Are you trying to find more happiness in your life? Or perhaps you know somebody who could benefit from a little more positivity? With an abundance of material out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together a list of our 15 favorite books about happiness.
We know that not every approach resonates with every person, so we’ve grouped the books together into categories so you can better find what you’re looking for. Whether you want to learn about happiness from a psychological perspective, you want a book that delves into spirituality, or you want a guide to help inspire you to change your lifestyle—we’ve got you covered.
So—in no particular order—here are the best books about happiness.
For those of you out there who are looking for the best books about happiness from a psychological perspective, here are four books on the psychology of happiness.
1. The Happiness Hypothesis
The Happiness Hypothesis explores the nature of human happiness, blending the philosophical and theological wisdom of ancient thinkers with insights from the field of positive psychology. Our satisfaction is driven by how our mental filters interpret the events in our lives, with the human brain perpetually divided against itself in the struggle between the desires created by our emotions and the attempts of reason to control them. The key to happiness is to use reason to focus the mind away from desires that will only bring fleeting happiness while giving in to those desires that will bring lasting fulfillment.
This book was extremely well-received amongst both critics and readers across all platforms. Throughout the book, there is an extended metaphor of treating the mind as a rider atop an elephant. The elephant is our emotions: impulsive, untamed. The rider is our power of reason, always seeking to control the elephant, but never completely succeeding.
Click here for a more in-depth summary of The Happiness Hypothesis.
2. The Happiness Advantage
Most people think that happiness comes after success, and that success comes after hard work. But we’ve had the equation all wrong: Happiness isn’t the result of success—it’s the cause of it. In The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor introduces this formula for success, based on research in neuroscience and the relatively new field of positive psychology. Achor offers insight as a leading expert on the connection between happiness and performance and the founder of a research and consulting firm that optimizes people’s achievement through positive psychology.
This book explains the benefits of happiness—from increased creativity to improved health—and how a positive mindset can change your personal and professional life. In addition, Achor provides strategies for adopting a positive mindset, remaining optimistic in the face of adversity, and raising your happiness baseline.
The book focuses on the idea that happiness increases productivity, creativity, and success, whereas people often think that they need to achieve success before they can experience happiness. While some people are naturally more inclined to be happy, everyone can train their minds to be more positive through small changes and persistent effort. Additionally, one person’s positivity is contagious, creating a ripple effect of positive energy and, thus, success. The author explains the seven principles of positive psychology and offers practical suggestions for applying them.
Click here for a more in-depth summary of The Happiness Advantage.
3. Radical Acceptance
Radical Acceptance is a meditative practice wherein we acknowledge what we’re experiencing—positive or negative—and welcome it. It’s a powerful tool that allows us to be fully present in each passing moment. It helps us avoid getting stuck in our own heads.
Tara Brach, a practicing psychologist and devout Buddhist, discusses how we can use Radical Acceptance to live our lives more fully by always bringing our full attention to the present moment and accepting it for what it is. You’ll learn how we get trapped in the stories we tell ourselves, and how Radical Acceptance can bring us out of the trance.
Radical Acceptance is the perfect blend of psychology and spirituality. Brach discusses personal stories, stories from her patients, and excerpts from poems and fables, all intertwined with Buddhist wisdom.
You can find a more in-depth summary of Radical Acceptance here.
Although we live longer today and have more material wealth than ever, many people feel anxious rather than happy. In Flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi offers an antidote. People are happiest when they feel in control of their inner thoughts and feelings and experience a flow state: a sense of enjoyment, purpose, and meaning.
Csikszentmihalyi explains: how controlling and ordering your consciousness brings flow and enjoyment, which personality characteristics produce flow, and how to find flow in your work and relationships. Csikszentmihalyi teaches readers how to consciously tap into “optimal experience” rather than experiencing it randomly.
You can read a more in-depth summary of Flow here.
If examining the psychology of happiness isn’t your thing, maybe try taking a spiritual look at positivity and happiness. Whether you’re Christian, Buddhist, spiritual but not religious, etc., there’s sure to be a book out there that will resonate with you. Here are our top four spiritual books about happiness.
5. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is a parable centered on Julian, a hotshot lawyer turned monk, and his former colleague, John. Julian shares with John what he’s learned from studying with a near-mythological group of monks in India who know the secrets to enlightenment. His lessons teach how to live a simple, fulfilling, and happy life.
Sharma’s fable is a step-by-step approach to expressing your inner genius and living with more courage, abundance, and joy. Many readers claim that this easy-to-read book fundamentally changed their lives and inspired them to look for their life’s purpose.
If you’d like a more detailed summary of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, click here.
6. The Power of Positive Thinking
In The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer. The book outlines the practical techniques of applied Christianity to help you take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them.
By applying these methods, you can enjoy better relationships, a greater sense of well-being, robust health and energy, and a stronger sense of purpose in the world. You’ll learn to believe in yourself, harness the power you need to reach your goals, and live a fulfilling life.
Click here for a full summary of The Power of Positive Thinking.
7. The Power of Now
The Power of Now proposes that the only way to reach true peace and fulfillment is through being completely present in each moment you experience. There is a part of our mind, called the ego, that derails us by ruminating on the past, speculating about the future, clinging to our painful experiences, and insisting that we will be happy and fulfilled if we can just achieve this goal.
The Power of Now reveals that inner peace and happiness can’t be found in anything external, but rather must be found within by being present. Learn tips and methods for quieting your thoughts and fears to find fulfillment through presence.
Eckhart Tolle’s book is a mixture of spirituality and psychology, which makes it a good choice for different types of readers. He also explains complex ideas in clear language, making them accessible for a wide audience.
For a full summary of The Power of Now, click here.
8. The Untethered Soul
Most people lead fragmented and unhappy lives full of suffering, driven by a variety of conflicting impulses even as they yearn to be true to their real selves. But fortunately, there’s an infallible expert on the subject of who you really are: you. You’re the only one with firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be yourself.
In The Untethered Soul, spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer, founder of the Temple of the Universe meditation center and a pioneering figure in the world of medical software, teaches you how to use your direct self-knowledge as an intuitive tool for spiritual awakening. Combining powerful principles with practical techniques, he shows you how to free yourself from false identities and live an enlightened life of peace, joy, creativity, and divine love.
For those of you who are interested in meditation but don’t know where to start, or for those who have tried meditation but felt like it didn’t work for them, this is the book for you. Many have claimed that this book opened their eyes to a new way of thinking—free of anger and anxiety.
If you want a full summary of The Untethered Soul, click here.
In our final section of books about happiness, we’ll share with you our top seven books that don’t rely on religion or science. Instead, the following books focus on cultivating a happier lifestyle through daily routines, advice, and insights from others. With that approach, these books tend to reach a wide audience, regardless of their background.
9. The Happiness Project
Everyone wants to find true happiness in their lives, but many of us believe that happiness can only come from experiencing huge changes—such as a trip around the world or a lottery jackpot. But, as it turns out, you can change everything…without changing much at all.
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin explains how resolving to make the smallest of changes in your everyday life—using the “good” dishes, remembering friends’ birthdays, or singing in the morning—can translate into more vivid memories, stronger relationships, and a deeper sense of happiness and gratitude in your life.
In this book, Rubin realized that life was passing her by so she decided to make a different resolution each month for a year to learn to appreciate life more. Her lessons can be revisited several times for everyday guidance.
For a full summary of Rubin’s lessons, look here.
10. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
None of us is a stranger to worry—our minds are clouded by ambitions and goals, relationships, work obligations, concerns about the future, generalized anxiety, and so on. Left unchecked, worry and stress can easily consume you. But, with the right mindset and skills, you can start cutting unnecessary worry from your life.
In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers timeless advice for stopping worry from ruling your life. You’ll learn how imagining a worst-case scenario can stop your anxiety, why criticism is a compliment, and why smart spending is better than a raise—and you’ll come away with the right tools to build a happier, less worried mindset.
Although this book was written in 1948, the principles Carnegie offers are timeless. Many readers claim that they revisit relevant parts of the book when they have particular worries to deal with (such as health, work, criticism, etc.).
