5 'Must Have' Happiness Books

Do you want to be happier? More productive? More successful at life?

Don't we all? Even when life is going swimmingly there are always tweaks we want to make here and there to capitalise on what's already working well. In fact it's when things are going well that we're more receptive to new ideas, and coaching, inspiration and self help books are likely to have the biggest impact.

This post contains affiliate links

There are thousands of self help books published each year. Many thousands. I tried to find out just how many but it seems no-one is counting.

Happiness is a theme that runs through all of them. The core message of relationship books, career manuals, success guides and how-to books is that if you follow the author's recommendations and advice you will be happier; life will be better. Even when it's 'How to Do You Taxes'.

Top 5 Happiness Books

Given that there are so many books that shout, 'Read me, I can make you happier!' how do you know which is the right one?

I can't tell you that. No-one can. We all have preferences for authors and writing styles, presentation and content.  What I can share with you are the books that I love and recommend - and why - because maybe you like the same kind of stuff and that will make your decision a little easier.

My criteria for a great happiness book are:

  • It's written by someone with scientific or academic qualifications and credentials. That's not to say that the other books aren't worthwhile. It's just that science and evidence-based research floats my boat.
  • It's easy to read and entertaining. I've read many dry, dense textbooks (or tried to) and while the content may be incisive, no one knows because no one reads it. To win at self help books you need to write in an entertaining and engaging manner that everyone can understand.
  • Practical. Tell me what to do to be happier. I want step by step advice. I need guidance. I do make exceptions to this rule if the author is so clever, insightful and entertaining that I don't notice that they haven't given me instructions.

So without further ado, let me introduce my top five 'must have' happiness books for today. The list may change tomorrow, next week or next month as there are rocking new happiness books released all the time.


Happiness By Design, Paul Dolan

Paul Dolan is a bodybuilder who wears white hipster specs.  He's also a Professor of Economics from the London School of Economics.  He says happiness is in our everyday experiences, not in the stories we tell ourselves about what makes us happy. His tips include designing your life to focus on the little things that make you feel good or give you purpose. Forget the big stuff. Sweat the small stuff. If ice cream makes you happy, eat it. You can get Paul's book here.


The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor is not only a clever man but a very funny man.  That's a total swoon combination for me. He's a lecturer at Harvard University and in this great book he talks about how success comes from happiness, not the other way around. If you're working on success to make you happy you've got it all wrong. Read this book. You can get the touch and feel version here or the e-book here.


Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar

Based on THE most popular course run at Harvard University, Ben Tal-Shahar's book, 'Happier' is a mix of science, self-help and spirituality. He writes about what makes us happy at work, in schools and in relationships.  He pitches his happiness tips as 'meditations'. Tal is co-founder of The Wholebeing Institute with which Potential Psychology proudly partners. You can learn a whole lot more about Tal through his videos here and you can get the book here.


Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections in Positive Psychology, Chris Peterson

This is a little book of blog posts from Chris Peterson's blog on Psychology Today.  I carry this book around with me I love it so. It's 100 bite-sized snippets of humour and wisdom from the world of positive psychology and it's entirely focused on how to pursue the good life. Chris had a fabulous way with with words and it has a polka dot cover. That's all win for me. You can get it here.


The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky

Last but certainly not least in this selection, Sonja's book ticks all of my practical, how-to boxes. She points out that we have control of 40 percent of our happiness (the rest of dictated by our genes and upbringing) and she gives your plenty of suggestions for how to make the absolute best of that 40 percent.  Sonja is a Professor at the University of California and she knows her stuff. You can get 'The How of Happiness' here.

These are my picks.  What’s your favourite self help book? Tell me!