Books to Add to Your Positive Psychology Library

Books to Add to Your Positive Psychology Library

Books to Add to Your Positive Psychology Library

Positive Psychology Will Bring Out Your Best. 

Welcome to the good life! 

No, not the Kanye song. The scientific study of humans at their best. 

Positive Psychology “is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.

American psychologist Martin Seligman wanted to help psychology move past the disease model, or what he called “spot the looney.” 

He made Positive Psychology the theme of the American Psychology Association in 1998 and a psychology paradigm shift began. 

Positive Psychology has three aims: 

  1. To be concerned with human strength as much as weakness. 
  2. Interested in building the best things in life, not just repairing the worst. 
  3. Should make the lives of normal people fulfilling and nurture genius. 

Let’s take a look at the top books to help you understand the emotions, traits, and institutions that are advancing the field of Positive Psychology. 

Authentic Happiness

Seligman published Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment in 2004. 

The thesis of this book is that happiness is not the result of luck or good genes. Lasting happiness comes from focusing on one’s personal strengths. Believe it or not, that idea stirred debate!  

Seligman shows you how to identify your strongest virtues and apply them in new ways. 

Steven Pinker, author of “The Language Instinct” called this book, “A highly insightful scientific and personal reflection on the nature of happiness, from one of the most creative and influential psychologists of our time.

Authentic Happiness identifies six human virtues: 

1) Wisdom and Knowledge

2) Courage

3) Love and Humanity

4) Justice

5) Temperance

6) Spirituality and Transcendence (defined as moving beyond narrow self-interest)

Learn to identify these virtues in your life by using this practical guide. 

Do you enjoy gaining insight by answering questions? This book is full of tests to help you identify strengths and assess your overall happiness level.

Flow and the Foundations of Positive Psychology

These are the collected works from the “father of flow” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2014). This book covers thirty years of Csikszentmihalyi's work on: 

  1. Attention. 
  2. Flow 
  3. Positive Psychology

What makes up a good life? 

That’s the question at the heart of positive psychology. Flow research contributes to the answer by studying the experiences of individuals during peak presence. In one of the chapters, Csikszentmihalyi describes the flow model of optimal experience and optimal development. 

This volume contains articles that came from Csikszentmihalyi’s connection with Martin Seligman. It also gives readers a short history of the field of positive psychology.

Man's Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl’s account of his experiences in World War II concentration camps is an unforgettable read.  A neurologist and psychiatrist, Frankl uses the horrors of the holocaust to spark a discussion on the meaning of existence. 

Frankl believes that life is about finding meaning, not seeking pleasure. 

The Library of Congress’ Survey of Lifetime Readers named this book “One of the ten most influential books in America.” 

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

This 2011 book builds on Seligman’s fifteen years of leading the Positive Psychology movement. 

In “Flourish” he presents a dynamic new concept of well-being. 

Happiness alone can’t bring well-being. 

It comes from cultivating talents and building deep lasting relationships. To flourish means to feel pleasure and contribute meaningfully to the world. 

You’ll learn about PERMA—the pillars of Positive Psychology which are:

  1. Positive Emotion. 
  2. Engagement. 
  3. Relationships. 
  4. Meaning. 
  5. Accomplishments.

The included exercises help you explore your attitudes and uncover how to get the most out of life. 

The Happiness Advantage

One of the most popular TED Talks of all time was Shawn Achor’s presentation on happiness. This is the book that inspired it. 

The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life” reads like a virtual classroom. The course Achor teaches you is how to find greater success and fulfillment at work and in your life. 

Get ready to have your assumptions flipped backwards. Happiness isn’t what you think. 

This book also demonstrates the importance of practicing gratitude.

The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology

A cross-disciplinary look at positive psychology. This is a seminal work. 

A few of the areas covered here are: 

  1. Major developments in positive psychology.
  2. Different approaches (including emotional, interpersonal, and self-based.) 
  3. Positive institutions that are furthering the research. 
  4. Specific coping approaches. 

People who aren’t sick still need a roadmap to achieve the lives they want. 

Applied Positive Psychology

You might be thinking, “not another textbook!” But Applied Positive Psychology (2014) takes a new integrative approach to positive psychology.

Chapters focus on the body, brain, culture, society, and even childhood development. 

This clear, well-researched lecture-style book is a must for anyone looking to coach or teach. Interventions aimed at development help to complete this organized text. 

There’s also a wealth of quizzes and case studies within these pages. 

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Angela Duckworth used to teach seventh grade math in the New York Public Schools. That early experience taught her about grit. 

Duckworth’s highest IQ students were not her best students. She knew every student could learn the concepts if they worked hard enough. Why were some of the smart kids underperforming? 

When she went on to get her degree in psychology, her studies were framed by the question, “who is successful here and why?

Duckworth has studied military cadets, spelling bee competitors, rookie teachers, and salespeople. She can predict who among them will quit—and who will stick with it. 

The consistent predictor of success that she found across the board was grit. 

Otherwise known as passion and perseverance for long-term goals. 

It requires stamina. You have to look towards the future. And be willing to work hard to make that future a reality. 

People magazine called her 2016 book, GritInspiration for non-geniuses everywhere.” 

Two great insights from the book are: 

  1. Any effort you make ultimately counts twice toward your goal.  
  2. Grit can be learned. 

If you’re looking for a book that demystifies talent in favor of tenacity. Pick up a copy of Grit. 

The Hope Circuit

This is Martin E. P. Seligman’s personal memoir. 

When he became a psychologist, the field was obsessed with disorders. Seligman decided to make a case for virtues like hope, gratitude, and wisdom for mental health. 

Many of his colleagues, like Duckworth, feel this is “his best writing and thinking yet."

Follow Seligman through the surprising twists and tremendous obstacles as he breaks new ground in psychology. 


Does character exist? Can it be learned? Is it a single characteristic, or does it have different components? 

Answers are found in Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification.

There are twenty-four specific strengths identified under these six virtues: 

  1. Wisdom 
  2. Courage 
  3. Humanity
  4. Justice
  5. Temperance
  6. Transcendence

This handbook offers a scientific classification of positive traits. Compiled by a group of prestigious researchers who have made it their life’s work to measure positive psychology markers. 

Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life

What if obsessing about money, our jobs, or even leisure time is leading us all astray? 

That’s the thesis of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, “Finding Flow.” He wants to show you what really makes a good life. 

If you feel like your days are filled with anxiety and stress. Your free time is spent watching Netflix or staring at your phone. You may want to read this and learn the secrets of complete engagement. 

“Finding Flow” can make your routines faster and more efficient. It will also enrich your free time, by showing you that humans are happiest when we are being challenged. 

Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization

You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But did you know a part was left out? 

Sprinkled among a cache of unpublished journals, lectures, and essays, was Maslow's unfinished theory of transcendence. Psychologist and author Scott Barry Kaufman discovered them. 

In this Maslow 2.0 reimagining, Kaufman uncovers the blueprint for a better world. The values include: 

  1. Justice
  2. Beauty
  3. Meaningfulness
  4. Wholeness

If you want to learn to live your most creative, fulfilled, and connected life, dive into these new research findings. 

Recommended Related Reading: 

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance Steven Kotler’s New York Times–bestselling book that decodes the mystery of ultimate human performance. 


Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World Peter H. Diamandis  and Steven Kotler’s primer for people who want to change the world. 


A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life. Steven Kotler’s personal story of love and rescue that Publisher’s Weekly called, “Brimming with humor, gratitude, and grace, this is a remarkable story."


Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. 2018’s breakout bestseller with over a million copies sold. This useful book offers a proven framework to improve yourself everyday.

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