For more recommendations from PositivePsychologyNews.com , see the 2009 holiday book list and the 2010 holiday book list. The 2008 Holiday Ideas article also includes some book ideas.
Editor’s Note: Today the authors and friends of PPND share some book ideas for holiday gifts. These books include our favorite books about positive psychology and some novels that carry positive messages.
Coming up in December: Ideas for a strong start of the new year. We are also planning a retrospective for PPND in January, when we celebrate our 5th anniversary.
First, from our friends:
Angela Duckworth: Martin Seligman’s book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being [Editor’s Note: Review here.]
[Editor’s note: See Angela’s TEDX talk, True Grit: Can Perseverance be Taught?]
- I’d recommend The Gardens of Democracy by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer. It’s great for thinking about positive institutions, the missing pillar of our 3 pillars of positive psychology.
- I’d also recommend Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich. It has great writing, great history, and a powerful perspective on the human need for shared joy.
- [Editor’s note: Watch for Jon’s new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, coming out in March 2012.]
Todd Kashdan: David Foster Wallace’s posthumous book The Pale King. It’s the ultimate treatise on how coping with boredom is the essential existential issue of humanity that gets ignored.
[Editor’s note: Watch for Todd’s new book with Ciarrochi coming out in 2012,Cultivating Well-Being: Treatment Innovations in Positive Psychology, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Beyond.]
- One book that I think would be appropriate is Howard Friedman’s The Longevity Project.
- Another one that I really liked and is very appropriate for positive psychology is The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley.
- [Editor’s note: Sonja is working on a new book, The Myth of Happiness, which will be out in winter 2013.]
James Pawelski: Here are some suggestions–in the direction of the humanities:
- The Story of Joy by Adam Potkay
- Wild Poets of Ecstasy by D. J. Moores
- God and the Art of Happiness by Ellen T. Charry
- The Pursuit of Unhappiness by Daniel M. Haybron
- The Reflective Life by Valerie Tiberius
- Steve Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature [Editor’s note: You might be interested in Steve Pinker’s TED talk, The Myth of Violence.]
- Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Emily vanSonnenberg: Laughter and Liberation by Harvey Mindess. The book captures the essence of irony, the gift of laughter, and how to induce an advantageous perspective for the self, as well as in friends and clients in ways that heal.
Angus Skinner: Re-Imagining Government by Barry Quirk. The wide scope of this book reaches across the world as we form new governments – locally, nationally and globally. It sets our current turbulence in context and with cautious, very cautious, optimism provides a basis for finding new pathways. With a deep historical sense this is yet a book strongly pulled by the future.
Marie-Josee Shaar: A book read in 2009 that is still what influenced me most this year: The Promise of Sleep by William Dement. It made me understand how very crucial sleep is to so many areas of our lives and health, and how no amount of training can prepare us for peak performance under sleep deprivation. It is also the topic most people are most curious about when I tell them that I work and speak on sleep, food, mood, and exercise habits. People are so sleep deprived, they crave that information.
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown. This book is about more than embracing imperfection as implied by the book title. It is a far-reaching book that gives 10 guideposts for what Brown calls “whole-hearted living.” These guideposts touch on authenticity, self-compassion, resilience, gratitude, joy, intuition, creativity, play and rest, calm and stillness, meaningful work, and more. [Editor’s note: Discussion of Brene Brown here.
- Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. I will write about this book in my New Year’s article.
- I’m happy to suggest, The Leftovers by my cousin, Tom Perrotta. The New York Times rated it is as one of the top 100 books of 2011. The Leftovers is a story about the people of Mapleton, and how they are dealing with life, post rapture.
- SMART Strengths: Building Character, Resilience and Relationships in Youth by Sherri Fisher, John Yeager, and Dave Shearon is a gem. It is a wonderful book! [Editor’s note: Review here.]
- Marie Josee Salvas Shaar and Kathryn Britton’s fun and smart Smarts and Stamina: A Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance is chock full of science, tips and inspiration. [Editor’s note: Review here.]
