I was recently asked if I had a recommended reading list. I thought it was a great suggestion so, to get that started, I have compiled a list of my favorite books in the areas of productivity, positive psychology, and behavioral economics. Is one of your favorites missing from my list? If so, please let me know!
Author: Martin E.P. Seligman
Written by the man who is often thought of as the "father of positive psychology," this book explains why happiness is not simply a product of your genetics or luck. Rather, by focusing on your strengths rather than weaknesses you have the ability to improve your own level of happiness in a way that is authentic to you.
Authors: Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Research in psychology and behavioral economics has revealed our tendency to make decisions based on biases, outside influences, and irrational thinking. While it is fascinating to read how our minds are so easily manipulated, it's more important to know there is something we can do about it. Decisive offers strategies to avoid many of the pitfalls that have us making irrational or poor decisions.
Author: Brian Tracy
The book title comes from a play on Mark Twain's quote, "eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." Tracy help readers focus on what's most important and offers practical strategies on how to get it done.
Author: Martin E.P. Seligman
This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the field of positive psychology. It includes Seligman's PERMA model of well-being and provides great insights into the history and advancements in the field. If you only plan to read one book to learn about positive psychology, this would be it.
Author: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The author's exploration into 'optimal experience' led to the concept of a state of consciousness referred to as flow. When experiencing flow, people typically find deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. To me, the description sounds like 'being in the zone' or a 'runner's high.' This book, while dense and a little difficult to read, teaches the reader how to discover true happiness and improve one's quality of life by finding and engaging in more flow experiences.
Author: Adam M. Grant
In his book, Grant describes the importance of networking and interacting with others. He claims that most people fall into one of three categories: givers, takers, and matchers. These styles can have a surprising impact on one' success. The book is easy-to-read and is filled with great anecdotes as well as substantial research. Grant provides practical and realistic advice.
Author: Angela Duckworth
In this book, Duckworth shares insight from her research on what it really takes to succeed. Talent and IQ alone don't predict success. Rather, a special blend of passion and perseverance provide better indications of long term performance. This is a great read for parents, students, educators, and professionals. Failure is to be expected; those with grit get up when they fall and keep trying.
Authors: Tom Rath, Donald O. Clifton
This little book is a gem and can be started and finished in a couple of hours. The concept is simple - when we interact with other people, we are either filling their bucket or depleting it. When we are encouraging, positive, and supportive, it fills the bucket of the other person as well as our own. Negativity, pessimism and nastiness does the opposite. Bottom line - small acts of kindness can make a big difference!
Author: Therese Huston
The research presented in this book dispels the myth that women are more intuitive decision-makers than men. Studies indicate that companies whose board of directors include women show greater returns to shareholders and higher revenue growth. For a variety of reasons, companies looking to make the best decisions, especially in stressful situations, should be seeking input from both men and women.
Author: Martin E.P. Seligman
In this book, Seligman demonstrates how optimism enhances your quality of life and how anyone can learn to be more optimistic. By developing a more optimistic explanatory style for interpreting why bad things happen, you can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and become happier.
Author: Viktor E. Frankl
This memoir, written by a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, provides unique insights into how people can survive great suffering through finding purpose. Frankl's theory of logotherapy posits that our main drive in life is not pleasure but the pursuit of what we find meaningful. This is a short book packed with incredible insights. It should be required reading for high school students.
Author: Carol Dweck
Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck, explains how our mindset influences everything we do. Those with a fixed mindset, who believe that they can not change their abilities, are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset, who believe that their abilities can be developed. Teachers, parents, coaches and managers can foster a growth mindset to enable outstanding accomplishment.
Author: Adam M. Grant
Grant, the youngest tenured professor at Wharton, explores how to recognize a good idea and get it realized. Through stories of business leaders, sports figures, and politicians, he encourages readers to speak up, build allies, and manage fears and doubts. Parents and teachers are urged to nurture originality in kids. The reader will find themselves learning about how to reject conformity and challenge the status quo. My very favorite part of the book is Grant's perspective on some of the benefits associated with procrastination.
Author: Brigid Schulte
In this thoroughly researched book, Schulte addresses the modern day love affair with busyness. My favorite concept is that of 'contaminated time;' where we allow excess worrying to negatively impact the present. She guides us towards a state referred to as Time Serenity that will lead us out of our current state of overwhelm.
Authors: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam M. Grant
Option B is the story of how Sheryl Sandberg was able to recover after the sudden and tragic death of her husband, Dave Goldberg. Her friend, Adam Grant, guided her by teaching her to build her resilience muscle; finding strength in adversity. The book combines Sandberg's personal insights and raw grief with Grant's research to make a compelling case for the capacity of the human spirit to persevere and even rediscover joy.
Author: Barbara Frederickson
A pioneer in the field of positive psychology, Frederickson provides the tools needed to have a more vibrant life through her broaden and build theory of positivity and a process she calls the "upward spiral." She outlines her top ten positive emotions and proposes that we aim to build on our positive emotions to counteract our natural tendency towards negativity.
Author: Dan Ariely
Behavioral economist, Dan Ariely uses his research to provide evidence that we are predicatble in our inability to make rational choices. According to Ariely, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Our emotions play a much greater role in our decision-making than we imagine. This is truly one of my very favorite books because it made me think differently about the choices I make.
Authors: Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin
This is one of the few books I've read that is able to provide simple but powerful tools, based in positive psychology, that can be used in the workplace. From habit changes to asking better questions, these strategies are effective without being costly. And their suggestions are evidence based with supporting research.
