It’s the time of year when Best of… lists proliferate, so not to be outdone I have decided to create my own. This is a very personal list of books which have helped me on my happiness journey, the majority of the books were newly published this year but some were just new to me. I have listed them in no particular order of preference as I think all are of merit and it would be difficult to choose one over another. It is very difficult to narrow the list down to just 20 as there are many more I could have included, but in the true spirit of Best of… list making I have been strict with myself. Please let me know if there are any wonderful new books which have escaped my attention and which you think I should have included on this list. Which books would your top 20 include?
1. Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain
Susan Cain’s TED talk entitled The Power of Introverts and her book Quiet have taken the world by storm in 2012 becoming an international best seller and voted No 1 on the list of best business books by Fast Company.
“Any time people come together in a meeting, we’re not necessarily getting the best ideas, we’re just getting the ideas of the best talkers.”
Watch Susan’s TED talk below and check out her website here.
2. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
I was fortunate to attend the UK launch event for Brené Brown’s latest book Daring Greatly which was organised by The School of Life at Conway Hall in London. The book is a fascinating follow on to her work on vulnerability and Brené was just as inspiring in person as she appeared in her now famous TED talks. If you would like to learn more about Brené Brown’s research you can check out her website here.
Brené Brown talking about her new book Daring Greatly
3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg
This is a fascinating book on how to change habits. Many books have been written on this subject but this is one of the best ones I have read. You can watch Charles being interviewed about his book here:
4. How to change the world by John-Paul Flintoff
One of my favourite quotes (you may be aware by now that I am a bit of a quote geek) is this one:
“In the power to change yourself is the power to change the world around you.” Anwar Sadat.
This very readable book by John-Paul Flintoff shows you how to do both by helping you to avoid sinking in overwhelm and to think of small practical changes you can implement to make the world a better place. Below is a short video clip in which John-Paul talks about his book. If you would like to watch the full length video from The School of Life click here.
5. Flex: do something different by Karen J. Pine and Ben C. Fletcher
I attended the Meaning conference in Brighton this year and one of the speakers was psychologist Karen Pine who co-wrote Flex with her husband Ben Fletcher. Flex is a really interesting read and contains many innovative ideas for changing behaviour. You can watch Karen’s talk here:
6. Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: The New Science of Optimism and Pessimism by Elaine Fox
It has always fascinated me why some people appear to be incurable optimists no matter what life throws at them whilst some are hardened pessimists despite the many positive things in their life. Elaine Fox‘s book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain gives a fascinating scientific explanatation for our differences in outlook and illustrates how we can change our disposition.
Elaine Fox talking about her research.
7. Philosophy for life by Jules Evans
This book Philosophy for Life is a brilliant introduction to how philosophy can improve our lives and has convinced me that philosophy needs to be part of our happiness toolkit. It has been no 1 in Amazon.co.uk’s philosophy chart, a Guardian Books bestseller and has been published in 15 countries. Even if you think that philosophy is not your bag I urge you to try it.
8. Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields
I have recently become a huge fan of Jonathan Field’s blog and in particular of his Good Life Project website in which he conducts interviews with some remarkable people. The video below features Jonathan Fields talking about his book Uncertainty and how he gave up a corporate career as a lawyer to set up a yoga studio, signing a lease in New York a day before the terrorist attack on the city. Jonathan’s book explores how we deal with uncertainty and how we can learn not only to embrace it but to thrive with it – it is a fascinating read.
9. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project has become a world wide best seller. Her follow up book Happier at Home uses the same principle of trying out a new happiness theory on a month by month basis but this time the focus is specifically on the home. The success of Gretchen’s books are based on the fact that she is willing to put happiness theories to test and to recount her own personal experiences of what has worked for her and what hasn’t. She does not claim that what works for her will work for everyone but her personal narrative strikes a chord with many people.
