.
Illustrating the diverse routes to happiness, Haybron reflects on the growing influence of secular Western ideas in the contemporary pursuit of a good life, and considers the influence of social context on our satisfaction and well-being.
What is This Things Called Happiness? – Fred Feldman
Publisher description: According to an ancient and still popular view — sometimes known as ‘eudaimonism’ — a person’s well-being, or quality of life, is ultimately determined by his or her level of happiness. According to this view, the happier a person is, the better off he is. The doctrine is controversial in part because the nature of happiness is controversial. In What Is This Thing Called Happiness? Fred Feldman presents a study of the nature and value of happiness. Part One contains critical discussions of the main philosophical and psychological theories of happiness. Feldman presents arguments designed to show that each of these theories is problematic. Part Two contains his presentation and defense of his own theory of happiness, which is a form of attitudinal hedonism. On this view, a person’s level of happiness may be identified with the extent to which he or she takes pleasure in things. Feldman shows that if we understand happiness as he proposes, it becomes reasonable to suppose that a person’s well-being is determined by his or her level of happiness. This view has important implications not only for moral philosophy, but also for the emerging field of hedonic psychology. Part Three contains discussions of some interactions between the proposed theory of happiness and empirical research into happiness.
Oxford Handbook of Happiness – Susan David et al.
Publisher description: In recent decades there has been a shift in focus from psychological and social problems-what might be called the “dark side” of humanity-to human well-being and flourishing. The Positive Psychology movement, along with changes in attitudes toward organisational and societal health, has generated a surge of interest in human happiness.
The Oxford Handbook of Happiness is the definitive text for researchers and practitioners interested in human happiness. Its editors and chapter contributors are world leaders in the investigation of happiness across the fields of psychology, organizational behaviour, education, philosophy, social policy and economics.
The study of happiness is at the nexus of four major scientific developments: the growing field of Positive Psychology which researches the conditions that make people flourish; advances in the biological and affective sciences which have contributed to the understanding of positive emotions; Positive Organizational Scholarship, an emerging discipline aimed at investigating and fostering excellence in organisations; and findings from economics indicating that traditional markers of economic and societal well-being are insufficient. The Oxford Handbook of Happiness offers readers a coherent, multi-disciplinary, and accessible text on the current state-of-the-art in happiness research.
This volume features ten sections that focus on psychological, philosophical, evolutionary, economic and spiritual approaches to happiness; happiness in society, education, organisations and relationships; and the assessment and development of happiness. Readers will find information on psychological constructs such as resilience, flow, and emotional intelligence; theories including broaden-and-build and self-determination; and explorations of topics including collective virtuousness, psychological capital, coaching, environmental sustainability and economic growth. This handbook will be useful to academics, practitioners, teachers, students, and all those interested in theory and research on human happiness.
Theories of Happiness: An Anthology – Jennifer Wilson Mulnix & M.J. Mulnix
Publisher description: Theories of Happiness: An Anthology introduces readers to many difficult philosophical questions surrounding the concept of happiness. With historical and contemporary readings in philosophy, psychology, and the social sciences, the anthology reflects a dialogue between ideas, providing for a rich conversation that brings out the key insights and strengths of several competing views. Each of the included readings is contextualized by the editors and situated to speak to the larger issues, including the value of happiness and its connection to well-being, the relationship of happiness to morality, whether happiness can be accurately and meaningfully measured, and whether there are universal standards for a happy life.
Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert
Publisher description:Bringing to life scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, this bestselling book reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there.
- Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?
- Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight?
- Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they really want?
- Why do pigeons seem to have such excellent aim; why can’t we remember one song while listening to another; and why does the line at the grocery store always slow down the moment we join it?
In this brilliant, witty, and accessible book, renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions. With penetrating insight and sparkling prose, Gilbert explains why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become.
The How of Happiness – Sonja Lyubomirsky
Publisher description: You see here a different kind of happiness book. The How of Happiness is a comprehensive guide to understanding the elemetns of happiness based on years of groundbreaking scientific research. It is also a practical, empowering, and easy-to-follow workbook, incorporating happiness strategies, excercises in new ways of thinking, and quizzes for understanding our individuality, all in an effort to help us realize our innate potential for joy and ways to sustain it in our lives. Drawing upon years of pioneering research with thousands of men and women, The How of Happiness is both a powerful contribution to the field of positive psychology and a gift to people who have sought to take their happiness into their own hands.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
Interested in philosophy but don’t know where to start? Check out these resources:
- An Organized Collection of Online Philosophy Resources and Reading Lists
- A History of Western Philosophy in 66 Quotations (and 300+ online resources)
- A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations
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