Ben’s Top Ten Reasons to Love Chris Peterson’s A Primer in Positive Psychology
It’s The Best. Okay. This is arguably the best introduction to positive psychology ever written. It ties all the key issues together in a compelling way. It provides understanding, depth, rich resources, and it’s fun to read.
- It’s Reader-Friendly. It’s a large trade paperback, 314 pages. Rich with fascinating detail, web sites, movies, overarching explanations of research. It typifies the maxim: Bad writing makes the reader feel dumb. Good writing makes the reader feel smart. Chris makes you feel smart.
- If You Teach. If you teach positive psychology, you have to use this book. Even if your class starts in three weeks, there’s still time. Listen to the founder of the field: “This is the definitive textbook in positive psychology. But more than that, it may be the single best textbook on any subject that I have ever read… (It) both made me laugh out loud and brought tears to my eyes.” — Martin E. P. Seligman
- It’s Perfect for the curious, bright professional who’s new to positive psychology and wants to quickly get up to speed. If you understand The Primer, you’ll be ahead of 99% of the people in your field.
- It Sounds Like Chris. Conversational and accessible. It reads like he talks. And it reads like a conversation with someone who’s twice won the honor of best teacher at the University of Michigan.
- It Has Tiny Throw-Away Nuggets. The words “positive psychology” were first used, not by Seligman in 1998, but Maslow in 1954. “…The smiley-face icon was created for a life insurance company in 1964 by a Massachusetts graphic artist, who was paid $45 for his creation. Neither the insurance company nor artist Harvey Bell copyrighted the symbol which has–perhaps as a result–become extremely popular.”
- The Songs. Each chapter ends with films and dozens of Chris’ favorite, relevant songs: “Be True to Your School” (Beach Boys); “Get Up, Stand Up” (Bob Marley & the Wailers), “To Sir, With Love” (LuLu); “I Feel Good” (James Brown); “My Sweet Lord” (George Harrison). Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina & the Waves). He admits to being a baby boomer and knows it shows in his song choice. He also believes a relevant song is a great way to signal the beginning of a class.
- Personal Usefulness. You might even find it personally useful. Of the thousands of suggestions for increasing happiness that have been proffered in the last fifty years, indeed over the centuries, which have so far been empirically examined? It goes beyond the headlines and looks in detail at what the research might really mean for what you do.
- It’s Unpretentious. In 2003, I sometimes taught a teleclass from Chris’ office at Penn. His entire office consisted of a computer, a bare floor, one table and chair, and a bookshelf with 15 scattered books. Nothing to indicate, for example, that he was among the world’s 100 most frequently cited psychologists during the past 20 years. The Primer is similarly down to earth. Name one other famous academic who would write this paragraph:
“…some skeptics still believe that positive psychologists miss the “obvious” point that life is tragic… I disagree but will not belabor the point except to note that tragedy admits to gradations. Even if everything sucks, some things suck more than others, an irrefutable fact given how people actually behave if not what they say….Whether we label …preferred circumstances “positive” or “less sucky” then becomes a matter of semantics (P. 13).”
- Find the Tenth Reason Yourself. Chris was the lead creator of the VIA Survey of Signature Strengths, a central positive psychology assessment. More than a million people from throughout the world have taken it. Who better to write about the importance of individual strengths and values than the world’s leading expert? This is just one part of this book. You’ll be able to find many more than the “tenth” reason when you read him.