Gretchen Rubin: Happier at Home
10. How to Stay Sane: The School of Life by Philippa Perry
I attended a 5×15 event this year and psychotherapist Philippa Perry gave one of the talks. She talked a lot of sense and her book How To Stay Sane does too. If you would like to watch a video of Philippa talking at a School of Life event click here.
11. Rip It Up: The radically new approach to changing your life by Richard Wiseman
I have previously enjoyed reading and putting in to practice the teachings of Richard Wiseman’s previous books such as The Luck Factor and 59 Seconds so I was pleased when the publication of a new book was announced. This short video introduces the “As if” principle which is covered in the book. Rip it Up is a very entertaining and practical read with some useful tips for making changes in your life.
12. Screw Work Let’s Play by John Williams
Screw Work Let’s Play is a brilliant book which encourages people to take their ideas seriously and to focus on getting paid for “playing” rather than working. Reading this book and taking part in the 30 Day Challenge which John Williams runs together with coach Selina Barker helped me to “give birth” to The Happiness Experiment blog which I have been writing since I started the challenge in May. If you have any ideas lurking away and would like to bring them to fruition I recommend that you give this book a try. In the video below John Williams interviews Selina Barker about her own very exciting “play project”.
13. Religion for Atheists: A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion by Alain de Botton
Positive psychology teaches us that people who are part of religious communities are more likely to be happier than people who are not. However if you hold no particular religious belief what should you do? Alain de Botton’s book Religion for Atheists has the answer: cherry pick the best aspects of religion and introduce them in to your life. The RSA talk below gives you an insight in to his thinking. It’s an interesting, well argued book and his ideas are worth considering.
14. Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox is one of life’s irrepressible optimists as described in Elaine Fox’s Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain. This autobiography is a very uplifting read in which Michael J. Fox recounts why despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at the very young age of 29 he thinks he is the luckiest person in the world. His interview in the video below tells you more but I urge you to buy and read his book.
15. World book of happiness by Leo Bormans and Miriam Akhtar
In this book the top 100 researchers from all over the world share what they know about happiness. This book is a great resource with articles on a broad range of happiness related topics. The book has been sent to 52 world leaders by the head of the European Union – I hope they read it and take head.
Video of Leo Bormans giving a talk at an Action for Happiness event. Video by Sunny Times
16. The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot
I attended the TEDX Observer event in London this year and Tali Sharot was one of the speakers at the event. Her book on why we are wired to look on the bright side of life makes very interesting reading. If you would like to watch her fascinating TED talk here it is:
17. Positive Psychology (Introducing a Practical Guide) by Bridget Grenville-Cleave
This book is a really great primer in positive psychology covering 20 key concepts and with real life examples. It is one of the best and most easily accessible introductions to positive psychology around and a very practical book. If you would like to learn more about the author check out her website here.
18. Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
Learning to appreciate and work with your strengths rather than focusing primarily on your weeknesses is one of the most important lessons I have learned from positive psychology this year. This book by Tom Rath teaches you how to recognise your strengths using a simple test online. It is worth taking the test and the results might surprise you. The video below featuring Tom Rath is a great illustration of the strengths theory.
19. The art of non conformity – Chris Guillebeau
This book by Chris Guillebeau is basically the story of how you can choose to live exactly the life you want. If you don’t believe this is possible read Chris’ fascinating book and be prepared to change your mind. Watch the interview with Chris below to learn more:
20. The Bounce Back Book by Karen Salmansohn
While I was carrying out some research on resilience I came across The Bounce Back book written by Karen Salmansohn after she had been subjected to an assault. It includes all the practical lessons she had to learn and apply in her own life to recover from her attack and is a really useful book on the subject of resilience. Her interview with Jonathan Fields in the video below talks about the many positive psychology projects she has become involved in – her story is very inspiring.
My list could continue but I will end it here. Please let me know if I have missed out any really great books from 2012 and I will add them to my reading list for next year. I appreciate that not everyone has the time to sit down and read these books so I have included video clips of the authors where these are available so you can learn about them at your leisure. Enjoy!
Posted by Shona Lockhart, 27th November 2012