Here is the full summary of How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
11. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life
Why do you get up in the morning? What gives your life meaning and purpose? Many people can’t answer these questions. Even worse, they’re stuck in dysfunctional lifestyles that prevent them from ever finding out what their purpose is.
In Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, author and blogger Héctor García and novelist and self-help writer Francesc Miralles teach you to apply the Japanese concept of ikigai, or life purpose, to your own life. Drawing on lessons from the people of Okinawa, who live longer than anybody else on earth, as well as on insights from art, science, and psychology, they show you how to find and follow your own ikigai and cultivate a happy, healthy lifestyle to sustain it.
For a full summary of Ikigai, click here.
At first glance, Minimalism doesn’t appear to be a book about happiness. However, Minimalism offers a formula for how to live a meaningful life by first getting rid of clutter (like excess stuff and debt) and then focusing on five key areas: your health, relationships, passions, growth, and contributing to others.
The authors Millburn and Nicodemus achieved the American dream of corporate success and conspicuous consumption, but it left them unhappy, exhausted, and deeply in debt. They quit their jobs, re-examined their lives, and started the popular website TheMinimalists.com. In this book, they explain how anyone can follow their path of self-examination and how to make small daily changes to achieve a clutter-free, debt-free, and fulfilling life.
This is not a how-to manual for getting rid of excess stuff. The focus of this book is on the broader topic of finding meaning in your life. It also contains actionable exercises so readers can apply the concepts to their lives
Click here for a full summary of Minimalism.
13. The Miracle Morning
The Miracle Morning presents best-selling author and speaker Hal Elrod’s antidote to living the kind of mediocre life that most people accept as normal. Elrod argues that everyone is capable of achieving their dreams in every area of life, including relationships, finances, career, health, spirituality, and happiness. The answer is committing yourself to personal development by getting up early and following a simple daily routine of silence, affirmation, visualization, exercise, reading, and writing, which can empower anyone to transform any area of life in a surprisingly short time.
Elrod provides simple actionables called “Morning Life S.A.V.E.R.S.” Incorporate these into your morning routine and you will wake up feeling excited to start your day.
Here is a more in-depth summary of The Miracle Morning
14. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson argues that we are frustrated in life and feel like failures because we value and prioritize the wrong things, thanks in part to society’s emphasis on positive thinking, over-involved parents, and our susceptibility to superficial social media messages. This leads us to pursue emotional highs that don’t lead to lasting happiness. The solutions to finding happiness are counterintuitive and include: be wrong, fail, tolerate feeling bad, accept pain, practice rejection. Because we can’t care equally about everything, we need to prioritize and focus on what brings us happiness and meaning.
Manson takes a very different approach with this book than the others on this list. He believes that most self-help books are unrealistic and that rather than always trying to turn lemons into lemonade, we should be learning how to stomach things better. He writes in a vulgar tone to juxtapose the traditional, “feel good” writing found in most other books.
If you want a full summary for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, click here.
15. Designing Your Life
Last but certainly not least on our list of the best books about happiness is Designing Your Life. Everyone wants to make a living doing meaningful work that harmonizes with their values and makes them happy. But many people feel stuck in the wrong life doing unfulfilling work with no way out. Some hope that if only they can find their “true passion,” everything will magically fall into place. Both attitudes—the defeated one and the magical passion one—are false. What we need is a clear-cut process for designing our lives, a learnable approach to building a fulfilling career.
In Designing Your Life, Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans provide this very approach by sharing the content of their popular courses and workshops on life design. Using concrete principles and examples, they teach readers how to design a meaningful life in which they can truly thrive.
Many readers who were feeling stuck in life said that this book changed their futures. Whether you’re young and just starting out on life’s journey, or retired and looking for guidance on your new chapter, Designing Your Life has advice applicable to you.
For a full summary of Designing Your Life, click here.
Wrapping It Up
No matter what walk of life you’re in or what your beliefs are, there’s sure to be a book on this list that will speak to you.
Have you read any of the books we shared? And if so, what did you think about them? Also, if you read a book about happiness that helped you and isn’t on this list, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
For full summaries of all of the books on this plus tons more, check out our summary website!