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January 17, 2008 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend good books on the study of happiness?

I'm looking to find good books on the topic of happiness. Self-help books are ok, but I'm more interested in happiness across cultures-how they achieve it, and how they perceive it. Thanks!
posted by missjamielynn to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
well, I'm reading this right now.
It's more self-helpy, but not aggravatingly so.
posted by Acari at 8:25 PM on January 17, 2008

Authentic Happiness.
posted by Estragon at 8:26 PM on January 17, 2008

Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness is fairly broad, although not necessarily cross-cultural.

From a Buddhist perspective: The Art of Happiness from the Dalai Lama. (On preview: acari has it).

This Harvard magazine article is an quick and readable overview of psychological research in the area.
posted by maudlin at 8:30 PM on January 17, 2008

I've heard the term "Positive Psychology" used to describe this topic. I haven't read either of them, but a quick search turned up The Happiness Hypothesis and Happiness: A History, which seem to fit your description.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:35 PM on January 17, 2008

Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile by Daniel Nettle
posted by mattbucher at 8:38 PM on January 17, 2008

There are good things in both Stumbling on Happiness and The Happiness Hypothesis (mentioned above), though they're a bit thin on cross-cultural comparisons (Haidt has a little of that, having spent some time in India, but uses the Indian experience mostly as support for his line of thinking). Both books are well worth reading.
posted by azure_swing at 8:41 PM on January 17, 2008

How Proust can Make You Happy by Alain de Botton is brilliant.

For a psychoanalyst's take on happiness, you can't go far wrong with this Going Sane by Adam Phillips.
posted by Blacksun at 8:48 PM on January 17, 2008

Nicomachean Ethics.
posted by mykescipark at 8:56 PM on January 17, 2008

Aristotle and John Stuart Mill.
posted by General Malaise at 9:00 PM on January 17, 2008

by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

(highly recommended)
posted by post punk at 9:12 PM on January 17, 2008

Happiness: A History, by Darrin M. McMahon.
posted by be11e at 9:13 PM on January 17, 2008

Happy (hehe) to oblige.
I didn't listen to the broadcast, but today on my NPR affiliate I heard of a book called "The Geography of Bliss: In Search of the Happiest Places on Earth." (Amazon link)
You can listen to the mp3 broadcast with the author, Eric Wiener here
posted by i8ny3x at 9:19 PM on January 17, 2008

A blog that might interest you is The Happiness Project. She's exploring a lot of the different schools of thought out there, and it's great reading, as well as probably being a rich resource for the type of book you're looking for.
posted by padraigin at 9:22 PM on January 17, 2008

The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong . Very highly recommended.
posted by dawson at 10:03 PM on January 17, 2008

The Joy of Living might also be of interest - also Buddhist,, may be more self-helpish than you want, but I found it enjoyable
posted by korej at 10:11 PM on January 17, 2008

I know you asked for books, but here are some excellent resources that you can listen to on the web about happiness.

TED Talks: What Makes Us Happy
Science Friday: Happiness
This American Life: Pursuit of Happiness
posted by bigmusic at 10:14 PM on January 17, 2008

2nding Nicomanchean Ethics
posted by bonaldi at 10:19 PM on January 17, 2008

Betrand Russel's The Conquest of Happiness. I'm not recommending it per se, but it's not bad either.
posted by phrontist at 10:24 PM on January 17, 2008

Follow up: recently I enjoyed this essay (via Arts & Letters Daily) by Eric G. Wilson, author of Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy. I haven't read the book yet (it comes out the 22nd) but I was interested/impressed enough to pre-order a library copy.
posted by dawson at 10:50 PM on January 17, 2008

seconding flow

and also: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Wayne Dyer

the tao te ching
posted by robotdog at 12:10 AM on January 18, 2008

I second Bertrand Russel's The Conquest of Happiness. I recommend it, even.
posted by buriedpaul at 12:23 AM on January 18, 2008

Thirding Flow.
posted by wafaa at 3:13 AM on January 18, 2008

Seconding The Happiness Project blog.
posted by orangemiles at 4:15 AM on January 18, 2008

an interesting (and very beautiful) counterpoint: in praise of melancholy. his observations about happiness are astute. the essay is adapted from a forthcoming book.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:31 AM on January 18, 2008

One way to define happiness is by contrast with an opposite in the same way in which to talk about liberty one must explore boundaries and restrictions. If this approach is in any way interesting to you have a look at a Romanian / French philosopher called Emil Cioran. His books on despair are mesmerising!
posted by Parsnip at 4:40 AM on January 18, 2008

Richard Layard, an Economics professor at the London School of Economics, gave a lecture series on happiness and subsequently published a book. I haven't read the book, but the lecture series was intriguing - happiness from the perspective on an economist.
posted by boudicca at 5:03 AM on January 18, 2008

I suggest The Happiness Myth, by Jennifer Michael Hecht. She takes a historical view which helps put things into perspective. She's also a poet. It's good reading.

She's got another happiness book coming out next month, too, apparently.
posted by Riverine at 9:31 AM on January 18, 2008

I plowed through Stumbling onto Happiness. It is readable and useful. Sort of Mind Hacks for your happiness meter. As a bonus, the book validates that using AskMeFi is the best way to make yourself happy. (He says that the thing that works best when needing to make a decision about what will make your future self happy is to ask advice from people who had to make a similar decision.)

I'm also working on Happier. Which is based on a class the author teaches at Harvard.
posted by Mozzie at 9:50 AM on January 18, 2008

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It's generally about communicating love to one's spouse, but it has a broad range of application, in learning just what makes your happiness/joy meter peg right and hold with excitement, and learning what others interpret as a gesture that excites them just as much. Totally changed my interaction with people, I can pick up on what they seem to be running on fumes looking for to be filled back up with hope and eagerness to live the next day relatively easily, and also discovered what particularly "that one thing" that unlocks my happiness beyond discernable measure, and it was all so very simple. Turned out most of my childhood memories involved this particular aspect of interpreting expressions love and I never realized the common factor until I read the book. Instead of focusing on the subject matter of marriage-salvaging, consider it instead as relationship flame-fanning in general (and if you can disregard the Christian references if you're otherwise minded), it really has been a revolutionary new outlook for me.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 10:47 AM on January 18, 2008

"Happiness Is a Serious" Problem by Dennis Prager is a must. Rather than a howto manual for happiness, this book is a moral philosophy for happiness. Very short, well written and concise - this book is a must for people concerned about this topic.
posted by spankbot at 2:00 PM on January 18, 2008

another, for posterity: "The How of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubomirsky
posted by dawson at 10:34 PM on January 20, 2008

"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho
posted by monkeyagent at 11:15 AM on January 26, 2008

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