- Capitalism at the Crossroads by Stuart Hart is a huge influence as I re-read it. Martin Seligman has referred to an inflection point. I see Capitalism at the Crossroads as a lesson in seeing more clearly what matters most in life. As we move forward in our lives it’s incumbent upon us to reflect upon, foster and reward positive behaviorally economic changes that heal and help our world, society, communities, and selves. We can then use our healthy resources to help others, refracting and lifting up.
- Martin Seligman’s book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
- Roy Baumeister’s book, Willpower
- How about a movie? The film, Win Win, is an extraordinary portrayal of several areas of positive psychology: It depicts the development of a positive relationship, resilience through a difficult home situation, the value of seeing the inherent goodness in others, the mixed benefits of achievement, and the integrity of “doing the right thing” even when there’s a personal cost (in the end, that’s the win-win decision).
- Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers is a great gift.
- The book that influenced me most was Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. I am not a researcher. I work in the applied world of positive psychology. This book shows an example of a company that has been applying the principles and research of positive psychology to create a business that has driven phenomenal results. They have become the largest shoe retailer in the world with $1B+ in annual revenues, have been rated #1 in customer service, and are #6 on the Fortune Magazine best companies to work for. It is hard to think of a company that has achieved better performance across so many metrics of success. I have been sharing this book with my own teams and using the Zappos story as a model to drive some of my own business initiatives. [Editor’s note: Review here.]
- Truth: Ethics for Your Child (in color) by Zak Maymin. My dad is the author of this great gift book about speaking to your kids about ethics. It is ok to make a joke that may hurt? Is it still a joke? These and other questions as presented as really short stories. A good parent-and-child bonding book for ages 5-12.
- Martin Seligman’s Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
- Todd Kashdan’s Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life
- Marie-Josee Shaar and Kathryn Britton’s Smarts and Stamina: A Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance
Louisa Jewell: Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance I like the whole body/mind connection approach to optimal health.
- Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson
- Also a book which is almost 10 years old The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr, which still has important messages for us all.
- I’ve no idea whether you buy text books as holiday gifts, but the best one on positive psychology this year has to be Kate Hefferon and Ilona Boniwell’s Positive Psychology: Theory, Research, and Practice. It’s a real gem.
- For a really easy read, go for Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us – it’ll tell you everything you need to know about motivation, and more besides.
- Also The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, which I think is one of the most important books on well-being of the last decade. [Editor’s Note: Review here.]
- The three books I recommend as gifts are all fabulous, practical guides with different perspectives on paths to well-being.
- Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance by Marie-Josée Shaar and Kathryn Britton
- Martin Seligman’s Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin Seligman
- SMART Strengths: Building Character, Resilience and Relationships in Youth by Sherri Fisher, John Yeager, and Dave Shearon
- For fun, I recommend Moneyball by Michael Lewis. He loves the quirky, non-conforming longshot and I love his books, The Blind Side and Money Ball because of his ability to uncover and acclaim the unlikely, unsung, underdog hero. I only stumbled upon first The Blind Side and much later MoneyBall, after I had seen the movies– and, while not by design, I do like that order: see the movie first and then explore the other stories and extra details in the book.
- Ki in Daily Life by Koichi Tohei.
- Freakonomics by Steven Levitt. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of how people are incentivized, how to design incentives, and the downstream effects of incentives. In turn, this inspired a great deal of thought about human motivation and overcoming inertia.
- The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
- Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J Ratey and Eric Hagerman. The book began with a quotation from Plato: “In order for Man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” This book actually turned head knowledge of the benefits of exercise into a serious nagging concern about the performance of my brain. Powerful!”
Kathryn Britton: My husband and I read aloud together, so I’ll share some of our favorites from this year:
- We very much enjoyed The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins, modeled after the Canterbury Tales. It’s good for building the strength of humility to see what a tiny twig we humans are on the bush of life.
- We also enjoyed Sophie’s World, taking a trip through philosophy.
- Right now, we’re reading Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.
- I recommend all of Tamora Pierce’s young adult novels as fabulous stories of people with grit.
Ah! So we begin and end the article with grit.