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Ben's Top 10 Books in Positive Psychology
(Circa 2009)*

By Ben Dean, Ph.D., MCC

* For our first Top 10 Positive Psychology List, Click here

1. A Primer in Positive Psychology by Christopher Peterson, Ph.D.

By far the best introduction to positive psychology ever written. Written by one of the legendary figures in the field, it provides understanding, depth, rich resources, and it’s fun to read. It’s a best-selling textbook and a perfect introduction to the field for bright professionals. Marty Seligman calls it “the definitive textbook in positive psychology.” To read the Top Ten Reasons to Love Chris Peterson’s Primer, read part two of this CTH newsletter here. To follow Chris’ beautifully written Psychology Today blog, The Good Life, click here.

2. Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth by Ed Diener, Ph.D., and Robert Biswas-Diener, Ph.D.

Ed Diener is the world’s leading expert on happiness and subjective well being. And his son, Robert, was accurately christened by Chris Peterson as the “Indiana Jones of positive psychology” for his research across the world. Truly a wealth of information, the book is divided into four parts, detailing the components of psychological wealth, defined as, “your true net worth…which includes your attitudes toward life, social support, spiritual development, material resources, health, and the activities in which you engage.” Readers are equipped with surveys and questionnaires to measure and improve their own psychological wealth.

3. Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcoming Negativity, and Thrive by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D.

“The genius of the positive psychology movement,” says Marty Seligman, of Barbara Frederickson, whose groundbreaking research has provided much of the fuel for the field’s progress. She’s widely known for her “broaden-and-build” theory of positive emotion. Positivity, her highly anticipated new book delivers a feast of empirical evidence, insight and incentive to continually study the effects of positive emotions and practice the applications that are proven to increase them. A must have for those who like to back up their suggestions with evidence.

4. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.

Sonja is Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Riverside. How of Happiness’s very big agenda is to help us understand what happiness is and to offer specific strategies for increasing it. And it does not provide a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it provides tests so readers can tailor the exercises specifically to themselves. To see Sonja’s How of Happiness site, click here. To see her Psychology Today blog, click here.

5. Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D.

Dr. Robert Emmons, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology, has written one of the coolest books around – based entirely on the powerful strength of gratitude. Thank goodness Bob persevered in his desire to study gratitude, in spite of being discouraged early on in his career, for his research has revealed stunning statistics on gratitude’s role in goal attainment, relationship building, improved health, and much more. Thanks! is a must read, and is accessible to everyone from teens on up. (Be sure to memorize the 10 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude.)

6. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom–Why the Meaningful Life Is Closer Than You Think by Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D.

Where does happiness come from? This is one of the powerful questions Haidt dives into in this deeply compelling book, drawing from the wisdom of the world’s greatest civilizations to explore “10 Great Ideas” and find their relevance today. Travel through the workings of the mind, as well as “the meaning of life” through the eyes of such luminaries as Buddha, Plato, Freud and others. A great philosophical exploration and, yes, you’ll even find some tips for finding your own happiness.

7. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D.

Consider this book the ‘challenging older brother’ book of the batch, one with wit, irony, and a few zingers aimed at all of us. According to Harvard’s Dan Gilbert, we aren’t that good at predicting what will make us happy, in fact we often are way off base. When we do find ourselves truly happy, often it is surprising to us – thus, the title. Through great storytelling, beautiful use of humor, and plenty of compelling research, Gilbert takes us through the fascinating workings of our minds and a little closer to understanding our desire for happiness. For more about the book, click here.

8. Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D.

Mention Tal Ben-Shahar and you’ll likely hear, “teacher of the most popular class at Harvard….” (More information here). Tal’s renowned positive psychology course serves as the basis for Happier, which results in a book filled with clear and lively writing, specific research examples for each “lesson” being taught, and relevant “home work” assignments to help readers build happiness. I’ve now heard Tal speak three times and can verify he’s an extraordinary lecturer. His work is also appealing to me because he “lives” it as much as he can. I’m sure this is part of his appeal to students. Definitely another great book for both those who are new to the science of positive psychology, and those who are more familiar.


9. Happiness: A History by Darrin M. McMahon, Ph.D.

The only non-psychologist on our list, McMahon is Ben Weider Professor of History at Florida State University. This is another great book for those seeking a historical look at happiness, and how our current “obsession” with happiness took shape. Spanning 2,000 years, the book touches on everything from ancient Greek tragedies to the Declaration of Independence to Martin Luther’s, “breakthrough struggle with God.” A challenging, highly accessible and entertaining read.

10. Quality of Life Therapy: Applying a Life Satisfaction Approach to Positive Psychology and Cognitive Therapy by Michael B. Frisch, Ph.D.

Frisch offers valuable lessons that can be put to immediate use. What more can coaches ask for? Frisch beautifully describes ways that coaches, clinicians, and other change agents can expand and transform their practices into strong examples of positive psychology in practice. With 44 positive psychology growth exercises and 148 happiness prescriptions based on the latest research in several areas (goals, health, relationships, work, learning, etc.,) this book is like having a full time support staff sitting on your bookshelf.

 

 

Since 10 books are not enough, here are more essential titles for your Positive Psychology Coaching library:


Authentic Happiness

Martin Seligman


Character Strengths and Virtues

Martin Seligman & Christopher Peterson


Positive Psychology Coaching

Robert Biswas-Diener & Ben Dean

     


The Strengths Book
Alex Linley, Janet Willars, & Robert Biswas-Diener


Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching
Robert Biswas-Diener


Positive Psychology in Practice

Alex Linley & Stephen Joseph

 

 

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