Authors: Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir
This book provides an intriguing look into how scarcity shapes our lives, society, and culture. When we don't have enough, our thinking and decision-making becomes narrow and less rational. Scarcity relates to all resources including money and time. The book provides a new way of understanding why the poor stay poor and the busy stay busy while also revealing how scarcity leads individuals and organizations astray.
Author: Gary Klein
In this book, cognitive psychologist Gary Klein unravels the mystery of when, why, and how insights are formed. We need insights into the everyday things that frustrate and confuse us so that we can more effectively solve problems and get things done. Klein also dissects impediments to insight, such as when organizations claim to value employee creativity but in reality block disruptive ideas and prioritize avoidance of mistakes.
Author: Daniel Gilbert
Using a combination of scientific research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, and philosophy, the author explains to readers why we, as humans, are unable to accurately predict the future and how happy we will be when we get there. Really interesting, insightful studies are explained. If you don't have time for the book, you can also get most of the information in Dan Gilbert's TED Talk.
Authors: Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner
Wharton Professor, Philip Tetlock, and co-author Dan Gardner explore what makes some individuals better at forecasting the future. The Good Judgment Project involves thousands of ordinary people who set out to forecast global events. Some of the volunteers turned out to be astonishingly good. They’ve beaten other benchmarks, competitors, and prediction markets. They’ve even beaten the collective judgment of intelligence analysts with access to classified information. They are "superforecasters."
Author: Sharon F. Danzger
Danzger tackles e-mails, communications, meetings, work, distractions, procrastination, planning, time management, self-care, mindfulness, and more. By using her advice to make small changes to your daily routines, you will have more time to devote to the important things in your life. A little productivity and efficiency can lead to greater happiness and success—and a significant reduction in stress.
Author: Janice Kaplan
Unlike most of the other books on this list, which are written by researchers, this book is written by a journalist. While the content is certainly supported by research, it is an easier read than many of the other books on this list. It includes many personal experiences and humorous anecdotes on the author's one-year journey of exploring gratitude. It will make you want to give gratitude a try!
Author: Shawn Achor
Positive psychologist, Shawn Achor, explains why the formula of Success = Happiness is actually backwards. When we are positive, we become more engaged, creative and motivated making us more productive and happier at work. He supports this with neuroscience, psychology, and management research. He shows readers how they can capitalize on the Happiness Advantage to improve performance and maximize potential.
Author: Sonja Lyubomirksy
A comprehensive and easy-to-use guide to living a happier life. Lyubomirsky uses the scientific research of positive psychology to identify activities that the reader can incorporate into everyday life which are both practical and empowering.
Author: Barry Schwartz
Based on behavioral economics, this book highlights how our obsession with choice leads us to greater dissatisfaction, regret and anxiety. Whether selecting a pair of jeans, choosing a college, or setting up a 401k plan, when we have an abundance of choices, we either agonize unnecessarily or end up selecting nothing. Too much of a good thing has proven to be detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. The book offers some practical advice on how to focus on the right choices and derive greater satisfaction from the choices we make.
Author: Charles Duhigg
Duhigg shares his formula for how to successfully create new habits or break old, bad ones. Through cue, behavior, and reward, you can form new routines that will help you live a healthier, more productive life. Duhigg is a journalist for the NY Times.
Author: Emily Esfahani Smith
Smith starts off with a vivid description of her Hindu upbringing, which is truly fascinating. She then takes the reader on a journey weaving together research and stories of real people to highlight what she refers to as the four pillars of meaning. If you are seeking meaning in your life, this book offers insight and perspective.
Authors: Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte
Resilience, the ability to overcome or handle adversity, is a key ingredient for leading a happy, healthy life. This book, backed by research, provides practical strategies and a range of anecdotes to help the reader build greater resilience. What I enjoyed most was the ABC model and how easy it was to implement after reading about it.
Author: Kelly McGonigal
This book will change everything you think you know about stress. All the messages we have been receiving about stress being bad for our health are not totally true. Rather, it's how we interpret stress that can be so harmful. McGonigal uses research to support why stress, when interpreted as a challenge, can actually help you perform better. Your response to stress is dependent on your mindset...and you can control that.
Author: Kelly McGonigal
Drawing from psychology, neuroscience, and economics, McGonigal provides insights into what willpower really is, how it works, and why it matters. Reading this book altered my life. Towards the beginning of the book, the author suggests that meditation can be used to help train your brain to focus. This prompted me to start a meditation practice which has become part of my daily morning ritual that I look forward to each day.
Author: Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman is the 2002 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. This book describes what he has discovered about the way in which the mind works. System 1 is intuitive, automatic, and emotional. System 2, is more thoughtful, deliberate, logical, and slower. While System 1 is critical for us to get through a day, it also has a tendency to lead us astray. Kahneman uses research to enlighten the reader about how we make choices and offers strategies to guard against mental 'glitches' that can get us into trouble.
Authors: Dan Lerner and Alan Schlechter
Depression and anxiety on college campuses is on the rise. Young adults seem to be under greater stress than ever before. The authors of this book teach a class at NYU, "Science of Happiness," that provides students with the strategies and tools they need to survive and succeed in school and at life. Based on scientific research, they offer practical applications that are relevant for students. If you have a child going to college (or already there) you will want to read this book and share it with them.
Author: Daniel H. Pink
This is one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long time. Based on research in the fields of psychology, biology, and economics, Pink discusses the rational behind when we should engage in certain activities. Filled with great anecdotes and practical suggestions, you will recognize after reading this book that timing is a science and can have a big impact on both performance and results.