Popular Happiness Books You Won’t Want To Put Down

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated April 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Statistics suggest that just 41% of Americans self-identify as happy. However, in recent years, more and more researchers have been contributing to the growing body of literature on the science of happiness.

Below are some of the most popular books on happiness—offering information about where it can come from, and strategies you can try to boost your happiness in meaningful ways.

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Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom - Rick Hanson. 

An Amazon Best Seller, this book by Rick Hanson has received mostly rave reviews, and it hinges on the idea that "if you change your brain, you can change your life." This book provides insight into topics such as sculpting your brain and enhancing positive brain states. Here, the author brings together science and ancient mystical wisdom to reveal ways in which you can stimulate your brain for a more fulfilling experience in all areas of your life.

In this work, you can explore how to activate calmness, joy, and compassion in place of negative, destructive brain states. According to an Amazon reviewer, this book is "an unprecedented intersection of psychology, neurology and contemplative practice" and features usable tools and skills you can apply every day. 

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill

The scientist Matthieu Ricard turned to Buddhism not only to learn to be happier but also to study happiness itself. In this book, Ricard argues that we need to spend at least as much energy on being happy as we do on other pursuits, such as being wealthy, fit, and beautiful. Through storytelling, poetry, and personal anecdotes, Ricard offers exercises and lessons to guide the reader toward reshaping their experience of life and reality.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

This book relates the true story of two spiritual giants and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams. This book relates the true story of two spiritual giants and Nobel Peace Prize laureates meeting in India for a week together. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African spiritual leader, say that their lives of hardship are exactly the reason why they are so filled with joy. 

The book follows their explorations, musings, and philosophies on the nature of true joy and their confrontation of the obstacles to joy, such as anger, fear, stress, grief, illness, and death. 

As the Dalai Lama explains, "Stress and anxiety often come from too much expectation and too much ambition…Then, when we don't fulfill that expectation or achieve that ambition, we experience frustration. Right from the beginning, it is a self-centered attitude. I want this. I want that." 

On obtaining peace, Archbishop Tutu says, "The Dalai Lama's serenity didn't come fully formed. It was through the practice of prayer and meditation that the gentleness, the compassion grew, his being patient and accepting—within reasonable limits. Accepting circumstances as they are, because if there are circumstances that you cannot change, then it's no use beating your head against a brick wall."

As the two work through each obstacle, the reader is offered a clear understanding of the eight pillars of joy. The two leaders offer readers wisdom, stories, scientific findings, and daily practices for joy. 

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Have More Fun has been published in 35 countries and can be considered a synthesis of science and wisdom. Also a synthesis of science and wisdom, this popular book has been published in 35 countries. Rubin, who claims to have been the quintessential apparently happy housewife, spent a year examining and studying happiness after a breakthrough moment on a city bus. She embarked on this quest to experience more joy and happiness by studying and test-driving various sources of advice on the topic.

Every month, Rubin set out to achieve various goals and resolutions and wrote about which ones were helpful and which ones weren’t. She also read widely, including works from classical philosophers and modern-day self-help guides. Through these efforts, she came up with her own definition of happiness and wrote about her journey along the way.

10% Happier

Dan Harris is better known as a Nightline anchor, but in 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Works, he opens up about his personal story with anxiety. Dan Harris is better known as a Nightline anchor, but in this book, he opens up about his own personal story with anxiety. Years ago, he experienced a full-blown panic attack in front of the camera on Good Morning America. This experience catapulted him into a quest for greater inner peace and mental health. He approached this task with both skepticism and a sense of humor, meeting with a guru, a pastor, and many scientists along the way.

Throughout this book, Harris doesn’t offer miracle cures but has the simple remedy that has worked for him and his busy head: meditation. Harris also interviewed a host of meditators, ranging from CEOs to soldiers, and explored the outer reaches of neuroscience to understand why being quiet for a period each day can be so beneficial. He ultimately advocates that this simple method can change your life. 

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Authentic Happiness

A professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Martin Seligman is known for his seminal work on positive psychology. The philosophy behind this movement, of which he is considered the founder, is explained in his own words: "Relieving the states that make life miserable… has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. The time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what Aristotle called the 'good life.'" With aids such as an online program, tests, and exercises, Seligman offers not only a comprehensive toolkit to identify your strengths but also ways to exercise your virtues.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Brené Brown is a researcher in the field of social work and social psychology who used her findings, after a decade of rigorous research, to write a book that changed many people’s understanding of psychological vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She advises, "For the connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen—really seen."

Brown also introduces "wholeheartedness," which explains authenticity and worth. In this sense, she explores an old foundation of happiness—our connection to others and ourselves—in a wholly new way. This book is said to have changed many lives with its insights and deeply moving wisdom about relationships.

Online therapy as an additional tool

Reading books can be helpful, but sometimes it can be even more beneficial to process what you’re learning out loud. Meeting with a therapist can give you a safe space to discuss your thoughts and questions. If you are looking to boost your happiness because you have been feeling extreme and prolonged sadness or discontentment, talking to a therapist can be helpful for managing these symptoms and gaining new skills to cope. 

Online therapy can be a great option for many reasons, including availability and affordability. Sometimes, conducting sessions from home feels more comfortable than going to an office for face-to-face therapy sessions.

At BetterHelp, you can talk to a therapist completely online, which research shows to be just as effective as traditional in-person counseling


Happiness can come to us in many different forms. If you’re not sure where to start, you may consider embarking on a journey of your own with literature penned by happiness experts and guides. Online therapy can also be a valuable addition to your experience, connecting you with a counselor from the comfort of your home or safe place. These experts can help you to pursue happiness in a healthy way. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
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