The Seven Best Books on Happiness

This page contains a list of the seven best books on happiness. When looking for the best books on happiness, some people want a short and easy introduction, others would prefer a longer and more detailed analysis. This list divides each book into one of the following categories to help you choose the type of book that suits you best:

  • Short Textbook
  • Comprehensive Textbook
  • Contemporary
  • Pop-Nonfiction

This list was created by crowdsourcing required readings from university course syllabi as well as other recommendations from around the web. For more information on what these categories mean and how this list was constructed, see: Methodology and Criteria for Building Reading Lists. Links to the sources used for these recommendations are listed at the end of the post so you can view the syllabi and recommendations for yourself. Here are the best books on happiness in no particular order:

Happiness: A Very Short Introduction – Daniel M. Haybron

Category: Short Textbook | Length: 168 pages | Published: 2013

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.

Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert

Category: Pop-Nonfiction | Length: 336 pages | Published: 2007

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 Happiness Hypothesis – Jonathan Haidt

Category: Contemporary | Length: 320 pages | Published: 2006

In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world’s philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims–like “do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”–can enrich and even transform our lives.

The How of Happiness – Sonja Lyubomirsky

Category: Pop-Nonfiction | Length: 384 pages | Published: 2008

You see here a different kind of happiness book. The How of Happiness is a comprehensive guide to understanding the elements of happiness based on years of groundbreaking scientific research. It is also a practical, empowering, and easy-to-follow workbook, incorporating happiness strategies, exercises 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.

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being – Martin E. P. Seligman

Category: Pop-Nonfiction | Length: 368 pages | Published: 2012

With this unprecedented promise, internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman begins Flourish, his first book in ten years—and the first to present his dynamic new concept of what well-being really is. Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, which Dr. Seligman has led for fifteen years, is different—it’s about actually raising the bar for the human condition.

Flourish builds on Dr. Seligman’s game-changing work on optimism, motivation, and character to show how to get the most out of life, unveiling an electrifying new theory of what makes a good life—for individuals, for communities, and for nations. In a fascinating evolution of thought and practice, Flourish refines what Positive Psychology is all about.

Authentic Happiness – Martin E. P. Seligman

Category: Pop-Nonfiction | Length: 336 pages | Published: 2004

A national bestseller, Authentic Happiness launched the revolutionary new science of Positive Psychology—and sparked a coast-to-coast debate on the nature of real happiness.

According to esteemed psychologist and bestselling author Martin Seligman, happiness is not the result of good genes or luck. Real, lasting happiness comes from focusing on one’s personal strengths rather than weaknesses—and working with them to improve all aspects of one’s life. Using practical exercises, brief tests, and a dynamic website program, Seligman shows readers how to identify their highest virtues and use them in ways they haven’t yet considered. Accessible and proven, Authentic Happiness is the most powerful work of popular psychology in years.

A Primer in Positive Psychology – Christopher Peterson

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 400 pages | Published: 2006

Positive psychology is the scientific study of what goes right in life, from birth to death and at all stops in between. It is a newly-christened approach within psychology that takes seriously the examination of that which makes life most worth living. Everyone’s life has peaks and valleys, and positive psychology does not deny the valleys. Its signature premise is more nuanced, but nonetheless important: what is good about life is as genuine as what is bad and, therefore, deserves equal attention from psychologists. Positive psychology as an explicit perspective has existed only since 1998, but enough relevant theory and research now exist to fill a textbook suitable for a semester-long college course.

A Primer in Positive Psychology is thoroughly grounded in scientific research and covers major topics of concern to the field: positive experiences such as pleasure and flow; positive traits such as character strengths, values, and talents; and the social institutions that enable these subjects as well as what recent research might contribute to this knowledge. Every chapter contains exercises that illustrate positive psychology, a glossary, suggestions of articles and books for further reading, and lists of films, websites, and popular songs that embody chapter themes.

A comprehensive overview of positive psychology by one of the acknowledged leaders in the field, this textbook provides students with a thorough introduction to an important area of psychology.

Sources

This list of books was created using the following course syllabi and community recommendations:

Course Syllabi:

Other Recommendations:

Not sure if you want to commit to reading a full book on happiness? You can find shorter articles, videos and podcasts in this collection of resources on happiness.

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